Tag Archives: Kenny Wollesen

Downbeat review by Peter Margasak

Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
4 Stars
Over the last couple years, New York trumpeter Kirk Knuffke has quietly emerged as one of the most exciting and flexible hornmen on the scene.  On Amnesia Brown he pushes his music in yet another compelling direction.  Joined by two of his cohorts in the Nublu Orchestra, Doug Wieselman and Kenny Wollesen, Knuffke shapes 16 pithy originals with an insistent accent on variety and concision.
When Wieselman plays clarinet there is a bracing polyphony to the proceedings, from the astringent harmonies and multi-linear improving on the title track to the Ornette Coleman-ish interactions on “Practical Sampling.”  But when he picks up the guitar he dramatically alters the complexion on the music, giving it greater muscle, intensity and motion; he’s not a virtuoso on the instrument, shaping textured arpeggios, sharply barbed runs and tangled chords, but they give Knuffke plenty to chew upon.  Despite the shifting landscapes, Knuffke maintains impressive restraint, shaping richly melodic solos that usually hover within his instruments midrange, both tonally and emotionally. Yet while he plays it cool, that doesn’t mean his performances are conservative; his lines are marked by tricky rhythmic schemes, unexpected loop-de-loops and curlicues, and sudden blurts.  Wollesen does an excellent job pushing it all along.

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El Intruso review by Sergio Piccirilli

Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
El trompetista Kirk Knuffke ha desplegado, en los últimos años, una prolífica actividad en la nueva escena del jazz expresada simultáneamente en colaboraciones con Butch Morris y la Nublu Orchestra, la Jeff Davis Band, el Matt Wilson Quartet, la Kenny Wollesen Wollesonic, la Brian Drye’s Bizingas y el Josh Roseman’s Extended Constellations, entre otros. En tiempos recientes actuó y grabó con algunas de las figuras punteras de la vanguardia como John Zorn, Steven Bernstein, Tony Malaby, Dave Douglas y Sonny Simmons.
Kirk Knuffke es, además, uno de los vértices del notable Ideal Bread, comparte créditos con el trombonista Brian Drye en el Knuffke Drye Duo, se asoció al pianista Jesse Stacken en Mockingbird y lidera ensambles en formatos que van del trío al sexteto. Su debut discográfico solista tuvo lugar en 2008 con el elogiado Big Wig, álbum en el que sentó las bases de una propuesta que integraba un amplio arco de influencias que involucran a Steve Lacy, Lester Bowie, Chet Baker, Booker Little y Pee Wee Ellis. Esa amplitud de intereses que oscilan entre el straight-ahead y la libre improvisación también está contenida en una sólida formación musical que incluye estudios con Ornette Coleman, Art Lande y Ron Miles.
Esos valiosos y vitales antecedentes que respaldan la trayectoria de Knuffke se traducen ahora en su álbum consagratorio: Amnesia Brown.

Este nuevo proyecto testimonia una inferencia de conceptos musicales tan sólidos como inclasificables en donde logra enhebrar un relato tan riguroso en su construcción técnica como de indisimulable frescura expositiva.
Knuffke, a través de piezas breves que rondan los tres minutos de duración cada una, edifica con astucia un microcosmos sonoro pleno de energía emotiva signado por la inteligencia, el divertimento y la agudeza. La claridad de sus fundamentos estéticos permite que convivan en un mismo espacio la tradición del jazz y la new thing, sonoridades asociadas al downtown neoyorquino y principios emanados de la AACM, la balada romántica y la disonancia, la desnudez del folk y el arcaísmo del blues, la austeridad de la música de cámara y la estridencia futurista del post-rock. Esa orientación, de apariencia inconexa, está encapsulada en un robusto alegato que entrelaza con naturalidad dulces lineas melódicas y abrasivos arrestos armónicos, permite la connivencia de la partitura y la improvisación, faculta de síntesis a una plástica multidireccional y consiente desde la óptica de la miniatura orgánica un desarrollo exponencial de la imaginación.

La imaginación es algo que, probablemente, Kirk Knuffke heredó de sus ancestros. Al menos eso es lo que podemos colegir del irónico título de su nuevo álbum ya que Amnesia Brown es el apelativo otorgado a su bisabuelo quien, en un alarde de imaginación, abandonó a su progenie aduciendo amnesia para luego adoptar el apellido Brown y formar otra familia en una ciudad vecina. Algo así como una laguna mental pero de dimensiones oceánicas.
La amnesia es una afección de la memoria que consiste en la imposibilidad de recuperar información almacenada con anterioridad. La amnesia… esteee… ¡pucha! Me olvidé lo que iba a decir. Bueno, mientras logro recordarlo aprovecho para mencionar que uno de los pilares del psicoanálisis es la teoría del olvido motivado o represión, en cuyos postulados Sigmund Freud conjeturó que algunas experiencias se olvidan porque resultan amenazantes y por consiguiente son reprimidas y confinadas al inconsciente. No obstante, aun cuando se muestran inaccesibles para la conciencia, sus huellas no desaparecen ni son borradas, lo cual permite su reconstrucción parcial o total mediante la labor terapéutica y… ¡me acordé! La amnesia es un deterioro de la memoria que se manifiesta en olvido de nombres o hechos recientes. Por ejemplo, sería como si en este momento no recordáramos que estamos hablando del último álbum de… de… La amnesia también se expresa en la reiteratividad o repetición de frases y no quiero dejar de mencionar que además la amnesia también se expresa en la reiteratividad o repetición de frases. Las causas más comunes del deterioro de la memoria, entre otras, son el envejecimiento, una lesión o trauma craneal, la ingesta excesiva de bebidas alcohólicas y la intoxicación por monóxido de carbono.
Al respecto, estoy en condiciones de asegurar que la causa de mis olvidos no obedece ni a una intoxicación por monóxido de carbono, ni a…
Ni a una intoxicación por monóxido de carbono. Punto.

Acabo de recordar que quería hablarle del nuevo álbum de Kirk Knuffke, Amnesia Brown, título que según parece está inspirado en su bisabuelo… qué… ¿ya lo sabe?
No tenemos tiempo ni conocimientos suficientes para ahondar en los motivos que llevaron a Knuffke a ubicar su álbum en el marco referencial de la bizarra historia de su bisabuelo, pero sí estamos en condiciones de afirmar que eso ofició como musa inspiradora para erigir una obra atrapante, original y de deliciosa amenidad.

How it Goes es un auténtico paradigma de las cualidades armónicas en la que se funda Amnesia Brown: la concisión de la partitura, el relajado encadenamiento de espaciosas texturas, la naturalidad en los cambios rítmicos, el luminoso enunciado de la melodía y un nivel de improvisación dotado de un infrecuente poder de síntesis.
Kirk Knuffke, partiendo de una exigua paleta sonora, logra representar climas en contraste, reproducir orientaciones diversas y explorar un ideario multiforme. La economía de recursos aplicada en el alegato de su trompeta se potencia a través de la versatilidad de la batería de Kenny Wollesen y el invalorable aporte de Doug Wieselman quien, en un sorprendente doble rol, aporta sutileza y lirismo con su clarinete y dispara turbulentas armonías desde la guitarra eléctrica. Double actúa como epítome de esos principios. La trompeta inicia una lenta marcha desde los orígenes del jazz, estratégicamente interceptado por los agitados acordes de una guitarra proveniente de las fronteras del post-rock mientras la batería interactúa y unifica ambos mundos sonoros. Level ofrece un cabal dominio del proceso de tensión-relajación y un notable ejercicio contrapuntístico. En tanto que el tema que da título al álbum simboliza una mirada lúdica y naif de la libre improvisación.

2nd es una prueba viva de que se puede ser diferente sin convertirse en extravagante. La trompeta de Knuffke con anclaje en la tradición del jazz, los ascéticos acentos de la batería de Wollesen y la espacial y fragmentaria guitarra de Wieselman se funden en una convincente plástica asociada al nuevo milenio.
La breve y explosiva Red Bag está gobernada por los principios de la improvisación pero propiciando un belicoso efecto auditivo, en donde la línea melódica que dispara la trompeta lucha por imponerse a los alienados acordes de la guitarra mientras la batería desdobla los tempos haciendo las veces de mediador.
El adictivo Leadbelly abreva en las fuentes del blues y el folk para rendir pleitesía (y no sólo desde su titulo) al legendario compositor y guitarrista estadounidense Huddle Wlliam Ledbetter, más conocido como Leadbelly.
Practical Sampling se cobija en un relajado unísono entre la trompeta y el clarinete subrayado a contratiempo por la batería. De ese empaque armónico emerge un diáfano e incontaminado solo de Knuffke y la detallada exposición de Wieselman para, finalmente, retornar al unísono de apertura. En el maníaco clima de Hears It, la complejidad expresiva elude todo vestigio de oscuridad y la libertad instrumental nunca se aleja del distintivo nivel de resumen dialéctico que identifica al álbum.

En Totem, un melancólico fraseo en trompeta, los sutiles acentos en guitarra y una batería subterránea mutan lentamente hasta transformarse en un manifiesto de modernidad que enlaza al avant-rock y el jazz de vanguardia.
Need ratifica, sin venerar, la ligazón de Knuffke con la tradición, en tanto que Fix It Charlie, en otro juego de humores contrapuestos, coquetea con el punk-jazz mientras la trompeta filtra frases de My Heart Belongs to Daddy de Cole Porter.
High-pants Bob luce despojada de ornamentaciones superfluas y sirve de excusa para un solo de batería que privilegia los coloridos matices al desborde ególatra, en tanto que Narrative está gobernada por cadencias de austeridad minimalista y una melodía cuasi pastoral. Luego, sin perder identidad ni cohesión estilística, abordan el paranoico post-rock de Please Help Please Give para finalmente cerrar el álbum con la economía descriptiva de la balada folk, Anne.

Kirk Knuffke, en Amnesia Brown, aunque suene contradictorio, no sufre de ningún tipo de amnesia. El pasado no sólo esta presente aquí como una fuente de inspiración sino también como firme disposición a confrontar la cambiante dinámica del futuro.
http://www.elintruso.com/article.php?id=1833

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
****

L’idillio, musicalmente parlando, nasce all’interno della Nublu Orchestra, la formazione diretta ogni lunedì nell’omonimo locale da Lawrence Butch Morris. Knuffke, Wollesen e Wieselman scoprono più di una affinità elettiva ed il trombettista decide di incidere proprie composizioni utilizzando il talento di Wieselman, sia al clarinetto che alla chitarra, dando vita così ad una sorta di doppio trio.

E questa è la prima grande idea di Knuffke, perché a seconda dello strumento imbracciato da Weiselman la musica prende una direzione ben precisa. Cameristica, ricca di lirismo, sebbene asciutto ed essenziale, morbida, melodicamente asimmetrica, talvolta commovente quando Weiselman è alle prese con il clarinetto. Ruvida, acida, spigolosa, nevrotica, metafisica, quando a intervenire è la chitarra, un po’ rumoristica alla Arto Lindsay un po’ rockish alla Nels Cline. Ed il contrasto con il tono caldo, rotondo ma avvelenato delle tromba del leader diventa un altro valore aggiunto dell’incisione.

La seconda intuizione è l’aver frazionato i cinquantasei minuti dell’incisione in ben sedici composizioni. Non una semplice operazione matematica ma una scelta estetica ben calcolata che spinge da una parte la scrittura ad essere precisa, perfettamente centrata, dall’altra porta l’improvvisazione verso l’essenzialità, depurandola da orpelli e ricami superflui.

Il risultato è che nonostante la durata media dei brani non superi i tre minuti, l’impressione è di esecuzioni ariose, in alcuni casi dilatate con spazi e tempi che vanno ben al di là del loro valore numerico. Merito senz’altro della scrittura e della rigogliosa vena improvvisativa dei musicisti, con tante idee sul tappeto, che lungi dall’intasare lo spazio sonoro, ne costituiscono l’intima ed essenziale ragione d’essere. Se tutti e tre i musicisti sono in grande spolvero in questo Amnesia Brown, non si può non sottolineare lo straordinario drumming di Kenny Wollesen, uno dei pochi, veri innovatori della batteria moderna.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=5091

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Kirk Knuffke & A Bare-Bones Trumpet, Clarinet, Drum Trio

Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
Chances are you may not have heard of Kirk Knuffke. He plays a thoughtfully burnished trumpet, puts together some singularly baroque-ish and post-boppish instrumental motifs and has the good idea to form a trio with fellow music-makers Doug Wieselman (on clarinet or guitar) and Kenny Wollesen (on drums) for Amnesia Brown (Clean Feed).

It’s a set of music where the rather naked trio setting gives all concerned plenty of air and aural presence. They take good advantage of the opportunity. Knuffke writes some very interesting lines to frame the improvisations and Wollesen’s drums gently swing or add color as needed. Kirk’s trumpet work is introspective and direct on this date. His sound is bell-like; his note choices well played from the standpoint of gamesmanship as well as execution. Wieselman’s clarinet follows along similar lines and makes for a very appropriate co-frontline voice. His guitar work is filled with loose humor and earthiness.

Amnesia Brown burns and cools alternately. It has a mood that inspires contemplation without stinting on musical content. Certainly recommended.
http://gapplegatemusicreview.blogspot.com/2010/04/kirk-knuffke-bare-bones-trumpet.html

Rifftides review by Doug Ramsey

Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
Kirk Knuffke, Amnesia Brown (Clean Feed). Knuffke’s trumpet tone is notable for softness, fullness and evenness. The audacity of risk in his improvisational concept would be the envy of the Flying Wallendas. The contrast between his sound and the content of his work is a source of fascination throughout this collection of miniatures. Even though his collaborators number only two, Knuffke has plenty of company in 16 little art songs without words, all his compositions. Drummer Kenny Wollesen is a three-decades veteran of adventures with musicians as various as John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Jessica Williams, Tom Waits, Sean Lennon and the Crash Test Dummies. Doug Wieselman’s track record includes work with Zorn, Jenny Scheinman, Wayne Horvitz and other prominent artists who typically populate the edge of New York’s downtown jazz community. From track to track, he alternates between clarinet (generally calm) and guitar (tending toward mania).

The three develop their solos and interactions from themes built on folk simplicity in “Leadbelly” and “Totem,” instrumental chanting in “Practical Sampling” and serene trumpet layered over guitar distortions and raucous drum and cymbal patterns in “Please Help, Please Give.” The album’s opening “How it Goes” begins with trumpet/clarinet counterpoint that could be Knuffke reflecting on Shorty Rogers and Jimmy Giuffre circa 1954, however unlikely that may seem. It ends with lyricism, Knuffke and Wieselman giving sotto voce unison farewell to the delicate melody of “Anne.” The unusual name of the album’s title tune? It memorializes one of Knuffke’s great-grandfathers, who claimed that he forgot he had a wife and family after he established a second set in another town and changed his name. The piece has a nostalgic, even old-timey, quality and a certain goofiness in the solos that is underlain with a Wollesen percussive effect like rapid water over loose stones.

In a development that may be an indication of growing maturity in free jazz, the longest track runs less than five minutes. Perhaps, after all, full expression doesn’t require extraordinary length. One thinks of Miles Davis’s celebrated advice to John Coltrane when Coltrane explained that he had trouble stopping his solos; “You might try taking the horn out of your mouth.” These guys do, and it works.
http://www.artsjournal.com/rifftides/2010/04/recent_listening_kirk_knuffke.html

Tom Hull reviews on his blog

Sei Miguel – Esfingico (CF 170)
Trumpet player, b. 1961 in Paris, lived in Brazil, based in Portugal since 1980s, lists 9 records (not counting this) on his website, going back to 1988 (AMG has one, not this). Plays pocket trumpet here, a nice contrast to Fala Mariam’s alto trombone. The other credits are Pedro Lourenço (bass guitar), Cesár Burago (timbales, small percussion), and Rafael Toral (some kind of electronics: “modulated resonance feedback circuit”). Rather schematic, and a bit on the short side (39:56), but he’s onto something that might be worth exploring. B+(**)
Jorrit Dijkstra: Pillow Circles (CF 166)
Dutch saxophonist, plays alto and lyricon, has 10 or so albums since 1994, based in Boston. This is an octet with a few American names I recognize — Tony Malaby, Jeb Bishop, Jason Roebke, Frank Rosaly — and a few Europeans I don’t. With viola and guitar/banjo, plus three users of Crackle Box (“a small low-fi noisemaker invented by Dutch electronic musician Michel Waisvisz”). Only instrument that registers much for me is Bishop’s trombone. Otherwise I find it vaguely symphonic, swooning in swirls of slick harmony, but somehow it grows on you. B+(*)

Fight the Big Bull: All Is Gladness in the Kingdom (CF 169)
Virginia big band, was 9 pieces last time, now 11-12, with Steven Bernstein the big name pick up. Erstwhile leader is guitarist Matt White, who wrote most of the pieces, save two from Bernstein and an old Band song (“Jemina Surrender”) that Bernstein arranged. Sometimes it seems like their main trick is to kick up the volume; sometimes it works really well. B+(***)

RED Trio – RED Trio (CF 168)
Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano, with Hernani Faustino on bass, Gabriel Ferrandini on drums. First album, I think. Based in Portugal, although Ferrandini was born in California, his father a Portugese from Mozambique, his mother an Italian-Brazilian he picked up along the way. Pinheiro plays prepared piano, making the instrument more percussive than melodic. Faustino’s bass sounds like he’s monkeying around too. The result is more avant noise than piano trio. I find it refreshing and exhilarating. A-
Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
Trumpet player — website announces he plays cornet now, but credit here is trumpet; originally from Denver, based in New York since 2005; has a bunch of new/recent records, including a duo with Jesse Stacken on Steeplechase, plus several trio records with various lineups. This trio includes Doug Wieselman on clarinet and guitar and Kenny Wollesen on drums. Wieselman’s guitar is surprisingly effective. His clarinet provides a contrasting tone which sometimes slows things down, but they mostly mix well. Nice artwork, although the back is impossible to decipher. B+(***)

Scott Fields Ensemble – Fugu (CF 171)
Chicago guitarist, has a couple dozen albums since 1993, of which this original 1995 recording was his second, brought back on a new label. Group wobbles between Matt Turner on cello and Robert Stright on vibes, the former slowing things down and sapping them up, the latter bristling with energy. Group also includes bass and percussion. Fields has some very nice runs, and the vibes are terrific. B+(**)
http://www.tomhull.com/blog/archives/1354-Jazz-Prospecting-CG-23,-Part-6.html

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
Brooklyn-based trumpeter Kirk Knuffke’s sophomore effort, Amnesia Brown is a far more esoteric affair than his conventional piano-less quartet debut, Big Wig (Clean Feed, 2008). Eschewing a traditional rhythm section, Knuffke is joined by fellow members of Butch Morris’ Nublu Orchestra—legendary Downtown stalwarts Doug Wieselman (on clarinet and electric guitar) and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Through sixteen brief cuts, the trio waxes and wanes from contemplative to impassioned, bounding effortlessly from one mood to the next.

Swinging without constraint, Knuffke’s trio ignores the conventions of free-bop hegemony, moving beyond the stylistic antecedents of his previous release, invoking not only the innovations of the New Thing and AACM, but genres beyond jazz as well. Generating a surprising level of timbral diversity from a limited palette, Knuffke, Wieselman, and Wollesen veer from the chamber music-like austerity of “Narrative” to the raucous futuristic rockabilly of “Fix it, Charlie.”

Wieselman’s approach towards his choice of instrument often dictates the trio’s tenor; his clarinet can be mellifluous and lyrical (“Need”), or strident and caterwauling (“High-pants Bob”). His amplified fretwork tends to be more abrasive, coloring “Red Bag” with coruscating shards, but he is also prone towards reverb-laced twang, used to good effect on the surf-inflected “Leadbelly.” Knuffke’s warm tone and earthy phrasing provides a stimulating contrast to Wieselman’s skronky guitar, while transparently knitting with his pliant clarinet cadences. Wollesen proves his rhythmic ingenuity without a bassist, fulfilling the role of both time-keeper and melodic colorist.

Although the tunes are brief (three minutes on average) the trio manages to pack a significant number of ideas into each of these miniatures—more than some artists fit into an entire album. The title track and “Leadbelly” are stellar examples of the trio’s ability to integrate inventive, succinct improvisations into memorable themes. Showcasing their diversity, “Please Help, Please Give” serves as the dissonant flipside to the album’s tender closer, the romantic and sentimental ballad “Anne.”

Referring to a bizarre family incident involving his great grandfather from many years ago, Amnesia Brown is appropriately disjointed, but compositionally astute, revealing an expansive worldview encapsulated in microcosmic fragments.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=35782