Tag Archives: Kevin Norton

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

PAUL DUNMALL SUN QUARTET – Ancient And Future Airs (CF 138 )
It’s funny reading, on the press release, of the “triumphant presentation” of the Paul Dunmall/Henry Grimes/Andrew Cyrille trio that occurred in New York the day before this CD was recorded (June 15, 2008), since I’ve just listened to the album documenting that particular concert finding the music rather confused, lacking artistic consequence and, in general, overhyped. Ancient And Future Airs is another matter altogether, a set where mental lucidity is constantly tangible, the interplay definitely benefiting from this clear collective vision.

In the lengthy “Ancient Airs” the Paul Dunmall/Tony Malaby forward couple – two tenor and a soprano sax, plus the ever-cherished bagpipes – is at times utterly spectacular, swapping accurately hurtful power shots reminiscent of the first Diego Corrales – Jose Luis Castillo fight (if you haven’t seen that one, get a copy then thank your reviewer later) but, in the calmer sections, conversing like old friends at late night, all arguments finally settled in favour of an evocative deliberateness not intoxicated by the fumes of dishonest technical deception. Not to mention the almost savage spirit of their extensive solos, “exhaustion” an unidentified word in this occasion.

Whereas Mark Helias represents a paradigm of functional acoustic link, his purpose apparently consisting in reminding everybody about the possible contaminations deriving from a schizophrenic autonomy (though he cannot certainly be defined as an unadventurous player: check the splendid solo around the 34th minute), Kevin Norton’s vibes – more than his corroborating drumming – squeeze small droplets of metallic colour on the timbral canvas, different hues added to an already complex, if entirely logical picture of passion and intelligence.

The encore (“Future Airs”) is a short yet momentous demonstration of how restraint and control can work wonders in jazz, the artists maintaining an utopian farsightedness as they manage to keep seditious tendencies at bay, a captivating de-escalation of energy into the original state of quietness. A classily sensitive conclusion for an inspiring recording.

Cadence Magazine review by Jason Bivins

CF 138
Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet – Ancient and Future Airs (CF 138 )

CF 137
Denman Maroney Quintet – Udentity (CF 137)

Dunmall’s visit to New York’s The Living Theater (1) finds him in a slightly unfamiliar setting given his recent work on Slam. With a trio of longtime associates, this Vision Festival set finds him in a more reflective mood alongside Malaby, whose blend of melancholy and fire has become ever more singular of late (not least in his work in Helias’ Open Loose trio). Norton’s vibes are absolutely central to the textural range of these long pieces. While “Ancient Airs” opens rather slowly, the race is on after a while, with contrapuntalism firing up the engine. Dunmall and Malaby make for a wonderfully contrastive tenor tandem, fierce in the right measure without resorting to mere burning. I reckon it’s hard not to wail once Norton hits the traps and gets things churning with Helias, but this music never loses its focus and there’s always something lyrical happening. As ever, I find it quite an exhilarating experience when Dunmall rocks the pipes, but he does so quite judiciously. After the piece plateaus, it sounds as if the band is cycling through some refracted version of Coltrane’s “One Up One Down,” audible especially with Malaby’s vertiginous solo at about the 35-minute mark. Helias’ sweet bass solo is pleasantly modal after the fury preceding it, and it cues up a somewhat (yes) airy ending. The second improvisation, at a mere 10 minutes, is a tad bitty and doesn’t really get going anywhere. But this one’s a keeper nonetheless.

Having long been a fan of Denman Maroney’s unique sound world—his “hyperpiano” is the most radically prepared innenklavier imaginable—I confess that it’s really only with this recording (2) that I realized how rhythmically acute a musician he is. His bowls, and buzzing devices, and blocks have created a richly tex-tured idiomatic extension of the piano, but these nuanced, percolating compositions are bouncing inventions that recall some fusion of Rothenberg’s Double Band, John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet, and Mark Dresser’s Force Green band from the 1990s (of which Maroney was a key member). This high praise is emphatically deserved. Beyond this general appraisal (and really, just go get this one), I have to give it up for the engine room specifically. Radding and the superb Sarin are so good, with power and grace combining almost imperceptibly, that you could risk overlooking everything else as you simply concentrate on their playing. But then there’s the exceptional contrast between the clarion lines Ballou reels out, and
Rothenberg’s intense playing, with horns as rhythmic generators fueled by circular breathing, overblowing, and more. And the tunes are pretty fabulous too, with the post Bop line on “II” sounding almost like a late 1960s Ornette tune. The loping pulse of “III” is a perfect context ready to be agitated by the heady sound of scraped metal, a continual staggering which eventuates in a stunningly inventive “piano trio” improvisation. Absolutely killer alien tones! There are soft percussive thwacks and layered tempi from the horns on “IV” and a post-Dave Burrell mutated stride thing that opens up “V.” The disc eventually loops back to the feel of beautifully fractured post Bop on “VII,” with a brilliant piano trio section again. A fantastic disc, and a strong candidate to show up on my year-end list.
©Cadence Magazine 2009 www.cadencebuilding.com

All About Jazz review by David Adler

CF 138Tony Malaby – Paloma Recio (New World Records)
Paul Dunmall – Ancient and Future Airs (CF 138)

Paloma Recio (“loud dove”), the debut of saxophonist Tony Malaby’s quartet of the same name, is marked by the ghostly sonorities and harmonic wiles of guitarist Ben Monder, plus the flexible support of bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Nasheet Waits. Together, the four sound like ships navigating intrepidly in the fog of night—an aesthetic that contrasts vividly with Ancient and Future Airs by Paul Dunmall’s Sun Quartet, featuring Malaby, bassist Mark Helias and drummer/vibraphonist Kevin Norton.

We’ve come to know Malaby as at home in a wide variety of settings as both a leader and collaborator. Paloma Recio is another adventurous and well-paced set, poised on the knife’s edge between structured composition and free improvisation.

Following the quick, rolling, African-tinged rhythm of “Obambo” and the balladic rubato motion of “Lucedes,” “Alechinsky” is an extended abstraction conceived through a graphic score. “Hidden,” “Boludos” and “Puppets,” three short improvised pieces, are then laid out consecutively, leading into the woozy, evocative “Sonoita”. The final three cuts unfold via seamless segues into something more architectural, beginning with “Loud Dove,” easing into “Third Mystery” and closing with a muted, reverent treatment of Frederic Mompou’s “Música Callada” (“silent music”). The first movement of this 28-part classical work is titled “Angelico,” which leads one to wonder whether Malaby chose it to honor his wife, pianist-composer Angelica Sanchez. In any case, it’s a solemn and stately finish. Monder adapts the original solo-piano harmony into something typically dense and unsettling.

Mark Helias does bass duty on Ancient and Future Airs, drawing on a rapport he and Malaby have developed in the trio Open Loose. Of greater interest, of course, is Malaby’s interaction with fellow saxist Paul Dunmall, an iconic English improviser and in many ways Malaby’s artistic forebearers.

Two days after his appearance at the 2008 Vision Festival with Andrew Cyrille and Henry Grimes, Dunmall assembled the Sun Quartet at New York’s Living Theater for this live recording. They stretch for over 47 minutes on “Ancient Airs” and follow it with the eight-minute addendum “Future Airs”. The improvisations are fairly no-holds-barred, yet there’s ebb and flow and a certain delicacy, particularly during the vibraphone passages, which begin and end the first piece. Dunmall, in the right channel, has a steelier, more even sound on tenor; his bagpipes solo just after the 26-minute mark shifts the timbral emphasis remarkably. Malaby, mixed in the center on tenor and soprano, is more guttural, evoking cracks and imperfections and a curious vulnerability. Far from mimicking or taking a back seat to the more experienced Dunmall, he asserts the very strengths that have made him a banner name in his own right.

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

CF 138Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet – Ancient and Future Airs (CF 138 )
Per un curioso gioco di specchi, di immagini e di significati riflessi, i titoli dei due brani presenti in Ancient and Future Airs ingarbugliano le aspettative degli ascoltatori. Perché il chilometrico (quarantanove minuti) “Ancient Airs” di antico ha ben poco mentre “Future Airs” sembra un tuffo nel passato con le sue cadenze da madrigale. Come a dire nella musica abbandoniamo criteri di analisi classicamente cronologici o consequenziali e accettiamo piuttosto un’idea di circolarità.

“Ancient Airs” è una sorta di suite nelle quale trovano spazio le più svariate situazioni improvvisative, dai furibondi unisoni freebop, a raffinati dialoghi di stampo cameristico, da complesse strutture armoniche agli esperimenti etnici di Yusef Lateef o Tony Scott evocati dalle cornamuse di Paul Dunmall, il tutto sorretto dalla tecnica formidabile dei quattro musicisti. Il breve (nove minuti!) “Future Airs” è al contrario un gioiello di misura, di discrezione e raffinatezza non levigata, di sintesi e di profondità.

Registrato in un torrido giugno 2008 al Living Theater di New York, Ancient and Futures Airs è la testimonianza di un felice incontro tra un gigante dell’improvvisazione europea e tre pezzi da novanta americani. Ma su disco, come speso capita in situazioni del genere, l’evento perde parecchio della propria forza comunicativa e rimane una sensazione di estemporaneità che lascia un po’ di amaro in bocca.

Jazzword review by Ken Waxman

CF 138Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet – Ancient and Future Airs (CF 138)
The September Quartet – What Goes Around (Loose Torque)

As he has proved in other situations – most notably his two decades long membership in both the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and the collective quartet Mujician – saxophonist Paul Dunmall is the consummate group player.

With wide-ranging influences that take in Carnatic sounds, semi-folk material, so-called Ecstatic Jazz and free-form improv, the London-based musician is known for his tenor saxophone playing, but also tries out other members of the saxophone family – including the saxello – and has recently turned his attention to the border bagpipes.

Each of these ancillary horns makes an appearance on these notable quartet sessions. Recorded in the company of fellow British improvisers, the September Quartet features bassist Nick Stephen and drummer Tony Marsh, the trumpet of Jon Corbett and Dunmall’s tenor and saxello playing. Flash forward two years to 2008, when after an appearance at New York’s Vision Fest, Dunmall recorded the next day as part of the completely different Sun Quartet. Here his partners are all well-regarded Americans: bassist Mark Helias and Kevin Norton on drums and vibraphone, plus Tony Malaby playing soprano and tenor saxophones. Dunmall not only showcases his tenor work, but his bagpipe style as well.

Of similar build and hirsuteness, both Malaby and Dunmall bring the same lung power to their tenor saxophone playing, using split tones, inflating diaphragm vibratos and altissimo cries to good advantage. Operating in double counterpoint and exploring individual sonic paths only feature distinguishing Malaby from Dunmall – and vice versa – is that one sax appears to be pitched higher than the other. One sky shrieks while the other favors moderato timbres. Exact identification only happens when Malaby switches to the soprano and Dunmall brings out his bagpipes.

During those sections of the extended improv, Malaby’s soprano wriggles in serpentine lines which expose nodes as well as notes and uses a grittier tone to goose the tempo. Far away from pipe band harmonies meanwhile, Dunmall’s pipes and bellows pump up the available air supply with widened and pressured tones leading to triple and quadruple multiphonics. As the pitch-sliding bagpipe drone redefines the overall sound, Malaby narrows his output with reed biting abrasive tones.

Helias’ thick lope and Norton’s slaps, rebounds and accentuated drum strokes hold the performance together regardless of the reedists’ oral gymnastics. However the metallic sparkles and slides instituted by Norton’s vibraphone in the tune’s slower sections create a unique transitional texture. At points either one or another of his percussion instruments foreshadows tempo and pitch changes, as when cymbal taping introduces internal split tones intensity from the saxophonists or when pin-pointed drum strokes and rim shots usher in a section of mellow and balladic reed runs.

Divided into four long sections, as opposed to the massive single track and short encore that make up the other CD, What Goes Around is another ad hoc set up. British expatriate trumpeter Jon Corbett arrived from his home in Germany to record with his homeboys, who besides Dunmall, include veteran bassist Nick Stephens, who has recorded with everyone from Norwegian saxophonist Frode Gjerstad to American Norton, and drummer Tony Marsh, a frequent Stephens associate.

Unlike Norton, Marsh confines his work to the drum set and the drummer’s traditional time-keeping role, only figuratively stepping forward a few times to take sharp and restrained solos. In this different configuration, there’s less good-natured challenging from Dunmall – although his work with Malaby could scarcely be termed a saxophone battle – and more tone intermingling. Still, it’s the tenor man who, more often than not, steps outside the comfort zone with measured split tones, while Corbett specializes in andante trumpet flourishes, gentling grace notes and muted obbligatos.

At the same time, the brass man does reveal short, frenetic sound bites or hummingbird-quick tube explorations, as he does on “Follow Me Follow”. There, his gentling trumpet obbligato precedes soprano saxophone sluices and cymbal vibrations. Abutting one another, the horns’ output separate lines as Stephens’ bass walks and Marsh’s drums rebound. With the horns’ irregular vibrato sweetened with oral splays and growls, the track ends with a conclusive double bass pluck.

Fittingly the four climax with “All’s Well that End’s Well”, with Dunmall back on tenor, Corbett playing chromatic lines, and the rhythm section creating a rolling wave of string-thwacked thunder plus skittering drum beats and rim shots respectively. As the saxophonist introduces squat split tones and slurs to break up the time, he’s aided by the bassist’s supple cross strokes and half stops. Eventually the trumpeter and reedist stutter tremolo tones at one another: with one man’s timbres echoing the first’s almost immediately after initial creation. Finally sul ponticello string work, clattering drum beats, brass flutter-tonguing and reed tongue-stops coalesce architecturally, until the sounds gradually diminishing into a warm flurry of grace notes from both horns.

Whichever part of this mixed Anglo-American program you prefer, each CD shows off Dunmall’s inventiveness in a context with equally impressive cohorts.

Cadence Magazine review by Jerome Wilson

CF 115Trio Viriditas – Live at Vision Festival IV (CF 115)
“Live at Vision Festival IV” is from a virtuoso trio, one that sadly didn’t get to play together much, Alfred (formerly known as “23”) Harth, Wilber Morris, and Kevin Norton mixing it up at the 2001 Vision Festival. There are the expected passages of hairy all out blowing here but there are also times when Norton switches to dream-like vibraphone playing and Harth does vocalized cries through his horns and the music really begins to sound otherworldly.
“Hiranyagarbha” is notable for bruising pizzicato playing by Morris, astringent bass clarinet from Harth and Norton’s ghostly vibes coming more to the fore. “Melancholy” and “Braggadocio” both have surprisingly solid Blues tenor lines over walking bass and vibes and elsewhere little bits of cawing trumpet and crashing drums emerge like a tipsy call to battle. The Vision Festival is dedicated to non-violence so it’s only appropriate that the set ends with a solemn rendition of Horace Silver’s “Peace,” showing that this trio could play straight beautifully. The passing of Wilber Morris means that we’ll never hear this particular trio again but on this night they were outstanding.
www.cadencebuilding.com ©Cadence Magazine, 2009

Signal to Noise review by Stuart Broomer

CF 119

Fredrik Nordström Quintet – Live in Coimbra (CF 119)

CF 128

Angelica Sanchez – Life Between (CF 128 )

CF 138

Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet – Ancient and Future Airs (CF 138)

CF 122

Memorize the Sky – In Former Times (CF 122)

CF 120

Tetterapedequ – And the Missing R (CF 120)

Whether it’s the glut of CDs or readily-made self-releases, these are daunting times for smaller creative labels, with some reducing their output significantly. In contrast, Clean Feed, the Portuguese label launched in 2001, has been pushing forward with what is likely the most ambitious current release program in the areas of free jazz and improvised music. The label marked 2008 with 36 releases, including such highlights as Belle Ville by the Townhouse Orchestra (Evan Parker and the Sten Sandell trio) and two extraordinary duet projects by Joe Morris, the first a 4-CD set with Anthony Braxton, the second a sublime interaction with Barre Phillips. The sheer numbers and the prominence of a few artists can mask some of the label’s most interesting qualities: its willingness to promote the work of lesser-known artists and its genuine diversity in both locale and style. These five discs indicate some of that diversity, ranging from muscular to cerebral.

The Fredrik Nordström Quintet is a tightly-knit Swedish band with immediate affinities to the mid-60s Blue Note school. On Live in Coimbra, recorded at Clean Feed’s Jazz ao Centro festival in 2005, the tenor saxophonist/leader’s compositions present briskly stimulating platforms for intense group dialogues, with vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl and drummer Fredrick Rundqvist perhaps inevitably suggesting Bobby Hutcherson’s spacious, sustained dissonances and Tony Williams’ poly-melodic drumming. Trombonist Mats Äleklint is a fine match for Nordström: they’re both hearty, even boisterous players, with big sounds and fine minds, and the conversational component (Äleklint can create engaging dialogues with himself) makes this far more than a revisitation of an older style. That sense of loose conversation shapes “No Longer,” with Nordström joining Äleklint for some rousing collective improvisation before the two cede to a thoughtful solo by bassist Torbjorn Zetterberg. Including a warmly lyrical cover of Bjork’s “Cocoon,” the music gives a sense that it’s being created in the frictions and possibilities of the moment, its pre-ordained patterns functioning as points of discussion. 

Angelica Sanchez doesn’t record often, which makes Life Between something of an event. In addition to her usual trio partners—husband and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey–, she’s joined here by guitarist Marc Ducret and bassist Drew Gress in a program of Sanchez compositions that are marked by a near-improvisatory fluency, light lines that seem to arise and flow, unfettered by the hard edges of forethought or structure. The group responds with some brilliant playing, Ducret coaxing his electronic sound to dovetail with Malaby’s tenor and Sanchez’s acoustic and electric pianos. So strong is the affinity that identities shift around among the three, Malaby achieving a sustained bee-buzzing on “Black Helicopters” that builds in intensity at the same time that it builds electronic ambiguity. Whether they’re intense or pastoral, the disc abounds in riveting moments, like the lambent dialogue between Sanchez and Gress on “SF 4” or the four-way pull of rhythms and densities that Ducret, Sanchez, Gress and Rainey achieve on “Blue and Damson.” 

Malaby turns up as well on Ancient and Future Airs, matching his tenor and soprano with leader Paul Dunmall’s tenor and bagpipes, Mark Helias’s bass  and Kevin Norton’s drums and vibraphone.  Given the palpable heft of the Dunmall and Malaby tenor sounds, you might expect a blow-me-down free jazz bloodbath; if so, you’ll be redirected. There’s a certain similarity to the sanctified ’60s pairing of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, but it’s usually in its lyrical form, some dovetailing modal lines with flute-like sounds. One passage of extended blowing is contrapuntal in nature, with plenty of close listening. Some of the most moving moments are at relatively low volume, as in the subtly Eastern pairing of Malaby’s soprano and Dunmall’s bagpipe. You can catch the group’s inner dynamic when the two tenors drift gently  into Helias’s bowed harmonics. The 49 minute “Ancient Airs” and the ten minute “Future Airs” are aptly named,  for a certain airiness takes in the whole performance, from the grain of tenor sounds to the sparkle of Norton’s cymbals and vibraphones.      
 There’s a marked contrast to the forms and linearity of free jazz in Memorize the Sky, the trio of Aaron Siegel on percussion, Matt Bauder on tenor saxophone and clarinet, and Zach Wallace on bass. Together since their student days in Michigan, the three favor a drone-based minimalism more common in Europe than America. It’s a style they explore with fine results, developing dense grain in “I am the founder of this place” with a mix of circular breathing and bowed bass, bells and cymbals. The variety that the three achieve in what might seem like a constricted approach is consistently rewarding, accumulating microscopic evolutions of sound to create transformations before your ear.
Testing rather than jettisoning conventions, Tetterapadequ is a young European band that’s genuinely exploratory, willing to test approaches from a jazz-based rhythmic concentration to solo interludes and even a period of extended silence. It consists of two Italians (tenor saxophonist Daniele Martini and pianist Giovanni di Domenico) and two Portuguese (bassist Gonçalo Almeida and drummer João Lobo), but the key geographical point is the Netherlands. The band’s name is a near-anagram of De Patter Quartet, named for a favourite jazz club the quartet attended while students at a Dutch conservatory. Each is a player of substance, with Martini possessing a marked vocal force and rhythmic imagination and Di Domenico, showing a marked classicism that extends to Satie-like reflections. Almeida presses extended techniques while Lobo adds consistent interest with alternately dense and sparse sonic fields. Tetterapadequ’s eclectic wit suggests the Dutch scene in which they met, while the textures may recall the early work of Giorgio Gaslini, thanks largely to Di Domenico’s ironic classicism.