Tag Archives: Lawnmower

Free Jazz review by Paul Acquaro

CF298Lawnmower – Lawnmower II (CF 298)
Ah, memories … I recall downloading Lawnmower’s first album, West, from eMusic at Stef’s enthusiastic recommendation. Then, I remember falling for it, becoming enthralled by the two guitars spinning ambient textures, Luthar Grey’s understated drums and Jim Hobb’s earthy saxophone. I also had the luck to catch a performance at the a sweltering Stone on a hot summer night a few years back.

Well, Lawnmower is back, sort of … the line up is revised but they have not lost their natural post-rock sense of adventure. Replacing the dual guitars of Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton is violinist Kaethe Hostetter and electric bassist Winston Bramey. Fortunately, the loss of the fabulous guitar work is deftly mitigated by Hostetter and Bramey whose mix of melodic intent and pulsating bass generates its own captivating nuances and complements the inventive work of Grey and Hobbs.

Lawnmower II opens up with ‘Good Beat’ – and it’s just that – a good beat that stretches out unhurriedly over 8 minutes. Violin and sax dance lightly around the chugging bass and drums. Hostetter offers up dark riffs and Hobbs responds in kind. The back beat on ‘Space Goat’ also chugs along unhurriedly — it’s 12 minutes of groove and mood, featuring wah-wah violin and fuzz bass with extended solos. Hobbs is in the foreground on ‘Cartoon’, where his rapidly ascending and descending lines stitches together the frenetic free playing of his companions. The aptly titled ‘Walk in the Park’ follows and provides a nice melodic bridge to the standout ‘Tiny Wing’. Digging deep into itself, the track features the violin and bass in an introverted space jam that threatens to violently implode.

Lawnmower, the band, finds its inspiration in ambient spaces and deliberate rhythms, melodic snippets and extended probing passages. Though a new model for 2014, Lawnmower is a different machine but still comes highly recommended.


Time Out review by José Carlos Fernandes

CF298Lawnmower – II (CF 298)
Entre o 1º e o 2º discos do projecto Lawnmower, do baterista Luther Gray, há diferenças de monta, com as duas guitarras de Farina e Littleton a darem lugar ao violino de Kaethe Hostetter e ao baixo eléctrico de Winston Braman (só o sax de Jim Hobbs se mantém) e a sonoridade e arquitectura foram radicalmente alteradas, de que resulta o opus 2 ser mais sedutor do que o antecessor. O que não quer dizer que se tenham feito quaisquer concessões: basta ouvir a fúria do sax e do violino no extremo agudo em “Tiny Wings” (a evocar uns Sonic Youth em desvario psicadélico), ou o imperturbável tribalismo minimal de “Good Beat” (entre Joy Division e Can), sobre o qual sax e violino tecem curiosos diálogos. Não é música para se ouvir enquanto se jardina.

Burning Ambulance review by Phil Freeman

CF 298Lawnmower – Lawnmower II (CF 298)
It’s always interesting when a band undergoes a major metamorphosis between albums, yet retains its name. Drummer Luther Gray has been a part of at least two such bands. He plays for guitarist/bassist Joe Morris‘s Wildlife, which started as a trio (Morris, Gray, and tenor saxophonist Petr Cancura) on its 2009 self-titled debut, but added alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs to the lineup on its second release, 2011′s Traits. And he’s the leader of Lawnmower, which on its 2010 debut West (reviewed here) found Gray and Hobbs teaming up with guitarists Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton for an album that blurred the boundaries theoretically separating blues, noise-rock, and free jazz. (Note: Farina, Gray and Littleton recorded an album as New Salt in 2005.)

Well, four years later, the second Lawnmower album is here, and Lawnmower II is a very apt title, as this is a very different album from its predecessor. Gray and Hobbs remain, but both guitarists are gone, replaced by violinist Kaethe Hostetter and electric bassist Winston Braman. The result is a set of jammy, slow-burning pieces that drift away from the at times fierce abstraction of West in favor of trancelike extrapolations of relatively simple melodic ideas.

Things start off fairly upbeat, with “Good Beat,” a loping groove driven by sharp, almost Tony Conrad-with-Faust-ish juxtapositions of violin over throbbing, one-chord bass and tribal-ish drumming. Around the three-minute mark, Hostetter’s violin begins to drift in a cloud of reverb, as Hobbs’ saxophone squeaks like a door. “Jumping Off the Bridge,” the second track, is the most conventionally “jazzy” piece here, Hobbs spinning out thoughtful, subdued melodies as his bandmates drift in an abstract blues zone. “Space Goat,” the longest piece on the album at over 12 minutes, is also the weirdest. Hobbs is relatively restrained, never erupting into free/avant squawking, while Hostetter plays aggressively, through a wah-wah pedal, and Braman’s bass is huge and dubby; at one point, he cuts loose with a fuzzbox and starts to sound like Andrew Weiss of the Rollins Band. The violin work makes the whole piece reminiscent of, of all things, Edie Brickell and New Bohemians‘ “What I Am.” Behind them all, Gray thwacks out a steady snare rhythm—this track, out of everything on Lawnmower II, would be the most likely to appeal to jam-band fans rather than jazz listeners. “Cartoon,” a two-minute eruption, juxtaposes sawing, post-Ornette Coleman violin against whinnying saxophone, as Braman’s fuzzed-out bass and Gray’s avalanche drumming surge and recede below. “Walk in the Park,” a ballad of sorts, showcases Hobbs’ ruminative alto (the first three minutes of the piece are basically a long saxophone solo) as much as his ability to create keening harmonies with Hostetter. On the nearly nine-minute “Tiny Wings,” though, their interaction is less about harmony and more about engaging in some kind of squealing contest, her violin zooming like a theremin as he loops and dives through the horn’s upper register; meanwhile, Gray dances on the cymbals and Braman strums the bass in a range somewhere between Bill Laswell in Last Exit and Jane’s Addiction‘s Eric Avery. The final track, “Ashed,” begins with two minutes of long tones from violin and saxophone, the bass and cymbals only gradually emerging behind them; eventually, it all morphs into a slow-walking blues, taking the album out on a soft, brooding note.

Lawnmower‘s resistance to easy definition makes them one of the more exciting groups around. It’ll be interesting to see what form they take on album #3.

The New York City Jazz Record review by Ken Waxman

Lawnmower – West (CF 178 )
Architecturally organized into sound blocks, the seven tracks on this quartet’s debut CD bleed one into another to create a distinct aural picture. Mostly midtempo and somewhat monochromatic, the pieces seem to take as much from shoe-gazer rock and poignant country music as jazz improvisation. That’s not surprising considering that two of players – guitarists Dan Littleton and Geoff Farina – are part of indie-rock bands such as Ida, Karate and Secret Stars. Drummer Luther Gray is a former punk rocker who now plays with improv stylists such as saxophonist Ken Vandermark and guitarist Joe Morris. Leader of the Fully Celebrated Orchestra, alto saxophonist JimHobbs is the jazz spark here. On ballads such as “Prayer of Death” and “Love”, the guitarists churn out Appalachian-styled twang sand tremolo slides as the saxophonist’s melismatic whines and choked slurs approximate the lonesome timbres of primitivist singers. When his tone isn’t reminiscent of Dock Boggs’ vocals, Hobbs channels Ornette Coleman. On a piece such as “Giant Squid” Hobbs creates jaunty, linear solos whose child-like intonation contrast with the guitarists’ crunching reverb and discordant fuzz tones. Littleton and Farina only fleetingly differentiate themselves throughout when one vibrates steel-guitar-like licks and the other gashes his strings, producing abrasive rebounds. Meanwhile Gray’s presence is strictly supportive, sticking to bare-bone paradiddles and uncomplicated clatters and rolls. Even on “Two”, the lengthiest track at almost 15 minutes, the pause between sections is no drum break, but an opportunity for methodical clunks and rustling raps from Gray. Half-lullaby and half-lament, resonating guitar drones at the top develop into fortissimo string shakes and blurry note sprays by the end, with Hobbs’ pinched reed bites and split tones providing the contrast. Gray says the band name came from his youth, mowing lawns while listening to music through a walkman. As imposing as some of the tracks are, the album’s underlying melancholy may discourage an identical strategy here: a severed toe may result.

All About Jazz-Italy review by Angelo Leonardi

Lawnmower – West (CF 178)
I componenti di questo quartetto sono artisti d’avanguardia trenta/quarantenni che per formazione, esperienza e produzione musicale si collocano in un’area dove le usuali etichette (jazz, rock, elettronica, ambient ecc…) sono inopportune: i generi sono così amalgamati che è impossibile separarli uno dall’altro.

I quattro musicisti si conoscono e collaborano da anni in formazioni a geometria variabile ed in questo disco realizzano un progetto attraente, dove prevalgono melodie statiche, climi ipnotici e torridi, dove l’influenza del blues è palpabile tanto quanto un certo country alla Frisell. Non mancano momenti di sperimentazione rumoristica o impennate espressive verso il free ma il progetto è ben delineato e gli sviluppi formali suggestivi anche se non particolarmente originali.

Tra i brani più riusciti ricordiamo l’iniziale “One,” dove il contralto inizia delineando semplici linee melodiche su brandelli chitarristici iterati fino a giungere a tensioni parossistiche nella parte centrale. Su analoghe coordinate si sviluppa “Two,” con Jim Hobbs sempre protagonista, che mette a confronto una dimensione iniziale lirica e appassionata con una parte finale rumoristica e concitata. Chiari riferimenti alle concezioni espressive di Ornette Coleman e Bill Frisell rivelano rispettivamente “Giant Squid” (dal marcato e suggestivo contrasto sax contralto/chitarre elettriche) e “Prayer of Death,” dall’atmosfera sospesa ed evanescente contraddetta dal consueto magmatico finale.

Ni Kantu review by Clifford Allen

LAWNMOWER – West (CF 178 )
Lawnmower is a semi-recent quartet based in the Northeast and comprised of drummer Luther Gray, guitarists Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton, and alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs. Minus Hobbs, the twined-guitar and drums trio went under the moniker of New Salt for a 2006 release on Kimchee. There’s a fair amount of history to Lawnmower, though one wouldn’t necessarily pick up on it at first – in addition to working as part of the Fully Celebrated Orchestra and in guitarist Joe Morris’ various small groups, Gray was a latter-day member of the DC indie-rock band Tsunami, while Farina and Littleton came up in deliberately-paced groups Karate and Ida, respectively. It’s not quite the pedigree one would expect in an improvising quartet, but at the same time the lack of clearly defined jazz or rock structure probably does this group well. There’s a stark, dusty twang and gritty electricity to the opening “One,” ringing downward strokes wrapping rapid, tremolo attack and muted shorts as Hobbs’s alto bounces and ricochets off of Gray’s surging chatter. Building from spare accent to brassy waves, the subtle rise and fall of limber, repeating planes are significant in setting off thorny counterpoint. Dry, acrid alto peals reach an earthy cadence on “Glass,” supported by gentle plugged-in harmonics, wisps of feedback and a malleted march. The metaphor of a competing tangle is apparent in “Giant Squid,” Gray’s rhythms chunky against seasick dives of wow and feedback, though the breath of a spry water bird comes through in Hobbs’s loquacious alto. West is a mostly quite spare set, but hinges on wiry comment and, at times, heated dialogue. There’s a spectral, field-like cast lent by the guitarists’ tonal gradations, shunting alto and percussion into uncharted areas and making this quartet date a welcome listen.

Radio Student Ljubljana review by Bogdan Benigar

Lawnmower – West (CF 178)
Lawnmover je kvartet iz bostonskega okrožja, ki ga je za snemanje albuma julija 2008 sestavil bobnar Luther Gray, ob njem pa lahko slišimo še Jima Hobbsa na saksofonu ter dva električna kitarista, Geoffa Farino in Dana Littletona. Že sama zasedba je nenavadna. Če sta na eni strani jazzerja Gray in Hobbs pa Farina in Littleton prihajata bolj iz rockovskih krogov. Farina je sploh bolj znan po skupini Karate, trenutno pa se nahaja na turneji s Chrisom Brokawom iz Dirt Music … (v celoti!)
* Portugalska založba Clean Feed še naprej preseneča. Ob številnih novojazzovskih izdajah, predvsem iz newyorškega in domačega okoliša, se tu in tam pojavi prav poseben cvet, ki izstopa in še dolgo ne bo ovenel. Izstopa po izvoru, pristopu in glasbenemu rezultatu. Lawnmover je namreč kvartet iz bostonskega okrožja, ki ga je za snemanje albuma julija 2008 sestavil bobnar Luther Gray, ob njem pa lahko slišimo še Jima Hobbsa na saksofonu ter dva električna kitarista – Geoffa Farino in Dana Littletona. Že sama zasedba je nenavadna. Če sta na eni strani jazzerja Gray in Hobbs, pa Farina in Littleton prihajata iz bolj rockovskih krogov. Farina je sploh bolj znan po skupini Karate, trenutno pa se nahaja na turneji s Chrisom Brokawom, ki smo ga videli pred nekaj meseci v skupini Dirt Music.

Sestavo zasedbe je narekovala Grayeva želja, da bi z njo ustvaril glasbo, ki se razlikuje od tega, kar je počel do zdaj. To pa so številna sodelovanja z jazzovskimi glasbeniki Vzhodne obale, v prvi vrsti z Joem Morrisom in Taylorjem Hojem Bynumom. Jazz in improvizacija sta torej na prvem mestu, a Gray poudarja, da ga njegovi mentorji nikoli niso učili kaj naj igra, ampak kako naj igra in to predaja naprej tudi svojim učencem. In res, Grayevo bobnanje ima svojstven zven in ritmiko ne glede na to, ali ga poslušamo v improvizacijah z Joem Morrisom na albumu Creatures, ki je bil izdan letos pri založbi Not Two, ali na albumu West, ki se sliši kot glasba za jazzovski road movie, na katerem smo priča tako najbolj nenavadnim ameriškim štorijam, kot tudi ljubezenskemu odnosu na prostranstvu koruznih polj Indiane, od koder prihaja Gray. Vključitev električnih kitar, ki se nenehno poigravata, križata, igrata melodijo ali ustvarjata hrup, se zdi samoumevna, a vendarle originalna ideja. A glasba vendarle zaživi šele ob izjemnem Jimu Hobbsu, ki prispeva nekaj najbolj ekspresivnih zvokov altovskega saksofona, kar smo jih imeli priložnost slišati v zadnjih letih, če za trenutek odmislimo Grega Warda iz Chicaga. Za njegovo navdahnjeno igranje lahko rečemo, da dejansko prodre do kosti. To še posebno velja za komad Prayer of Death, medtem ko v komadu I Love spomni na dneve, ko se dekleta še padala na saksofoniste. Hobbs je, tako kot vsa sodobna jazzovska East Coast scena, manj poznan v naših krajih, a gre za neutrudnega mačka, ki že desetletje vodi cenjeni Fully Celebrated Orchestra in tako kot Gray sodeluje s ključnimi imeni jazzovske scene na Vzhodu. Po albumu West bodo ušesa za njegovo muziciranje nedvomno bolj široko odprta.

Luther Gray v spremnih besedah k albumu pove, da West ponazarja glasbo, ki jo je poslušal od otroštva do danes. In vendar ne gre za nove izvedbe starih komadov. Komadi na plošči West so napisani v duhu današnjega časa, kjer je nostalgija vir navdiha za novo ustvarjalnost. Čas, v katerem se lepi spomini preobrazijo v kreativno izražanje občutij prek glasbe, in prostor, v katerem pozitivnih izkušenj otroštva ni mogoče izločiti iz umetnikovega vsakdana. West je prvovrstna glasbena romanca in album, ki ga doma položiš na polico, na kateri piše „onkraj glasbenih zvrsti“. West je nekaj, česar še nismo slišali.
In nocoj ga na žalost ne bomo slišali v celoti. CD, ki bi v starih časih izšel v obliki dvojnega LP-ja, vsebuje preveč godbe za to oddajo. Slišali boste the best of West. Začetno One in zaključno Two v dolžini pol ure, vmes pa cvetove Prayer Of Death, Dan in I love. Luther Gray na bobnih, Jim Hobbs na altovskem saksofonu ter Geoff Farina in Dan Littleton na kitarah. Lawnmover ali po slovensko vrtna kosilnica.

Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Lawnmower – WEST (CF 178 )
Drummer Luther Gray knows exactly the sound he’s going for: the sound of summer swelter, evoked by the swollen strumming of guitarists Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton, heat-haze and heavy air drenched in their reverb and vibrato, while Jim Hobbs’ celebrated alto quaver is all insects in shimmering air, punctuated by the occasional sweat-soaked complaint – “damn, it’s hot!” He’s great at bending tart notes around like balloon sculptures, as one guitarist does the Ribot twang alongside the other’s metallic sawing. The long lines and big thunderheads of pure tone are stretched elastically over Gray’s skittering pulse, with the guitars occasionally swerving outward to meet up with the drummer in a choppy second line rhythm (Gray is a model of restrained invention throughout). On the first few spins, I thought it was a bit uneventful, but then, as the temperature approached 100 down here, I started to get it. As the saxophone claws its way through the thickening, oscillating textures of “One,” as “Dan” cavorts with night birds and insects, and as “Glass” nods obliquely to one of those old Codona songs with kalimba (specifically “Mumakata”), I began to look forward to new listens, new immersions into this bath of sound. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all just texture: “Prayer of Death” could be a 19th century funeral air played by a surf band, and the nicely noisy “Giant Squid” unfurls long saxophone lines, descending and ascending inside the bowels of a machine. But ultimately it all drifts back to the sound on the daydreaming “I Love” and the sweet, wistful “Two” that ends the disc. Lovely. Somebody reach into the cooler and toss me a cold one.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Lawnmower: Two Electric Guitars, Alto Sax, Drums Play the Unexpected

Lawnmower – West (CF 178 )
Drummer and Musical Sculptor Luther Gray apparently spent many hours of his formative life mowing lawns while listening to music on a walkman. It was a place and time where Gray heard a wide variety of styles reflecting his changing musical interests. With the CD West (Clean Feed 178) by his group Lawnmower he puts together an intriguing set that reflects the experience, filtered by the softening of the edges of musical memory with time.

It’s  Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton on electric guitars, Jim Hobbs on alto sax, and of course Gray himself. This is music with a difference. The guitars use tremolo, feedback and drone blocks of sound to evoke an earlier era. Hobbs adds a distinctively sharp alto sax, and Gray plays a variety of drum roles, from quiet freedom to pulsation.

It’s a kind of reflective free psychedelic raga jazz. Most importantly, it works as a most interesting and evocative musical event. It certainly references obliquely an earlier period (late ’60s-early ’70s) in contemporary music. It is very evolved, a sophisticated offshoot of the psychedelic freak outs some people made in their garages or at the end of the school dances back then. Only it’s just much better than most if not virtually all of that.

In fact it is one of those great ideas musically. It’s a great idea that comes off to near perfection. Don’t expect hot licks. It’s an ensemble effort. A group painting in sound color. It’s rather daring. It’s fully engaging. You get the point.

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+(***)