Tag Archives: Michael Attias

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

CF 261Michaël Attias – Spun Tree (CF 261)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Michaël Attias è sassofonista di origini israeliane che, stabilitosi a New York nei primi anni novanta, ne è diventato voce tra le più originali e musicista tra i più richiesti da personaggi come Tim Berne, Paul Motian, Mark Helias, Jason Moran per citarne alcuni. Se innumerevoli sono le partecipazioni a progetti altrui, i dischi licenziati a suo nome si contano sulle dita di una mano e ci mostrano un sassofonista dalla grande irruenza improvvisativa, dalla spiccata sensibilità interpretativa esaltata principalmente dalla formazione del trio. Spun Tree presenta invece un classico quintetto – piano trio come sezione ritmica e sassofono/tromba come front line – evidenziando un cambio di direzione nell’approccio compositivo, una chiara ramificazione delle dinamiche esecutive e rivelandosi come il disco della piena maturità. Attias si guarda bene dalla tentazione del cliché di un neo bop rinfrescato con qualche spruzzata free e un po’ di avant giusto per gradire. I cinque elementi del gruppo si muovono come elettroni alla perenne ricerca di un equilibrio che sarà sempre instabile perché le forze centrifughe tendono a sopraffare qualsiasi tentativo di quiete. Sax contralto e tromba tracciano traiettorie impazzite che, quando colgono l’attimo fuggente dell’incontro, si trasformano in scintille, il pianoforte sfiora le scie luminose creando grovigli densi di materia sonora in rotta di collisione con i fiati, mentre contrabbasso e batteria frammentano il pulviscolo sonoro rendendolo materia impalpabile da catturare e convogliare nelle giusta direzione.

Le melodie si formano in modo del tutto naturale da questo vagare senza meta apparente, si materializzano attraverso piccoli accumuli o leggere stratificazioni, per poi dissolversi misteriosamente. Ma è la figura di compositore acuto e ispirato che emerge prepotente dall’ora abbondante di Spun Tree, album che non finisce di stupire ascolto dopo ascolto e che svela tutta la sua bellezza in un sottile gioco di scatole cinesi.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

CF 261Michael Attias – Spun Tree (CF 261)
By now the avant-stream in contemporary jazz has a number of facets going for it. One of them is highly compositional but with plenty of solo space, freedom and construction joining hands for a new meld.   Michael Attias’s disk Spun Tree (Clean Feed 261) is an excellent example. It seems that the structural innovations of the best of the AACM composer-instrumentalists, George Russell and Bill Dixon’s compositional approaches, influences of new music and the energy of the new thing classics have become synthesized in new and rewarding, even exciting ways. Spun Tree fits right in there among the best.   The band on this album is relatively small, a quintet, yet the way the voicings work it often sounds fuller. Michael is on the alto and he has some excellent support from Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Matt Mitchell on piano, Sean Conly on double bass, and Tom Rainey at the drums.   They run through eight composition-improvisations with great spirit. The composed parts don’t fall into head-solos-head patterns so much as appear as vignettes to catalyze improvs and comment on them and vice versa. I won’t say this sounds like Ornette’s classic Free Jazz or Trane’s Ascension. It doesn’t. But the structural innovations of those classics have been expanded on and taken further in the complexity of how the music works.   Great compositions, soloists and pacing make this album a listen you should not miss! Michael Attias has it going for him.

Free Jazz review by Tom Burris

CF 261Michael Attias – Spun Tree (CF 261)
Confession time: This is the first time I’ve heard Michael Attias as a leader on a recording; and am I ever sorry I wasn’t clued in earlier.  The band he’s assembled is measured yet open, and produce music that is often delicate without sounding precious or fragile, reminiscent of a freer version of Miles’ second great quartet.  Look no further than the opening track, “Bad Lucid,” as proof, as the melody line conjures up Wayne Shorter; and the band sounds something like Shorter, Herbie, and Miles playing alongside Sirone and Andrew Cyrille.  Attias floats along gorgeously before a long passage appears featuring the group riding a one-note bass passage, swelling against a tide of their own making. “Question 8” begins with a thoughtful drum solo by Tom Rainey, before Matt Mitchell’s piano figures propel slowly forward in blocks, then pull back at the same rate while notes move up and down in a spiral of carefully constructed geometry.

There is a melody played by Attias and trumpeter Ralph Alessi that starts “No’s No” that I can only describe as oblong.  Mitchell’s haunting chord progression grounds the horns’ exotic phrases, but not too much.  This band’s sense of space, openness, and just plain balance has to be heard to be believed.   For example, there is a cluster of repeated chords around 3.5 minutes into “Calendar Song” that locks into Rainey’s thumping before stopping on a dime and rolling directly into a sublime passage featuring an elliptical bass line by Sean Conly.  Rainey’s accents propel everything forward at a constant rate.  Around the 7.5 minute mark, Mitchell takes the lead with bright, quick glissandos that deliver a knockout punch.

“Subway Fish Knit” and “Arc-En-Ciel” are shorter vignettes that function as meditative pieces, particularly the latter track.  Spun Tree is an aptly named disc, as it describes the loopy vertical melodic figures that the musicians constantly wind around each other.  “Ghost Practice” is a prominent example of this; and shows the unusual, restrained interplay between the musicians to be of the very highest caliber.  This one’s a keeper.

Le Son du Grisli review by Luc Bouquet

CF 261Michael Attias – Spun Tree (CF 261)
Nulle intrigue dans le jazz de Michael Attias mais une écriture à multiples niveaux. Même les ballades ne peuvent s’empêcher de bifurquer, de se transformer. A chaque tiroir sa liste d’ingrédients savamment agencés, ordonnés. Ainsi, ne pas s’attendre à un chapelet de griffures mais à un continuum de très fines secousses et de suavités, confirmées ici par chaque membre du quintet.

Au leader, les débouchés fructueux et les sages torsades. Au trompettiste Ralph Alessi, la logique d’infiltration des strates. Au pianiste Matt Mitchell, l’art de suspendre le solo de ses respirations autoritaires. Au contrebassiste Sean Conly, l’art de dissimuler ses éclats. Et au batteur Tom Rainey, tout le reste : la diversité, l’inspiration, la torsion et l’élasticité des rythmes. Et surtout : la facilité à extraire le liant de compositions qui, en d’autres baguettes, auraient pu s’enticher de lourdeurs assassines.

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

CF 261Michaël Attias – Spun Tree (CF 261)
Spun Tree is Michaël Attias’ first studio recording in six years and the first to revisit the elaborate ensemble writing featured on Credo (Clean Feed), which was made in 1999 but unreleased until 2006, a year after Renku, his Clean Feed debut. Intriguingly, it is also the only album in the multi-instrumentalist’s varied discography to feature a traditional quintet lineup fronted by saxophone and trumpet. Limiting himself to alto in this conventional format, Attias enjoys rare accord with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, whose aesthetic temperament and dynamic range matches the leader’s at every turn. Whether soloing in tandem or executing contrapuntal motifs, Attias and Alessi make a consummate pair. Ably supporting the congenial frontline in an array of evocative settings are up and coming pianist Matt Mitchell, semi-ubiquitous bassist Sean Conly and veteran drummer Tom Rainey.

Consisting of eight new pieces, the record is evenly split between long-form compositions featuring numerous shifts in tempo and tone and shorter, more streamlined works, like the melodious through-composed ballad “Arc-En-Ciel.” Attias’ episodic writing expertly balances intricate harmonic frameworks and malleable structures, allowing his sidemen ample room for unique interpretations of the written material. Colorful unaccompanied preludes are commonplace, including Rainey’s hypnotic drum intro to “Question Eight,” Mitchell’s regal thematic extrapolations at the outset of “Ghost Practice” and the shofar-like trumpet fanfare that opens “Calendar Song.” The latter provides an exemplary showcase for the group’s intuitive prowess. Sustaining the tune’s fervent mood mid-song with a rousing drum solo, Rainey’s thunderous palpitations are underscored by Mitchell, whose percussive block chords ring out with militaristic precision before Attias and Alessi’s dovetailing cadences culminate in strident call-and-response figures that bolster the coda’s martial theme.

Whether expounding on non-linear narratives or pithy motifs, the quintet invests each cut with a subtle, haunting ambience, providing the session with a cohesive emotional center. From the bracing angularity of “Question Eight” and the driving swing of the title track, to the minor key introspection of “No’s No” and the noir blues of “Subway Fish Knit,” each number exudes a moody, cinematic flair. Even the carnival-like ebullience of “Ghost Practice” is tempered by stark episodes of dark lyricism. A compelling release from an artist whose selective output rarely accentuates his compositional abilities, Spun Tree is an exceptional album, revealing additional layers with each spin.

The New York City Jazz Record review by Andrey Henkin

CF 261Michaël Attias – Spun Tree (CF 261)
Very often the term “composer” is amended to a musician’s name, meaning simply they write their own material. But in some cases, it is a defining classification. So it is with saxophonist Michaël Attias, who always maintains his aesthetic construction – often appealingly impenetrable – no matter the group, whether it be for his Credo sextet, the cooperative trio Renku, his Twines of Colesion quintet or now his new group Spun Tree. And the more one listens to Attias the player, the more it seems that his musicianship is, contrary to usual practice, informed by his composing. Spun Tree brings together new and old recording associations, the former represented by trumpeter Ralph Alessi, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Tom Rainey, the latter bassist Sean Conly, the equivalent of a teddy bear for the first summer at sleep-away camp. With repeated listens to the group’s debut, a recollection forms: the first time this reviewer heard Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure. Spun Tree may be a tenor sax or bass clarinet short of that monumental recording but there is the same easy density and oblique movement. The players don’t stack upon one another but instead nestlein each other’s folds, making for remarkably organic improvisations within the compositional structure, itself deceptively open-sounding. The eight pieces range from the long exploratory opener “Bad Lucid” and martial ballad “No’s No” to slow-burning-then-exploding “Calendar Song” and Elfin dance “Ghost Practice” (lovely miniature “Arc-En-Ciel” was co-written with pianist Russ Lossing from Twines of Colesion). Attias’ voice is rarely the first (or second or third) one heard, demonstrating the intense faith he has in the music he has conceived and the players he has chosen to deliver it.

All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita

CF 261Michael Attias – Spun Tree (CF 261)
Saxophonist Michael Attias seldom rests on his laurels. Always aligning with a superlative support structure, each of his solo outings offer a fluctuating refresher course on routes previously navigated. With nouveau ideologies in place, Attias’ expansive cache of weaponry once again comes to the forefront. The band skirts between introspection, aggression, and fiercely driven free bop atop the ever-present avant-garde contingent. No particular slant or proposition dominates on Spun Tree, and the musicians’ intrinsic synergy cannot be understated.

On “Ghost Practice,” Matt Mitchell’s semi-classical piano intro seeds the hornists’ circular thematic statements amid punchy accents and a cyclonic mode of attack. Mesmeric and forceful, they swerve into a free form breakdown led by trumpeter Ralph Alessi, who imparts a flirtatious dialogue with Mitchell, followed by temperate reconstruction processes

Attias’ brisk, yet calming tone launches a quietly rumbling bridge section. But he methodically surges into the red zone via precipitous squalls and serves as the antagonist, ultimately steering his cohorts full circle, where off-center melodies serve as a point of return for the soloists. Drummer Tom Rainey works on top and behind the groove as the quintet sports a shadowy presence and then bangs out the core melody for the finale.

Simply put, Attias is at the top of his game.

Scrivere di Jazz review by Giuseppe Mavilla

Tony Malaby – Novela, Arrangements by Kris Davis (CF 232)
Il sassofonista Tony Malaby si concede una pausa compositiva e ripone attenzione ad alcuni brani del sue passate produzioni. Di queste ne sceglie sei affidandone la riscrittura degli arrangiamenti alla pianista Kris Davis. Nasce così questo Novela che il musicista originario dell’Arizona, oggi newyorkese d’adozione,  interpreta al soprano e al tenore con la stessa Davis al pianoforte, John Hollenback alla batteria e con una corposa sezione di fiati che vede affiancati: Michael Attias, sax alto; Andrew Hadro, sax baritono; Joachim Badenhorst, clarinetto basso; Ralph Alessi, tromba; Ben Gerstein, trombone. Sei riproposizioni che ridanno linfa nuova a brani già di per se di alta fattura. Ma quello che più colpisce in queste reinterpretazioni sono la varietà delle trame musicali, i continui mutamenti d’atmosfera e le strutture articolate dei brani che alternano momenti lirici caratterizzati  da interventi corali dei fiati, tensioni d’avanguardia, geometrie da big band e suggestivi ambient bandistici in varie occasioni sfaccettate da umori circensi. In tutto questo risalta in modo preponderante il lavoro svolto dai fiati il cui front-line è l’elemento caratterizzante l’intera produzione, opposto ai contrappunti vigorosi espressi dagli interventi al pianoforte della Davis che a giudicare dal risultato finale ha saputo assolvere in modo ottimale all’incarico affidatogli da Malaby. Questi, dal canto suo, da, ancora una volta, ampia dimostrazione della sua identità jazz nonché della variopinta gamma tonale del suo layout fiatistico: viscerale, intenso, dirompente e dialettico, qui  come non mai impegnato com’è a confrontarsi con un nutrito quintetto di fiati. Arduo descrivere a parole l’ampio mosaico architettato dalla Davis per questa rilettura dando atto anche del prezioso contributo ritmico e fantasioso che Hollenback si inventa in una circostanza che lo vede orfano di un contrabbassista. Un’opera assolutamente da ascoltare per l’immensa essenza jazz di cui è intrisa.

Squid´s Ear review by Florence Wetzel

Tony Malaby – Novela (CF 232)
For his new CD Novela, saxophonist Tony Malaby made an interesting choice: he decided to cull six of his compositions from previous releases and present them afresh. This time he’s working with a new set of musicians and has greater intimacy with the tunes, but the biggest difference is that each piece has been given a fresh arrangement by pianist Kris Davis, who has channeled her inner Gil Evans in order to create exciting configurations that make the songs shine anew.

Malaby has plenty of experience playing with larger groups, including Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra and Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, and this knowledge has clearly informed his facility as a bandleader. He elicits excellent performances from Novela’s mega-powerful nonet, a group composed of Malaby on soprano and tenor sax, the excellent Michael Attias on alto sax, Andrew Hadro on baritone sax, Joachim Badenhorst on bass clarinet, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Ben Gerstein on trombone, Dan Peck on tuba, Davis on piano and conducting, and John Hollenbeck on drums and percussion.

The first song, “Floating Head,” exemplifies the virtues of this CD. The music is fast, bold, and powerful, the arrangement full of delicious swoops of impeccably synchronized instruments. There are many delightful layers of sounds and textures in this song, many unexpected accents and shifts, but although the music is positively thick with ideas, everything is still tastefully executed. One of the pleasures of this piece is hearing Dan Peck’s tuba, an instrument that eminent arrangers such as Evans and Claude Thornhill used with great inventiveness; the tuba creates a rich bottom for the entire piece, stretching both the song and the listener’s ear. Davis is fabulous on piano: her angular, agile approach keeps the music on its toes and ignites the entire tune.

Mention must also be made of the excellent “Warblepeck.” It’s a playful, lilting song with funky sax work by Malaby and fabulous percussion by Hollenbeck. The arrangement incorporates a marvelous polyrhythmic drive, and includes some wild slippy-slidey horn work that creates a positively joyful cacophony.

At the first public performance of his Birth of the Cool nonet, Miles Davis broke tradition (as usual) by insisting that the sign in front of the club read: “Arrangements by Gerry Mulligan, Gil Evans, and John Lewis.” Likewise, it’s impossible to extol the virtues of Novela without noting: “Arrangements by Kris Davis.” It’s heartening to see that the art of arranging is still going strong in the jazz tradition, and Malaby’s excellent CD shines a light for others to follow.

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano
Tony Malaby – Novela (Arragements by Kris Davis)
Canadian-born pianist Kris Davis’ student days intriguingly foreshadow her future endeavors: classical studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music; two summers at the Banff Centre for the Arts’ jazz program, where she met future collaborator Tony Malaby; then, moving to New York City to study composition with Jim McNeely. Her subsequent associations with peers like John Hollenbeck and Ingrid Laubrock, as well as her membership in collectives such as Paradoxical Frog and the RIDD Quartet, have developed in tandem with her own varied projects.

Aeriol Piano is her first unaccompanied outing. The solo recital has long been considered the ultimate proving ground for pianists; encouraging the broadest dynamic range from a performer, it captures every nuance of an artist’s expressive capabilities. From a respectfully abstract linear reading of Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are” and a handful of fully improvised miniatures to the ambitious “Saturn Return,” Davis explores the full potential of her instrument, both inside and out.

A product of her influences, Davis seamlessly incorporates lessons learned from disparate sources, adapting the dissonant intervals of Cecil Taylor, probing lyricism of Paul Bley and understated minimalism of Morton Feldman into a singular style largely devoid of the clichés of the jazz tradition, such as block chords or left-handed bass lines. Though capable of summoning turbulent salvos for dramatic effect, it is her ability to craft poetic melodies from oblique lyrical fragments – infusing heady abstraction with heartfelt beauty – that is her most impressive talent. The prepared piano opus “Saturn Return” takes this aesthetic a step further, serving as the conceptual centerpiece of the record. An episodic rumination through various stylistic precedents, Davis builds from romantic musings to thunderous drama before embarking on a lyrical exposition that draws equally from aleatoric experimentation and minimalist formalism.

Davis’ growing talent as a composer and improviser is well documented, but her skills as an arranger and conductor have been largely unheard, until now. Tony Malaby’s Novela features Davis’ multifaceted arrangements of six Malaby-penned compositions originally conceived for trio and/or quartet. Davis’ working relationship with Malaby dates back 10 years, to the formation of her longstanding quartet. In the ensuing years Malaby has explored a variety of instrumental line-ups to extend the breadth of his eclectic writing, from bare-bones acoustic trios to electrified quartets. Novela is his most extravagant creation yet, a horn-heavy nonet that combines the unfettered zeal of a riotous street band and the tonal sensitivity of a chamber ensemble.

The session consists entirely of previously recorded compositions; two even date back to Sabino (Arabesque), his 2000 debut as a leader. Although presumably selected for the sake of expediency, these six tunes provide Davis the opportunity to demonstrate her knack for transposing skeletal themes into intricate symphonic tone poems, revealing a previously undocumented talent in the process. Davis’ urbane charts subtly hint at her studies with McNeely, tracing a line back through the innovations of George Schuller and George Russell. They also conjure memories of the loft era, with zany march motifs and manic collective improvisations that owe as much to Muhal Richard Abrams and Anthony Braxton as they do Raymond Scott.

Opening with brooding intensity, “Floating Head” features contrapuntal horn formations churning like storm clouds gathering in pursuit of the leader’s evasive soprano. “Floral and Herbacious” follows, blossoming into a cornucopia of dynamic ensemble shifts led by Ralph Alessi’s melancholy trumpet and Joachim Badenhorst’s caterwauling bass clarinet. After a dramatic exchange between Dan Peck’s bleating multiphonic tuba (played with a tenor saxophone mouthpiece) and his section mates, the ensemble swells behind Malaby’s rhapsodic tenor, concluding an excursion as quixotic as the surreal sonic travelogue “Mother’s Love.” The influence of Raymond Scott is heard in the quirky “Warblepeck,” which rivals “Remolino” for pure capriciousness. The former tune demonstrates the nonet’s capacity for rhythmic fervor as well as orchestral color, counterbalancing pneumatic horn charts with John Hollenbeck’s kaleidoscopic percussion accents. Davis’ spacious arrangements repeatedly reveal a penchant for such dramatic pairings; she isolates Michael Attias’ diaphanous alto at the outset of “Cosas,” stages a garrulous duet between Peck’s tuba and Ben Gerstein’s trombone during the coda of “Floating Head” and joins Peck and baritone saxophonist Andrew Hadro for a riotous trio interlude on the madcap closer, “Remolino.”

While Davis is more than just an arranger here – she also conducts the horns and plays piano – ultimately, the star of the show is Malaby, whose unbound expressionism continues to push further and further beyond conventional tonal extremes with each release. Inspired to lofty heights by Davis’ opulent charts, Tony Malaby’s Novela is one of the saxophonist’s most compelling efforts to date.