Tag Archives: Pheeroan Aklaff

All About Jazz Italy review by Paolo Peviani

Ricardo Gallo’s Tierra de Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Il progetto Tierra de Nadie, del pianista colombiano Ricardo Gallo, trae ispirazione da un pensiero di Julio Cortazar, riportato nelle note di copertina dell’album, che afferma che “la musica è una terra di nessuno, un territorio in cui quel sottile confine che separa i generi, e le identità nazionali/razziali, si fa sempre più labile. Un pensiero più che condivisibile, di cui Ricardo Gallo si appropria per dare origine ad un album che ingloba al suo interno i molteplici linguaggi del jazz. Le note presenti sul sito della Clean Feed parlano di riflesso della condizione globale di quella musica che noi chiamiamo jazz, di una sorta di folklore immaginario, chissà quanto consapevolmente rispetto al significato di questa locuzione nel jazz europeo (e pensare che la Clean Feed è un’etichetta portoghese!).

Senza scomodare parallelismi azzardati e a nostro modesto parere poco calzanti, preferiamo parlare di un album che spazia con impeccabile coerenza tra mainstream avanzato e profumi latino-sudamericani (soprattutto riscontrabili nel pianoforte del leader), tra qualche turbolenza free (con cui si apre – e a nostro avviso in modo fuorviante – l’album) e dolcissime ballads.

Brani ben scritti, melodie convincenti, pedali ritmici accattivanti, intrecci tra trombone e sax (soprattutto soprano) deliziosi, sezione ritmica incisiva … Molto bene!

The New York City Jazz Record review by Stuart Broomer

Ricardo Gallo’s Tierra de Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
Colombian pianist and composer Ricardo Gallo here launches his New York-based “Tierra de Nadie,” or No Man’s Land, a terrain in which “genres, or national and/or racial identities keep becoming wider and blurrier.” It’s an apt description of his compositions, which freely draw on Latin and jazz traditions, mixing melodies, rhythms and ostinatos from his South American background with boppish chord changes, counterpoint and loose improvisatory forms from jazz. It might also suggest the special fluidity of the band that Gallo has put together, with a frontline made up of saxophonist Dan Blake and trombonist Ray Anderson. While Blake plays forceful tenor on a couple of tracks, he’s usually on soprano, improvising with quicksilver runs and providing a high-spirited, piquant and chirping contrast to Anderson’s brilliant bluster. The latter is genuinely spectacular, leaping around then ooks and crannies of his horn’s range, with subtly shifting vocal mannerisms on every note. His extended solo on “Three Versions of a Lie” is a kind of master-class in the trombone’s expressive possibilities. While bassist Mark Helias provides a fluid continuous anchor, there are two drummers here, shifting duties. Satoshi Takeishi is alone for roughly the first half, then switches to assorted percussion for the last, ceding the drum chair to Pheeroan akLaff. The combination of the two creates tremendous rhythmic verve on the Latin-esque “Hermetismo” and “South American Idyll”. The CD is also a feature for Gallo the pianist, who comps with the forceful inventiveness of Andrew Hill and possesses a chameleonic lyricism that can be freely rhapsodic (his introduction to the traditional jazz-flavored “Stomp at No Man’s Land”), move loosely through rhythmic knots (“The Intervention”) or create the glassy, abstract soundscape of “Improbability”. Gallo has assembled a first-rate band and given it plenty with which to work.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Ricardo Gallo’s Tierra de Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
Some free improv dates are neither here nor there. Ricardo Gallo’s The Great Fine Line (Clean Feed 209) manages to avoid that. It’s here. By that I mean it has an immediacy. The composed sections structure the freedom in ways that bop heads frame the improvisations. Only this is not bop derived in any palpable way.

But like for example one of those Sonny Simmons ESP dates from the ’60s, there is the framework of the melodic head routines and there are rhythmic-harmonic and melodic turning-pivoting points that the soloists work within. Those structural elements provide a scaffolding to the proceedings. And they do so in varying ways.

On the level of the players themselves there is good musical event making. Gallo is a pianist who works out of structures himself, regardless of whether they are those set up for the band’s improvisations or just self-imposed. So in that way his playing is a microcosm of the larger group context.

Trombonist Ray Anderson plays himself, which makes him a good addition to just about any date I can think of that he has been on. He can get flat-out boisterous but there is a more introspective side to his playing as well.

And he makes a good contrast with fellow front-liner Dan Blake, who is mostly on soprano but straps on his tenor for two numbers. Blake is a little chameleon-like, tailoring his improvisations to the moment. His soprano work comes off more convincingly than his tenor on this date, but of course that may just be the luck of the draw and what take ends up being used? That’s only speculation. At any rate the two engage in effective and consistently interesting two-part improvised counterpoint at times, and that gives you some of the high points of the set.

Mark Helias is his dependable inspired self here, whether arco or pizz. Satoshi Takeishi and/or he and Pheeroan Aklaff provide a dynamically loose and entirely appropriate percussive foundation for what is going on.

Gallo the bandleader is quite present here in the choices made on who does what and when; Gallo the pianist I would like to hear more of in a smaller context to get a better handle on where he would go, but what he is doing on this one shows that he is a player of promise–like Andrew Hill in his prime, Gallo is dedicated to doing what fits his compositional stance. And finally Gallo the composer of heads, tails and centers certainly comes through here in good ways. He DOES do a short duet with Aklaff on “Improbability,” and it comes off as slightly tentative but not uninteresting.

Those who don’t have the money for everything may find this one less indispensable than some other new releases. But protracted listens may well make you a believer. It is a fine band and Gallo puts a singular stamp onto the proceedings in ways that make me want to hear more of him. I am glad I have heard this one and will most definitely be listening more. So there you are.

Revista Arcadia review by Luis Daniel Vega

Ricardo Gallo’s Tierra de Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
La primera vez que oímos hablar del pianista Ricardo Gallo fue en el 2004, cuando se dejó ver en La revuelta, disco de la agrupación bogotana Asdrúbal. Poco después de grabar junto a ellos viajó a Nueva York, donde se quedó a vivir por largo tiempo. Allí, en la Universidad Stony Brook, conoció al trombonista Ray Anderson, quien se convirtió en su profesor y, a la postre, en su colega. Ninguno de los dos se imaginó que seis años más tarde entrarían al estudio para darle vida a The Great Fine Line, quinta placa de Gallo luego de tres discos en cuarteto (Los cerros testigos, Urdimbres y marañas y Resistencias, todos ellos editados por el colectivo La Distritofónica, del que es miembro activo) y Meleyólamente, en dúo al lado del guitarrista Alejandro Flórez. 

Conformado en diciembre de 2007, el quinteto-sexteto Tierra de Nadie cuenta con la presencia de algunos “pesos pesados” del jazz y la llamada “música creativa” o “música improvisada” en Nueva York. ¿Y cómo convence un músico emergente de 33 años a otros que literalmente lo doblan en edad, y que cuentan con carreras consolidadas a lo largo de tres décadas? La respuesta es fácil: con música, fresca, poco prejuiciosa y, lo más importante, sin gentilicios. Así las cosas, los sonidos que nos encontramos en esta grabación son desarraigados y se adentran en territorios inhóspitos donde “los complejos y los mitos se resuelven en melodía”, como reza el epígrafe de Cortázar, impreso en el disco. 

Desde el jazz, la tradición de la música de vanguardia y de cámara, pinceladas andinas, otras citas prestadas del Caribe y el Pacífico colombianos, The Great Fine Line se siente, a primera vista, difícil. Claro, desde la entrada, el asunto es retador a todas luces como sucede en “Intruders”, corte en el que Anderson en el trombón, Mark Helias en el contrabajo y Satoshi Takeishi en la batería improvisan en onda minimalista por casi dos minutos antes de que el combo tome forma y se deje ir en un tema que por momentos nos recuerda las composiciones de Andrew Hill, a propósito, uno de los pianistas favoritos del bogotano. A partir de aquí no hay beneplácitos, lo que no significa de ningún modo que el disco sea hermético, despiadadamente freesero (de hecho no hay free por ningún lado), pretencioso y, en el peor de los casos, autorreferencial, es decir, escrito para ser entendido por algunos iniciados. Todo lo contrario. The Great Fine Line es accesible y nos tiene reservadas muchas sorpresas, como el imponente solo de Takeishi en “Stomp at no man´s land”; la nostalgia andina de “Hermetismo” (con Dan Blake impecable en el saxo tenor y Pheroan AkLaff soberbio en la batería); la delicadeza de Gallo en “The intervetion” y, para completar, “La pina blanca”, ingeniosa pieza en la que se cruzan, sin efectismos patrioteros, algo de dixieland, con porros chocoanos y sabaneros, estas últimas, sonoridades que Anderson asimila, precisamente, como si de verdad estuviera parado en la mitad de esa imaginaria tierra de nadie. 

Punto de giro en el oficio del capitalino, The Great Fine Line (editado por el influyente sello portugués Clean Feed) no puede ser escuchado como telón de fondo. Aunque suene a odiosa advertencia, hay que tomarse el tiempo necesario para escucharlo y no descuidar ningún detalle como sucede, por ejemplo, con el óleo “Piece on earth” (sí, como la pieza de Coltrane) con el que la artista Claudia Ruiz nos confirma que este disco es puro deleite… hasta para los ojos.

Jazz.pt review by Pedro Lopes

Ricardo Gallo’s Terra de Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)

“The Great Fine Line” tem um começo literal, navegando na procura imaterial de uma sonoridade. Pouco depois de um minuto e meio as engrenagens encaixam-se e materializa-se a abstracção, com Pheeroan Aklaff, Satoshi Takeishi e Mark Helias a desenrolarem um discurso rítmico hard-bop com acentuações e viragens vanguardistas (“Conspiracy”).
O discurso de Ricardo Gallo é o grande responsável pela desconstrução das manobras jazzísticas que, de outra forma, soariam a clichés, conseguindo muitas vezes cruzar a linha que se opera algures entre o jazz e a música contemporânea (oiça-se o motivo recorrente de “Stomp at No Man’s Land”).
Na linha dianteira, os sopros transformam a paisagem, criando relevos irregulares e desbastando as composições (“Conspiracy”). Nessa frente formada por Dan Blake e Ray Anderson destaca-se o reconhecido trombonista, cujas enérgicas intervenções são de importância extrema no registo (“Three Versions of a Lie” e “South American Idyll”). Ao longo de vários temas o ensemble não mostra quaisquer problemas em deixar a energia fluir, oscilando entre a composição lenta, abstracta e cinematográfica e a pulsante improvisação jazz (“Three Versions of a Lie”).
Em suma, esté é um disco menos inóspito do que à partida pode parecer, consolidando o talento do pianista e compositor colombiano no panorama internacional, num registo estampado com o selo da lisboeta Clean Feed, no catálogo da qual o músico havia surgido antes como membro do Peter Evans Quartet.

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

Ricardo Gallo’s Tierra De Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
Colombian pianist Ricardo Gallo, who has been slowly garnering attention stateside as an ingenious sideman to such luminaries as trombonist Ray Anderson and trumpeter Peter Evans, currently serves as assistant to the Jazz Department of New York’s Stony Brook University under the leadership of Anderson. No stranger to recording as a leader, Gallo’s percussion-heavy Bogota-based quartet recently released their third album, Resistencias (La Distritofonica) to widespread critical acclaim. The Great Fine Line is the debut of Tierra De Nadie, an international ensemble inspired by a quote from the Argentine novelist Julio Cortazar, who stated “I think in music, for a long time, that ‘fine line’ that defines genres, or national and/or racial identities keeps becoming wider and blurrier, expanding a sort of “no man’s land” that is happy for us, or still dangerous for some.”

Joined by Anderson, saxophonist Dan Blake, bassist Mark Helias, drummer Pheeroan akLaff and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, Gallo follows Cortazar’s edict, seamlessly blending Latin American folk traditions and modernist jazz innovations into a sophisticated hybrid that looks to both the past and future for inspiration. At its most vivacious, Gallo’s contrapuntal writing draws heavily from the earliest elements of jazz history, augmenting elaborate neo-classical arrangements with a collective energy that recalls the ebullience of Dixieland and the frenzy of the New Thing. Similar in scope to such veterans as Phillip Johnston and Henry Threadgill, Gallo’s embrace of the tradition knows no bounds, illustrated by the stylistic distance covered between the surreal New Orleans-inspired Latin number “Hermetismo” and the incandescent ballad “The Intervention.”

With a pellucid touch and broad sense of dynamics, Gallo unleashes an array of prismatic cadences, from pearlescent cascades to pneumatic clusters, modulating from foreground to background in magnanimous fashion. The adroit rhythm section of Helias and Aklaff underpins Gallo’s labyrinthine contours with syncopated cross rhythms, augmented with interlocking multi-hued accents courtesy of Takeishi’s exotic wood and metal percussion – when Takeishi is not throttling the skins himself in akLaff’s place, as he does for half the record. On the front line, Dan Blake’s sinuous soprano evokes the vocalized tone of his mentor Steve Lacy, making a complementary foil to Ray Anderson’s blustery tailgating. Their sprightly interplay and unfettered expressionism lends Gallo’s mercurial themes a sense of insouciant elation, especially on “Stomp At No Man’s Land” and the spirited closer, “La Piña Blanca,” which are surprisingly reminiscent of Johnston and Joel Forrester’s whimsical writing for the Microscopic Septet.

Evoking the concept at the heart of the album’s title, Gallo and company embrace myriad genres and styles in pursuit of a joyful noise rarely heard in contemporary jazz. Blake and Anderson’s animated call-and-response, the rhythm section’s roiling undercurrent and Gallo’s harmonious inventions gracefully integrate boisterous Dixieland licks, Latin American polyrhythms and regal formalism into a beguiling cross-cultural fusion that defies simple categorization.

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

Ricardo Gallo’s Terra de Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
Ricardo Gallo, pianista colombiano residente en Nueva York e integrante entre otros del Peter Evans Quartet, mantiene en activo desde 2007 su quinteto/sexteto neoyorkino Tierra de nadie. En él participan pesos pesados como el trombonista Ray Anderson, el contrabajista Mark Helias y el baterista Pheeroan Aklaff, además del saxofonista Dan Blake y el percusionista y baterista Satoshi Takeishi. El grupo toma su nombre de una cita de Un tal Lucas de Julio Cortázar en la que se definía a la música como una tierra de nadie. A partir de esa idea concibe este grupo como un lugar de encuentro en el que los músicos se puedan expresar con total libertad.

En su estreno, The Great Fine Line, el pianista no duda, como autor de las nueve composiciones, en introducir referencias folklóricas a lo largo de los temas del CD y que aportan un interesante toque de color. Sin embargo ni su papel como líder ni las referencias locales son los elementos más importantes presentes en su música.

El reparto democrático de los roles de los músicos en el grupo están presentes desde el inicio mismo del CD con “Intruders”, la pieza que lo abre. Allí cede el protagonismo a sus compañeros, y no es hasta bien entrado el tema cuando suenan las primeras notas de su piano. Una actitud que se va repitiendo a lo largo de toda la obra.

Tampoco es la inspiración folklórica el elemento prominente en la música del disco, sino sobre todo y fundamentalmente lo magníficamente engrasado que se muestra el grupo, en el que sobresalen especialmente un Ray Anderson muy inspirado y un Mark Helias que borda sus intervenciones. De esa manera todos ellos hacen suya la música -con algunos temas deliciosamente cantábiles-, llevándola a un interesante terreno de fusión multilingüe. Al contrario de lo que sucede en otros acercamientos de músicas locales a los terrenos del jazz, en esta ocasión el resultado de esta integración fluye con una magnífica naturalidad.

Como única pega a la grabación, que en realidad no es tal sino más bien una observación, aparece la cuestión de la disposición de los temas. Los seis primeros, los más extensos, son las piezas más logradas: “Three Versions Of A Lie” (con Ricardo Gallo especialmente inspirado y un magnífico intercambio entre este con sus compañeros), “Intruder’s”, “Stomp At No Man’s Land” y “Hermetismo”. Sin embargo los tres temas finales, especialmente “Improbability” y “La pina blanca”, dejan la impresión de haber sido añadidos para extender la duración hasta la hora de rigor en estos tiempos del CD. Quizás sin renunciar a ellos se les hubiera podido  haber encontrado una mejor acomodación entre el resto. A pesar de ello, son pocas las pegas que se pueden añadir al magnífico estreno discográfico de Tierra de nadie.