Tag Archives: Rudresh Mahanthappa

The New York City Jazz Record review by Ken Waxman

CF 279Mark Dresser Quintet – Nourishments (CF 279)
Bassist Mark Dresser is known for his stunning ability to interpret the most advanced notated and improvised music. However, on his first quintet date in decades, he shows he can compose affecting and swinging music without neglecting his matchless technique.

While the line up of trombone, alto saxophone, piano, bass and drums may sound standard, each sideman is so accomplished that the results are out of the ordinary. The most obvious departure from the norm is that Denman Maroney plays so-called hyperpiano throughout, allowing him to exposein-and-outside-the-frame multiphonics along with expected patterns. Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, who co-wrote “Not Withstanding” with Dresser, has a knowledge of Carnatic music that helps him negotiate the shimmering changes of the leader’s“Rasaman”, which honors a sitar-playing colleague. Trombonist Michael Dessen is established in mainstream and avant contexts while Tom Rainey and Michael Sarin, who split drum duties, are both sympathetic, un-showy accompanists.

The players intertwine their parts, interjecting tone extensions without losing the tunes’ thematic threads, as on the time-signature shifting “Rasaman”. Dessen’s wide-ranging plunger tones dovetail with Dresser’s stentorian slaps, Mahanthappa heading into screech mode alongside the bassist’s spiccato scratches as contrapuntal lines churn beneath them. A little bit Latin, a little bit boppish, the title track demonstrates Dresser’s compositional sophistication as players simultaneously tease variations from the melodic line. His chunky solos serve as bridges between slurred trombone and honking sax flutters, referencing Mingus’ writing and faint echoes of “Played Twice” as well as devious recaps of the tune’s head. “Para Waltz” is an exemplar of group interaction as Rainey’s drumbeats behind harmonized horns maintain a relaxed feel, seconded by Maroney’s keyboard rhythms. At the same time the pianist’s string preparations spice the narrative with unsettling microtones.

Dresser’s piquant asides, plus the other ingredients used his compositional recipe book, help provide the musical nourishment for this key session.

JazzWord review by Ken Waxman

CF 279Mark Dresser Quintet – Nourishments (CF 279)
Double bass master and educator Mark Dresser is known for his ability to stunningly interpret the most advanced notated and improvised music – often in a solo context. However on this, his first quintet date in decades, he shows he can compose and play sounds that are affecting and swinging without neglecting his matchless technique.

While the line-up of trombone, alto saxophone, piano, bass and drums may read like that of a standard bop combo, each of the sidemen is so accomplished instrumentally that the results are out-of-the-ordinary. The most obvious departure from the norm is that Denman Maroney plays so-called hyperpiano throughout, allowing him to expose in-and-outside the frame multiphonics along with expected patterns. Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, who co-wrote “Not Withstanding” with Dresser, is in the Mauger band with the bassist, and his knowledge of Carnatic music helps negotiate the shimmering changes of Dresser’s “Rasaman” honoring a sitar-playing colleague. Trombonist Michael Dessen is established in mainstream and avant contexts; while Tom Rainey and Michael Sarin, who split drum duties, are both sympathetic, un-showy accompanists.

Elation is often expressed as the players intertwine their parts, interjecting tone extensions without losing the tunes’ thematic threads. This is demonstrated concisely on the time-signature shifting “Rasaman” as Dresden’s wide-ranging plunger tones dovetail with Dresser’s stentorian slaps, then Mahanthappa heads into screech mode alongside the bassist’s spiccato scratches as contrapuntal lines churn beneath them.

A little bit Latin, a little bit boppish and expressed dynamically as players simultaneously tease variations from the melodic line, “Nourishments” demonstrates Dresser’s compositional sophistication. The bassist’s chunky propulsive solos serve as bridges between slurred trombone and honking sax flutters that reference Mingus’ writing and faint echoes of “Played Twice” as well as devious recaps of the tune’s head. Meanwhile “Para Waltz” is an exemplar of combo interaction as Rainey’s drum beats behind harmonized horns maintain a relaxed feel, seconded by Maroney’s keyboard rhythms, while at the same time the pianist’s string preparations spice the narrative with unsettling microtones.

His piquant asides, plus the others’ ingredients mixed into Dresser’s compositional recipe book help provide the musical nourishment for this key session.

Not Just Jazz review by Brent Black

CF 279Mark Dresser Quintet – Nourishments (CF 279)
With Nourishments, Mark Dresser has released that rare recording that transcends genre while attacking on both the cerebral and visceral fronts. A modern improvisational feast for the senses. Brent Black / @CriticalJazz

Mark Dresser is a bass innovator, perhaps the best that you may not have heard much out of and this would be due to his talents stretching from free improvisational jazz to new music. While his most recent recordings celebrate his prolific ability as a soloist, the aptly titled Nourishments heralds his return to the quintet format for the first time in two decades.

If a carpenter is only as good as his tools analogy holds true in music then Mark Dresser has an eye for talent as well. From alto saxophone rising star Rudresh Mahanthappa to trombonist Michael Dressen, this quintet boasts five legitimate leaders yet their performance is based on counterpoint and the careful manipulation of tone while never losing an intriguing lyrical accessibility. One particular highlight that is the wonderfully crafted use of telematic which is essentially riding the wave of digital technology by utilizing fiber optic remote performances for performances being carried out miles apart. The title track “Nourishments” is a telematic performance between San Diego and New York with changing tonalities and fiery rhythmic counterpoint. “Para Waltz” is an amazing and incredibly daring offering that creates a hybrid of sorts revolving around traditional poly rhythms and the non traditional exploration of microtonal shadings.

While the layers of texture and melodic sense of forward motion is dramatic, Nourishments has a deceptively subtle quality of tunes that are deconstructed and reinvented as the performance continues. This melodic masterpiece is brilliantly conceived and a triumphant marriage of simplicity and complexity at the same time.

4 Incredibly Solid Stars!

All About Jazz review by Robert Bush

CF 279Mark Dresser Quintet – Nourishments (CF 279)
Mark Dresser has risen to the very upper echelon of the double-bass world in the most impressive fashion: by choosing the road less traveled. His path of virtuosity has eschewed the conventional metrics of velocity over changes in favor of the development of a highly personal improvising language that includes timbre gradients, two-handed tapping, use of hammered bi-tones, and the amplification of subtle overtones of striking aural properties.

He returns to explore ensemble music under his own leadership with this new recording of his long-standing East Coast Quintet featuring Denman Maroney on “hyper-piano” ( a variant on the prepared piano—extended to the highest degree), Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Michael Dessen on trombone, with either Tom Rainey or Michael Sarin filling the drum chair.

Exploding with intensity, “Not Withstanding,” lurches forward on the wings of Dresser’s “metric-modulation” concept, which uses shifting meters while maintaining a pulse of 1- 2-3-4 to affect the illusion of a constantly speeding and slowing tempo. Mahanthappa attacks the form with palpable glee as Dresser power walks from here to eternity. Dessen rips, roars, and brays before yielding to the remarkable “slide-piano” of Maroney which challenges sonic expectations. Rainey is all over this with cycling waves of kinetic energy and supreme dynamic control. Finally, Dresser emerges—dueting with the sound of his own voice hissing for a solo that toggles between multi-glissandi and thunderous thwacking.

There are contemplative moments as well, such as the pensive 12 tone “Canales Rose,” where Maroney’s otherworldly piano melds with Dessen’s wounded lion trombone, or the gorgeous ballad “Para Waltz,” with its lush horn melody that gives birth to a yearning exposition by Dessen and a heartbreaking Dresser feature with the bow.

The slinky, odd-metered groove of the title track features layered melodic flourishes by Dessen and Mahanthappa and showcases another quality of this music—the blurring of what is written and improvised. The drums of Sarin balance explosive motion with shimmering colors before Dresser’s bow signals a sudden shift in direction into a theme reminiscent of Monk’s “Misterioso.”

“Aperitivo,” is a blues stood on its head with metric-modulation, where horn unisons and a piano counter-melody set the stage for Mahanthappa’s shredding effervescence, Dessen’s warbled, bluesy vibrato, and Maroney’s multifaceted spin at the “standard- piano.” Dresser follows with an undulating update on the “Detroit,” solo, using time itself as source material.

Challenging and joyful, “Nourishments” embraces tradition while extending it, and balances precise compositional deliberation with effusive improvisation.

The New York City Jazz Record review by Stuart Broomer

Dual Identity – Dual Identity (CF 172)Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman formed Dual Identity as an alto saxophone duo in 2004, relatively early in their careers and before they had emerged as two of the most important musicians of their generation.There’s a special playfulness in any band fronted by two improvisers playing the same instrument, prodding one another further. This concert recording presents Dual Identity in its quintet form, with guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Damion Reid. It’s a highly cohesive group with astrongly defined collection of compositions crafted by the two leaders. The complex rhythms of “Foster Brothers” or the sudden lyrical bursts of “Resonance Ballad” hinge on both an experimental approach to form and a conversational give and take, a specific focus on the alto saxophone line as it has come down through Charlie Parker and Eric Dolphy, Cannonball Adderley and Jackie McLean. The value of the individual voice is apparent in the very contrast between Lehman’s drier sound and the rounder warmer voice of Mahanthappa. The group language is a key factor here, most highly developed in the cleverly titled “Extensions of Extension of”, with Ellman, Brewer and Reid creating a minefield of conflicting directions beneath the horns. The performance concludes with the title piece and the way the group began, a sustained unaccompanied dialogue between the two altoists, answering one another’s phrases or running spiral lingscales, matching fluting harmonics with circular breathing to multiphonics, a dialogue rooted at once in the potential of the saxophone and the mutability of pitch and time.

Mas Jazz Magazine reviews by Pachi Tapiz

Red Trio: Red Trio * * * *
Bernardo Sassetti Trio: Motion * * * *
Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore:Three Less Than Between * * *
Kirk Knuffle: Amnesia Brown * * * *
Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth: Deluxe * * * *
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman:Dual Identity * * * *
Fight The Big Bull (feat. Steven Bernstein):All is Gladness in the Kingdom * * *
The Godforgottens: Never Forgotten, Always Remembered * * * *
Para quien no lo conozca, el sello portugués Clean Feed es uno de los más interesantes en la actualidad. En apenas diez años su catálogo ha editado más de 150 referencias. Allí caben desde propuestas libre improvisadas, hasta otras que transitan por una cierta ortodoxia contemporánea post-bop.También tienen espacio tanto grupos y artistas que vienen delos USA, consagrados o no, como otros que provienen deEuropa y por supuesto de Portugal. En cualquier caso y concarácter general, el aparecer publicada en el sello dirigido porPedro Costa equivale a tener un interés a priori que en la mayoría de ocasiones es colmado, y con creces, con la corres-pondiente escucha.De entre las últimas referencias de músicos portugueses destacan dos tríos de piano, que con sus diferencias, son más que recomendables. El primero es el liderado por BernardoSassetti, uno de los tesoros mejor guardados del jazz portugués, al menos para esta parte de la Península Ibérica. Moviéndose entre “Homecoming Queen” (del grupo de rock alternativo Sparklehorse) y la “Canço NºVI” de Federico Mompou, Sassetti, el contrabajista Carlos Barretto y el batería Alexandre Frazao desgranan con suavidad en Motion las composiciones llenas de lirismo del pianista, que recupera algunas piezas escritas para obras de teatro y cine. Tomando la forma del discurrir de un día, este trío estable desde hacemás de doce años logra una obra de primer nivel. Red Trio se estrena discográficamente con el CD homónimo. En la tradición post-evansiana de los tríos de piano en los que lostres instrumentistas están al mismo nivel, la música se trabaja y desarrolla a nivel colectivo. El batería Gabriel Ferrandini y el contrabajista Hernani Faustino ya dejaron haceunos meses una magnífica muestra de su capacidad para improvisar en grupo en el Nobuyasu Furuya Trio (Bendowa,Clean Feed. CF159CD). Rodrigo Pinheiro se destapa como un magnífico pianista, aunque en este caso el potencial del trío es superior a la suma de sus partes. Three Less Than Between es la segunda grabación del trío del clarinetista bajo Jason Stein, tras A Calculuss Of Loss, también en Clean Feed. Al músico de Chicago le acompañan el batería Mike Pride y el contrabajista Jason Roebke, que susti-tuye al chelista Kevin Davis. Su sonido ha tenido una evolución más que apreciable desde el estreno de Bridge 61, el grupo liderado por Ken Vandermark, aunque el músico sigue buscando su voz propia. En su nueva grabación recoge referencias del clarinete bajo a lo largo de toda la historia del jazz, que van desde piezas inspiradas en la obra de Eric Dolphy, hasta otras cercanas a la libre improvisación. El trompetistaKirk Knuffle ofrece en Amnesia Brown dos discos en uno.Doug Wieselman se emplea en clarinete y guitarra, de modo que con tres músicos (el tercero en discordia es el veterano batería Kenny Wollesen) ofrece dos propuestas con sonidos muy diferentes, con unas magníficas composiciones entroncadas con la tradición del free-bop. Deluxe es la segunda grabación del grupo Bigmouth, liderado por el contrabajista Chris Lightcap. Un grupo particular que cuenta en sus filas con dos saxos tenores (Chris Cheek y Tony Malaby), teclados (Craig Taborn que se aplica en piano y en piano eléctrico), batería (Gerald Cleaver), el contrabajista, y el saxo alto de Andrew D’Angelo en tres temas. El contrabajista deja una magnífica muestra de su capacidad para componer melodías que enganchan desde el primer momento, desarrolladas por un quinteto que aunque inusual (presencia de dos saxofonistas), tiene su punto fuerte en las voces individuales de sus músicos. Especialmente la de TonyMalaby, un saxofonista que en los últimos tiempos está enun particular estado de gracia: sólo hay que escuchar sus discos del pasado año Voladores y Paloma Recio. Otra formación inusual es la del disco Dual Identity de los saxofonistas altos Steve Lehman y Rudresh Mahanthappa. Grabado endirecto en 2009 en el festival de jazz de Braga los acompañanel guitarrista Liberty Ellman, el contrabajista Matt Brewer y el batería Damion Reid. Los titulares se reparten los temas, que oscilan entre composiciones cercanas al MBase y algunas otras próximas a la espiritualidad del free post-coltraneano. Una música intensa y densa, en la que la interacción entre los músicos (en especial los saxofonistas), más que los solos, toma un papel fundamental. All is Gladness in the Kingdom es la segunda grabaciónde Fight The Big Bull, la formación de once músicos dirigida por el guitarrista Matt White, que cuenta en esta ocasión con la participación del trompetista Steven Bernstein como músico más destacado. Grabado a lo largo de ocho días (tres de ensayos, cinco para registrarlo), el trabajo previo del conjunto antes de pasar al estudio se hace evidente. Sin embargo la excesiva duración de la grabación (más de 76 minutos), diluye los aciertos de algunas de las composiciones de White y de Steven Bernstein, como la magnífica “Eddie and Cameron Strike Back/Satchel Paige” o el tema que da título al CD. Y para finalizar este breve recorrido un disco de free. The Godforgottens es el cuarteto formado por el trío del pianista Sten Sandell más el trompetista Magnus Broo. Los otros dos acompañantes son el contrabjaista Johan Berthling y el batería y percusionista Paal Nilssen-Love. La principal novedad es el estreno de Sandell al órgano Hammond, lo que aporta una coloración adicional al sonido. El resultado es un disco de free a la clásica que es energético, melódico y peleón, con unos duetos magníficos (en especial el de Broo con Nilssen-Love). Su duración, tres temas en cuarenta minutos, resulta ideal para evitar el despiste de los oyentes. Este CD hará, sin duda, las delicias de los aficionados al género.

Pop Matters feature on Clean Feed by Will Layman

Clean Feed Records and Mary Halvorson: Promises of Good Things to Come in Jazz

If you’re looking ahead in 2011 at what the year—or the coming decade—holds in jazz, then 2010 gave us two stories that portend thrilling music ahead.

First, there is a relatively new record label that seems dead-set on unleashing the full-on floodgates of adventurous improvised music at every turn.  Clean Feed, based in Lisbon and founded in 2001, has become nothing less than a force of nature, releasing exciting music in big, fat batches.  Snaring big name artists, yup, and also promoting the little guy, Clean Feed is supernatural.  Clean Feed is my hero.

Among the artists showing up on Clean Feed in 2010 (and elsewhere too, importantly) was guitarist Mary Halvorson.  Halvorson is the furthest thing from another Berklee-trained pentatonic wonder.  She’s all edge and all charm at the same time, someone whose pedigree includes Wesleyan University and Anthony Braxton bands, but also a gentle duo or two.  And in 2010 she released what may have been the most surprising—and promising—disc of the year.

Two trends to watch, right here.

Trend One: Clean Feed Can’t Be Ignored
When your regular, everyday jazz critic comes home from a day of doing whatever he does to make some scratch for rent and food and the occasional new pair of Pumas, he finds a package leaning against his door.  If it’s a skinny package, then it might be a new recording from Blue Note or Sunnyside—a good day, for sure.  But if it’s a big thick package jammed with seven or eight new releases at once, baby, it’s from Clean Feed.

He tears the manila envelope open and finds beautiful art adorning thin cardboard CD packages, and beyond that nothing is predictable. He might not know Matt Bauder (an adventurous reed player), but he sure does know James Carney and Stephan Crump.  Unfamiliar with James Robinson?  But he’s playing with the pianist Anthony Davis, one of his favorites.  The Convergence Quartet is new to him, but—Holy CRAP!—look at the band Tony Malaby has put together on Tamarindo Live.

He’s tired, so he’s excused if he doesn’t get around to putting on any of these many discs right away.  But he’s just got to hear them.  What is the deal with Clean Feed records anyway?

Clean Feed’s website is modest and slightly out-of-date.  Who has time to update the “About Us” page when you are putting out almost 50 recordings in 2010 by bands from all over the world, recordings that span styles and sounds with flying abandon?  Here’s some of what the label says about itself:

“Clean Feed was founded in 2001 to release Portuguese and foreign musicians in separate and cooperative projects.  The label was also created facing the whole world as its operating ground, taking advantage of the Internet revolution and the increasing global music market.  Very quickly, Clean Feed found itself at the vortex of the international creative jazz scene, releasing projects that reached far beyond what we could initially imagine…  Clean Feed aims at recording innovative contemporary jazz projects that can make a difference, building a catalogue that will be internationally recognized by its quality and coherence.”

The judgment is George W. Bush-isms simple: Mission Accomplished.

It would be impossible fully to do justice to the work of Clean Feed in 2010 in a single column, but here is a limited snapshot of some (and way too few) of my favorites.

Clean Feed Gives Musicians Room
Take the Crump/Carney duet album, Echo Run Pry.  Like some classic jazz LP from the ‘70s, this recording consists of just two tracks, 20-plus minute free improvisations that unspool gradually and beautifully.  (The model for Crump and Carney may have been the 1976 recordings on Improvising Artists by Sam Rivers and Dave Holland.)  These duets are free and sometimes dissonant, but they are clear and melodic too—patient and surprising and uncommonly gorgeous.  Carney is reaching into his instrument to pluck or mute strings, turning the piano into something exciting but not snarling, and Crump is rich in tone and every bit the piano’s equal.  Grooving, swinging, free, mind-blowing.

Clean Feed Let’s Stars Play Around 
For a small label, Clean Feed sure is hauling in some big jazz names.  Maybe not the Diana Kralls or Wynton Marsalises, but few jazz players have risen faster in the last few years than alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa.  But here he is recording for Clean Feed along with another big name—Steve Lehman.  The two alto players share a sound and sensibility, of course: a jagged but precise kind of linear blowing that transcends “inside” and “outside” clichés and thrives on new kinds or arrangements, complex patterning, and acid-toned energy. 

So Dual Identity, which pairs the two in a quintet with Liberty Ellman’s guitar, Matt Brewer on bass, and Damion Reid on drums, is both a jazz event and a bit of an indulgence.  The two leaders snake around each other on nervous fast tunes and obtuse ballads, sounding quite similar in some ways, working out like kindred spirits who need to push each other hard.  Ellman gets to play plenty of beautiful textures, but he also moves in tandem with Brewer to create grooves.  This wasn’t my favorite disc of the year, but it has a thrilling all-star quality to it, like watching Lebron James and Dwayne Wade finally play on the same team.  Like the Miami Heat, it mostly works.

Clean Feeds Give Us New Names, Old Names
Some musicians hide from the public.  They disappear and teach.  Or they play locally and never quite get on your radar.  Or they play outside the center of one style somehow.  For me, one of the “lost” jazz masters of the ‘70s and ‘80s is pianist Anthony Davis.  Davis made a series of recordings for India Navigation featuring flutist James Newton, trombonist George Lewis, vibist Jay Hoggard, and others that defied category in delicious ways. 

Then, quite deliberately, Davis—trained classically at Yale—started composing music that was not jazz in any meaningful way, including pieces for his ensemble Epistome and eventually opera as well (X about the life of Malcolm X).  Once in a blue moon he would appear playing jazz, each time seeming like a long lost, but favorite, uncle.  Cerulean Landscape pairs Davis with saxophonist and flutist James Robinson, now a professor at Amherst (and a former student of Davis’s at UC San Diego).  It’s a lush and expansive set of seven tunes by both men, reflecting influences from Ellington to Cecil Taylor to classical and folk music.  It gives you the sense that original, thrilling music is awaiting you beyond the clubs and concert halls.  Anthony Davis is still here, pulsing with life, and musicians you’d never heard of are pulsing right along with him.

Clean Feed Encourages Surprising Collaboration
In real life, there are working bands, sure, real bands that stay together for years and develop on records over time, scrutinized by fans.  But in jazz there are even more bands that come together for one night or one tour, one project, create some magic then split.  Those special occasions too often miss the ears of even the ardent fan.  But Clean Feed is giving many of these assemblages a chance for immortality.  How about this band:  Tony Malaby on tenor, Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, New York bassist extraordinaire William Parker, and Bandwagon drummer Nasheet Waits.  Tamarindo Live catches them live at the Jazz Gallery from June 2010, playing free and fantastic.  Malaby sounds unleashed on soprano sax, buzzing and twirling, Smith is clarion at times and always a rhythmic marvel, and the rhythm section feels like a trampoline: pliant and yet firm.  You missed this gig because you weren’t in town that day?  Clean Feed brings it to your door.

Clean Feed Crosses Oceans, Easily
Based in Lisbon, Clean Feed isn’t hung up on nationality, race, location, culture.  In the Clean Feed playground of improvised music, the monkey bars are open to all.  A good example is Pool School from the Tom Rainey Trio.  Rainey is a delicious drummer who I associate with the aggressive and wide-open playing of Tim Berne, but who has the skill and sensibility to play just about anything, funk to free and back again.  This trio brings in US guitarist Mary Halvorson and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, born in Germany but based in London.  And while this is certainly “free jazz”—in that Laubrock plays with little regard for standard harmony or tonality, Halvorson plays textures as much as she does chords, and Rainey is constantly fracturing any steady sense of swing or straight time—the tunes are brief (mostly four-five minutes) and concise, with each player committing to a framework and not just going on-and-on-forever-already.  While they sound freely improvised, the clarity of each track suggests a magical guiding hand.  If only all jazz, free or otherwise, played by musicians from around the globe had this focus.

In 2011, Clean Feed already has five releases, including a live date from Mostly Other People Do the Killing (with a hilarious cover parodying The Koln Concert).  Are you drooling a little bit?  You should be.

Trend Two: Mary Halvorson Is Coming For You
The Tom Rainey Trio disc on Clean Feed features the guitarist Mary Halvorson, and in 2010 she is the other emerging story.  Halvorson has been playing in New York since 2002, after studies at Wesleyan and The New School.  But the chance that you would mistake her for, say, Pat Metheny or John Scofield is zero percent.  Halvorson’s style is fragmented and cuts utterly loose from conventional jazz patterns.  And while she plays a huge hollow-body Guild guitar with a fairly clean sound, she is quick to bend her notes, frazzle her lines, leap and crackle, pluck and pull and strike her strings against convention.

But here’s the thing:  for all the veering away from conventional melodic form, you can’t stop listening.  Halvorson captivates.  And I’m not sure you’ll be able to figure out why.  For all her lack convention—indeed, her self-described “weird”ness—she is extraordinarily musical.

Though Halvorson leads several bands and plays regularly in (and records regularly with) a dozen others, the news in 2010 was her first recording with The Mary Halvorson Quintet, Saturn Sings.  This disc is special in Halvorson’s catalog because it gives fuller expression to her fascinating compositions.

“Miles High Like (No. 16)” is underpinned by typical Halvorson guitar work: stabbing patterns, oddly timed jabs and scratches, droning repetitions.  But riding atop this is a coolly harmonized set of keening melodies played by Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet and Jon Irabagon on alto sax.  As Finlayson solos, Halvorson grows more and more agitated beneath him, bending her chords, scratching at the strings, then finally playing what amount to mad rock chords.  This music is weird, sure, but with Finlayson it’s also deeply melodic and rollicking fun.

“Sea Seizure (No. 19)” is just for the trio, and it actually just rocks.  Halvorson starts by a playing a single distorted note in a hammer of repetitions while drummer Ches Smith provides solid backbeat, then they both shift into a syncopated groove beneath an oddball arpeggio.  When Halvorson improvises, then, there is no chord pattern to follow but just a rhythmic blueprint that could go almost anywhere.  And as with all of Halvorson’s music, things do go anywhere and everywhere.  Could she play a straight bebop line if she wanted to?  That certainly is not in the DNA of her style, but who really cares?  She plays with plenty of precision when she wants to, and this band proves that repeatedly as bassist John Hebert or the horns lock in with her notes.

Saturn Sings proves that the idiosyncratic shapes of Halvorson’s melodies are not merely the sounds of someone freaking out on the guitar.  Her odd melodic forms can sound vaguely random (if thrilling) on the trio tunes, but the cascades and marches, Blakeyisms and singsong ballads that she composes for the horns become wonderfully balanced counterpoints to her guitar.  In fact, as “avant-garde” as Halvorson’s basic aesthetic may be, a tune like “Crack in Sky (No. 11)” is flat-out lovely.  Irabagon’s alto solo lilts and dances, and the guitar accompaniment comes close to sensitive comping while still retaining certain trademarked bends and flutters.  Amen, Mary!

The reason Mary Halvorson is giving jazz a nice little thrill about now goes beyond the quality of the music.  Partly it’s that she is different.  Not insignificantly, she is a woman in an art form that—despite how little we write and talk about it—is weighted madly toward men.  She’s not a singer or a pianist but a guitarist with a caustic sound.  That is very different.  And her sound does not come from and then deviate from jazz’s mainstream of bop and post-bop orthodoxy.  Halvorson’s art begins with an assumption of huge freedom, so it doesn’t become “free” by violating the norms she learned in music school.  This second generation liberty, in not being a reaction against anything, feels utterly sincere and balanced.  It’s the closest thing in jazz guitar playing to the piano styles of Matthew Shipp, Vijay Iyer, and Jason Moran that have been the other main story of the last five years in jazz.

Mary Halvorson smiles.  Her music sounds like a fresh, brisk rain shower.  She works noise and charm into the same track with ease.  She plays with anyone and everyone who needs a new sound on guitar.  And—of course—you can find her on Clean Feed releases.  The promise of 2011 in jazz is bright.

All Music Guide review by Michael G. Nastos

Steve Lehman / Rudresh Mahanthappa – Dual Identity (CF 172)
Birds of a feather who never think twice about what they do, alto saxophonists Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman play together with a religious fervor and shared values that few musicians on similar instruments have ever possessed. Recorded at the Braga Jazz Festival, these two blow as if their lives depended on it with every phrase, accent, and extended counterpoint line, the essence of conjoined compatible styles, using so many notes in so little time. These whirling dervishes base their rhythmic contours via power-pointed accents and ethno-funk at times during “The General,” and spiky fatback counter-melodies on a bed of lean beats from drummer Damion Reid during “Foster Brothers.” There are spatial moments as constructed by guitarist Liberty Ellman, ballads, blues from bassist Matt Brewer, and fluttery separates from the principals. But mostly it’s Mahanthappa and Lehman pushing the limits of their instruments as they duel away nonstop, feeding off each other and building huge pyramids of sound. The insistent “Circus” and more joined, less kinetic “Post-Modern Pharaohs” might be tracks that are something of a departure, but reveling in the mastery of how they both uniquely approach what has been a bebop vehicle for most post-Charlie Parker saxophonists is nothing short of a modern miracle. As ultra-concentrated a creative jazz outing as you will ever hear, the Mahanthappa-Lehman combine is heretofore unrivaled, challenged by no similar current tandem, and deserves high merit for its energy level alone. Yes, wailers still roam the Earth!

Publico Best of 2010 List by Rodrigo Amado and Nuno Catarino

Melhores Ano Público – 2010 – Escolhas de Rodrigo Amado e Nuno Catarino

1 Sara Serpa / Ran Blake “Camera Obscura” (Inner Circle)
Longe da previsibilidade e artifício da maioria das cantoras jazz actuais, Sara Serpa dá um enorme salto artístico e afirma-se como uma das mais interessantes cantoras da actualidade. Em duo com Ran Blake, um enorme pianista que é um dos segredos mais bem guardados do jazz, assina um registo poderoso, mágico e vibrante, que evoca os grandes criadores do jazz vocal. Disco revelação do jazz nacional 2010. RA

2 Vandermark 5 “The Horse Jumps and The Shipp is Gone” (Not Two) Gravado ao vivo no clube Green Mill de Chicago, este novo registo do saxofonista Ken Vandermark é uma bomba! O saxofonista pega na sua mais celebrada formação, os Vandermark 5, e junta-lhes dois convidados de excepção; o trompetista Magnus Broo e o pianista Havard Wiik. Um equilíbrio notável entre forma e improvisação e uma atitude “take-no-prisoners” dá origem a uma música orgânica, visceral e urgente. Registo internacional do ano. RA

3 Fight the Big Bull – All is Gladness in the Kingdom (Clean Feed)
O decateto americano conta aqui com a participação do trompetista Steven Bernstein e elabora um dos mais originais discos dos últimos anos. Assente numa forte vertente composicional, a música do grupo abre alas à inspiração dos instrumentistas, sempre direccionados por um permanente sentido colectivo. Com o auxílio de Bernstein o colectivo dá mais um grande passo em frente. NC

4 Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys “Betweenwhile” (Aum Fidelity) Mike Pride é, há muito, um subversivo agitador do jazz nova-iorquino. Em “Betweenwhile” reúne um quarteto explosivo que opera entre o passado e o futuro do jazz, como se de um jogo se tratasse. A seu lado, Peter Bitenc, Alexis Marcelo e o saxofonista Darius Jones, uma das grandes revelações dos últimos anos. Fogo, elegância e contenção, num registo descrito com jazz de vanguarda soul. RA

5 Red Trio – Red Trio (Clean Feed)
Revelaram-se em disco, mas não só. Para o Red Trio – Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernâni Faustino (contrabaixo) e Gabriel Ferrandini (bateria) – este 2010 foi um ano imparável: aclamação internacional, concertos em grandes salas (nacionais e internacionais) e colaborações com convidados de peso (como John Butcher ou Nate Wooley). Improvisando na constante busca de formas sonoras imprevisíveis, o trio encarnado desenvolve uma música única. Que o futuro seja deles. NC

6 Little Women “Throat” (Aum Fidelity)
Jazz com espírito punk, free com disciplina prog. Os Little Women – quarteto de Darius Jones, Travis Laplante, Andrew Smiley e Jason Nazary – apresentam um dos mais inclassificáveis discos que o ano viu nascer, um disco que vira o jazz de pernas para o ar, que mostra uma música barulhenta e irresistível, que explora os limites, que se materializa em múltiplas explosões de energia. NC

7 The Bad Plus – Never Stop (E1)
O irreverente trio de Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson e David King confirma finalmente aquilo que já muitos desconfiavam: estes moços não são apenas capazes de boas (e divertidas) versões de temas rock/pop, são também capazes de fazer uma música intensíssima, enérgica e original, que não deve nada a ninguém. Este é o primeiro disco que não inclui temas alheios e ao que parece estes já não fazem falta nenhuma. NC

8 Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman “Dual Identity” (Clean Feed) Dois saxofonistas, virtuosos e inovadores, tentam desvendar os códigos do futuro do jazz. Com uma abordagem altamente pessoal e acompanhados por três grandes músicos – Liberty Ellman, Matt Brewer e Damion Reid – destilam um jazz intenso, angular e complexo, e constroem uma entidade musical abstracta que se apresenta como o paradigma do jazz moderno. RA

9 Parker/Guy/Lytton + Peter Evans – Scenes in the House of Music (Clean Feed) Constituindo um dos mais celebrados trios do jazz improvisado europeu, Evan Parker, Barry Guy e Paul Lytton são três gigantes que garantiram há muito um lugar de destaque na história do jazz moderno. Neste disco, registo de um concerto memorável na Casa da Música, convidam o extraordinário trompetista Peter Evans e formam um quadrado perfeito, impressionista e caleidoscópico. Aquilo que mais se aproxima de uma pura magia sonora. RA

10 Henry Threadgill Zooid “This Brings Us To Vol.2” (Pi)
A aventura criativa de Threadgill continua. Com Zooid, o seu notável projecto para o novo século, realiza explorações de timbre, estrutura e instrumentação. No seu universo, o de um verdadeiro músico dos músicos, nada é o que parece. Em múltiplos planos de percepção, cruzam-se jazz de vanguarda, blues, música contemporânea, jazz latino e muita improvisação, estruturada e consistente como poucas. RA

11 Paul Motian Trio “Lost in a Dream” (ECM)
Mais do que a enorme vitalidade de Motian, mestre absoluto do drumming mundial, a grande surpresa de “Lost in a Dream” vem de Jason Moran – mais contido, com um toque europeu que lhe assenta como uma luva – e acima de tudo, de Chris Potter, que aqui utiliza uma subtileza e suavidade tímbrica que raramente lhe é ouvida. Um trio clássico num registo poético e lírico. RA

12 LUME – Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble (JACC)
A “big band” dirigida por Marco Barroso chega finalmente ao disco e confirma aquilo que muitos já conheciam das actuações ao vivo da banda: jazz multi-referencial, temas que atravessam décadas da história em poucos minutos, de Ellington a Sun Ra à velocidade da luz. Um brilhante projecto nacional que não pára de surpreender e merecerá todo o reconhecimento (aqui e lá fora). NC

13 Vijay Iyer – Solo (Act)
O pianista aventura-se a solo e o resultado já não surpreende ninguém. Trabalhando uma selecção de standards como “Darn That Dream” e clássicos de Monk (“Epistrophy”) e Ellington (“Fleurette Africaine”), Vijay passa também por “Human Nature” (belíssimo tema de Michael Jackson). Em qualquer desses ambientes, o pianista nunca abandona o seu típico registo, sóbrio e metódico, inteligente no desenvolvimento dos temas, criativo e elegante. NC

14 Steve Swell Slammin’ The Infinite “5000 Poems” (Not Two)
Nome incontornável do jazz de vanguarda norte-americano e um dos maiores trombonistas da actualidade, Steve Swell já não gravava um disco assim há muito tempo. Em “5000 Poems”, com um quinteto bem calibrado, surpreende tudo e todos com um registo vibrante, pleno de inspiração e poder, na linha dos grandes clássicos free dos anos 60 e 70. Composições brilhantes e discursos solistas de cortar a respiração. RA

15 Mário Laginha Trio “Mongrel” (ONC)
Cada vez mais focado no seu próprio universo, Mário Laginha continua a seguir a sua estrela aventurando-se em projectos de alto risco. Em “Mongrel” aborda a obra de um dos seus compositores favoritos, Frédéric Chopin, e recusando soluções fáceis, opera uma transformação profunda das suas composições, alterando compassos, tempos, melodias e harmonias. Raramente uma fusão ou “mestiçagem” de estilos musicais deu origem a uma música tão pura e orgânica. RA

Seth Colter Walls’ (Newsweek, The Awl) Best of 2010 List

1. Mary Halvorson: Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
2. Jason Moran: Ten (Blue Note)
3. Benoît Delbecq: The Sixth Jump (Songlines)
4. Maurice Brown: The Cycle of Love (Brown)
5. Paul Motian: Lost in a Dream (ECM)
6. Ingrid Laubrock: Anti-House (Intakt)
7. Steve Coleman: Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi)
8. Geri Allen: Flying Toward the Sound (Motema)
9. Taylor Ho Bynum & Tomas Fujiwara: Stepwise (Not Two)
10. Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman: Dual Identity (Clean Feed)