Tag Archives: SEan Conly

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.

Dusted Magazine review by Jason Bivins

cf-124Sean Conly – Re:Action (CF 124)
Bassist Sean Conly is a Rufus Reid student who’s played with Russ Lossing, Andrew Hill, Ray Barretto and Freddie Hubbard, and seems quite interested in carving out his own niche in the generally crowded post-bop, post-free NYC scene.

His playing seems to take in all these influences, whether in lengthy solos like the expressive feature on “Something I Said?” or his tendency to play with pulse seemingly every measure. It’s the jittery latter quality that shapes Re:Action, at least in its most interesting moments. Along with saxophonists Tony Malaby and Michael Attias, and drummer Pheeroan AkLaff, the bassist pens a number of tunes that wend between impressive textural moments and intense, often melancholy expressionism.

Some tunes, like the tart rearrangement of “Gazzelloni,” with its fierce Malaby solo, tend towards the latter quality. Others, like the rapid riffing “Suburban Angst,” submit wholly to the former quality. And while these performances are satisfying, where the band really stands out is when it integrates the two tendencies fully. They do this compellingly on the loping “Daily Mutation,” the plangent “There’s the Rub” (which sounds to me like the intersection of Julius Hemphill’s “Skin 1” and Oliver Lake’s “Zaki”), and on “Concrete Garden,” whose swirling electronics are layered in what sounds like a Steve Coleman record run through a blender.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

cf-124SEAN CONLY – Re:Action (CF 124)
Bassist Sean Conly wrote the music of Re:Action “to let people play the way they play”, yet this quartet – which includes a two-forward saxophone section consisting of Tony Malaby and Michael Attias plus Pheeroan Aklaff on drums – is tightly self-disciplined and performs with composed fire, so to speak. The result is an excellent album, in which no trace of lackadaisical indetermination is found, a persuasive interpretation of tunes that sound exuberantly enthusiastic, calmly scowling, intelligently disengaged from the normalcy of jazz formulas.

The opening cover of Eric Dolphy’s “Gazzelloni” instantly establishes the fundamental temperament, an abjuration of traditional rules that nevertheless concedes very little to the cannibalistic freedom of uneducated freewheeling: the group is solid, its cohesion clearly evident since the first measures of the tune. In a completely different setting – Conly’s “Saitta” – there’s room for classic soloing by the leader, but the theme is what actually gets noticed, a combination of impassive angularity and rhythmic brashness that causes automatic movements of the limbs.

One also digs the skillfully soft-spoken “Luminiferous Aether” and “Illes Du Vent”, penned by Conly with Attias, in which the delicate side of the bassist’s personality is paralleled by the reedist’s refined classiness and sensibility in brief episodes of reciprocal good manners. On the other hand, “Something I Said?” brings in a degree of tension immediately lessened by a warm bass solo introducing additional contrapuntal conviviality immersed in agreeable dissonance.

Although I dare anybody to memorize a single minute of this record, the mark that it leaves is one of indelible brightness, splendidly symbolized by the gorgeous arrangement of “Suburban Angst”, which sounds like someone trying to escape from creditors by running in alleys, Aklaff spectacularly breaking the tempos while Malaby and Attias exchange incendiary darts with unbelievable ease, ready to return to home base when the composite leit-motif calls everybody back. Even an oddity such as the abstract-sounding “Concrete Garden” seems perfectly placed in the record’s context, therefore no more words: go get this CD pronto. It’s great.

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

cf-1242Sean Conly – Re:Action (CF 124)
Il brano iniziale, il celeberrimo “Gazzelloni“ di Eric Dolphy, è l’unico non originale degli undici presenti ma fornisce chiare indicazioni su quale sarà il climax dell’intero album. Che sarà caratterizzato da musica rigorosa, che nulla concede allo spettacolo, si direbbe in termini calcistici, ma va subito al sodo, sfrondando leziosità e numeri da circo.
Interprete di Re:Action, l’album in questione, un quartetto anomalo, ritmica e doppio sax, formato da due musicisti ormai affermati, Tony Malaby e Pheeroan Aklaff, e due emergenti, Michael Attias e Sean Conly, quest’ultimo anche in veste di principale compositore.

La scrittura aperta e al contempo ricca di riferimenti storici costituisce terreno ideale per l’operare dei due fiati: solido, scuro, robusto, roccioso, già un classico quello di Malaby, guizzante e malandrino quello di Attias.

Vi è molta libertà in Re:Action, libertà di pensiero e di azione, vi sono brillanti sezioni nelle quali i quattro musicisti riescono a viaggiare sulla stessa lunghezza d’onda in maniera compiuta e qualche zona d’ombra nella quale il fluire musicale appare un poco farraginoso. Manca il brano memorabile, il pezzo che si ricorda e ti rimane incollato alla pelle ma Re:Action rimane un buon esempio della vitalità che contraddistingue certo jazz americano.