Tag Archives: Zach Wallace

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

CF 122MEMORIZE THE SKY – In Former Times (CF 122)
A stunning surprise coming from the Portuguese label in the second half of 2008 is this superb album, interpreted by the trio of Matt Bauder (tenor sax, clarinet), Zach Wallace (double bass) and Aaron Siegel (snare drum, bass drum, vibraphone). Memorize The Sky – a gorgeous name for starters – embody that kind of expressive research halfway through jazz, EAI and minimalism which doesn’t stand in a precise spot yet appears extremely firm in its intentions, not to mention aesthetic implications which, in this particular case, are central enough to place the record in the pantheon of private pleasures for different varieties of listener. What I actually mean is that this substance is addictive in a deeper sense, symbolizing a wisdom that comes from within, on both sides of the performer/audience bond. The artists sound genuinely involved, instinctively linked to something higher; the addressees become active witnesses in the gradual progress of a rite where sounds spring from the intuitive nucleus of being more than the machines which produce them.

When instrumentalists manage to catch splinters of infinity without sounding overly distressed or ambiguously abstruse, that’s already an encouraging sign. With In Former Times three individual entities have reached the ideal balance between an ecstatic vision and the earthly qualities of their tools, privileging the droning aspects of fairly static improvisations which nevertheless are alimented by a continuous, literally incessant movement. Bauder’s reeds sing for the naked spirit of overtone heavenliness, comforting in shuddering instability, searching for bygone energies that are still there to retrieve. Wallace’s arco is often utilized with the tremolo technique, generating an ominous steadiness which will finally unveil the most beautiful reward if only one is trustful of those growling frequencies. Siegel delivers a combination of shamanic intensity and masterful control of the dynamics, never lost in indulgent patterns or equivocal trickery, the trio’s real engine in terms of evocative drive. Inexplicable, thoroughly connecting music which we enjoyed time and again in blissful contentment.

Advertisements

Signal to Noise review by Stuart Broomer

CF 119

Fredrik Nordström Quintet – Live in Coimbra (CF 119)

CF 128

Angelica Sanchez – Life Between (CF 128 )

CF 138

Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet – Ancient and Future Airs (CF 138)

CF 122

Memorize the Sky – In Former Times (CF 122)

CF 120

Tetterapedequ – And the Missing R (CF 120)

Whether it’s the glut of CDs or readily-made self-releases, these are daunting times for smaller creative labels, with some reducing their output significantly. In contrast, Clean Feed, the Portuguese label launched in 2001, has been pushing forward with what is likely the most ambitious current release program in the areas of free jazz and improvised music. The label marked 2008 with 36 releases, including such highlights as Belle Ville by the Townhouse Orchestra (Evan Parker and the Sten Sandell trio) and two extraordinary duet projects by Joe Morris, the first a 4-CD set with Anthony Braxton, the second a sublime interaction with Barre Phillips. The sheer numbers and the prominence of a few artists can mask some of the label’s most interesting qualities: its willingness to promote the work of lesser-known artists and its genuine diversity in both locale and style. These five discs indicate some of that diversity, ranging from muscular to cerebral.

The Fredrik Nordström Quintet is a tightly-knit Swedish band with immediate affinities to the mid-60s Blue Note school. On Live in Coimbra, recorded at Clean Feed’s Jazz ao Centro festival in 2005, the tenor saxophonist/leader’s compositions present briskly stimulating platforms for intense group dialogues, with vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl and drummer Fredrick Rundqvist perhaps inevitably suggesting Bobby Hutcherson’s spacious, sustained dissonances and Tony Williams’ poly-melodic drumming. Trombonist Mats Äleklint is a fine match for Nordström: they’re both hearty, even boisterous players, with big sounds and fine minds, and the conversational component (Äleklint can create engaging dialogues with himself) makes this far more than a revisitation of an older style. That sense of loose conversation shapes “No Longer,” with Nordström joining Äleklint for some rousing collective improvisation before the two cede to a thoughtful solo by bassist Torbjorn Zetterberg. Including a warmly lyrical cover of Bjork’s “Cocoon,” the music gives a sense that it’s being created in the frictions and possibilities of the moment, its pre-ordained patterns functioning as points of discussion. 

Angelica Sanchez doesn’t record often, which makes Life Between something of an event. In addition to her usual trio partners—husband and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey–, she’s joined here by guitarist Marc Ducret and bassist Drew Gress in a program of Sanchez compositions that are marked by a near-improvisatory fluency, light lines that seem to arise and flow, unfettered by the hard edges of forethought or structure. The group responds with some brilliant playing, Ducret coaxing his electronic sound to dovetail with Malaby’s tenor and Sanchez’s acoustic and electric pianos. So strong is the affinity that identities shift around among the three, Malaby achieving a sustained bee-buzzing on “Black Helicopters” that builds in intensity at the same time that it builds electronic ambiguity. Whether they’re intense or pastoral, the disc abounds in riveting moments, like the lambent dialogue between Sanchez and Gress on “SF 4” or the four-way pull of rhythms and densities that Ducret, Sanchez, Gress and Rainey achieve on “Blue and Damson.” 

Malaby turns up as well on Ancient and Future Airs, matching his tenor and soprano with leader Paul Dunmall’s tenor and bagpipes, Mark Helias’s bass  and Kevin Norton’s drums and vibraphone.  Given the palpable heft of the Dunmall and Malaby tenor sounds, you might expect a blow-me-down free jazz bloodbath; if so, you’ll be redirected. There’s a certain similarity to the sanctified ’60s pairing of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, but it’s usually in its lyrical form, some dovetailing modal lines with flute-like sounds. One passage of extended blowing is contrapuntal in nature, with plenty of close listening. Some of the most moving moments are at relatively low volume, as in the subtly Eastern pairing of Malaby’s soprano and Dunmall’s bagpipe. You can catch the group’s inner dynamic when the two tenors drift gently  into Helias’s bowed harmonics. The 49 minute “Ancient Airs” and the ten minute “Future Airs” are aptly named,  for a certain airiness takes in the whole performance, from the grain of tenor sounds to the sparkle of Norton’s cymbals and vibraphones.      
     
 There’s a marked contrast to the forms and linearity of free jazz in Memorize the Sky, the trio of Aaron Siegel on percussion, Matt Bauder on tenor saxophone and clarinet, and Zach Wallace on bass. Together since their student days in Michigan, the three favor a drone-based minimalism more common in Europe than America. It’s a style they explore with fine results, developing dense grain in “I am the founder of this place” with a mix of circular breathing and bowed bass, bells and cymbals. The variety that the three achieve in what might seem like a constricted approach is consistently rewarding, accumulating microscopic evolutions of sound to create transformations before your ear.
Testing rather than jettisoning conventions, Tetterapadequ is a young European band that’s genuinely exploratory, willing to test approaches from a jazz-based rhythmic concentration to solo interludes and even a period of extended silence. It consists of two Italians (tenor saxophonist Daniele Martini and pianist Giovanni di Domenico) and two Portuguese (bassist Gonçalo Almeida and drummer João Lobo), but the key geographical point is the Netherlands. The band’s name is a near-anagram of De Patter Quartet, named for a favourite jazz club the quartet attended while students at a Dutch conservatory. Each is a player of substance, with Martini possessing a marked vocal force and rhythmic imagination and Di Domenico, showing a marked classicism that extends to Satie-like reflections. Almeida presses extended techniques while Lobo adds consistent interest with alternately dense and sparse sonic fields. Tetterapadequ’s eclectic wit suggests the Dutch scene in which they met, while the textures may recall the early work of Giorgio Gaslini, thanks largely to Di Domenico’s ironic classicism.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

CF 122MEMORIZE THE SKY – In Former Times (CF 122)
A stunning surprise coming from the Portuguese label in the second half of 2008 is this superb album, interpreted by the trio of Matt Bauder (tenor sax, clarinet), Zach Wallace (double bass) and Aaron Siegel (snare drum, bass drum, vibraphone). Memorize The Sky – a gorgeous name for starters – embody that kind of expressive research halfway through jazz, EAI and minimalism which doesn’t stand in a precise spot yet appears extremely firm in its intentions, not to mention aesthetic implications which, in this particular case, are central enough to place the record in the pantheon of private pleasures for different varieties of listener. What I actually mean is that this substance is addictive in a deeper sense, symbolizing a wisdom that comes from within, on both sides of the performer/audience bond. The artists sound genuinely involved, instinctively linked to something higher; the addressees become active witnesses in the gradual progress of a rite where sounds spring from the intuitive nucleus of being more than the machines which produce them.

When instrumentalists manage to catch splinters of infinity without sounding overly distressed or ambiguously abstruse, that’s already an encouraging sign. With In Former Times three individual entities have reached the ideal balance between an ecstatic vision and the earthly qualities of their tools, privileging the droning aspects of fairly static improvisations which nevertheless are alimented by a continuous, literally incessant movement. Bauder’s reeds sing for the naked spirit of overtone heavenliness, comforting in shuddering instability, searching for bygone energies that are still there to retrieve. Wallace’s arco is often utilized with the tremolo technique, generating an ominous steadiness which will finally unveil the most beautiful reward if only one is trustful of those growling frequencies. Siegel delivers a combination of shamanic intensity and masterful control of the dynamics, never lost in indulgent patterns or equivocal trickery, the trio’s real engine in terms of evocative drive. Inexplicable, thoroughly connecting music which we enjoyed time and again in blissful contentment.
http://touchingextremes.blogspot.com/2009/06/memorize-sky-in-former-times.html

Tomajazz reviews by Yahvé M. de la Cavada

cf-1221Memorize The Sky – In Former Times (CF 122)
Al final, está música es para el que la disfruta. Así de claro.

No es fácil, no es ortodoxa y se maneja todo el tiempo dentro de unos parámetros tan libres como arriesgados. Esto presenta al grupo Memorize The Sky como unos equilibristas acústicos y a In Former Times como una muestra de música catártica y subyugante, pero también monótona y necesitada de una serie de circunstancias.

In Former Times es la grabación de una actuación en directo que el grupo ofreció en Ulrichsberg (Austria) en abril del 2007. Puede que la clave esté ahí, en el directo y en esa conexión que ofrece entre el músico y el oyente. Dicha conexión se pierde por momentos en algunos pasajes del disco, pero es que lo que se plantea es complicado. Los tres miembros de la banda suenan maduros y compactos, y es evidente que han sabido interiorizar las enseñanzas de Anthony Braxton; tanto, que han sabido ir más allá y aspiran a crear su propio universo.

Aquí, de jazz, hay poco, lo cual no quiere decir nada. Simplemente que esto es música improvisada, que se apoya más en la acústica que en las notas y que apela, mediante la sonoridad, a las capas más profundas del cerebro del oyente.

Notas sostenidas, patrones hipnotizantes, un sonido tan natural como artificial y una tensión que crece a medida que el tema se desarrolla. Las sensaciones obtenidas van de lo mágico a lo exasperante, pero la implicación del receptor es básica. Y, para quien disfruta de esta música, la recompensa es generosa.
http://www.tomajazz.com/discos/breves.php?d=2009-01-01#ift

Jazzreview review by Glenn Astarita


cf-122

 Memorize The Sky – In Former Times (CF 122)
It’s an unusual yet consistently enticing series of pastiches by three crafty players hailing from Michigan, yet active in nearly all walks of jazz and its numerous permutations and regions.  And as the press release asserts, several of these movements sound as though electronics are involved.  Hence, it’s an all-acoustic program where the artists seemingly play riddles with your psyche. 

Multi-reedman Matt Bauder, double-bassist Zach Wallace and percussionist Aaron Siegel impart a Zen-like approach to progressive jazz and improvisation, consisting of drones and trance states amid subliminal variations of a theme and more.  With Siegel’s synchronous tapping of his instruments amid Wallace’s rotating ostinato motifs, the band occasionally generates some rather quiet mayhem. As they abide by a minimalist type approach throughout a good portion of the album. 

On “I Am The Founder Of This Place,” Bauder’s buzzing sax line are countered by Wallace’s staccato phrasings and it’s all subliminally mesmerizing.  Then they perhaps mimic a dysfunctional society during “Treat Me Like A Picture,” although the artists leave inexplicit aspects wide-open.  Moreover, they render garbled voices or so it seems, to depict spirits in a state of unrest or anger, while Bauder’s extended clarinet notes generate an oscillating sequence of events.

Vivid musical imagery is plentiful here.  The trio enacts a series of impressionistic pastiches of sound via subtle diversions that temper the pace of time while rolling matters into a flotation-based musical portraiture.  Akin to an art masterpiece, you’ll notice new elements on each subsequent encounter.  Sure enough, the visual component acts as an equally important framework to the band’s manner of delving into your mind’s eye.
http://www.jazzreview.com/cd/review-20246.html

All About Jazz review by Clifford Allen

cf-1221

Memorize The Sky – In Former Times (CF 122)
Reedman Matt Bauder, percussionist Aaron Siegel and bassist Zach Wallace have worked together for almost a decade, but In Former Times, recorded live in Austria at the Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon, is only their second full-length disc. Siegel is, in addition to applying his pared-down kit of snare, bass drum and vibes to this recording, a composer of electronic music. Though one might, from the instrumentation, assume this to be another power trio/free-bop outing, Memorize the Sky focuses on sparse and often droning chamber improvisation somewhere between Morton Feldman and the “sustain” pieces of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. This approach has been coined “lowercase” improvisation, of the brand practiced by saxists Jack Wright and Bhob Rainey or percussionist Sean Meehan. However, this trio somehow manages to turn small gestures into very large sonic areas.
The set starts with rumbling press rolls as Bauder’s tenor pulses with energy alternately pillowy and gruff, Wallace’s arco harmonics heaving underneath. Though the architecture may seem narrow, the trio is able to weave a warm and enveloping largeness, a specificity that must have filled the concert hall’s every nook. Low purrs and gauzy subtones recall Bill Dixon in aesthetic, if not in organizational intent (indeed, Bauder has worked with Dixon through the Exploding Star Orchestra). At six minutes in, the tension subsides rather than releases, a brief pocket of bass drum rattle before Bauder returns with more sparsely-placed muted tones and, amid bells and (drum) head rubs, Wallace picks up the repetitive ken with a driving col legno figure. “I Am the Founder of this Place” finds high, jittery harmonics and bull fiddle at the fore, a canopy of metal from ringing alarms and vibraphone popping out like floaters on a color field. These spatial relationships, as well as subtle shifts in timbre, are the essence of the trio’s rhythm. Memorize the Sky deserves wider recognition as their alphabet includes a broad range of sonic fonts.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=31284

All About Jazz Italy review by Pierpaolo Faggiano

cf-122

Memorize the Sky – In Former Times (CF 122)
Le definizioni rilegano un’opera dentro uno spazio limitato, è vero, ma spesso fungono da bussola al potenziale pubblico. Fatta questa doverosa premessa, questo disco rientra nella discografia post Free; come ci rientri e con quali risultati è motivo di analisi. Il trio, che viene dal Michigan, dalla provincia americana lontana dalle capitali del jazz moderno e d’avanguardia, non sceglie infatti la via del rito orgiastico-liberatorio, che suona come espressione di un disagio generazionale, o di una musica che esploda in mille rivoli di suono. Tutt’altro.
In Former Times è un disco che esprime una vitalità sotterranea, sempre sul punto di esplodere. Si coglie la condivisione di una stessa poetica sul tempo e sull’uso del silenzio, uno spazio di percezione rivisitato insieme, che passa dal silenzio al movimento (leggero) attraverso l’improvvisazione. Un musica sul punto di esplodere dicevamo prima. Il problema però è che si ferma “sul punto di”… Insomma, tende a prendersi troppo sul serio, senza mai cedere all’ironia, al gioco e alla chiarezza di idee legata come pare a certe immagini claustrofobiche che ammantano l’ascoltatore.

L’effetto e i registri di certe tonalità scure delle ance, benché squarciate da impercettibili pennellate di colori-contrasto della ritmica, rafforzano la sensazione di un disco monotono, che non si fa riascoltare. A ben vedere, mai titolo fu più esplicativo: Memorizza il cielo, come a dire “guardalo adesso perché con questa musica si scende nei bassifondi notturni e fumosi”.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=3419