Friday, July 31, 2015

Jorrit Dijkstra, Music for Reeds and Electronics: Oakland

I've been catching up lately with some of the notable Driff Records releases, finally. Today's disk is somewhat unusual, Jorrit Dijkstra's Music for Reeds and Electronics: Oakland (Driff 1403). It consists of Dijkstra compositions that leave room for open improvisations and electronic sounds. Jorrit plays alto, lyricon and analog electronics, Phillip Greenlief is on alto, tenor and clarinet, Kyle Bruckmann plays oboe, English horn and analog electronics, Frank Gratowski is on clarinet and alto, and finally Jon Raskin plays sopranino, alto, baritone and analog electronics.

Jon and Kyle's collection of various analog synths and modules along with Jorrit's lyricon make up the electronic contingency. There are 10 works in all, varied in thematic thrust but occasionally with a sort of Lacy-esque angularity. There is plenty of space for both electronic sounds and reed improvisations. Given the talent and versatile improvisatory abilities and sound-color awareness of this line-up nothing is lacking.

The music is quite modern and outside, yet structured via the compositional frameworks and the players' innate sense. It may end up sounding more like Rova plus electronics or Mitchell-Braxton abstractions than a World Saxophone Quartet, but ultimately it travels a path of its own.

Brittle and bristling, multi-voiced and multi-hued, all ten works give us a good deal to hear and grow into. There are new music connotations all over this set, but a bit of soulful modernity as well. Jorrit's excellent compositional sense and the collective talent of the quintet make for a heady melange and a significant avant statement.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Francois Carrier, Michel Lambert, iO

The alto saxophone of Francois Carrier and the drums of Michel Lambert have formed an excellent tandem for some time now, as an entity in itself and as a core nucleus that adds sympathetic others as fitting. You can look up Carrier's various releases with Lambert that I've covered on these pages by typing Francois' name in the search box above. It has been and is an association that bears much excellent free jazz fruit.

Now we have a new duo recording of the two that productively documents the ongoing collaboration with iO (FMR CD 384). It comprises nine open improvisations that feature Lambert on drums and Carrier on alto sax and Chinese oboe.

The music was recorded live at two different venues in Montreal in 2012 and 2013. On both occasions the two are in great form. They explore the terrain they are known to do, free, open improv with expressive torque and spontaneity.

Carrier is fast becoming one of the very premiere alto sax voices out there in freedomland, with a beautifully lucid sense of line and sound. Lambert is his perfect foil, so to say, with a creative brilliance of his own.

Together they make magic here. If you like the open world of the intimate duet on the new improv scene, this is one you'll no doubt thoroughly enjoy. Carrier and Lambert have much to say and they say it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Giovanni Guidi Trio, This is the Day

When it comes to a highly lyrical piano style in jazz, everyone knows Keith Jarrett and his special place. His popularity is enormous and ongoing. Yet he never was the only one to work in a lyrical vein. Steve Kuhn, Paul Bley, McCoy Tyner and many others might be be named for their lyrical side, going back also to Bill Evans and ultimately many of the bop master pianists when in a ballad mode, Bud Powell and all the rest. Not to forget the Monk of "Ruby My Dear" or even "Round Midnight."

So if we find pianists of lyrical bent practicing today, we should not automatically group them into a Keith Jarrett school. Giovanni Guidi and his trio and their recent This is the Day (ECM 2403 4709271) is an excellent case in point. This is supremely lyrical piano music in an well-knit trio context, yet Guidi does not sound like Jarrett, really. He has most definitely his own way and the album gives it to you in a large, ravishing dose.

Giovanni is joined by Thomas Morgan on double bass, who has a sort of post-Haden folkish profundity-in-simplicity to his sound. Joao Lobo plays drums with the sort of sensitivity Guidi's music demands. Together they make for an excellent meld.

Most of the material was written by Guidi and it is very warm and tonally direct. Joao contributes one and there are a couple of standards. "Quizas Quizas Quizas (Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps)," the Osvaldo Farres song, sounds somewhat surprisingly just right for the trio. I say surprisingly because the Latin song repertoire is not often addressed and Guidi gives you plenty of reasons why that should be less the case in his well-considered version.

The whole album has a singingly direct quality. It may be music that is very accessible to the general listener. I believe it is. But it is that not at the expense of artistry and finesse, of which there is a great deal to be heard here. In short Guidi has the potential to be listened to and liked by many, but he is a real artist nevertheless. And there is never anything facile or manipulative about the music. It is Guidi without compromise. Yet his way will appeal to all kinds of people, I think.

He and the trio can be freely loose at times but ever tonal, mostly diatonic, modal, primal and emotionally direct. It's an album that I have been drawn into happily from listen to listen and come away from it with a desire to hear it again. To me that is a high recommendation of self-to-self. And so I pass along that recommendation!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hugues Vincent, Yasumune Morishige, Fragment

Several days ago here I posted on Bobun, a new music improv duet of Frantz Loriot (viloa) and Hugues Vincent (cello). Today we have Hugues Vincent and Yasumune Morishige both on cello for a nine-part avant improv offering called Fragment (Improvising Beings 28).

It once again enters rarefied realms of sensuously alive timbre color with the dual cello sonance out front and on occasion coming through as a bit more busily continuous and expressive in the extended techniques realm.

The duo achieves a remarkable, overtone-rich presence that fills you with the sound possibilities of string on bow, on fingers and the wooden resonance of the cello bodies. I will not attempt here to inventory the wide variety of playing techniques. They are explored thoroughly and creatively in contrasting segments that provide a cello music on the extreme but sonorous edge of the avant world.

The end point is not just that it is "outside" the mainstream, but of course that it excels as it dwells there.

After quite a few listens I have grown fond rather than tired of this one. It brings the organic sonic universe to life in fascinating ways that are a testament to the creative and musical powers of Vincent and Morishige. Listen to this if you will! It is worth your time.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Leap of Faith, Regenerations

Leap of Faith is the name of a collective free improv outfit operating out of New England. Regenerations (Evil Clown 9036) features two substantial free-form excursions that capture the collective in two incarnations. Throughout PEK is on clarinets, saxaphones, bassoon and voice, and Glynis Loman is on cello and voice.

For the 41-minute title work "Regenerations" (recorded in 2015) they are joined by Steve Norton on saxes and clarinets, and Yuri Zbitnov on percussion and voice.

For the 38-minute, four-part work "Alternate Tales from Linear Combinations and Transformations" (recorded in 1996) they co-feature Mark McGrain on trombone, Craig Schildhauer on bass, Rob Bethel on cello and Forrest Larsen on viola for the first two parts, Sydney Smart on drums (for part one) and Laurence Cook replacing him for parts two and three.

Both works are high, full-bore free improv spontaneities that pay close attention to timbral sound-color shaping as well as freely expressive collective improvisations. Each shifting grouping of instruments gives rise to color spectrums alternatingly bright or impastoed, clustered or speckled depending on the moment.

This is less an individual solo-oriented music than a collective endeavor. Sometimes a group of instruments and occasionally a single instrument is more in the foreground than others, quite naturally, yet the end-effect is of group sonics.

This perhaps is not for the timid listener. It is uncompromising in its overall thrust. It creates its own world and you fit yourself in as listener well or not depending on your predispositions. In other words, this is free music of a distinctive sort, well paced, serious, advanced in its own way. It is very good indeed. If there is a New England school of free music this is a vivid part of it. Recommended!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Bobun, Suite pour machines a meche, Frantz Loriot & Hugues Vincent

The European world of new music improvisation has grown to rather vast proportions in the last few decades. Happily I get a fair amount of it to review and today's offering is a very good example. It is a duo called Bobun, with Frantz Loriot on viola, Hugues Vincent on cello, both making use of "objects" either as elements in prepared fashion or supplementing the sound world as a whole. The album is titled Suite pour machines a meche (Creative Sources Recordings 215CD).

Each of the six sections of the suite has a particular aural identity, the first movement double-stopped dissonant blocks of continuity, the second prepared jabs of sound, and so forth.

What impresses me about this recording is its uncompromising avantness but also its rather rigorously defined aural breadth for each segment. "Extended techniques" are the order of the day much of the time, and each movement has a clearly defined sound world that gives the listener a shifting set of universes.

It is in the "tradition" of new music avant improv that goes back of course to the early-to-late '60s in the pioneering work of Il Gruppo, MEV and AMM. There is an expressiveness at times that relates to "free jazz" but mostly it is highly abstracted. You would be hard put to find anything in the way of a jazz vocabulary in this music, and of course that is deliberate.

I must say that Bobun has a constancy and expressive effectiveness that puts them at the forefront of recent explorations of this sort. That doesn't mean that it is an accessible music. It is hermetic instead. Those who are avant-initiated will be rewarded by close listening; those unfamiliar with the more extreme new music improv may be converted if they take the sound worlds seriously and devote some time to familiarizing themselves by repeated exposure.

It's a very worthy example of abstract outness!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Rempis Percussion Quartet, Cash and Carry

Dave Rempis and his Aerophonic label have been giving us some excellent Chicago-style avant jazz improvisation. The present-day Chicago style is as contentful and distinctive as deep-dish pizza, I suppose you could say. The Dave Rempis contingency gathers together some of the best players and opens up special territories of sound with every new release, it seems.

The Dave Rempis Percussion Quartet continues where the earlier Aerophonic releases leave off--in this case with two long cuts of live music from Chicago's Hungry Brain club, featuring Dave on alto-tenor-baritone, the busily significant bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, and two of the best drummers active on the scene, Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly. Cash and Carry (Aerophonic 010) is the title of the CD.

This August 31, 2014 set celebrated ten years of the group's existence as it also marked the end of that year's Chicago Jazz Fest, so that on hand was a crowd of advanced jazz lovers who migrated from the outdoor festival to the club.

Judging by the recording, the crowd was treated to some superior music that night. All four are in full-bore expressive mode. Dave is on fire and has a great deal to say, Ingebrigt plays with much authority and imagination, and of course Tim and Frank give us the freewheeling thrusts of power and subtlety we expect from them, only doubled, so to say, by their dual generation.

The open freedom of the two lengthy, in-the-moment performances has everything to recommend: solo excellence, group dynamics and interactions at a high peak, plenty of ideas and that special something you get from dedicated avantists when everything clicks.

If you don't know Dave Rempis well Cash and Carry is an excellent place to begin. Those who already dig Rempis and the new Chicagoans will find this one essential. Yes!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ludovico Einaudi, Taranta Project

Ludovico Einaudi, Italian pianist-composer, has given us an album of very compelling music from Southern Italy, adapted and reworked by an international troupe of singers and instrumentalists who inject world cultural influences into traditional taranta dance music. The Taranta Project (Ponderosa Music & Art) is the culmination of the collaboration, its realization through studio recording and extensive tour.

The album was recorded both live and in the studio. Either way we are treated to some ingenious fusions of traditional Italian, rock, world folk and contemporary music in a very vibrant and moving amalgam.

It comes off as some exceptionally creative interactions the likes of which you may not have heard before. It is world and new music, but most importantly it is excellent.

I will say that and be off. You simply must hear this album! I cannot do it justice in words. Just beautiful!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Rich Halley 4, Creating Structure

Tenor saxophonist-bandleader Rich Halley continues to give us his special brand of west coast free-avant jazz. If I've already covered a good number of his releases since starting these blogs (type his name in the search box) it's because each album has had something to say. As the Rich Halley 4 has stabilized in recent years with the second solo voice of Michael Vlatkovich on trombone, Clyde Reed on acoustic bass and Rich's son Carson on drums, the band has continued to gain a kind of togetherness that comes out of long-term interaction.

We hear the latest fruition of their growth as a quartet on the new one, Creating Structure (Pine Eagle 007). The idea on this album is to delve into multiple relatively short collectively worked-out compositions, 16 in all.

Each has a particular mood, has its say and then moves on. As the title of the album suggests, there is structure to be had in the band's freedom. Part of it is spontaneous, a product of knowing the stylistic propensities of each of the foursome and opening up to them. Other pieces seem to be a little more sketched out, yet no less immediate for it.

The Halley-Vlatkovich front line has evolved into a loosely-tight team, with each playing a role subject to the moment, lucid, contentful. The same can be said for the Reed-Carson rhythm section. Carson and Reed have locked in as a unit and play off against the horns in open synchrony, each with a well-developed voice.

The sheer variety of moments on this 16-part totality keeps the ears fresh. But of course that is only because everyone has developed a full identity while putting forth the kind of group give-and-take that comes over time.

Rich does some of his finest playing on this one. But then everybody seems primed and conversationally loquacious.

An excellent date. If you don't have any Halley as yet, start here!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Brian Landrus Trio, The Deep Below

Baritone sax jazzman Brian Landrus put together an excellent trio in bassist Lonnie Plaxico and master drummer Billy Hart. They shine forth on the recent album The Deep Below (Blueland/Palmetto 2015). This is Brian's sixth album to date. Surely it is one of his very best.

He holds forth on baritone, bass sax, bass clarinet and bass flute, with imagination and a fluid sense of line. In Plaxico and Hart he has ideal bandmates who most definitely benefit from the open trio format to excel in every way.

There are very good originals and a few standards. Landrus has the muscular baritone sound that brings him closer to Pepper Adams or a mainstream Hamiet Bluiett (and perhaps Serge Chaloff) more so than a Gerry Mulligan. But the similarity is only a rough gauge, since he follows his own path. On bass clarinet, bass sax and bass flute he holds his own as well.

He can hang with changes masterfully, and he does on "Giant Steps," "I'm A Fool to Want You," "Sophisticated Lady" and the many modern postbop originals. Yet he savors the melody lines and gives us vibrantly sensuous, full-throated tone, gorgeously and consistently.

The exposed, open trio setting allows him to articulate freely. Lonnie and Billy give us their own beautiful sound sculpting as well, so that from start to finish we have some exemplary modern contemporary jazz that shows us a Brain Landrus who has fully arrived.

I would be hard-pressed to think of reasons why someone would not be captivated by this album, unless it is a dislike of the contemporary mainstream. There is nothing simple or superficial to be heard on this one. Brian, Lonnie and Billy dig in and explore the music deeply, with passion and total musicality. Lend them your ears.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Szilard Mezei International Improvisers Ensemble, Karszt

Once again we encounter jazz composer-instrumentalist Szilard Mezei with an ambitious recent two-CD set of his music for the International Improvisers Ensemble, Karszt (Slam 550). This is a large group with a rather unique instrumentation. Szilard leads the ensemble on viola. The rest of the band consists of some 22 mostly European improviser-players, including a saxophone quartet, trumpet, two trombones, three flautists covering piccolo, standard flute, alto flute and bass flute, piano, acoustic guitar, violin, cello, four double basses, marimba, vibes and two drummers!

What could be in other hands a rather cumbersome totality breathes and freely levitates thanks to Mezei's compositional and orchestrational sensibilities. He handles it all so that both the overall and sectional colorations come to the forefront in ever varying possibilities. The melodic lines have a long-form variability that may well be one of the more distinctive approaches out there in the large-band free avant jazz zone. Those melodic sequences allow for improvisational statements both inside their sounding and between, or alternately serve as ostinatos underpinning the improvisations or counter-lines.

Eight compositions fill the two disks, some quite lengthy, some shorter, but all of definite interest. Mezei is a very respectable free-form violist but there are many other improvisors featured here as well and they certainly come through with appropriate lines, individually and collectively.

First and foremost, though, this is a very worthy example of Mezei the sound innovator, the creator of original big band music that has the free avant elements but are put to use to realize Mezei's special vision.

Karszt shows Szilard Mezei at his best, progressing forward, creating his own momentum with a stylistic clarity and singularity. I very much recommend you listen. As you need to begin somewhere in exploring Mezei's way, this is a great place to start!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Eve Risser, des pas sur la neige

There is a growing sector of music makers who don't always follow the expected avenues of avant expression. The music veers towards "new music" rather than "free jazz." Yet there is an immediacy, an improvisational strain that places the music outside a formally composed realm.

Pianist Eve Risser gives us something excellent in this betwixt genre on her solo album des pas sur la neige (Clean Feed 323). She excels by creating an adventurous sound universe inside and outside a specially prepared piano.

What makes the music so interesting is her combination of repetitive ostinato elements both together in groups and with motifs which tend not to repeat. The ostinatos are subjected to development and change and the general dynamic is one of build-up and variation.

All of it has a sort of meditative openness, an organicism, a natural processual sound that shows Ms. Risser's fertile musical-conceptual imagination at work. With the very varied sound possibilities the music can at times feel linear, at other times like a slowly spinning mobile.

On the final segment she produces a sustained drone somehow (it sounds electronic but may well be produced directly on the strings?) and the music builds upon that, eventually creating rhythmical asymmetries overtop. With patience you hear a world unfold which is a very personal one, fascinating to behold.

There is a hypnotic quality to the music that has perhaps a more subtle fragility than minimalism per se and an open processual variability which reminds a bit of the radical tonality of some of the composers on the Cold Blue label (see my Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music blog for more on that). Yet there is an improvisational spontaneity, too.

This is not your typical avant album. It thrives in the interstices between improvisational and new music realms in a solo piano tour de force that takes close listening to appreciate. If you expend some time and effort the music opens up to you.

Eve Risser has something to say. Hear her by all means.

Friday, July 10, 2015

ICP Orchestra, East of the Sun

Over the long and fruitful career of the Dutch ICP Orchestra, the humor, vitality and unpredictability of the band and what it does have remained constant. Their new disk East of the Sun (ICP51) affirms all that. Through the course of the album the band burlesques old-time pop-folk, dwells in new music and avant-free realms and gives us unusual versions of jazz and song standards and not-so-standards.

Han Bennink presides as the masterful clown-prince of serious drumming. With him are an excellent mix of players known and less-known: Ab Baars, Michael Moore, Tobias Delius, Walter Wierbos, Thomas Heberer, Mary Oliver, Tristan Honsinger, Ernst Glerum and Guus Janssen.

As the Instant Composers Pool, compositions and arrangements are still key and still breathe via some excellent, very spontaneous improvisations. Misha Mengelberg's spirit hovers over the ensemble with four compositions, Ab Baars gets one, Honsinger and Janssen one apiece, and Michael Moore contributes one and arranges the versions of "Moten Swing," "East of the Sun," and Ellington's "A Little Max."

Their anything goes approach may sometimes make you think of a Dutch version of Sun Ra's band in its prime, but of course in a different zone for the most part. The collective free improvs and the rearrangements of the older compositions, the interjections of vocal elements, all have some kinship with Sun Ra. Yet of course this is a band with its own identity.

They still sound great. East of the Sun continues the madcap adventures and of course in the process makes some seriously good outside large band music.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Denny Zeitlin, George Marsh, Riding the Moment, Duo Electric-Acoustic Improvisations

Of all the jazz pianists of stature who have delved into a multi-key electric synthesized approach to the art, Denny Zeitlin may well be the most creative and satisfying. His music loses nothing of its immediacy, but it gains an almost orchestral dimension to it. He is a master improviser still, of course, but when tackling an array of acoustic and non-acoustic instruments (piano and synths), he is also a master orchestrator.

You can hear all that very dramatically on his new album in tandem with his long-time drummer associate George Marsh. Riding the Moment (Sunnyside 1408) gives us some profound new compositions-improvisations for the duo, 11 in all.

As the liners remind us, Denny first got electrified in the later '60s in a series of albums that included George on drums and Ratzo Harris or Mel Graves on bass. The music was seminal but then Denny returned to the acoustic instrument and stayed with that mode until the turn-of-the-century. Both/And (see the September 13th, 2013 review on these pages) marked Denny's return to the multi-instrument fray, with the inspiration of the new synthesizers and their increased sonic color options.

That was an impressive outing. Now with Riding the Moment he reunites with George Marsh for a program that stands out as even more masterfully done, with the immediacy of the very creative and musically astute Marsh to add to the texture and drive of the music.

"Orchestrated" is the word. Without losing any of the essential excellence of the Zeitlin line and harmonic inventiveness, we experience a fully varied set of aural possibilities that have all the magic of the Zeitlin-Marsh chemistry but with a hugely imaginative way of creating vivid sound textures.

It's a masterful, wildly interesting program and perhaps also an object-lesson on how to make use of the new instruments to create an uncompromising music of beauty and drive, jazz in the A-1 mode.

You need to hear this. It is fascinating, explorative, exciting music here, Zeitlin and Marsh at their very best!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ernest Dawkins Live The Spirit Residency Big Band, Memory in the Center, An Afro Opera

Ernest Dawkins has long been a driving force on the Chicago avant jazz scene, a reedman of talent and a composer of note. He turns to large ensemble, long form music on the recent album Memory in the Center: An Afro Opera (Dawk). It features Dawkins' Spirit Residency Big Band in its heartfelt "Homage to Nelson Mandela."

Ernest Dawkins wrote and arranged the music and conducts the rousing performance heard here. Dee Alexander handles the vocals with great style and presence. Khari B recites his poetry fittingly, recalling the courage and achievement of the leader with passion. The band is an excellent one. Twelve committed, enthusiastic and talented musicians realize the music with fire and drive. Nine horns, piano (Neil Gonzalves), bass (Junius Paul) and drums (Isaiah Spencer) make up the totality and they give great spirit to Dawkins' vivid music.

The subtitle "An Afro Opera" is telling, because this is some very African-centric music, as transposed into contemporary free-flowing jazz. Dawkins belongs among the best in the vibrancy of his Afro-centric style. The band gets the feel and makes it groove irresistibly. And thanks to Ernest's very appropriate part writing and overall arching structuring, that is saying something great.

The solos when they happen are just right, too.

In short, this is music not to miss. It is a triumph of contemporary big band kinetics and energetics and a moving tribute to one of the most important political heroes of our lifetime. Hear this!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Eden MacAdam-Somer, My First Love Song

Some things are so different one has to gather thoughts before writing. Violinist-fiddlist-vocalist Eden MacAdam-Somer has that about her music. She is a violinist of high caliber, with classical training and a virtuoso slant, but she utilizes that technique towards her own adaptation of the folk fiddle style. Violin and her vocalizing are the sole focus on her album My First Love Song (A-Side 0002). She is an artist of real musicality. She is a faculty member at the very demanding New England Conservatory, so that tells you something.

But teaching or no, it is the originality of her approach that makes this album something special. There are her own original pieces and their are her very unusual folk-fiddle and vocal adaptations of things as diverse as Ellington's "Jump for Joy" and the perennial ballad "Barbara Allen," the latter done with almost a North African bluesy folk feel.

How it comes out is the everything to her music. She sings well and can get lyrical and/or rawly folkish and the violin playing follows suit. But then you hear influences of contemporary classical and early music too, so it's uncanny.

What intrigues is her combination of influences and how she puts them to rather unprecedented personal use. Her settings of Rumi poetry are striking, both contemporary and rooted, and the same could be said for the rest of the program.

She evokes American folk strains directly and obliquely at times. But it is the very special way she has of doing so that puts her in a company of one.

It all clicks for a moving result. There is nothing quite like her out there. I do heartily recommend you hear her! Get the album.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sumari, Matt Lavelle, Jack DeSalvo, Tom Cabrera

There are so many excellent modern and avant jazz musicians headquartered in the New York City area today. It confirms the status of New York as a jazz capital of the world, certainly, yet there are fewer and fewer venues to play in. It becomes all the more important for lovers of the music to get to the gigs and show support, and of course buy the CDs.

Three New York figures come front and center as very good examples of New York being now on the album Sumari (Unseen Rain 9962). On it we have the trio of Matt Lavelle on trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet and alto clarinet, Jack DeSalvo on mandola, cello and guitar, and Tom Cabrera on bodhran, tar, riq, doumbek, bass drum and miscellaneous percussion.

This is vibrantly eclectic avant jazz with world influences and a flowingly harmolodic sense. Matt plays the trumpet etc. with a mastery that shows an encompassing of the tradition and the essence of the moment. He has much to say and he comes to say it eloquently on the set. There are especially interesting tonal qualities he gets from alternating fingerings on notes, creating timbral and microtonal openings that are quite stimulating to hear. His switch from bass clarinet to alto clarinet recently has inspired him to play some of his very best reed work here as well.

Jack on his battery of instruments lays down foundational sounds that sometimes function as a double bass might do in such a trio setting. Other times they function as a second solo voice. And sometimes as a sort of "world" riffing instrument. He sounds just right here.

Tom similarly gives us rhythmic drive and freedom that functions sometimes in the role of the "drum set," other times with more overtly world connotations. He is key too to the success of the date.

What's nice about this one is the very together qualities of the trio as a whole. They are free yet they also have a world-homogenous quality to them. Matt plays some of his best music on disk. Jack and Tom create the varied and creative framework that makes it all work.

I am very happy to hear this one. The trio comes at us with strength and ideas. It all works. It's all very New York, which means there is the local and the universal all wrapped up into a very "now" music. Excellent!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Francois Carrier, Unknowable, with Michel Lambert and Rafal Mazur

The work of Francois Carrier, accomplished alto saxist and free-avant bandleader, has been gaining momentum in recent years. He is playing some great music these days, which is evident from listening to his recent CD Unknowable (Not Two 928-2). It is a live date from the Alchemia Jazz Klub, Krakow, Poland, recorded last year. Joining him is Michel Lambert, a driving force and long-time associate of Francois' on drums, and the busy, vibrant Rafal Mazur on doublebass.

The music is spontaneous, free, without compositional guidelines yet structured by the logic and inspiration of the trio. Bass and drums are dynamic and engaged in the best ways throughout.

And Francois on both alto and Chinese oboe has an irresistible flow to his playing. What strikes me especially lately is how lucid his improvisations have become. You hear the musical-logical inevitability of his note weaving as free and spontaneous, yet you follow the lines and you hear a compositional sensibility in what he does. The mark of a great player of course is partly this, that anything they do has the stamp of a personal force.

This live date gives you an exciting journey into free music with hairpin turns, full acceleration and expert maneuvering from the threesome.

Unknowable is a must-not-miss recording for all who appreciate the free modernism that is very much alive and flourishing today.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Andy Sheppard Quartet, Surrounded by Sea

Carla Bley a few years ago remarked in an interview that she decided to bring tenor-soprano artist Andy Sheppard into her band "because he didn't sound like Coltrane." She was looking for a different sound and Andy was well along the way to developing it.

With his third album, Surrounded By Sea, (ECM 2432 B0023141-02) we hear the Sheppard approach in full bloom. On it we get his quartet mapping out an atmospherics squarely in the ECM jazz camp, not concerned so much with vivid torrents of notes or ultra-expressivity as with a mostly quiet, lyrical spaciness that may well remind you of Jan Garbarek albums in the classic phase, only Sheppard does not mimic Garbarek so much as go his own way. He has plenty of technique and can travel with it, but the emphasis is on a sort of rhapsodic, cosmic sound.

The band is a solid one, with that ECM headroom paramount. Eivind Aarset on electric guitar gives us ambient envelopes of misty, far-away harmonies and dreamy noting. Bassist Michel Benita has the open full tone and improvisational exuberance of a Charlie Haden and/or Arild Andersen and some of the bowing presence of a Miroslav Vitous, but all harnessed to the original approach of the quartet. Sebastian Rochford plays an appealingly loose style of drumming that fits in very appropriately with the musical objectives of Sheppard.

The Sheppard compositions set the tone and mood for each number. What we get is a very listenable contemporary ECM offering, well in the tradition of the label but different enough to hold its own as a worthwhile addition. Bravo.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Vicente / Marjamaki, Opacity

We have up today some contemporary ambient avant jazz from Vicente / Marjamaki on a live album called Opacity (Jacc Records). The premise is straightforward. Jari Marjamaki creates live electronic washes as a backdrop for the solo trumpet work of Luis Vicente. They are joined by electric guitar for two pieces (Pedro Madaleno or Marcelo dos Reis) and cello (Miguel Mira or Valentin Ceccaldi) for the rest.

One cut has a pronounced rock feel a la post-Miles ("Got That Zing"). "Pollock was Right" has a driving rhythmic feel as well. The others are more cosmically ambient and free-based. Vicente shows his mettle on trumpet nicely. He chooses his notes wisely and has a contemporary sound that shows a little Miles, perhaps a shade of Cherry and Dixon, and a bit of post-Brownian brassiness, all with his own personal amalgam and improvisatory clout.

Marjamaki's electronics are orchestral at times, always varied and contrasting, vivid and spacy. His use of electronically generated drums at times adds a fourth dimension tastefully and thoughtfully.

The addition of guitar and/or cello is integral to the music, with all involved contributing nicely.

It is music that coheres, creates various sound color mixtures and does it all for a program of interest and character.

Well done. If you appreciate some electronics in the mix this one will find you intrigued I suspect. Recommended.