Monday, May 22, 2017

Earth Tongues, Ohio

The trio Earth Tongues and their 2-CD improvisation Ohio (neither/nor n/n 006) is one of those long building free-new music essays in sound that takes its time unfolding and rewards the patient listener with a finely honed, ever-blossoming panorama

You might not know what to expect, or I did not at least, by looking at the personnel and instrumentation. The jacket tells us that the trio is made up of Joe Moffett on trumpet and cassette player, Dan Peck on tuba and cassette player and Carlo Costa on percussion. What we get is a beginning with little sounds, microscopic fragilities, quietude of a carefully, creatively mapped out spontaneity.

Only in time does the music become ever more present, in ways that remind one of some of the pioneering new music improv groups (MEV, AMM, etc), only updated and personalized for the now we live in.

All makes an artistic sense if you just let it be. The unfolding is the all. And with that we can actualize our listening self to become something other. Such is the best sort of avantdom.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rob Mazurek, Chants and Corners

The music of Rob Mazurek in the past decade has been remarkable. His use of electronics in a thoroughly exciting free jazz medium, his cornet, his role as bandleader, all stands out in my mind as high points in the later period of avant expression.

And now we have a further example of his, another clear sign that the momentum of his most creative period to date is in no way at an ebb. The new one is entitled Chants and Corners (Clean Feed 416). It incorporates deftly electronics manned by Mazurek, Guilherme Granado and Thomas Rohrer. Mazurek is also on cornet and on piano for one track, Granado is also on keys, Rohrer on rabeca, flutes and soprano. Then there is Mauricio Takara on drums plus Philip Somervell on piano and prepared piano. The totality of the ensemble is as primary as the quality of the improvisations. It is a joyous noise we hear.

To parse each part in a description is perhaps to miss the point? On the other hand one cannot help but appreciate Rob's stunning cornet work. Everybody does the right thing, though. Giulherme's and Philip's keys-piano work is rompingly appropriate. Mauricio drums up a froth. And Thomas adds significantly on reeds. But it is all this within an electronic wash that puts things on a collectively higher plane.

It is nothing less than what one would expect from Mazurek at this stage. But then it is also more, a further development, a remarkable fluency of free musical expression taken another step forward.

Hear, absolutely!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Allen Lowe, In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell with an Ocean View: Down and Out DownEast

Why it has taken a while for me fully to appreciate the music of Allen Lowe is a bit of a puzzle, now that I am totally on his wavelength. Maybe because he is so prolific--the "box" set I reviewed a while back had an awful lot of music to digest and I'll admit I wrote up my review before I had spent enough time with the music to assimilate it fully. I ended up going back to it and the additional spins made it all come together for me.

So, thankfully, there is more coming out. There is another set I'll be getting to but first a single disk release, In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell with an Ocean View: Down and Out Downeast (Constant Sorrow 999). I can identify with the title because I am living it, too. The world is very beautiful but nowadays very hellacious, as anyone reading this might know.

The album begins as is Allen's way with an excellent cast, Allen of course with his inimitable alto and then Nels Cline on guitar, Ray Suhy on guitar, Matthew Shipp on piano, Kevin Ray on bass, Larry Feldman on violin and mandolin, and Carolyn Castellano on drums. The "big names" give us key contributions, but then again so do the "smaller names." Allen however is the guiding force on alto that makes it all come together.

The originals are open, mostly changes-based gems that show Allen has absorbed fully the roots of avant jazz (whatever those are in their great plentitude). He has worked his way through the myriad avenues and byways, doubtless a long process that has led him to his own original path. That end discovery of his musical self after such an extensive exposure to what has been is of course not at all the norm. Not many have so fully slogged through it all as he has. It is key to his music, that working through and beyond.

Each piece is memorable in form and melodic-harmonic movement. They open the way to improvisations of stature.

This is a great place to start if you do not know Allen's music, and you should. It is an additional and very rewarding temporary resting point if you already know him. Either way the music is vital, jazz of the most developed sort,  reaching some of the highest planes of attainment on the scene today.

Can you tell I recommend this unreservedly? I do.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jason Anick & Jason Yeager, United

In today's realms of "serious" music, including the art of jazz, nothing is absolutely given. That means that anything is possible, even if some pathways are not exactly welcomed by a large segment of the music listening public. We who make and/or cover such musical roads may need to learn that an isolation from the mainstream of musical and verbal discourse becomes more and more a reality, a condition that one must either accept as a fact of life or take an unappealing turn to the popular.

Neither this writer nor the music he covers today is about to "sell out." Yet in fact the music has the ability to garner a wide appeal if things were different out there. Maybe it will after all.

I speak of the collaborative teaming of  violinist Jason Anick and pianist Jason Yeager on the album United (Inner Circle 067CD). It consists of some evolved originals by Anick and Yeager, some selected compositions by Zbigniew Seifert, plus Harrison's "Something" and Miles' "All Blue."

There is a slight classical element to be heard in the originals but a pronounced contemporary jazz center that shows off the very focused abilities of Anick and Yeager, a rhythm team (alternating, two different ones) and some guest appearances by trumpet and saxophones.

The spotlight is squarely on the two in fascinating interplay. If the material reminds of Burton or Corea in classic phases, perhaps that has something to do with the Berklee nexus of the players? I does not matter. What counts is the beautiful musicianship of the team and how they extend and interpret the compositions in a total gestalt of intertwining poetics.

Anick is a hell of a violinist and Yeager a wonderfully alive pianist.

It's all good.

Frantz Loriot, Reflections on an Introspective Path

Why do I write these? Not for fame or fortune, for sure. An entire CD of avant jazz viola solos may be critical to the new music scenario, and by directing readers toward it I am helping to define what's going on right now. So for better or worse I keep on. Even if my championing seems to me a thankless task.

But no matter. Frantz Loriot is the viola master I speak of above. The 2014 recording of his solo viola improvisations is entitled Reflections on an Introspective Path (neithernor n/n 002). I covered Frantz's large ensemble compositions the other day, and he has distinguished the proceedings of a number of improv ensembles as violist. I've covered a number of these as well, as the index search box above will reveal.

In spite of all that (and it is excellent) this recording perhaps represents the ultimate challenge. Hit the studios with only yourself and your viola. Create a CDs worth of edgy solo viola improvisations.

The key to such an outing is expressive invention. Frantz Loriot has that. He disregards much of the time the accepted conventions of string technique and instead forges his own path of timbrally rich, counter-"legitimate" extensions of the sonic possibilities of the viola. And each of the seven improvisations contained on the album concentrates on a particular extension complex and its expressive potential.

In the end we have an ever-contrasting series of adventures. Loriot is not content to stay in place, but rather to confront a widening vector of extended techniques with a free jazz fire and a new music recombinatory abstraction of means.

This will not be everyone's cup of tea. But for those who let themselves open up to the sound dynamics Frantz so single-mindedly masters on this program, it is a revelation. As the Marcel Duchamp quote on the album sleeve implies, sometimes you have to free yourself of the technical habits of normality in order to create anew. Loriot does this consistently and poetically.

And so you who seek to go beyond need to hear this.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Benedikt Jahnel Trio, The Invariant

The Benedikt Jahnel Trio celebrates ten years as an entity with a striking album that selects eight of Jahnel's compositions and presents them as they are played these days, after years of live performances and a boiling down to the sophisticated essence of what they are now.

The Invariant (ECM 2523) alludes both to the persistence of the trio and its consistently high level of musicianship. That Jahnel should be an ECM artist is also an invariant--of the label's initial and continuing attention to some of jazz's most innovative pianists, beginning of course with Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett and following through to the present day. The most distinctive of the ECM ivory manipulators have much in common: a highly developed harmonic and melodic sense and the ability to swing as strongly as they can create lyrical largos of great creativity.

Jahnel is one of the very best of the current crop of artists. He shows you that dramatically on the album--just as the trio of himself, Antonio Miguel on double bass and Owen Howard on drums drives home the extraordinary evolution of the modern piano trio as we now experience it. All three artists are integral to the outcome, the years of recording and gigging making themselves felt with a palpable excellence of interdependence and interplay.

This is as fine example of the piano trio art as you are likely to hear this year. It is a celebration, a tribute to dedicated continuity and growth.

By all means, hear this and be moved.

Beyond Trio Live at Spectrum, Cheryl Pyle, Roberta Piket, Newman Taylor Baker

What we know today as avant jazz can take many forms, in a spectrum ranging from free jazz to new music improv with many shades in between. We get a blend slightly verging toward new music realms on the Beyond Trio's download EP Live at Spectrum (11th Street Music 2013). This edition is a very good one, caught in peak form in 2013. Cheryl Pyle chimes in on flute, Roberta Piket on piano and Newman Taylor Baker on drums.

Baker brings his chamber percussion set and its ubiquitous washboard for a discerning barrage of freely articulated small sounds. Roberta Piket sounds out responsive, advanced lines that come out of a Taylorian-Bleyian-new music lineage, opening up the harmonic center to a greatly expanded chromosphere. Cheryl Pyle is in excellent form on flute, deftly winding her way through the full range of the instrument and the open-form chromatic choices that are part of her hallmark.

In the 30-minute set presented on this album we get a number of contrasting moods and some striking trio interplay. It is one of the best for this trio and Cheryl, a refreshing offering of what makes this band something altogether else! Listen and enjoy.