Monday, December 5, 2016

Amazonas, Deep Talk

From Europe today comes a thoughtful set of free jazz from a very game quartet known as Amazonas. Deep Talk (SODA CD12) plummets the depths of significant musical dialogues that occur when everyone is in synch and has much to say.

Biggi Vinkeloe is here on alto and flute, doing what she does so well; Thomas Gustafsson sounds limber and filled with ideas on soprano also; and the rhythm section of Anders Kjellberg on drums and Annika Tornqvist on bass kick up some dust with power and finesse.

And as a foursome they tackle open and free territory from the tumbling all-timeful to straight-eighth pulsation and swing, never falling into cliche but ever keeping it new. This is what I've come to expect from Biggi and Thomas, and for sure we get them at a peak of expression. And the four together have just the right mix of imagination and togetherness so that there is not a routine moment in the ten works on the album.

Here is a band worthy of your attention. Perhaps they will tour the States sometime soon? In the meantime, for smarts and style, fire and lyric abandon, you cannot beat them.

An important and joyful offering!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Art Pepper and Warne Marsh at Donte's, April 26, 1974, Unreleased Art: Volume 9

By 1974 anything associated with the "cool school" in general and Cool California in particular had reached a nadir in popularity among jazz fans. Neither Art Pepper nor Warne Marsh belonged in that category in some generic sense. Pepper may have had cool overtones from time to time but he ultimately came as much out of Bird as not. He had more in common with Jackie McLean and Phil Woods than, for example early Bud Shank, but he was important on the California scene in the heyday of West Coast Jazz and by the early '70s that was not going to get you much cache, or cash I suppose.

Tenorman Warne Marsh of course came out of the Tristano School and along with Lee Konitz were the major saxophonists associated with Lennie. Tristano and his acolytes were a great deal more than "cool," of course, but the independence of their sound and approach left them out of the "funk" reaction that was so influential, and so they tended to be lumped into the generic heap.

Pepper of course also had his personal problems with addiction and a number of lengthy incarcerations that took him out of the scene.

By the time they formed a two-horn front line for a gig at Donte's in LA, they were playing with a fire that had no relation to cool. And at that point especially the two brought out something in each other that was more than the sum of their parts. So we are lucky that Art's widow Laurie had inherited a set of tapes capturing in detail and decent clarity the two on a Friday night at the club and now is releasing it all in a 3-CD set Art Pepper & Warne Marsh at Donte's, April 26, 1974 Unreleased Art: Volume 9 (Widow's Task APM 16001). Jack Shelton was in the lineup for the gig but for whatever reason could not make the Friday show and so Art nabbed Warne for that night.

Incredibly, Art and Warne had last played together in the '50s, yet there is such kinetic energy here you would never have thought it had it not been so. The repertoire was the bop standards each would know: "Cherokee," "Donna Lee," etc. plus some American songbook chestnuts like "All the Things You Are."

They were backed by a capable and enthusiastic trio of Mark Levine on piano, John Heard on bass, and Lew Malin on drums.

And it is the magnificent interplay of Art and Warne, so different from Warne and Lee Konitz and/or Art and any other horn player, that makes this a magic set. The interlocking dual counterpoint between the two in joint solo space is something to behold. But then the two on their own are equally fine. They play HARD and with lots of fire. That makes this set a beauty!! Get it for a special club date where everything is right and both Art and Warne play as well as they ever did!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Steve Heckman, Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute

Tribute albums to seminal jazz masters by contemporary players can go any number of ways, not always for the best. If the resulting music has its internal expressive fire burning, then it stands out as a performative whole of its own. If not, one might well ask, "What's the point?"

Happily we find an integral whole going on Steve Heckman's Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute (Jazzed Media 1074). Steve is in fine form on tenor and soprano, Grant Levin sounds well on piano, and the rhythm section of Eric Markowitz on bass and Smith Dobson V keeps things swinging.

The middle period of John Coltrane's output gets most of the attention, and that is fine given that the quartet and Heckman in particular have gained a great deal from studying the music of that time.

The Heckman original "The Legacy" spells out the indebtedness to middle-Trane while carrying on with good swinging ideas and an improvisational voice collective extending the sounds further.

"Resolution" and "Dear Lord" take from the early-late period and things like "26-2" and "Impressions" have the middle period resonance going nicely.

Of course if you don't know Trane you should start with his own recordings. But those Trane lovers like me out there will find plenty to get into on this album. Trane will never be replaced, but he can be honored, certainly. Heckman and company show complete respect while managing to breathe some new life into the music.


Michel Blanc, Le Miroir des Ondes

Composer-drummer Michel Blanc comes through with a 33-minute chamber-electric work called Les Miroir des Ondes (Ayler 151). It was meant to capture the composer's reaction to a number of historical events that took place in his experience between 1972 and 1989. A track of event-related voices and sounds continuously blends with the chamber group's music, in a sense pinning the music with the experiences they were meant to comment upon.

The work is a seamless melange of new music, rock elements and new jazz overtones, performed magnificantly by Marc Ducret on electric guitar, Annabelle Playe, vocals, Anne Giminez, piano, Antonin Rayon, organ, and Blanc himself on drums and percussion.

The music has a wealth of arresting aural events that continually segue one with the other, creating long unfolding mood auralities that fascinate and draw the listener in.

It is a unique and very worthy piece, modern without allying to definite style categories, synthetic yet rather wondrously distinctive.

I've heard nothing quite like this out there before. Viva Michel Blanc!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Linda Sharrock Network, Live at the BAB-ILO

The comeback of Linda Sharrock, edgy vocalist of extraordinary power and presence, is not just notable for her vocal expressions. Her committed avant-free exuberance seems to get the very best out of her sidemen. This is no more true than in her latest release with her Network aggregation, Live at the BAB-ILO (improvising beings), which captures the cacaphonic brilliance of the band at that venue on August 6th of this year. 

With her is a potent Euro-Japanese configuration of excellence: Mario Rechtern, baritone, soprano, sopranino saxophones, saxolin;  Itaru Oki, trumpet, flugelhorn, flutes; Lucien Johnson, tenor saxophone; Claude Parle, accordion; Yoram Rosilio, double bass; and Makoto Sato, drums. Together with Linda's inimitable, extreme expression they rise above the everyday to a free height not often reached these days.

Make no mistake, this is music not for the timid or those seeking an easy repose. It is free jazz directly in-your-face, uncompromising yet filled with the human in its quirky universality.

Grab this at Bandcamp!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Nate Wooley, Purple Patio, with Hugo Antunes, Jorge Queijo, Mario Costa, Chris Corsano

What happens when you put avant trumpet virtuoso Nate Wooley in the company of bassist Hugo Antunes and three drummers (Jorge Queijo, Mario Costa and Chris Corsano)? The answer is Purple Patio (No Business NBLP 95), a big, hugely expressive, explosive juggernaut of avant jazz.

This limited edition release gives you a charge forward into the fray of controlled and deliberate chaos. The three drummers provide a broad wash of smart sounds that is a product of close listening and productive talent. And there is space for Hugo Antunes' dramatic bass soundings, a second dimension to the whole that comes out of intuitive certainty and accomplished technique.

Nate Wooley takes advantage of the open singularity of the backdrop to be very much his special self, a trumpet voice with as always a great deal to say.

This is one of those sessions that lays itself out as a striking totality, a complete sound sculpture that creates a universe of possibilities which only can come about when five primo free jazzers come prepared to create something fresh and very vibrant.

You wont need a map to follow this adventurous musical journey. Just let go and the sounds will take you someplace very nice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Andrew Cyrille Quartet, The Declaration of Musical Independence

Over the years Andrew Cyrille has proven himself as one of the premier avant jazz drummers in the music, an extraordinary creative force as soloist and band member--and band leader. For his latest, The Declaration of Musical Independence (ECM 2430), he assembles a band not entirely typical for him, but exceptional in its breadth and scope of musical expression.

Bill Frisell is here, a dynamo of electric guitar finesse and power; then there is Richard Teitelbaum, a pioneer of new jazz as a synthesizer proponent and a formidable pianist. Ben Street may not be as well known, but his double bass role on this album is exactly what is needed.

Andrew sounds as beautiful and as innovative as ever. Everything he does lays just right, whether it be as the open free time melder for the quartet or as a profound if all-too-brief soloist. This is about the group sound more than as a vehicle for him to show us his singular brilliance, but he nevertheless manages to give us a major statement on the drums as the music forges on with great presence.

There are originals by Frisell, Teitelbaum and Street. They give structure and purpose while allowing plenty of room for individual and group soloing of a high level. Then there are four-way free improvs that stand out for their special sonics and electricity.

It's a free and voltage-tapped music that gives everyone space and ambient direction of which they make ideal use. The result is startlingly unique and reminds us that the use of some electricity can still give us every bit of the open subtlety of an all-acoustic date.

I cannot recommend this one more strongly than I do here. This is one of the more profound avant jazz releases of the year. Hear it!