Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dennis Gonzalez's Ataraxia, Ts'iibil Chaaltun

Trumpetist-bandleader-jazz composer Dennis Gonzalez has never been a follower so much as a prime, parallel force in the Zeitgeist of present-avant jazz. He continues to strike an independent yet forward striving path with the trio Ataraxia and their 2-LP offering Ts'ibil Chaaltun (Daagnim DVDI).

The vinyl presentation is state-of-the-art, a beautiful object in itself. The music is singular, with classical Indian-cum-fusion-Milesian-cum-free-jazz  furtherences saving our musical day. The trio says much with only three voices, Dennis of course, Jagath Lapriya on tablas and Drew Phillips on contrabass. The music wisely conflates multiple stylistic worlds with an organic wholeness that seems effortless but of course is a product of careful interlistening and instrumental insites.

There are the tablas nicely laying down the rhythmic core, occasional tambura drone, thoughtful contrabass anchorage and variations, and some haunting Gonzalez trumpet.

It turns out to be a marvelously varied platform that never seems the least bit contrived. It explores a spectrum of possibilities in ways that ring the truest and make a major art music statement.

It may not be exactly what you would expect from Dennis Gonzalez. And that is partly the point. He never rests and in the travelling comes a mastery of possibilities for which this trio has fully prepared.

A milestone, this is! And fully worthy to traverse universes, to take your ears to places somehow familiar yet boldly personal. Wow!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Joris Teepe & Don Braden, Conversations, with Gene Jackson & Matt Wilson

What can still be can satisfy when it is put together just right. Conversations (Creative Perspective Music 3004) by bassist Joris Teepe and tenor-flautist Don Braden is one of those kind of sessions. It is a tenor-bass-drum lineup that accentuates forward momentum swinging in a loosely cohesive, very inter-conversational way. The emphasis is not so much on breaking new ground as it is on finding new ways to walk down a fairly well-trodden path.

The trio here dwells comfortably and brilliantly on the edge of late hard-bop freedom. There is very hip propulsion, basso profundo musicianship from Teepe that can dwell inside and outside of the assumptions of a jazz classic, standard or original, and a Braden tenor fluidity that recalls early Sam Rivers, mid-Wayne Shorter, even Sonny Rollins is an advanced mode, that sort of thing, only Braden-fresh.

Bass and sax have a frontline presence together often enough. But Teepe also keeps the rhythm-team movement happening with Gene Jackson or Matt Wilson, both of whom distinguish themselves in turn. The fact that they do a nice version of Elvin Jones' classic "Three Card Molly" is great, but it also puts you in mind of that early trio with Farrell and Garrison, not to mention the classic Rollin's threesome before that. And it is not the notes themselves but that evolved cross-talk that is present here.

The choice of material and their attention to getting inside it makes for a strong outing. The Corea "Humpty Dumpty," Mingus' "Pork Pie Hat," Shorter's "Footprints" and the standards like "This is New," plus a couple of nice originals by Teepe, Wilson and Braden, all of that keeps the ears fresh and comfortable with the new-old, structure-form oscillations.

It is in every way top tier modern jazz! Everybody shows strength and creative open-field vision.

Yes!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Anemone, A Wing Dissolved in Light, Peter Evans, John Butcher, Paul Lovens, etc.

If you revel in the extroverted and brash yet smart sort of free jazz outings, I believe the recent album A Wing Dissolved in Light (No Business NBLP 105) will appeal very much to you. The group calls itself Anemone. Those that follow the avant garde jazz scene will surely know the work of trumpetismos Peter Evans, who on this set concentrates most productively on the piccolo trumpet. Then there is tenor and soprano master John Butcher, who has made a dramatic impact on the scene for a while now. Drummer Paul Lovens has iconic status, deservedly. Joining them are two somewhat lesser-known but essential artists, Frederic Blondy on piano and Clayton Thomas on double bass, both of whom make important contributions to the whole.

Gone are the head-solos-head one-by-one improvisational routines to be replaced by the group explorations "orchestrated" by the collective intuitions, restraint versus assertion dialectics that Anemone unveil so well. If this often enough is what new free jazz favors, it nevertheless poses a great challenge to the participants, since every minute must entail careful listening and a demand to make every note count.

Anemone shows us, not surprisingly, that they are masters of the instant form collective. There is no moment when the music seems unpurposive. On the contrary it all hangs together remarkably well.

If you want to know how evolved freedom jazz can be right now, this is as good an example as any.

So pay this one close attention if you can. It rewards with some sublime spontaneity.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio, with Mark Helias, Dan Weiss

This music is no joke. It is the meeting of Quinsin Nachoff on tenor sax, Mark Helias on double bass and Dan Weiss on drums. The results are simply self-titled Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio (Whirlwind Recordings 4706). It is a master statement of what contemporary jazz could be and is from some of the best practitioners out there. Best practices. Inspired praxises.

I knew and appreciated Quinsin from his previous album Flux (type that in the search box above for the review). The Ethereal Trio takes things further. Helias and Weiss are a kind of dream rhythm team for Quinsin. The three together create a magic trio outing that stands on the improvisational edge of contemporary practice without quite jumping into the abyss. And so there is a creative tension between time-place marking and open-ends insistence that puts this music in a kind of essential relation to the present-day listener and the vertical possibilities available to the committed and brilliant improvisers that make up the trio.

Nachoff takes the prevailing open tenor possibilities and makes of it something personal and very fluid. Helias is in this context a co-lining voice of great lucidity and a rhythm foundation of pillared strength, playing against Nachoff and Weiss equally and very productively. Weiss is a drummer of terrific inventiveness and as much swing as you can ask for--when it is called for.

Put that together with six originals and you have something that stands out as a must-hear!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Marcelo Dos Reis, Eve Risser, Timeless

Guitarist Marcelo Dos Reis has been involved in some wonderful improv sessions in recent years. For that matter so has pianist Eve Risser. A duo of the two turns out, understandably, to be an inspired idea. We can hear the results of their intersective get together at the October 2016 "Jazz ao Centro Festival" in Coimbra, Portugal on the recent CD Timeless (JACC Records 34).

The idea of conjoining both prepared and unprepared piano and acoustic guitar alike is given very creative focus in the seven free improvisational segments that make up the program. Marcelo and Eve attend closely to the very expanded sonarities possible in such a setup. They allow their creatively inventive selves full latitude to get the maximum  of ethereal traction out of the possibilities inherent in what end up being four instrumental options. Of course the many sound possibilities of the two prepared instruments are what you notice first coming out of your speakers. Then with continuing listening the entire spectrum of sounds and the gestural interactions become ever more clear and compelling.

The music is as much about the timbrally exotic flourishes as it is about pitch. The two aspects combine in ways only avant improvisational savantes like Eve and Marcelo could pull off. Nothing sounds random or accidental. And none of it is because these two know well what they are about. They know which parts of their articulation arsenal will correspond with what the other is doing at any given moment.

So each moment of the totality has significance and aesthetic expressivity. It allows the duo to open us up continually to fascinating and rewarding open universes of sounds.

Timeless puts time on hold, as the title suggests. You listen outside of the clock watching being we tend to be when everyday life is in its more mundane phase. The musical events of Timeless sacralize the sound-art space we dwell in and leave us with boundless soundscapes of focused beauty and character. And it does so with disarming selfless individuality, with a dual creation of real value.

Get this one and prepare for parts unknown! Timeless captures timbral wonders as it takes you away from anything ordinary. Molto bravo!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Meaghan Burke, Creature Comforts

Sometimes nothing can quite prepare you for a music when it defies easy categorization. Tha is most certainly the case with songwriter, singer, cellist, lyricist Meaghan Burke. Her album Creature Comforts (self released) comes toward you as a kind of underground art song program, quirky and unexpected.

All that is Ms. Burke and all that are her songs are joined variously by a string quartet (that includes her cello), clarinets, resonator guitar, Sousaphone, drums, contrabass, guitar and backing vocals.

Her voices is very musical but also dramatic and I suppose you could say "wayward" in a sort of Downtown way. In the process there is a productive conflation of rock, cabaret, new music, freedom, and I suppose a tiny smidgen of pop. The HOW of the creative stew is the everything, of course.

And that how is poignantly singular, about a personal everyday or otherwise life, about a nicely wrought cello, a touchingly honest sound assemblage that fascinates and moves in its unpretentious yet arty totality.

There is no satisfactory set of words glibly and hastily scrawled (or of course typed). It is Meaghan asserting through her songs, "I exist!" And in the process we too exist alongside her, for the length of the program and beyond.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Alan Sondheim, Azure Carter, Luke Damrosch, Threnody, Shorter Discourses of the Buddha

It is always heartening to hear an artist who long ago made a heroic gesture in the earlier new music free jazz world still active and moving forward in an ever-expanding personal expression. I speak of Alan Sondheim, who in the earlier and perhaps more heady days of new free music making put out several albums on ESP that might qualify as some of the most daring music you've never heard. Not daring in a drop-your-drawers astonishment sort of way. More like an unpretentious refusal to recognize boundaries. His multi-instrumental essays still enlighten, still bear close hearing today.

So now we encounter Alan still going strong, in a productively creative collaboration with Azure Carter and Luke Damrosch. Alan plays a battery of instruments that includes all manner of winds, Irish banjo, Alpine zither, viola, electric guitar, oud, pipa, erhu, etc. Joining him is Luke Damrosch on guzheng, madal, revrev supercollider software. Then there is Azure Carter and her highly contrastive, profound singsong song vocals.

The three gather together to create in the Sondheim vision a free pan-world music that through its multiple gestures and referents builds a new sort of sonic world. In that way everything Sondheim creates is another "New World Symphony" if you will.

This new effort is as good or even better than what has come before. It gels cohesively through the magic of deliberate disparity, like a mole sauce, a seemingly odd concatenation of chile and chocolate that thrives through its very melding of sensual opposites. Like that.

Highly recommended for you musical undergrounders.