Friday, July 29, 2016

Myriad 3, Moons

Canada's Myriad3 is a jazz piano trio whose music has a marked composed-arranged emphasis and an acoustic jazz-rock sensibility similar to the Bad Plus, yet making original and engagingly modern contributions of their own, as we can hear readily on their third album Moons (Alma ACD52062).

The album gives us some eleven band originals. It is a product of five years working together, carefully honing their group sound and breaking ground in a sort of intuitive, mutually invigorating way.

Pianist Chris Donnelly, bassist Dan Fortin and drummer Ernesto Cervini show us how far they have come with an intriguing set of pieces, written variously by all three artists and providing substantial and contrastive landmarks, indexes of a compelling sort, guiding beams into their overall sound.

This is music played with an attractive flexibility and looseness that make each selection sing out and groove along while the effective and sometimes complex composed passages bring a great deal of musical innovation-novelty and musical worth.

The title cut is ravishing!! Do not miss this.

I found myself liking the music more and more as I heard it. This trio is the real deal, make no mistake. An abundance of musical wealth awaits!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Markus Stockhausen, Florian Weber, Alba

Trumpet-flugelmaster Markus Stockhausen shows us a fine burst of creative energy on his first collaborative album with pianist Florian Weber, Alba (ECM 2477). It's an ambient ECM extravaganza of evocative and energizing compositions by both artists.

The pieces have a haunting, unforgettable jolt to them. The playing is magnificent, with an effective division of labor between the two and the expansive ECM sound allowing the music to breathe freely. There are improvisations in the loose and open way the compositions are performed, again with lots of headroom and varying moods of impressionistic ECM jazz updated to Markus and Florian's vision of what can be done right now.

It is an album that sneaks up to you in its subtle curves and changing musical language.

It in the end is a stunner, if a sleeper. You must listen carefully to get what is underneath the ambience, but then those less musically acute will still find the moods conducive to a feeling of well-being. So you can put it on for visitors and not drive them out of the living room! Hurrah.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Defunkt, Live at Channel Zero

Defunkt has long been one of the first among progressive funk outfits, but also a sort of thinking-feeling man-woman's band. Trombonist-bandleader and legend Joseph Bowie has been holding funk court for years now and I am happy so say we are all once again...BUSTED for getting with it all.

There's a new one out and I've been appreciating it this week. Defunkt Live at Channel Zero (ESP 5008) gives us seven gems from Ljubjana, Slovenia last year plus a 2007 encore from Dortmund.

It's a potent lineup with Joseph torridly manning his bone and doing the lead vocals, John Mulkerin blasting off on post-Milesian trumpet, and Bill Bickford and Ronny Drayton giving us some kicking funk chording and solid screaming soloing on guitars. And the rhythm section burns with Kim Clarke on bass and Kenny Martin on drums.

The band is in top form, keeping the funk alive and fired up, ignoring or jettisoning anything that doesn't cook like the devil. They remain at the center of the avant funk fringe and keep it fresh with total funking friction.

You don't want that, leave it alone. But for all who can groove still, this one is for you. Oh, yes.

Dominique Pifarely Quartet, Trace Provisoire

Violinist Dominique Pifarely squares a round hole musically by conflating the improvised with the composed. You could say that jazz has always done that, and you'd be right. But of course there have always been greater or lesser degrees. On the Pifarely Quartet album Trace provisoire (ECM 2481) the distinction is not always very obvious and with the very vigorous interactions between Pifarely on violin, Antonin Rayon, piano, Bruno Chevillon on contrabass and Francois Merville on drums it makes for virtually endlessly engaging sounds.

This is a modern jazz composer's quartet, but it is also a player's quartet. For there is plenty going on no matter where you turn your ears. Head and solos? Sometimes that form is present, but never exactly in any formulaic way. The improvs often enough stem out from the compositions, for sure, extending a motif and developing the compositional seed into a full grown plant, so to speak. There are times when the principal "melody" or improv line is passed from player to player with very musically stimulating results. And there are various roles required of all four players.

This is deep and deeply atmospheric music that puts Dominique's violin often enough at the center of the sound, but then also allows for heightened interactivity between all four artists.

It's an album that never fails to connect audience, players and music. It is a modern quartet music that is exemplary and ever engaging. Bravo, then. Give this one your full attention and you will be rewarded in kind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Masabumi Kikuchi, Black Orpheus

Masabumi Kikuchi's posthumous release of a solo piano concert in Tokyo, Black Orpheus (ECM 2459) is in many ways a thing of wonder. It takes a long meandering, brilliantly wandering route through his own inimitable thickets to the song "Black Orpheus" and follows up with a short and very poignant version of his "Little Abi."

This recording is a culmination of his life (1939-2015) in music, one might say. It is fabulously immediate, expressive in volcanic waves of feeling, tonality and chromaticism. There is a deep involvement in swirling lines that go beyond the jazz vocabulary into a personal one.

His long association with Paul Motion ended with the great drummer's death and according to the liners to this album, he fell into a period where he felt cast adrift. But by the time he returned to Tokyo for this triumphant recital, his creative abilities were at a new peak, aside from whether he was satisfied with the existence left to him.

Ultimately that concert was pure revelation. And we have it here as glorious sound in all its exceptionality. Personally, the music stuns me with its searching perfection. This is solo piano improvisation at its highest peak. Brilliant. You must hear this.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Forward Music Fest Kickstarter Campaign Needs Your Help!

The Forward Experimental Music Festival, Three Days of the very new in Brooklyn, NY, is in the closing days of its Kickstarter Campaign. They need to raise $1,693 by Sunday or they will lose all the contribution funds raised so far. Check the details at the link below and then give something if you can! Thanks.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Wolfert Brederode Trio, Black Ice

Wolfert Brederode is a pianist-composer whose intimate and dynamic musings seem tailor-made for the ECM Label sound. Black Ice (ECM 2476) brings to us his new trio, which integrates very nicely Gulli Gudmundsson's articulate double bass and Jasper van Hutten's orchestrally conceived drums in a beautiful program of 12 Brederode originals plus one by Gudmundsson.

This is, to tell the truth, my first exposure to Wolfert's artistry, so I have missed some quartet work and earlier trio sides. I am impressed, very impressed with him and the trio on this album. The music has a calm and lucidly gentle side, but also can kick up some dust. The idea of black ice has connotations of beauty but also of course danger. Wolfert had this in mind by so naming the album.

So the music is quite accessibly beautiful but contains a good deal that is quite musically sophisticated and has lurking beneath the surface some elements to challenge. a hint of danger.

In the end one grows into the music via a number of hearings. His ballad writing and playing is nothing short of ravishing, pianistically alive, and in all cases the trio works fully as a unit, a well-oiled responsive musical mechanism that is far from mechanical, but spontaneous and inspired throughout.

I am so glad to have the chance to hear this one. It will certainly be a fabulous and distinguished part of my stacks, but then it may well find itself getting many replays as a regular pull-out choice. Brederode is a startlingly total musical phenomenon, a true artist! Bravo!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Abrazo, The Havana Sessions

The historic easing of political tensions between the United States and Cuba in recent years, notably the end of trade and travel embargoes, no doubt will lead to a renewed level of exchange on cultural fronts. And indeed, we see an immediate, exciting result in the new 2-CD set Abrazo, The Havana Sessions (Ansonica AR0001).

It is the result of a trip carefully planned by the Parma Records group to Havana. With them came compositions and musical artists, who teamed up with some fine Cuban musicians and arrangers (notably Juan Manuel Ceruto) to create what one hopes is but the first in a long ongoing series of exchanges. With it all is the birth of a new label, Ansonica.

The first disk concentrates on some nicely written, nicely played Afro-Cuban jazz, written by Timothy Lee Miller, Don Bowyer, Bunny Beck, and fine arrangements by Juan Manuel Ceruto. This is cutting edge Latin Jazz and exciting to hear at that.

The second volume interjects modern classical elements in a series of vocal and instrumental compositions where the Cuban "tinge" is ever-present to greater or lesser degrees and performances are at a very high level. Roger Bourland, John A. Carollo (whose music we have covered and appreciated via a number of recordings on the Gapplegate Classical-Modern Review Blog), Margaret Brandman, Mel Mobley and Michael Murray provide the works. The music is invariably worthwhile and points to even more ambitious further possibilities.

And so we have in a first installment a Cuban-US collaboration that shows great promise as it also realizes it in an inaugurational offering. I highly recommend this one for numerous reasons. Most of all it is an undiluted musical pleasure! Hear, hear!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bruno Parrinha, Luis Lopes, Ricardo Jacinto, Garden

Garden (Clean Feed 369) pits three uncompromising yet most accomplished artists in the new improv from Europe into a three-way series of seven collective endeavors. The sensitive interplay between the sound-and-tone spectrums of Bruno Parrinha (alto, soprano, clarinet), Luis Lopes (electric guitar) and Ricardo Jacinto (cello and electronics) is paramount and acerbically poetic.

The creative choices in tone combinations and textural contrasts make this a trio soundscape of striking avant beauty. Close listening reveals this over time. The first hearing may not be entirely comprehensible. It is not easy-going music for all that, but rather music of courageous conviction if you will. The beauty is there but it is up to the listener to find it after first willing the ears to adjust to the broad spectrum of timbral possibilities that the group realizes.

There are magical moments where you forget which instruments are involved and revel in the sometimes thick but ever evolving layers of sound color.

Perhaps we have come such a distance in new music improvisation on the continent in recent decades that some important examples of the avant scene there cannot as easily be directly referenced back to the improv of US generated free jazz as perhaps much of it has in the past. Now that does not mean that one thing is better than another, or that one is more legitimate! It is all a part of what is going on now and deserves our attention and respect.

If I imply that this trio disk is a seminal example of Euro-avant improv as it has evolved, I do that intentionally, for it is.

We who have grown up in the consumer-oriented, everything-must-be-rapidly-replaced-by-something-better world sometimes let that mentality carry over into artistic spheres. We should not. This does not replace or supplant other forms of the avant garde. It exists and flourishes parallel to the other possibilities. For this we should be happy. For sure, Garden is a most happy result of three musician-creators hitting their collective stride.

And for that you owe it to yourself to hear this. I mean that.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Alaine Bedard, Auguste Quartet, Circum Continuum

From Canada we hear vibrant modern jazz from bassist-bandleader-composer Alain Bedard and his Auguste Quartet in an album entitled Circum Continuum (Effendi 144). Alain mans the bass of course, joined by Felix Stussi on piano, Samuel Blais on alto, soprano and baritone, and Michel Lambert on drums as they wind through a set of substantive, attractive originals mostly by Bedard with one by Lambert, one by Blais, one by Stussi and one by Gilles Bernard.

The combination of strong written material and very dynamic improvisations is a winning one, with a crackerjack rhythm team opening up the swing for the nicely burnished abilities of the pianist, the saxophonist and naturally the bassist to call forth the muses.

It's music that swings directly and achieves a sort of poise that impresses while it gives out with excellent phraseology. Everyone is very modern but no one sounds precisely like somebody else. Alain, Felix and Samuel are accomplished soloists that never seem to tire or run out of good ideas. Michel's drumming carries the band with excellent and original time artistry.

It is one of those modern jazz sets that needs several listens because there is much going on. It is complex music, as often enough high modern jazz can be, and it gives back with pleasure and understanding all the listening care you put into the experiencing of it.

A joy to hear!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Alexander Hawkins, Evan Parker, Leaps in Leicester

Anyone seriously exploring improv-free jazz-new improvised music will know the work of saxophonist Evan Parker. Perhaps less will know pianist Alexander Hawkins. The two embark on a fertile free journey into sound and expression on Leaps in Leicester (Clean Feed CF362CD).

As the title suggests, this is a recording made in Leicester, UK, notably at Embrace Arts last year. A constant is Evan's appearance on tenor, which to me lately is the most satisfying Parker instrument. The two explore the spontaneous freedom of possibilities on four extended segments. And they discover a noteful common ground that thrives on the creation of simultaneous outside stream torrents that match invention with invention. Both "breathe" as one; Alexander often synchronizes brief pauses with Evan as breath-long intermittent strings.

But then there are sound color interludes with breathy expulsions and inside-the-piano complements. And the energy level rises at times to the near-explosive, as one might expect. On the whole the emphasis is more on the search for open simultaneous sounds of a creative sort than on the expression of pure energy, though there is at no time a flagging of inspiration or thrust.

Alexander Hawkins shows himself throughout a stylist of the outer realms of piano who can keep up with Evan and parallel Parker's stylistic free purity of expression with effective phrase ideas of his own. Parker is in fine form on tenor and so all is right in the world for this program.

Those who are not so familiar with Hawkins get a good idea of his open form inventiveness and the two together create spontaneous structures to edge the music forward in exhilarating ways.

Nothing is lacking. All is inspired. Recommended highly for sound adventurers! A model of excellent free sojourns.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Steven Lugerner, Jacknife, The Music of Jackie McLean

Jackie McLean graced the jazz world with his own searing take on bop-and-after jazz for many years, then left us, and so we remain with a body of great recordings and a feeling that one of the truly great ones has gone and cannot be replaced.

On the other hand we have altoist Steve Lugerner and band to pay homage to Jackie on the recent Jacknife, The Music of Jackie McLean (Primary Records). And it turns out that is a very good thing. No, of course Jackie is not in the mix, but the spirit of his music lives on in this selection of six numbers written or indelibly associated with him. Three by McLean ("Das Dat," "Melody for Melonae" and "Hip Strut"), two by Charles Tolliver ("On the Nile" and "Cancellation") and one by Jack DeJohnette ("Climax") bring us back to some of those great sides, and the quintet of Lugerner, JJ Kirkpatrick on trumpet, Richard Sears on piano, Garret Lang on bass and Michael Mitchell on drums straddle the hard bop and outer with some fine performances.

We've covered Steve before, notably his notable "For We Have Heard" album on September 12, 2013. Once again Lugerner certainly is the man with some very groovy alto that channels Jackie but brings something fine on top of that. Everybody has the spirit feel, though, so after a few minutes you adjust to the newness in the tribute and dig into the good modern jazz that comes out of this disk.

Oh, yeah, this is good. I am glad to put it on and I think you will be, too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Chris Ziemba, Manhattan Lullaby

Chris Ziemba is an excellent pianist in what one might call the post-Evans school. That means he plays a sophisticated, harmonically advanced, creatively voiced, line-prolific sort of piano. His Manhattan Lullaby (Outside In Music 1602) shows his considerable abilities and artistic flair with a set of nicely moving originals (plus a standard) and a very compatible and worthy quartet in Michael Thomas on alto and bass clarinet, Hans Glawischnig on bass and Jimmy Macbride on drums.

This is the right combination for Ziemba and his approach, and they all come together well to realize a fine set. Thomas is limber and well suited for the shifting harmonies and swing of the pieces as a whole. Glawischnig and Macbride are a potent rhythm section that complement the proceedings with smarts and soul, creative solutions and flexibly open stances.

Ziemba and his prowess, Ziemba and his memorable originals, these combine to make this set special and well out of the ordinary. Chris gets ravishing touch and tone to flesh out his ideas with pianistic brilliance.

And so we have one of those albums that stands out increasingly with every new hearing. Chris Ziemba is a force; the quartet takes you to excellent places. A modern gem of an album is this!

Hoorah and encore!