Friday, March 31, 2017

Antonio Adolfo, Hybrido, From Rio to Wayne Shorter

One of the signs of a classic jazz composition standard is its longevity. Wayne Shorter's Blue Note compositions were a product of the mid-sixties yet we find that many of them continue to be played today and sound as fresh as ever. Another good omen is the work's ability to thrive in contrasting versions and still maintain a strong identity. A few months ago I covered Denny Zeitlin's excellent solo piano interpretations of Shorter classics (type Zeitlin's name in the search box for that review). Now we get to appreciate a Brazilian Samba Jazz treatment of some of Shorter's most memorable songs, on pianist Antonio Adolfo's Hybrido, From Rio to Wayne Shorter (AAM D711).

Antonio Adolfo comes through with excellent Brazilian Samba-tinged arrangements of eight Shorter classics, plus his own "Afosamba." The idea of "HYBRIDO" is to find fertile meeting ground between the jazz samba tradition and classic progressive jazz as embodied in Shorter compositions. Adolfo plays piano throughout, very nicely and movingly, something we have happily come to expect of him. And he has selected Brazilian musicians who can and do bridge the stylistic gap with some excellent soloing and ensemble playing. So we have the electric guitar of Lula Galvao, the double bass of Jorge Helder, the drums of Rafael Barata, the percussion of Andre Siqueira, trumpet of Jesse Sadoc, tenor, soprano and flute of Marcelo Martins, and trombone of Serginho Trombone, along with single guest appearances of vocalist Ze Renato and acoustic guitarist Claudio Spiewak.

It is a joy to hear these really fetching arrangements, both classically Brazilian and outreaching into the present and future. Shorter gems like E.S.P., "Deluge," "Footprints," and "Speak No Evil" sound brilliantly fresh in Adolfo's inspired arrangements. And there is time to stretch out and get good soloing from all concerned. Adolpho takes a rewarding share of the soloing and sounds just right, but then so do the others.

From Rio to Wayne Shorter is one of those albums where everything comes together very strongly. Any fan of Shorter's music and/or anyone who loves the Brazilian jazz of today will no doubt find this album much to their liking. It's a winner on all counts!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Trouble Kaze, June, with Satoko Fujii, Natsuki Tamura, etc.

Trouble Kaze is the newly expanded edition of the group Kaze, a cooperative free improv jazz venture that includes pianist Satoko Fujii and her trumpet wielding life partner Natsuki Tamura. For this inaugural effort the band is in effect a double-trio, with two trumpets (Tamura and Christian Pruvost), two pianos (Fujii and Sophie Agnel) and two drummers (Peter Orins and Didier Lasserre).

They distinguish themselves in a sort of utra-focused, carefully considered five-part improvisation recorded live. The album is entitled June (Helix LX009) and it is a good one.

The expanded unit allows a series of double duets and six-way confluences. And so to begin we hear twin prepared pianos, twin trumpets in breathy expressions, and twin drums creating distinctive barrages. As the set proceeds we get the intermingling of the pairs and their recombinations in various foreground-background-bothground possibilities.

All six play with a sureness, an impressive authority that at no point sounds tentative, always intricately definitive, sure in their choice of timbral color, periodistic presence and note-sound nowness.

It is free music in no hurry to state it all at once, but rather to open and develop with a gradual inevitableness that is continually rewarding in what it chooses to include (and of course by that to also leave out in any given segment).

With a collective sense of instrumentation-orchestration there are dramatic event arcs, coming to a quiet peak in the two-piano expressions of part four, which we have been prepared for by definitive journeys into this clearing. It is brilliant and by a period of quietude and then the end of part five we are pleasantly satiated and satisfied, appreciative that not ALL has been said, but all that is necessary to give us Trouble Kaze's June.

It leaves me wanting more in the end, but happy also that this glimpse feels complete in itself. meted out inspiration and sound design of a high nature, a thoughtful forwardness.

June gives to us itself, the six instrumental voices interacting singularly, the group asserting its collectivity in self-less yet self-ful completeness-incompleteness.

This is a prime example of the innovative presence of Fujii, Tamura, and four extraordinarily receptive countervoices. Trouble Kaze is a kind of miracle of listening and acting, both by the performers and by you, the listener.

High improvisational inspiration, this is. Be sure and hear it repeatedly if you can. Kaze and now Trouble Kaze are a seminal group in the new improvisational fold today!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

In Layers, Onno Govaert, Marcelo dos Reis, Luis Vicente, Kristjan Martinsson

On the front cover of the new improv release In Layers (FMR 2016) is a reproduction of a beautifully omni-dimensional painting by Chris Ripkin, from which the album takes its title. Inside the jacket is a Ripkin quote which serves as the defining aesthetic statement for the process envisioned in his artwork and, by extension, the music on the album. "Each layer," he states, "[calls] for a new layer more transparent, until it gets silent."

The very creative and capable quartet holds forth on this freely improvised set of six segments in ways which translate freely that visual activity into pure sound.

This is a potent get-together of Onno Govaert on drums, Marcelo dos Reis on acoustic guitar, Luis Vicente on trumpet, and Kristjan Martinsson on piano. They work together to realize varying degrees of transparency and denseness, sound and silence.

Readers of this blog will no doubt recognize several of the names and may indeed be familiar with their improvising. This particular foursome is new to me as a unit, and so perhaps also to many of my readers. They are united in their directional zeal, each a layer in the whole and each segment also a layer.

What impresses on this set is the care with which each member contributes his/her part: the trumpet riding generally above in space, the guitar and piano in a sort of centering mode, the drums contributing texture and periodicity with a pronounced flourish much of the time.

Surely,  this is collective improvisation of a rarified sort, something FMR has been presenting to us so consistently, here yet further removed from anything expected but nonetheless directly communicating a sort of synesthesiatic analog of Ripkin's painting, spread out in time as much as space.

It is music made to contemplate, to run one's mental fingers over its aural surface, to experience a musically deep listen inside of. This is music an improv connoisseur will be instinctively drawn towards for its unrelenting eloquence. Those new or fairly new to ultra-modern improvisational music will doubtless find that patience and persistence will open up this music for you.

Explore this, by all means.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Julia Hulsmann Trio, Sooner And Later

Here we are with pianist Julia Hulsmann and her sixth ECM album to date, the trio in a stunning offering Sooner and Later (ECM 2547). You'd be hard pressed today to find a more beautiful piano trio set for the harmonic-melodic advancement of Julia's playing (in a post-Evans manner and very individually so) and her trio's very subtle and moving togetherness.

The regular trio appears here, now burnished down to a very fine three-way sonance. Marc Muellbauer has a beautiful tone on contrabass and a very eloquent approach to match. Heinrich Kobberling drums with drive and subtlety, in ways the trio profits greatly from but in the end requires for a full flowering.

The music played on this set includes many moving Hulsmann originals which have gotten the seasoning of being played for some time in the trio's live performances. One welcomes "Thatpujai," a tribute to the late pianist Jutta Hipp, who left our planet in 2003. The thematic materials are nicely culled from some of Jutta's recorded solos. But there is much to appreciate here with all five Hulsmann pieces. Then there are two tunes apiece by Muellbauer and Kobberling, interesting and worthy, plus an adaptation of a Kyrgyztanian violin piece played by a 12-year-old musican the band heard when on tour, and finally a Radiohead cover, unexpected but fully consistent with what the trio is doing today and their way of working inside harmonic-melodic material transformatively.

In the end this is a delicately ravishing album that marks the excellence of the pianist and her trio.

This is exultant listening, ecstatic music of calm and fire from some of Europe's most talented musicians and a pianist of world-class brilliance. Hear this!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Rich Halley, Carson Halley, The Wild

Tenorman Rich Halley has been making great strides forward in modern, avant contemporary jazz for quite some time now. His albums are consistently focused on the highest standards of the music, on the heightened peaks of expression that make new jazz one of the joys of modern existence.

He returns with a near-perfect expression in the duo zone, just Rich, his tenor (and a little wooden flute) accompanied by his son Carson on drums. Carson keeps sounding better and better. He is an ideal partner and co-equal on this set.

The Wild (Pine Eagle 810) has a series of ten improvisations, some with added compositional elements, others untrammeled forays into ecstatically charged open space. An obvious genetic relationship with John Coltrane and Rashid Ali's duo recordings of the last phase of Trane's career exists here. But that is probably a given on ANY sax-drum outing in the free zone these days. It is a touchpoint, a springboard from which arises tabula rasa expression. Similarly you might hear a bit of the influence of Ornette Coleman's harmolodic openness. But that also might be appropriately seen as the bedrock from which the art form has developed since Ornette's celebrated first recordings and onwards.

Fact is, though, that Rich is his own person on tenor and continues to grow and excel on his own terms. He has by now created a complex personal voice and a rich personal vocabulary that you can hear at peak levels on The Wild.

From the brash and energetically lucid to the free equivalent of balladic pastoral emanations, all form an important part of this set. It is tour de force saxophony. And Carson is much more than a mere foil to Rich's exhilarating effusions. His drumming drives the music with power and poise.

Like the sound of the ocean, there is near infinite variability and mood. Rich has attained a pure improvisational level that only the most accomplished in the art ever get to. He makes use of the full pallet of notes and tone colors available to him and does so with the innate wisdom of somebody who phrases in the best and most varied ways, the sound of a master.

And that makes him one of the West Coast's greatest living jazzmen, to my mind.

I recommend this one highly. You will have much to appreciate here, so go ahead and order it! It's at the apex of new jazz today.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mount Meander, Kartis Auzins, Lucas Leidinger, Tomo Jacobson, Thomas Sauerborn

Today, a bit of a sleeper. The best music out there requires multiple listens before you get the full impact of it. And Mount Meander (Clean Feed 3750 is surely in that category. This is avant jazz that captures a series of moods that are more introspective than the full-flush assault that is sometimes the norm. All four players take pains to capture a complex, free-wheeling, but at times more reflective mood. Tenor-soprano man Kartis Auzins, pianist Lucas Leidinger, upright bassist Tomo Jacobson and drummer Thomas Sauerborn establish the tone in the three-part "Sunsail." It is all about a flow around a key center and some well realized lyric hardness, if that makes any sense. There are ostinatos and hypnotic outcomes, and a considerable range of group improvs.

Sometimes these folks remind me a little of the classic Jarrett group that included Dewey, Haden and Motian--for the sort of kinetically open and unpredictable approach they espouse.

And the more you hear this, the more it jumps out at you. Recommended!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Paul Kikuchi, Autonomic

A Paul Kikuchi album is nearly always something special. I have had the pleasure over the years of discussing a number of them on these pages as well as on the Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review blog.

Today is no exception--here the composer-percussionist presents to us the fascinating work Autonomic (Prefecture 015). As we have come to expect, Paul shows us a heightened sensitivity to aural timbre and a pronounced ambiance that conveys a spiritual cosmos and a strong sense of direction. We hear the composition/suite "Autonomic" in this light, surely.

The work is comprised of four movements that feature three winds, cello, contrabass and percussion (the latter played by Kikuchi).

There is a composed-performative immediacy to the work, apparently based on specific motivic-interval cells that structure each movement, which in turn portrays an inner experience of each successive event-aspect of a deep breathing moment.

The total effect of the music is a pronounced timbral mysticism, an encompassment of movement and stasis in the bodily cycle of respiration, a musical analogue of an inner state, suggesting in aural terms its inner workings.

It is very meditative, very beautiful, very strongly evocative music that expands Kikuchi's universe of possibilities and at the same time is a fully immersive, stunning work.

Strongly recommended!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Whit Dickey, Kirk Knuffke, Fierce Silence

A duo of just cornet or trumpet and drums? We might recall Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell's iconic Mu duets from 1969. Now we have something altogether different, less wide-ranging but more strictly focused on free jazz per se. I speak of drummer Whit Dickey and cornet player Kirk Knuffke's Fierce Silence (Clean Feed 376).

Complete freedom and vivid aural imagination are the rules of the day on this set of ten segments. Whit made his name as the creative drummer with David W. Ware's ensemble and then Matt Shipp's trio, as well as lively dates as a leader. He is back and sounds as good as ever here. Kirk Knuffke has come to the forefront of the avant jazz world, especially in the last decade, making beautiful music with bassist-bandleader Michael Bisio among many others.

I've said this before on these pages but it bears repeating: Kirk manages to channel the history of jazz in his playing through a very classic tone, the poise of immaculately idiomatic phrasing and a creative ability that means he can be counted upon to come up with ever fresh, good ideas. That's very true on Fierce Silence.

Whit is a drummer and musical dynamo that takes the early freedom of Milford Graves and Sunny Murray and applies his own personal way to it all, building out of New York free school drum ideas and going beyond.

This album marks a very fruitful frisson of two well seasoned avant vets. There is not a note wasted. Every one counts. And the sum total of every note is some free music of the highest caliber.

Very recommended!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Frank Kimbrough, Solstice

Contemporary jazz pianist Frank Kimbrough has appeared on these pages a number of times (see blog index window above) as a thinking person's artist. A new one from Frank gives us a wondrously vivid set of tunes by the likes of Carla Bley, Annette Peacock, Gershwin, Paul Motian, Andrew Hill, Maria Schneider and one by Frank himself.

Kimbrough is a studied and brilliant exponent of the jazz piano school that loosely groups around Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett. He for a long time has taken control of his artistic destiny to be solidly on original turf and indeed, this trio finds him take on each tune with a brilliantly introspective presence.

Bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirschfield are open and inventive counterparts to Frank's improvisational extensions. They do all the right things to bring out the implications of the leader and what he is doing, adding their completely apposite selves.

This is a landmark in Frank's recorded output to date. It is ravishing  All modern piano trio fans will find this one hard to resist, I'll warrant!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Reunion Project, Varanda

Bouncing out of my speakers is a sturdy, well played set of originals (and one standard) from The Reunion Project album named Varanda (Tapestry 76027-2). A quintet they are: Felipe Salles on tenor, soprano, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet; Chico Pinheiro on guitar; Tiago Costa on piano; Bruno Migotto on bass; and Edu Ribeiro on drums.

They are game players and the originals by Chico, Tiago, Edu. Bruno, and Felipe have a well constructed presence that sets the band apart as a formidable vehicle for modern contemporary jazz.

Chico, Felipe and Tiago give us a front line that contributes very good solos. The rhythm section cooks with excellent Latin and straight-ahead grooves.

This is seriously good modern jazz!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Mark Masters Ensemble, Blue Skylight

When something is as well done as the Mark Masters Ensemble's Blue Skylight (Capri 74143-2) it sticks with you. Now that I have deeply explored what is inside this album, just one look at the cover happily reminds me of it all once again, and I find the urge to put it on one more time.

It is a program of known and slightly lesser-known compositions by Charles Mingus and Gerry Mulligen, both of course known for their brilliance in scoring their own work for various sized ensembles and so a challenge to someone who seeks to do contrasting arrangements. That Mark Masters succeeds admirably is a testament to his considerable talent.

The band is a very capable 7-tet. Gary Foster is a most welcome presence on alto, especially since he does not appear on as many sessions these days as one would like. But then we get some beautiful players in Jerry Pinter on tenor and soprano and either Gene Cipriano on tenor and Adam Schroeder on baritone or Ron Stout on trumpet and Les Benedict on trombone--the aforementioned alternate presences is divided more or less evenly on the program. Then there is Ed Czach on piano, Putter Smith on a very out-front bass, and Kendall Kay on drums.

There is a tight clean sound that seems a present-day rethinking of "Birth of the Cool" or perhaps a little of the "Four Brothers" sound. And that totally fits in with the outlook of these compositional gems.

We get Mingus's "Monk. Bunk and Vice Versa," "So Long Eric," "Peggy's Blue Skylight," "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," and "Eclipse," all well worth a fresh set of arrangements, to say the least.

Mulligen comes to the fore with new arrangements of "Out Back of the Barn," "Wallflower," "Strayhorn 2," "Apple Core," "Birds of a Feather," and "Motel."

The combination of arrangements and solos is well balanced. The compositions sing to us again with Mark Masters' singular ways.

This is music that makes ME happy. I do strongly suggest you hear this one. You'll be happy with it too, I would bet.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Jean-Brice Godet, Lignes De Cretes

The convergence of new music and avant jazz continues, with labels like Clean Feed giving us a wealth of music that manages successfully and engagingly to bridge a divide that once seemed hard to surmount. (But of course we should not forget the exceptional work of AACM artists in this zone.) Today we have another very effective example from Jean-Brice Godet on clarinets, radio and dictaphone. He heads a trio for a wide-ranging breach of everyday categories. The album is called Lignes De Cretes (Clean Feed CF406CD).

Pascal Niggenkemper joins Godet on doublebass and objects; the trio is made complete with the presence of Sylvain Darrifourcq on drums, percussion and zither.

There is movement and development going on throughout, beginning with "No Border," with concrete and enhanced sounds that begin sparsely and ambiantly, then traverse gradually into expressively free territory with some wailing clarinet, arco bass and a wash of tone-noise of unspecified provenence. Sylvain enters with a series of irregular tatoos and we are off to parts unknown. The segment continues on with the periodistic insistence and regular-irregularity of free jazz, then segues into "No Logo" with a three-way contrapuntal dialog of clarinet, bass and drums which has even more jazz-speech inflections than what we have heard in the opening.

"No God" opens up the space further with some ruminating drum statements and ambient noises--jagged stutters that open another sound world that tumbles forward into our listening minds. Godet's incantatory clarinet emerges with some performative testifying while Niggenkemper's prepared bowing and Sylvain's drumming fall into the expressive zone once again. It continues in free roll while the bass punctuates more emphatically with pizzicato pluck-shouting. Clarinet and drums respond with their own soul calls, earthy epithets and emotive figurations. Things eventually grow quiet and end in some bluesy phrasings.

"No Fear" begins in silence, then creates a ritualized series of overlapping sequences on an altered zither, bass clarnet long tones, and arpeggiating pizzo-harmonics. It channels yet another intriguing aural space into our listening selves.

And so it goes, a fascinating set on an inspired night. This is music you  need to allow into your head. It needs you to actively collaborate with it in order to make its expression clear. But then it rewards with something worthwhile, border-crossings that we do not want to prevent by building a wall. No wall!!


Friday, March 3, 2017

Patrick Shiroishi's Black Sun Sutra, Anfinsen's Landmark

What may come into your life as an obscurity sometimes establishes itself as a familiar in short order. That's true of Patrick Shiroishi's Black Sun Sutra and their EP album Anfinsen's Landmark (Creative Sources CS 363). 

What I especially like about this free-avant quintet is how they set up a compositional matrix around which their free jazz spins. Patrick Shiroishi and Robert Magill form a two-horn reed section on baritone-alto and tenor. respectively. They establish a mood with a sort of repeating dirge at the beginning of the album that then explodes into frenetic freedom. Noah Guevara's guitar ripens the group sound with post-Sharrockian shreds and jabs. The rhythm team of Ken Moore on double bass and Sergio Sanchez on drums catapult the band outwards, but also give a jazz-rock-free underpinning to "Athialowi."

There is rawness and power to this band, along with an effective collective frontline in the two-horn-and-guitar open-endedness. It is the opposite of slick and as such reminds me of earlier free dates that did not establish themselves as product. The same surely is true of this set (and of course there are others out there today who bypass the merely sale-able and go for some kind of essence).

But this quintet has a disarming unpretentiousness about it that speaks to me directly. It could have been a BYG record, but of course it is not and most naturally has a present-ness that goes beyond.

The drummer has a few moments to bash wildly and well. Again, you do not hear that so often these days.

The program ends with an interesting unaccompanied alto sojourn from Shiroishi. More? 

This may not always show an extraordinary technical prowess-polish as a whole so much as a good feel and a "to hell with it we're going to pound and cajole ourselves to outer space" freshness.

What will they do for an encore? We'll see, but in the meantime I am caught off-guard and find myself liking it almost in spite of myself. Honest and out.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sidney Jacobs, First Man

Lou Rawls and Gil Scott-Heron? Maybe a little Leon Thomas?  I hear roots in this, soul jazz vocalist Sidney Jacobs' First Man (Babychubs), his first album and a good one. He carves his own contemporary path with a tip of the hat to those that came before. Fact is, though, that he is on his own turf. He sings with lots of soul and finesse, his songs are memorably strong and nicely arranged. He covers a few others well, too, notably "My Favorite Things."

I like what he's done for a full band with horns and rhythm. And with a smaller band as well.

And he can sing!

This is what a debut album should be. It introduces to us Sidney's wide world of jazz and soul infused hipness.

Check this one out!