Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kaja Draksler, The Lives of Many Others

The Ljubljana Jazz Festival in Slovenia appears to be an important event for avant jazz, judging by recordings that have been coming out from the festival of late. There apparently is so much of worth that the festival and Clean Feed records have set up a joint venture, the Ljubljana Jazz Series, a label devoted to the jazz festival performances recorded there.

Number four in the series is a solo piano recital by Kaja Draksler, The Lives of Others (Clean Feed/Ljubljana Jazz 004). She is something unusual, an avant jazz pianist-stylist in her own right.

She can create balladic quasi-stride with harmonically rich modern overtones, as she does in the beginning of this set. She can drum on the piano in ways drummers will feel at home listening to, since there are patterns of left and right hands they may well know and use themselves. And she has a feel for intervalic relations, harmonic and melodic patterning that also put her in her own special category of improvisers.

This is free improvisation with occasional references to Slovenian folk strains and a composition by Thanasis Deligiannis.

It shows an original pianistic mind at work. I expect we will be hearing much more from Kaja (I do hope so) but in the meanwhile this is a disk you'll want to check out if you find the free improv scene vital (as I do). Kudos to Ms. Draksler!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Daniel Szabo, A Song from There, with Peter Erskine, Edwin Livingston

Of course one cannot do this literally, but when listening to new music it is a proper rule-of-thumb to throw away everything you know and listen as if you were from another planet. It can't happen because the listening mind-soul is always interjecting thoughts, like, "he sounds like x" or "what kind of music is this exactly?" Nonetheless it is the ideal state to hear improvised music, to be in the moment of it. I find myself distracted with thoughts like "do I want to review this?" but at some point I try to let the music just wash over me.

Daniel Szabo's piano trio album A Song from There (DSZABOMUSIC 1001) has the immediacy of modern jazz. If you let it, wash over you it does, in the best way. This is a pianist with his own story to tell, through originals and an excellent trio in bandmates Peter Erskine (drums) and Edwin Livingston (bass).

He doesn't quite sound like anybody, which is saying something. And he has a very well developed sense of time and rhythmic attack as well as melodic-harmonic acuity. That stands out on this, his third album.

Erskine and Livingston are with him all the way with a commitment to each composition and its demands, with distinctive motivic development, solo and accompaniment chops, and just a very large dose of "thereness".

Each number has its own qualities. Put them together and you have a major pianist with an ideal trio to give you state-of-right-now beauty and bite.

Daniel Szabo should be somebody that the future will embrace. Especially if he grows from here--an already substantially accomplished pianist. An original.

So whether you've heard this said before or not, Daniel Szabo has it! Very recommended.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tesla Coils, Blaise Siwula, Harvey Valdes, Gian Luigi Diana

The world of improvised music continues to evolve. There are those ensembles that favor an acoustic "purity" and there are those that incorporate electronics. Today we have a great example of the latter, Tesla Coils (Setola di Maiale).

It is a potent threesome of Blaise Siwula on soprano-alto-tenor sax, Harvey Valdes on electric guitar, and Gian Luigi Diana on laptop doing real-time sampling and sound manipulation. The advantage to this set up is that the electronics are integral and part of the live performance/improvisation.

Blaise and Harvey lay down a carpet of vivid improvisations and Gian transforms the sounds in various ways, adding a third instrument which is a direct consequence of the other two sound generations.

Anybody who reads this column knows I cover Blaise Siwula and his smart yet torching reedwork. He sounds excellent as ever here. Harvey Valdes plays in an out, fragmented and sometimes psychedelically inspired guitar style that works well in the ensemble. Gian Luigi Diana adds varied textures and densities that form an organic part of the proceedings.

In short, it all comes together. This is first-tier experimental music that once again shows the way to Brooklyn, a world hotbed for new music.

If you like well-executed, fertile-free soundmaking, this one is for you. Now if they used me on drums/, just kidding. This is the dope.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Joe Sullivan, Whiskey Jack Waltz

It's not like the world is a new place everyday when we wake up. But, five days a week, give or take, I find three new recordings of music that's worth hearing, that makes the world new, at least for me. So I wake up each day and talk about them a little so that you might have new things to check out.

Here's one that perhaps is easy to miss. It's trumpetissimo and jazz composer-tunesmith Joe Sullivan, with his quintet album Whiskey Jack Waltz (Perry Lake Records 003). This is changes-oriented, evolved mainstream jazz of a good sort. Joe has a trumpet sound closer to Diz than Miles, if you had to choose, or Fats and Freddie more that Joe Smith, but really it is his sound: pinched in a pleasing sort of way, expressive and bell-on.

He is joined by a game quintet of Lorne Lofsky, electric guitar, Andre White, piano, Alec Walkington, bass, and Dave Laing, drums. They all have drive and finesse; White and Lofsky have good solo presence along with Sullivan.

Nine tunes Sullivan penned set the table for a nice musical meal, so to speak. And Joe Sullivan's trumpet speaks to us lucidly, sparklingly.

If you get excited by good trumpet players, now's the time. Joe Sullivan has a brass proudness that his tunes and the band forward with grace and grits. Well-done!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Jason Ajemian, Tony Malaby, Rob Mazurek, Chad Taylor, A Way A Land of Life

You take a lineup of Jason Ajemian, bass, Tony Malaby, saxes, Rob Mazurek, trumpet, and Chad Taylor, drums, and if you know these players your expectations are high. And they make a limited edition LP vinyl album, 400 copies. They call it A Way A Land of Life (Nobusiness LP74).

And not surprisingly, the album comes through. Nobody on these sides is playing tiddlywinks. They are serious and inspired. There are good compositional elements, by Jason, and the playing is first-rate free jazz.

The front line includes bass at times, there is some good solo bass work too, and when the drums are going at it Chad has front-line presence. It's a four-way conversation broken up in segments but always absorbing your attention.

Each player has a personality that puts him in a zone--but you know that if you know the players. I guess this is Jason Ajemian's date officially. And more power to him for it, because the four dedicate themselves with no reservations to the music and it all reflects well on Ajemian's leadership and musicianship.

This is good, hard-hitting freedom music! Recommended.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Brian Groder Trio, with Michael Bisio and Jay Rosen

I have been appreciating Brian Groder for a while now. He plays trumpet very architectonically. What? Architectonic...having a clearly defined structure. There is form in his improvising which is related to his composing. We get Brian's architectonics laid bare, so to speak, on his new trio album, with the self-explanatory title Brian Groder Trio (Latham 5901).

There's one piece by Joanne Brackeen; the rest are by Groder. He choose well in including bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Jay Rosen. Both respond with brilliance to free architectonics. Michael is one of the very foremost inventive bassists on the scene today and Jay a great drummer who does not always get the recognition he should, though as part of Trio X he gets exposure, surely. He sounds better and better these days.

So Jay responds beautifully and contributes his special time and color to this trio. Brian and Michael interact with exceptional grace and inventiveness. Both play out of the compositional implications of each number in interactive bliss and on their own.

The performances are not to be missed. The compositions hit you in the ears and the trio through-improvises on them with a musical logic that is outstanding.

Do not wait! Get this one because it rings out as one of the best this year!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bill O'Connell, The Latin Jazz All-Stars

Better late than never. I was happily pummeled with music over the regular season and since there is only one of me I could not get to all of the good ones fast enough. So I am catching up today with one I wanted to cover earlier, pianist Bill O'Connell and The Latin Jazz All-Stars (Savant 2129).

It achieves a rather big sound with a sextet, thanks in part to the arrangements but also to the clout of the individual players. Connell does those arrangements and they toggle nicely between hard bop/post bop and a Latin groove. He also plays exemplary piano that covers well the expectations of the percussive block Latin piano style and then comes through with some very hard-charging solos that channel a Tyneresque left hand with some fleet and hip right-hand runs.

With him are Steve Slagle on soprano and alto, Conrad Herwig on trombone, with a potent rhythm section of Richie Flores on conga, Luques Curtis on bass and Adam Cruz on the drums. They are joined with bata drumming by Roman Diaz and Diego Lopez and vocals by Diaz and Jadele MacPherson for a very hip Latin arrangement of Victor Feldman's classic "Joshua". Bill O'Connell's nicely appropriate originals form the bulk of the music otherwise, with a couple more standards for good measure.

O'Connell, Slagle and Herwig give us some advanced modern soloing and the rhythm section cooks and churns out the Latin grooves with all the power you'd hope for.

In the end this is a very nifty Latin jazz album for both its Latin and its jazz. The balance is there and apparently they took down the "no smoking" signs in the studio, for they all smoke! Get into this one and you'll be smiling pretty rapidly.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ellen Burr, Michael Unruh, Where Am I From, Where Am I Going

In the days when record stores ruled, when record hunting consisted of pouring through bins of records in search of both the known and the unknown, the recording up today would probably not normally have been stocked in the typical jazz stacks, unless you went to a large "full-line" store. And you might have overlooked it.

Today things (for better and worse) are different. People like me cover music that interests those who seek a particular style set. The music may be totally obscure or well-known but releases stand a better chance of review than they might have 30 years ago. Going to the relevant web site to buy such recordings is just a matter of typing in an IP address and going from there. But then the possibility of an unknown artist getting lost in the thickets of the web maze is quite real, too, unfortunately.

And so I present to you the music of Ellen Burr and Michael Unruh, perhaps not people you know of. Their free avant woodwind duet set, Where Am I From, Where Am I Going (pfMentum CD076), is unlikely to unleash a tidal-wave of acclaim and popularity, in part because of the newness of the names, in part for the uncompromising nature of the music. Ellen Burr plays flute, alto flute and piccolo; Michael Unruh the bass clarinet.

For seventy or so minutes they unleash their imaginative and technical powers in a series of 15 duets. It is music of a completely free nature, traversing territory both charted and uncharted, filled with energy and sound colors, weaving a contrapuntal tapestry of sounds that gets to you if you let yourself go and allow a willful selflessness, an immersion in the spontaneous effusions.

When I was much younger I remember a Downbeat review of an ESP disk called Free Music that the reviewer rated with five stars/no stars, symbolically and in fact concluding that there was no way to evaluate such music. It was a cop-out then and it is a cop-out now. If you don't like free music then you have no business reviewing it, unless you want to use the review as a platform to warn the unwary listener that they will be thrown willy nilly into a maelstrom of chaos.

As anybody who reads these blogs knows I do champion free music among other things. This series of duets has integrity, thoughtful creativity and a sense of form and style built-in to the mix. And so I do recommend it to you. It may not be my first choice among such disks thus far this year, but it is quite worthy of your attention. Recommended.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rich Halley 4, The Wisdom of Rocks

West Coast tenor titan Rich Halley returns with further good developments from his now solidly congealed Rich Halley 4 quartet. The Wisdom of Rocks (Pine Eagle 006) seems aptly named in that rocks stay put, weather the storm, become at times all the better for it, with rough edges made more attractively smooth. Perhaps that is pushing it as far as rocks are concerned, but it is fitting for Halley's foursome. But of course I do not mean to say that the group plays smooth jazz! They are lively and still something rough in a very healthy, spontaneous way. But they are rock-solid, more and more as time passes.

As has been the case for a while now the quartet consists of course of Rich on tenor, Michael Vlatkovich on his prolific trombone, Clyde Reed on bass and Rich's son Carson Halley on drums.

The ravages of time have not adversely affected the group. They continue to grow together and make of the four-way dialogue something more and more poignant.

The compositions are mostly by Rich, with one by Rich and Carson and three as collective endeavors by the entire quartet. The song structures set the table and get the band moving in nice ways, whether in a swinging post-new-thing way, as a ballad or with a straight-eight open rock freedom.

Rich and Michael as can be expected turn in some formidable solos and the entire band cooks it all to a fine stew of excitement and dynamics.

If you don't have anything by this edition of the quartet this is a good one with which to start. If you know them this will confirm their stature as one of the very happening things on the West Coast. Listen and dig (you will).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Elliott Sharp Aggregat "Quintet"

Elliott Sharp has made his reputation as an avant and, yes, a blues guitarist and jazz composer of complete originality. In the early days he appeared on winds mostly as a realization of compositional objectives, not as much as a soloist per se. But lately he has taken on the wind playing role rather seriously. The CD up today gives you some of that with his group Aggregat and album "Quintet" (Clean Feed 288CD).

Elliott mans the tenor and soprano saxes and bass clarinet like he was born to it. There is originality and there is a noteful flow. He is joined by Nate Wooley on trumpet, Terry L. Green on trombone, Brad Jones on contrabass and Ches Smith on drums. This is an extraordinarily capable outfit and the avant, open-form free jazz that results has both compositional clout and expressive collective and individual improvisations worthy of your attention.

There is a new new thing out rootsiness underpinning the music that then gets transformed and reworked the Elliott Sharp way, meaning that it has the originality we expect from him, but less of the sensory-motor machine-poetry of his earlier work and more of a collective series of clamorous pivot points that show excellence in their collective improv qualities yet also have structured articulations of a compositional nature.

Everyone here is beautifully creative within the structures set down and capable of a personally inventive absolute freedom as well.

The music is serious in the best sense--buoyantly expressive with structural smarts.

I'd say it was a milestone but I suspect Elliott has more coming in this vein, so I'd better say that this is some breakthrough outness. Heartily recommended for those who like their jazz on the edge, warm and collectively boisterous.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nate Wooley, Hugo Antunes, Chris Corsano, MALUS

Trumpeter Nate Wooley is a player you should never take for granted. Because when you do he'll come along and surprise you. He has a kind of consistency of tone, sure, but he operates in the realm often enough of truly free improvisation, so that you just don't know what he'll do next.

That comes through clearly in the excellent trio recording of MALUS (No Business LP 73) a limited vinyl release.

Nate is joined by bassist Hugo Antunes and drummer Chris Corsano. You may well be familiar with them from their various recordings and associations. They sound well-primed and on the mark here.

The record gives us seven short- to medium-length improvisations that have varying degrees of structure and freedom. All three players are out front at various times in a very democratic give-and-take.

In a free session like this the key will nearly always reside in the interest-level of the solos, both collectively and individually, and of course the group dynamic as a whole. Both are high in this recording.

So needless to say it's something I think you'll dig if you are into the free scene.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ravi Shankar, Milestones, A Primer to the Maestro's Music

In honor of what would have been Ravi Shankar's 94th birthday East Meets West Music has released a CD and accompanying booklet that surveys the maestro's career in its many facets. Milestones (East Meets West) gives us a full CD with a myriad of different elements of the maestro's music. It is part of the Shankar Foundation's Access Raga initiative, which has as its ultimate goal the digitizing of as many of Shankar's analog recordings as possible.

The recording spans the period between 1950 and 2011, with raga performances, movie soundtracks, his compositional projects, excerpts of him teaching, and even a bhajan set to lyrics in English. Some of these examples are quite obscure, others less so. All of it is worthwhile, indispensable for Shankar adepts.

Of course this is not meant to replace or substitute for the long performances of ragas in context, something that is central to his art. But it gives you a taste of his musical personality, his genius over a long period of time.

Listen and enrich yourself!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York, Shiki

Satoko Fujii's large ensemble music is one-of-a-kind. She doesn't copy others and she doesn't repeat herself. So her new recording of the Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York, Shiki (Libra 215-036), is something of an event.

It's a very hot band with all kinds of NY cats of note (or notes) in it. I won't list them here--too many. There are those with some heavy solo clout and of course there is a well developed compositional element. Satoko gives us two numbers and her running partner Natsuki Tamura gives us one.

The main event is the 36-minute title cut, which has a minor dirge-like feel.

It's not minor in importance, though. For avant big-band this is an outfit on the cutting edge. Well worth hearing!

Albert Ayler, Spiritual Unity, Anniversary Edition

Yesterday, July 10th, marked the 50th anniversary of the first recording session for Albert Ayler's seminal release, Spiritual Unity. ESP has created a special expanded anniversary edition that includes an extra cut, a version of "Vibrations" that was accidentally included in an early pressing of the disk but otherwise has not been previously available as an integral part of the complete sessions. Now it is. That's a good thing.

I wont re-iterate what I said about the importance of the disk to the world of free jazz. For that you can go to my review article of Tuesday, February 23, 2010 on these pages.

ESP has also put together a full-length narrative The Albert Ayler Story, a download-only set with four-CDs worth of interviews and selected cuts. I've not had a chance to listen to it but you can get it at a limited-time special price if you go over to the ESP site and buy it there.

Happy listening!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Peter Evans, The Freedom Principal

There are pairings of artists in the improvisational avant garde that make very good sense. Some others surprise you with unexpected chemistry. Still others may not exactly have been written in the stars. The recording up today is of the first kind. The gathering of tenor-master Rodrigo Amado and his Motion Trio with trumpet firebrand Peter Evans on The Freedom Principal (No Business NBCD67) results in music as good, as accomplished as one might expect.

Rodrigo and Peter are joined by Motion Trio members Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums. The results are all you could hope for. Peter Evans brings the fired-up color sound playing and facility that mark him as one of the primo trumpet stars of our time. Rodrigo matches him sound-for-sound and note-for-note when they play in tandem. Each one solos with avant-free authority, with a boil-over-the-pot-lid insistence and dexterity that one would be hard put to better among today's free-jazz, free-improv players. It's about the sound and about the notes here. Both are at the top of their game, which means the sounds and the notes are something very worth hearing.

The cello-drums backwash from Miguel and Gabriel performs its function very nicely--opening up rhythmic, harmonic and sonic possibilities that play off of what Rodrigo and Peter are doing and vice versa.

This is one of those sessions that was meant to be. It comes across as excitingly and artistically as one would hope.

It doesn't flag but you could well salute it. In fact, I do! An indispensable out disk for your collection!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rob Derke & the NY Jazz Quartet, Blue Divide

Rob Derke and the NY Jazz Quartet is sponsored by the non-profit NY JAZZ Initiative. Many of their appearances around NY and their various tours I assume are done under the auspices of the foundation. But even if that weren't so this is a band that plays an advanced version of the music that bears hearing in any event.

Their album Blue Divide (Zoho 201401) makes that clear. Rob Derke has a very vibrant soprano sax tone with much facility and inventive powers on the instrument. He manages to channel the full tone of Bechet and Coltrane in his own way, projects extraordinarily well and has the ability to captivate in his solos. Aruan Ortiz plays an out kind of freebop piano where the chords are thick and complex yet rooted in changes. His solo style continues that feel, whether in block-chord fashion or post-Herbie-Nichols, post-Monk phrasings both asymmetrical and appropriate. Carlo De Rosa plays a foundational bass that expands the tonality in good ways and he can solo with interesting results. Drummer Eric McPherson has an ingrained swing and does what a freebop-context drummer might be expected to do and does it well--play advanced time.

The compositions are by Derke or De Rosa, with the exception of a group imorov and a Herbie Hancock number ("Still Time"). The heads and structures fit the style of the band and give the ear some guideposts for orientation in nice ways. And they are well put together, too.

We have some solidly exceptional modern jazz in these grooves. It's a freebop spectacular from a band that bears close attention.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Francois Carrier, The Russian Concerts Volume 1

The trio of Francois Carrier (alto sax), Michel Lambert (drums) and Alexey Lapin (piano) have been going at it for some time now (type Francois's name in the search box for previous albums), principally via a number of concert appearances of the three in Russia. The 2013 tour is bearing fruit in the release The Russian Concerts Volume 1 (FMR CD367).

Based on this volume one hopes for a good deal more. The first volume finds the three in excellent form. Francois is a dynamo, a force of nature-through-art, playing endless streams of inspired saxophony notable for its exceptionally developed sound fingerprint as well as a liquidity of continuous invention. Michel Lambert's drums are always appropriate, original and sonically alive. Alexey Lapin gives us his far-ranging, freely spontaneous yet incisive pianism at peak levels.

Put these three together these days and you have some spontaneous combustions of great power and poetic art.

This is some free improvisation to define the medium today. This is art! It's also one of their very best! Listen and be convinced.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Sonny Simmons, Leaving Knowledge, Wisdom and Brilliance / Chasing the Bird? 8-CD Set

When the album up today came in the mail I was astounded. "So it's true! Eight CDs of Sonny Simmons!" Yep, that's right! Leaving Knowledge, Wisdom and Brilliance / Chasing the Bird? (Improvising Beings 8-CDs).

So I listened. Damn! This is music that is all over the place with, happily, no peghole to shove it into! The personnel is of course Sonny on cor anglais (English horn) and alto sax, Bruno Gregoire on percussion, Anton Mobin on prepared chambers, AKA_Bondage on prepared guitar, Michel Kristof on electrified Indian instruments and electric guitar, and Julien Palomo on keyboards.

But what music is this? From 2006 to 2014 the recorders were running for sessions where everything went. It straddles the fence between new music. electronic music, ethnic music, free music, East-meets-West music, psychedelic music, and everything in between.

It's way too much to absorb immediately, but you know after listening to everything a couple of times that this is music of a very unbuttoned sort, fascinating and possibly even at times exceptional, beautiful, out, raw and yet virtuous in its refusal to be nailed to a genre wall.

Sonny does not play much in the firey, notey way that established him. But every note counts. And really this is Sonny AND, not just Sonny.

I wont tell you what to think. This one demands your attention. I still plan to go back and listen to each disk thoroughly a bunch of times, because it all kicks you in the tail at first so you must clear your head and hear again.

If you don't like out music that breaks out of the free jazz mode into unknown territory and/or if you don't like electric and acoustic outness combined, this may annoy you. One thing it isn't is self-indulgent. But it IS very much experimental. Everything is meant but there are times when the music is running on intuition. And perhaps not everything is a masterpiece, but how many times is that going to happen on a set like this? It may annoy you, but if that is the case, I say respectfully that you are the problem. The music doesn't elicit that in the least.

So if you are ready to follow Sonny into a new kind of musical abysse, get it! If you know what you want but you don't know exactly what that is, get it. You wont be disappointed, I believe. But you will have plenty of listening work to do. Get it, hammer a Men (and Women) at Work sign onto your door and go to it!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Allen Lowe, Mulatto Radio: Field Recordings 1-4

What do you say about a hugely ambitious and largely very successful project of the breadth and girth of Allen Lowe's Mulatto Radio: Field Recordings 1-4 (Constant Sorrow 101, 4-CDs), which is subtitled A Jew at Large in the Minstrel Diaspora? Even this subtitle would take many pages to unravel, something best done by Allen Lowe himself in a book. In fact the accompanying booklet goes some length in explaining what all that might mean. As with Allen in general it is outspoken and perhaps controversial, one of those things that you can be essentially correct about (assuming that) and open yourself up to a veritable shooting gallery nonetheless, with you as one of the mechanical ducks.

What matters at this point in time for me is the music--and as for that, I hear what is going on in this vast collation and I approve. Not that anybody needs my approval here. Judging things I tend to do almost involuntarily, so there you go. But I suppose that is partly the point of these blogs.

Allen was spurred on by his thoughts to immerse himself in early jazz in its surroundings in not-quite-jazz, roots and what you might term pop from the olden times. He emerges from that exploration with a sequel to his blues set (look him up in the search box for that review).

The 4-CD set contains a wealth of Lowe compositions that start with an early jazz feel and wind their way through Monk and Mingus influences while always keeping an out/avant stance that at times very much comes to the fore, other times is strongly implied. There is plenty of room for improvisation and Allen gets a fair amount of time to show us that his alto playing is something to listen closely to, to pay attention to....Now I may hear everything from Frankie Trumbauer to John Handy, Jackie Mclean, Ornette, and others--but it's Allen's very thorough immersion that puts those influences into a mix that is all his. The compositions do that, too.

And then he has chosen the players here very well. Kalapurusha makes a golden appearance, perhaps his last date before we lost him? The saxes in general get some excellent things going. Ras Moshe sounds great. But close behind him are Noah Preminger and JD Allen. The piano chair is enlivened in some very different ways by the likes of Matthew Shipp, Lewis Porter, and Ursula Oppens, depending what is needed for the piece at hand. Then of all people Ken Peplowski on clarinet, who plays impeccable Peplowski. Ray Suhy gets a chance to play some very interestingly out guitar and on banjo straddles the old-ways and outness. I can't list everybody here but Lou Grassi plays a good role on the drums while Rob Wallace plays a good roll. They both have roles to play and play it they do. Kellso and Sandke do justice to the trumpet requirements and take interesting solos. Then there is a tuba player, Christopher Meeder who gives you the old style and the post-Draper outness too. OK there are others and I am sorry to leave them out, but nobody sounds like they do not belong.

Allen gets a good balance between the compositional and the improvisational--and this is significant fare on both sides. There is the old and the out, again in balance. Imagine Mingus and his Blues and Roots album, only it isn't Mingus and it's right now, like 2013, and it's what Allen creates out of the past and what these excellent players do with it. "My Jelly Roll Soul" did something that can be done again, only subject to what's happened since. And done differently, no less originally. That.

That's what this is.

And after a first, thorough immersion I must say that it's music I want to return to frequently because it's real. There is nothing of the rehash about it. There's no doubt, there isn't any attempt really at literal recreation or some strict form of authenticity. An authenticity of repertoire is not there, and that's what makes it so interesting to hear. Because, face it, the original recordings of the styles treated are where you need to go. Then this becomes comprehensible, but not because it wants to BE that music; but rather it wants to comment on it and further the music of today in the process. (Even if you don't know well the early styles commented on in these "grooves" you still can dig in and dig.) And at the same time I am not saying that all repertoire projects are misguided. There are some great ones that make sense but this is not what this is.

That's what I get out of this. There is no controversy with the music. It's just good music. Is there too much? Only if you don't have any listening time. It requires that, certainly. It's out music that dives deeply into roots but does not wish to become those roots. The compositions and the players are what is happening NOW. And it's a very, very good thing. So, encore.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Kali. Z. Fasteau, Piano Rapture, New Works on Piano

Kali. Z. Fasteau, a real, totalized phenomenon in avant jazz circles. . . .She's played with all kinds of seminal avantists, beginning pretty long ago with Donald Rafael Garrett and on from there with a host of heavies. She has more than endured those years, she has flourished as a multi-instrumentalist and leader who coaxes the best from her collaborators and then contributes her own very effectively distinctive playing to boot, whether it's from an array of reeds, vocals, piano, you name it.

She's produced twenty-something albums independently, and regular readers should recognize that I've covered many of them on these pages (type her name in the search box above for that). She never backs down, she always comes through. And her latest, Piano Rapture (Flying Note FNCD 9016), happens to be one of her very best.

It as the title suggests features Kali's piano playing, in solo and duet (and one trio) with some notable improvisors--Kidd Jordan on tenor; L. Mixashawn Rozie on soprano, tenor, flute and djembe; J. D. Parran on alto flute and alto clarinet; and Ron McBee on percussion.

These are free pieces, spontaneously composed by the artists on the spot. Kali's piano playing never sounded better. She cascades, drones, splashes multi-note bursts of sound on the keyboard like paint onto a canvas, and otherwise creatively sounds out very moving and appropriate sound-poems whether in the company of her considerably talented collaborators or by herself.

One of the most moving pieces on the album is "Roy's Wake", a live expression of grief, sorrow and spiritual transcendence on the tragic death of trumpet master Roy Campbell. His sudden passing shocked and deeply saddened the New York jazz community when it came early this year and she movingly expresses that on vocals, electric organ and electric piano while Mixashawn ably seconds the emotion on flute and soprano.

But all of it goes together in one absorbing flow. The relatively short length of each piece and the constantly shifting configurations make listening closely both easy and very rewarding. If it's right to speak of masterpieces only a few days after they have come out, this is surely one of Kali's--a masterpiece in the open-form free-jazz she was been such a vibrant force in and such an important part of for so long. With Kali, technique has always been thoroughly harnessed to the directional momentum of free expression. Never more movingly so than here. Hear.