Monday, October 30, 2017

Eric Revis, Sing Me Some Cry

Anyone who reads this column regularly should be familiar with Eric Revis. He is a new jazz freedom bassist, composer and bandleader whose music has been addressed in several review articles over the years. We come back to him happily with a recent release of his entitled Sing Me Some Cry (Clean Feed 428).

The album features an excellent quartet in Revis on bass, Ken Vandermark on tenor sax and clarinet, Kris Davis on piano and Chad taylor on drums. All four have a hand n the compositional frameworks, with four of nine by Revis, one each by Vandermark, Taylor and Davis, one by Adam Rogers, and one a collective quartet venture.

The frameworks set up some cutting-edge improvisations by the foursome, who are rooted in the music yet determined to move forward. Each is an important voice on her or his instrument. And at the same time there is a pronounced four-way confluence to be heard.

Perhaps most impressive over the last few years is the emergence of pianist Kris Davis as a central and cogent contributor to a good number of fruitful sessions. She is a central voice here as well. Eric bears close listening too for his bass smarts. And really there is centrality to all, though Vandermark and Taylor one always expects over the years to make important contributions to whatever date they are on. That is very true on Sing Me Some Cry.

In the end one is struck by the vibrancies of the frameworks as well as the cohesive movement of the improvisations. There is individual and collective totality on all nine pieces.

There is every reason to check this music out if you want to know what is new about new avant jazz. It is a bright moment on a continuum of continual effervescence out there. Grab it and spin it and you'll no doubt get it!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bambu, Alexandra Grimal, Benjamin Duboc, Valentin Ceccaldi

An open-ended, hard-edged trio excels in creating dramatic presence on the recent CD Bambu (Ayler Records 152). There is a European sort of new music-avant garde jazz confluence to be heard on this recording. The lower strings-plus-saxophones in the right hands makes for pronounced sonarity.

Benjamin Duboc has become to my mind one of the primary forces in avant garde double bass on the continent these days. He reminds us why here. Valentin Ceccaldi on cello holds forth as an extension and inner respondent-equal to Duboc. Alexandra Grimal tops the bottom or adds to it depending on which saxophone she is playing and its range. She establishes herself as a full creative co-respondent and in her vocal ruminations a sort of additional instrument.

You might say that this kind of music is a "thinking person's" free improv. There are some moments when there is a meditative care and hushed expectancy. Other segments burst forward in vivid timbral colors. Never does the music seem  rote. On the contrary we have a freshening both lyrical and other-earthly.

This is surely a music beyond category. It does not care what it is called. It sings itself. We join in. Worth your time and attention is this album! And you'll help out a label of real importance. Get it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Michala Petri, Marilyn Mazur, Daniel Murray, Brazilian Landscapes

Some music to appreciate fully you have to let breathe inside of you for a space. That is true certainly of Michala Petri, Marilyn Mazur and Daniel Murray's Brazilian Landscapes (Our Recordings 6.220618). It needs to breathe inside your musical mind because it has a beauty made up of unusual parts that in turn form an unusual whole.

To start there is the instrumentation and the musical personalities at hand. Recorder, classical guitar and percussion? That in itself is unusual. And then the peopling of the instruments is special. Marilyn Mazur has been for years a very accomplished and innovative percussionist. She shows on this recording that she is ever more resourceful and brilliant in her use of congas and all sorts of percussive instrumental possibilities. Michala Petri plays a very vibrant and contemporary kind of recorder sounding. In her hands it is an instrument of jazzy provenance, very fluid and timbrally diverse. Classical guitarist Daniel Murray plays in a fully blossomed contemporary manner that takes into account the rich tradition of Brazilian and jazz-oriented possibilities without being unaware an unversed in the state-of-the-art stylistic parameters of the classical guitar art per se.

Put these three together with some very ingenious and moving arrangements that allow for and sound with a jazz-like spontaneity. The interactions of the three within the well-worked out arrangements gives us an unusual sonic depth and presence that plays out fully and meaningfully.

And then there is the repertoire, a good mix of classics and lesser known Brazilian classics and lesser known pieces along with a few nice Daniel Murray originals. The Brazilian derived fare includes songs and works by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Egberto Gismonti, Hermeto Pascoal, Heitor Villa-Lobos, plus Paulo Porto Alegre, Paolo Bellinati, Ernesto Nazareth, and Antonio Ribeiro. All of the material has substance and the Brazilian tinge both rhythmically and otherwise.

The result spans chamber classical structure-form and Brazilian jazz heat and drive.

It is beautiful. It needs a few hearings to encompass and then you are there. That is, if you respond to it like I did. I cannot say that there is anything quite like it. Anyone who favors things Brazilian will take to it. Or even those who simply love good music.

Very recommended. A sleeper but a keeper!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Daunik Lazro, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Didier Lasserre, Garden(s)

We drift along in time while new and worthy music can fill our ears and does if we take the time to listen to what is at hand. Today one such album offers itself up for consideration, namely Daunik Lazro, Jean-Luc Cappozzo and Didier Lasserre's Garden(s) (Ayler Records AYLCD-150).

It is a trio date from France that calls upon some standards and some free originals to suspend our everyday mundane concerns and catapult us into an ozone strata of improvisational futures laced with classics of past tenses spoken in the present-future tense.

There is a sort of oscillation between rethought classics and new ground. So we have Duke's "Sophisticated Lady," and the lesser-known "Hop Head,"  Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament," Ayler's "Angels." They rub shoulders with the strictly new improvs that this trio so readily fabricates.

Lazro has a true voice on baritone. It is both classic and future directed. His tenor has a different feel, as can often be the case with multi-reedists. Cappozzo interacts well with Lazro and as expected from him creates his own improvisational space. Lasserre drums with a dynamic confidence that works well in the space he naturally gets from a spare threesome without blanketing harmonic instrumentation.

The results are moving, motional, never static. And in the end it is firmly a part of the jazz continuum, yet in itself an original statement. That's a very good thing. Listen and I think you will dig what you hear!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ellason, Traditional Cuban Music

I've spent a good deal of my life listening to Afro-Cuban and neighboring musics. I cannot pretend to be an expert but I am profoundly influenced by it all. With a diplomatic semi-normalization of US-Cuban relations we can now hear a great deal more of what has been happening on the island. Ansonica Records is an ambitious undertaking of  Parma Recordings, aiming to bring US-Cuban musical collaborative projects to our ears as well as documenting what is happening in Cuba today.

In the latter category is the notefull passion of Traditional Cuban Music (Ansonica AR0003) as played and sung by Ellason, an excellent all-female outfit. The aim is to revive the music of Compay Segundo and Sigundo Garay and get general inspiration from the genre known as La Trova.

It is essentially in the style of 1940's Havana jazz bands, featuring especially the Charanga form with a driving heat and lyrical crispness. Lead singers and chorus are spectacularly good, and the band of bass, guitar, congas, bongos, cowbell, two clarinets and violin get a wonderful sound and heat everything up so that you surely want to dance.

I dearly love this band and their music. Anyone who digs the old sounds will revel in it all. Havana comes alive and we are there. Wonderful stuff!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Alan Sondheim, Azure Carter, Luke Damrosch, Limit

This past September 8th I was happy to review a recent Alan Sondheim album with Azure Carter and Luke Damrosch. We have yet another, entitled Limit (Public Eyesore 138). Sondheim, you will recall, had a couple of multi-instrumental iconoclastic free improv albums out on ESP back in the day. He is going strong again, as this album attests.

Luke Damrosch plays madal and is responsible for engineering and programming, Azure Carter gives us her quirky songs and sings them with disarming straightforward candor, and Alan handles the music concepts and plays a battery of instruments as we have come to expect, in this case viola, guqin, flute, clarinet, alto clarinet, long necked saz, dan moi, ghichak, ukelele, guzheng, holeless shakuhachi, hegelung, sanshin and rebab.

The blend is spaced out at times by studio enhancements. All is plainly what it is, regardless. And what it is gives the listener plenty of pause (plus playback and fast forward)! There is at all times a provocative kind of freedom that, as is Alan Sondheim's way, never stays put in a single free idiom, instead covering free jazz and world roots in ways he has come to make his fingerprint sound.

Azure adds much with the special songs that form a vivid, whimsical contrast to the freedom swirling about her.

Limit pleases greatly if you give the music a chance to grow within you. It is not like anything else exactly. It is Alan Sondheim.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Biggi Vinkeloe Band, Aura Via Appia

Melody, song and freely stepping forward are central to the beautiful album by the Biggi Vinkeloe Band, Aura Via Appia (Omlott MLR 015 2017). It centers on the presence of the band in Rome, on the singular feeling that evokes, a songfulness, a singular directionality brought on in part by being there, or so I would suggest.

The band itself has presence. It centers around of course Biggi on flute and alto, Robert Bellatalla on double bass and Peeter Uuskyla on drums. Joining them is Nema Vinkeloe on well done vocals and violin for the two Swedish folk songs and Pharoah Sander's wonderfully familiar "Japan." Simon Uuskyla nicely brings his voice to the two versions of Mozart's "Un Aura Amoroso" and his "Speculum Dianae".

This is music that sings, and to me that is always a big part of Biggi as an artist. Her alto and flute are ever singing, as they very much are here. The entire album however does embrace a singing of a singing, in the Mozart, in the folk songs. There always is a kind of discursive logic to Biggi's soloing, a speech-song quality. And we get lots of nicely hewn Biggi here, as good as anything and that is very good indeed. The band has open forward free movement that sets Ms. Vinkeloe into a space where she can shine brightly. So she does. And the song moment only bring that to us as a reinforcement, an affirmation.

Aura Via Appia has a gentle, open joy about it. We sing along in our hearts, because the music cannot and should not be denied. You listen the more, the better it gets. Kudos to Biggi and the band. Listen to this!