Tagged: jazz

Jazz St Patrick’s Day

The Sound Projector Radio Show
Friday 17th March 2017

  1. Hank Mobley, ‘Straight Ahead’
    From The Turnaround!, BLUE NOTE 7243 5 24540 2 0 CD (1999)
    Recorded in 1963.
  2. George Russell Sextet, ‘Zig-Zag’
    From The Outer View, RIVERSIDE OJCCD-616-2 CD (1991)
    Recorded in 1962.
  3. Lee Morgan, ‘Afreaka’
    From The Sixth Sense, BLUE NOTE 7243 5 22467 2 4 CD (1999)
    Recorded in 1967.
  4. Ornette Coleman, ‘Is It Forever’
    From The Complete Science Fiction Sessions, USA COLUMBIA/LEGACY C2K 63569 2 x CD (2000)
    Recorded in 1972.
  5. Jimmy Lyons, ‘Push Pull’
    From Push Pull, USA CORBETT VS DEMPSEY CD022 2 x CD (2016)
    Recorded in 1978.
  6. Bill Evans, ‘The Dolphin – Before’
    From From Left To Right, UK VERVE 557 451-2 CD (1998)
    Recorded 1969-70.
  7. Grant Green, ‘Ezz-Thetic’
    From Solid, BLUE NOTE CDP 7243 8 33580 2 1 CD (1995)
    Recorded in 1964.
  8. Charles Mingus, ‘They Trespass The Land Of The Sacred Sioux’
    From At UCLA 1965, USA SUNNYSIDE SSC 3041 2 x CD (2006)
    Recorded in 1965.
  9. Roswell Rudd, ‘Bethesda Fountain’
    From Blown Bone, UK EMANEM 4131 CD (2006)
    Recorded in 1976.
  10. Albert Ayler, ‘Zion Hill’
    From Love Cry, IMPULSE! 06007 5334699 CD (2011)
    Recorded in 1971.
  11. Joe McPhee, ‘Naima’
    From Glasses, USA CORBETT VS DEMPSEY CD006 (2012)
    Recorded in 1977.

Invisible Man

Peter Kuhn / Dave Sewelson / Gerald Cleaver / Larry Roland
Our Earth / The World
USA PFMENTUM CD096 CD (2016)

Every ‘new’ jazz recording that crosses my ears leads me to resume wondering what’s left to say anymore; seems that every grouping, permutation and dynamic is as done-to-death as internet porn. And while I’m tempted to adopt an ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ line towards my increasing indifference, I really do want to feel the magic that once lured me into this field.

Like much of the jazz I’ve reviewed, reeds man Peter Kuhn’s latest group-leader recording is a case in point: noteworthy affiliates, seasoned players, the support of a forward-minded label, some environmental rhetoric and a back story to boot: this is Kuhn’s first titular work in… three decades (if Discogs informs correctly), after drug addiction took him out of the game for two decades: a hiatus to soundly gainsay Miles Davis’ late ‘70s disappearance.

The Davis parallel is unfortunately as unavoidable as it is unappealing. After the incendiary ‘electric’ period, Davis never really got his game back, and I sense that Kuhn’s return to the fore is a triumph of determination more than it is a reclamation of the throne. His power is more latent than evident, which is not to underestimate his prowess: he manages all sorts of wind-driven chicanery in tandem baritone/sopranino saxophonist Dave Sewelson. Setting the pace, they rage and relax in reasonable ratio; each of the three performances breaching the 10-minute mark without breaking a sweat. William Parker claims to have ‘hopped with joy’ at these life-affirming sounds herein, though as a friend and associate there’s a measure of well-wishing bias to be read into this.

And indeed, within the quartet there’s a sense of going-through-the-motions that suits the mood of group-support camaraderie, so enjoyment will depend on whether one buys into the narrative or not. The group kicks off with a fissiparous abandon: ripping and flailing to the heart’s content, only gradually aware of the venture’s joint nature. While their energy never quite hits such heady heights as made so many of John Zorn’s Masada quartet records such a breathless experience, the group at least manages to marshall a marathon’s worth of energy for the first set at least. That said, the bass is planted so low in the mix as to be inaudible at times. A bigger problem however lies in the slow sections, which take far too long to whip up new energy and consequently direction. Quit while you’re ahead guys.

The main problem though is how generic such recordings sound, given the prevalence of the format: a picture of a moment in time, which quickly loses relevance when taken out of context. Kuhn’s story may yet take an upswing, but until some bravery is brought to bear in their presentation or treatment (and I say this as someone who has enjoyed all four tracks of Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity played simultaneously), recordings such as this will keep jazz sealed in amber.

Modern Day Jazz Stories

A sumptuous jazz-based release from Martin Archer, the UK composer, bandleader, improviser and wearer of many other hats. Story Tellers (DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS 57CD) contains two CDs generously laden with highly enjoyable English electric jazz, packed with melody, swing, and passion, and bound to appeal to anyone who enjoys the so-called “Electric” Miles records, Keith Tippett’s big bands of the 1970s, the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, the Escalator Over The Hill record, and such like. I’m always impressed when I hear a powerful Charles Mingus record and assume that it must be an 18-piece orchestra playing, then am pleasantly surprised when it turns out to be a quintet. I had the same sensations when I learned just six players were responsible for Story Tellers, and from what I can gather most of this material is heard as played in the studio, and there is very little post-production work. The band are Mick Somerset, Archer, trumpeter Kim Macari Stone-Lonergan, vibes player Corey Mwamba, guitarist Anton Hunter, and percussionist Peter Fairclough. All, as it happens, are accomplished bandleaders in their own right. Some are familiar names; Fairclough and Mwamba played on Archer’s Engine Room Favourites record in 2015, for instance.

Speaking of that release, Archer continues his pursuit of the AACM aesthetic, and remains convinced of the value of that high watermark in American jazz. Speaking about it in the context of this project, he says he particularly wanted to arrive at music that was “improvised and personal to the players”, but also wanted to ensure it could be repeatable, with close attention paid to a structural form that would allow this. A certain tension between spontaneity and structure. As ever, Archer tellingly points out that “AACM musicians solved this…issue several decades ago”.

Part of that structure could be the “literary” theme, which adds a frame of sorts; it divides the music on Story Tellers into six Books, each with chapters, and each book telling the story of a particular imagined character. Well, more like an archetype perhaps; for instance, Mick Somerset plays the role of “The Wounded Healer”, Archer is “The Casuist”, and so on. Some of the ideas here may have been inspired by or provided by Mick Somerset, who – though he plays a wide array of wind instruments and percussion – is a self-confessed outsider who works “on the periphery of jazz music”, and is feels more at home with words and stories. The Books are carefully structured, so that each one follows a set pattern – always starting with a stated musical theme to introduce the character, and including a solo section, and a coda. Further, the Books refer to each other, quoting musical phrases from the other Books as appropriate, to suggest cross-pollination and collaboration between the characters. Though what they’re playing is jazz, Archer has pretty much created a classical song cycle; “you could say…[it] comprises six versions of the same piece” is his take on it.

The aim with this book structure and array of characters is not to tell a story in a conventional sense; rather I take it as a metaphor for the collaboration itself, an expression of the way that the players co-operate and interact with each other, “infecting” each other’s themes with their own. This could be further taken as a metaphor for all music (all successful music at any rate), where the joy of creation becomes a shared activity, and not merely a selfish indulgence for one person, a charge that has often been levelled at lead guitarists taking excessive solos in rock music, or any self-indulgent player who merely satisfies their own needs, ignoring the other players, and even ignoring the audience. Conversely, the good vibes of this group transfer directly onto the grooves here – “we had a ball making it”, to use Archer’s own expression – and will pass onto all who hear it. From 10th August 2016.

The Encrypted Gallbladder

Courtesy of the lovely Petter Flaten Eilertsen we received a bundle of goodies from Oslo. Included in the bag are four cassettes on the Kassettkultur label, proudly announcing their return after a “four year hiatus”. Among the releases is one oddity by Jono El Grande, a Norwegian composer who is entirely new to me. On the strength of Der Tod Der Gegenwartsmusik (KULT 016), however, we’re ready to award him the laurel wreath for madcap of the year, given his endearing zany antics on both sides of the tape. What greeted us was two short suites (circa. 11 mins apiece) of lively and demented stuff that freely mixes styles – pop, classical, jazz – with no reverence whatsoever, and a great sense of fun and discovery. In places it reminded us of Frank Zappa, back in the days when he knew how to have fun too; we say that because of Jono’s penchant for speeded-up tapes, strange voice interludes, excessively complex orchestration, and “impossible” speeds for musical performance. It’s possible perhaps that this work is mainly done by sampling and computer editing, but that matters not one whit when you’ve got such a tasty pizza with so many delectable toppings, served to you by a hilarious waiter on roller skates and dressed as a gorilla. Take a look at the cover art…also drawn by Jono El Grande…and you’ve got a strong visual equivalent of the music for your mental stomach to digest. This amiable loon seems to have spent much of his waking life forming “imaginary” bands and crazy music in his own mind, starting with The Handkerchiefs when he was aged ten, and a number of bands that only existed for one night – including The Terror Duo, Black Satan, The Pez Dispensers, and Acetaded Beat – before disappearing in the sky like so many fireworks. Be sure to seek out his earlier releases on Rune Grammofon and Rune Arkiv, if you find this polymath loopiness to your taste. From 19 July 2016.

It’s Clobberin’ Time

The Thing
Shake
AUSTRIA THE THING RECORDS TTR005CD CD (2015)

Instead of Mats Gustafsson christening his thug/jazz combo after a Don Cherry number, I’d like to think than an alternative reality would see this Swedish sax pulveriser finding his descriptive powers failing badly in the pursuit of a fitting band name. As he had his chakras seriously realigned by Brötzmann’s Machine Gun at the same time as certain seminal punk bands, it had to be one that embraced the indeterminate; a neither/nor situation. So, after a lot of deep thought, we encounter The Thing 1 and, of course, mere bullets simply can’t stop its forward motion.

And the forward motion of The Thing (and M.G. related produce) is indeed relentless. We’re actually into three figures now (!) and naturally you’d have to be as rich as Croesus to own his/their/its entire discography. Shake, the follow-up to 2013’s Boot, follows the usual thingian template with the hired muscle of bassist Ingebrigt Håken and upper echelon sticksman Paal Nilsson-Love flailing their way through a set of originals and some covers. You may recall Polly Harvey, Duke Ellington and Lightning Bolt being the focus of their unlikely attention in years gone by.

In this case though, we’ve trawled a little bit deeper, as aside from a bustling Ornette Coleman cover (“Perfection”), the songbooks of Loop and Canadian free folk unit Wyrd Visions have been plundered. The former’s signature foghorn blasts on “The Nail Will Burn” rise up in stark contrast to the smokier sax wisps of “Sigill”. The murk-laden moodpiece “Til Jord er du Kommet” finds scrapyard percussives and cracked J. Arthur Rank gongs under the now barely visible spotlight while the molten “Bota Fogo” (penned by Nilssen-Love), should really be retitled “Bota Fuego” as this 7.26 ripper suggests that the file on Fire Music must be reopened and revised immediately.

N.B. The double vinyl gets one over its C.D. counterpart as it boasts four extras in the shape of “First Shake”, “Second Shake”, “Third Shake”, and “Round About Lapa”.

  1. Though for those of a certain age, you’d be excused if b/w images of the stogie-chewing Ben Grimm (of The Fantastic Four) stomp through your mind, not to mention the two films of the same name. The first being for me far more subtle/kreeepy than the viscera/offal fest of the remake…

Phantacusis

Another rather overpowering record from The Jazzfakers, last heard here with their 2013 offering Here Is Now, a record where “everything explodes in all directions” as observed by Stuart Marshall. On Hallucinations (ALREALON MUSIQUE ALRN064), David Tamura is the sax player, also works keyboards and guitar, and he leads this agitated New York combo down their musically omnivorous tunnels and hallways; Robert L. Pepper, from PAS, adds violin and electronics, and the rhythm section of Luczak and Zwyer have to work time-and-a-half (plus tips, extras, etc.) just to keep up with the aberrant howls and self-indulgent blurts emerging from the two soloist stars.

Tamura’s overly-expressive and juicy sax honks are much in evidence, and I’d never made the connection to John Zorn before, but perhaps the presence of Zorn’s producer Martin Bisi (who recorded Hallucinations in Brooklyn) has stirred a distant memory in that direction. If pushed, my preference is to plump for the strange electronic brew such as we hear on ‘Bicameralism’, a fuzzy nightmare which might result from Pepper’s violin / electronics combo or Tamura’s keys. There’s probably not much point in looking for connections to “jazz” as we understand it in these over-wrought splurges of abstract noise and crazy near-random eruptions, since the band are clearly equally informed by many other genres of music, including rock, free noise, free improvisation, and classical avant-garde composition. When Tamura does throw a jazzy piano riff into this stew, it seems at once too obvious, too throwaway, and too glib.

No denying he and all the Jazzfakers have tremendous chops, but on today’s spin I’d prefer something with a little more arrangement behind it. This time, the record is “themed” on the work of Oliver Sacks who apparently wrote a book by this title, and the press claim is that each member of the band was “under the influence of a different hallucinogenic state” during recording. Oh yeah…as if! From 25 May 2016.

Night Thoughts

veto_013_cover

Adasiewicz / Erb / Roebke
More Dreams Less Sleep
SWITZERLAND VETO-RECORDS / EXCHANGE 13 CD (2016)

If it feels like we’re living through a ghastly re-run of the 1930s these days, there’s a crumb of comfort to be had that some bright souls are defying the isolationist, philistine spirit of the age and forging creative links across international borders. It’s a very small crumb of comfort, admittedly, but I’ll take it where I can get it at the moment, thank you very much.

Jazz was big in the 1930s too, of course, and what we have here is the jazz equivalent of a town twinning association exchange trip between the lakeside cities of Lucerne and Chicago. Christoph Erb brings the reeds from Switzerland, whilst the American contingent of Jason Adasiewicz and Jason Roebke add vibraphone and double bass respectively. At this point, my extended metaphor breaks down, because this sounds nothing like any jazz recorded in the 1930s that I’m aware of.

Instead, we have five, distinctly modern improvisations, with terse one-word titles and a definite nocturnal vibe, if you’ll excuse the pun. Quite why the vibraphone should make everything sound as if it’s happening after midnight I don’t know, but it certainly does. This doesn’t mean it’s soporific, however. Quite the opposite. Erb’s saxophone and clarinet scamper through the vibes and bass, creating an urgent, itchy atmosphere, complete with insistent, knocking percussion effects that hammer away like those thoughts that just won’t go away at three o’clock in the morning. There are patches of relative calm to balance this out, so the whole thing is like a strangely enjoyable anxiety buy celexa online dream on a muggy night.

Veto Records are becoming a bit of a stamp of quality, their satisfying cardboard packages containing genuine musical treasures. This one is perfect for when you want to lie awake and worry about the state of the world.

Bags’ Groove

pascal_n

Impressive and inventive improvised / jazz / composed music from Pascal Niggenkemper, a French-German bass player appearing here with his new sextet Le 7eme Continent. The album Talking Trash (CLEAN FEED CF373CD) contains a wealth of musical ideas, allowing space for free improvisation within certain grids and frames, and the attention to dynamics and tension-inspiring gaps is remarkable. Niggenkemper is well served by his fantastic team of players, including the woodwind player Joachim Badenhorst (with whom he also plays in the trio Baloni), Eve Risser and Philip Zoubek with their two prepared pianos, plus the sub-contrabass flute of Julian Elvira and the clarinet of Joris Ruhl. Notice that’s an all-acoustic line-up, although it seems the woodwind team may employ some amplification; the majority of these strange and alien noises are all generated by human action, breathing, bowing and plucking movements.

Talking Trash is a concept album of sorts, based on Niggenkemper’s reading of alarming news reports of what’s happening in the Pacific ocean these days…apparently we’re dumping so much garbage in the sea, it’s practically formed a new continent of detritus, described by a note here as “an artificial world, in the midst of the ocean, accidentally created by men” and nicknamed the Seventh Continent. “It made me think…” states Niggenkemper, reflecting on the lamentable piles of non-biodegradable plastic we’re stacking up in gargantuan proportions; and as his way of dealing with this depressing “absurd reality”, he created these compositions. It helps to draw our attention to this aspect of world pollution. But he also wanted to create a living sound-portrait, a moving painting in sound, depicting the continent of rubbish and its undulating actions. The accuracy of his snapshots is informed by a pessimistic undertone, highly critical of the horrible wastage we tolerate under advanced capitalism.

Among the many notable musical moments: ‘Gyres Oceaniques’, a striking conversation between the two pianos, one of them providing a solid percussive backdrop while the other executes wild free jazz runs and trills; dark tension and open spaces (voids and vacuums) yawn terrifyingly. ‘Plasticsphere’, a long and melancholic drone piece of understated beauty, where the harmonics of the bowed strings create an oceanic swell, dotted with minimal piano tinkles and whimpers from the woodwind section, making us weep at the imagined sight of a forlorn plastic bag drifting hopelessly in the sea. The second track, whose title is an elaborate grid reference, exhibiting the Evan Parker acrobatics of the clarinets supported by an exquisite piano figure. ‘Ideonella Sakaiensis’, a perturbed squall of a piece suggestive of a storm at sea, amply demonstrating Niggenkemper’s aim to “make this seventh continent sing, hiss, whirr, buzz and scream”.

Talking Trash is a superlative album of contrasts and tensions: abstract soundscapes alongside dense free jazz note-clusters, narrative environment-portraits, taut well-arranged and composed rhythms with free-form blowing and scraping. The sextet perform immaculately and cannot put a single foot wrong, and the recording by Christian Heck and Stefan Deistler is vivid and clear, creating a great-sounding record. Full marks and highest recommendation for this exemplary example of cutting-edge improvised-composed and well-crafted music. From 22 June 2016.

N.E.W. Position

dw008

N.E.W.
Motion
UK DANCING WAYANG DWR008 LP (2014)

So here’s one of those sessions that ignites the nerve endings and immolates the contents of every lenient review ever written, scattering the ashes in the gaping abyss between null and void. This fleeting yet ferocious power trio recording delivers nobly on the promise made by the rear sleeve’s hunt scene cave art.

Responsible parties: English improvisors Steve Noble (drums), John Edwards (double bass) and Alex Ward (guitar) aka N.E.W. have been part of the same circle for Lord knows how long, but still somehow sound like they’re hitting their stride; barrelling out of the gates like greyhounds as the needle touches ‘Betting on Now’ – making and breaking formation at a pyrotechnic pace that would prove perilous if they didn’t know how to pull back and absorb the scenery.

Much of the time, Ward’s guitar is the focal point, performing the feats of an agile surfer on Noble and Edwards’ relentlessly thundering waves; driving through the A side with a searing tremolo that catches fire on several occasions. Better yet: the group pulls off that elusive ‘live’ sound so often absent without audience feedback. Not for them your mannered, by-the-book skronk-noise-dirge malarkey, nor the self-satisfied bonhomie of craft beer emporium jazz – these maniacs still play like they’re in danger of freezing in some tiny basement venue.

Hvilken vei er ingen steder (del 3)

stop_freeze_wait_eat-34907423-frntl

Ivar Grydeland
Stop Freeze Wait Eat
NORWAY HUBRO MUSIC HUBRO 3538 LP (2015)

Enveloped in warm and fuzzy nocturne is this serene yet sturdy surprise from the ever-reliable Hubro label, nestling within which we find the laconic Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, one Ivar Grydeland – member of improvising trio Huntsville (previously reviewed here) – and his 6 and 12 string guitars, drowsily picking and tapping out morse code m’aiders in honeyed droplets to the sound of soporific alarm bells. However, the draping of every long tone in echo serves more than simply a sedative function; it is Grydeland’s ‘extended now’ that allows him to improvise atop the sounds of his own playing in a window of time that he likens to a painter’s stepping back from the canvas to regard the work underway. Meanwhile the listener is free to sink deep into a crackly dream world of pin-pricked, low-frequency harmonics; a less focused take on Oren Ambarchi’s soundworld, but a cosy blanketing that never smothers.

hubrocd2566

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra / Christian Wallumrød
Untitled Arpeggios And Pulses
NORWAY HUBRO MUSIC HUBRO HUBROCD2566 (2015)

Our first (and last) encounter with the Norwegian ‘jazz’ pianist Christian Wallumrød was bemusing to say the least, an effect partly brought about by the connotations of using the j-word, by Wallumrød’s history with the ECM label and by that record’s unfailing ambiguity of style and intention. Intriguing to a fault, Pianokammer defies the finger of categorisation, falling somewhere ’between the realms of easy listening and cold abstraction’, to the point at which questions such as ‘do I like this?’ become redundant. Whatever motivations led to the recording of that strange selection, they remain invisible to the naked ear.

Its successor – Untitled Arpeggios and Pulses – arrives in a similar cloak of cool mystery and a title suggestive of the anonymity and simplicity of its ethereal ways. Carried by The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra as a commission for Kongsberg Jazz Festival’s 50th anniversary in 2014, the ‘action’ has moved from the fire-lit living room in winter to the chilled auditorium where quiet coughs mingle with the steam of musicians’ breath. Suspended in air, rendered sluggish by hibernation instincts or lurching like locked groove vinyl, the four sections of this 50+ minute composition consist of short, semi- and atonal phrases repeated ad infinitum by small and unusual instrumental assortments that include piano and pedal steel peddling peace and forgetfulness (part 2), to a trudging, trash-coated behemoth for graunching guitar, Supersilent-style electronics and jubilant bursts of winter-numbed brass.

Clearly intended for a single sitting: walk in at any moment to find an absolute mess. Sit back however, and enjoy the unfurling from afar and things might start to click into place. Devoid of straight up ‘jazz’, the orchestra’s dedicated pursuit of the ‘pulse’ overrides all other aesthetic commitments. It’s challenging music in the best possible sense, and best of all, it knows when to keep its mouth shut.