KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Romus, Rent-Life’s Blood Ensemble – “Rogue Star” – [Edgetone Records]

Max Level   7/10/2018   CD, Jazz

No matter which of his many musical endeavors Rent Romus is presenting, it’s always solid. His music invokes solid musical traditions—raging bebop, free jazz, tight ensemble compositions with tasteful solos, and various ethnocultural musics to name but a few, yet he’s always looking to blaze new trails into the future of jazz. His Life’s Blood Ensemble is a perfect vehicle for his vision. Sprawling, multi-faceted jazz sounds here, brought to life by saxophones, flute, e-trumpet, vibraphone, drums, and two double basses. The sounds are from distant galaxies and at the same time are clearly of this earth. Listen and stretch your jazz mind. Track 8 is traditional Finnish music.

Thollem / Clouser / Chase – “Dub Narcotic Session Vol.II” – [Personal Archives]

Thurston Hunger   6/30/2018   CD, Jazz


Sketchpad drumpad kits flits with jazz-ernatioanl.
Or is it rock, paper, boundaries exploded? I’ll
follow suit and put this in KFJC’s library next
to Vol 1 in “jazz” and you can listen with one
of many ears and hear electric Miles without a
trumpet I guess. Mostly it’s the improv instants
that propel this (and perhaps the crisp confines
of Calvin Johnson’s Dub Narcotic studios that
gives this album such lustre.) Key-never-bored
and air-on-fire guitar trade inspiration and
drummer Brian Chase (yeah from the Yeah Yeah
Yeahs) never misses a beat, or at least a
spritz with them cymbals. Vol 1, out in 2014,
featured a more dry Chase (toms and rolls)
while Thollem kept the piano humming/trilling.
Now adding guitarist Todd Clouser to the edginess,
allows Thollem more freedom to shift gears, react
and even lay back. Thollem brings in everything
from an Ethiopique taste to oblique honkey tonk,
from Gnawa nibbles to dark, sweaty colossal Rhodes.
There are three tracks here and I dunno maybe 50
potential songs. Clouser slashes with the Ex-like
striking chords, washes watercolor volume pedal,
and even summons Shakey’s “Dead Man” soundtrack.
And that’s all on “It’s a Drab” the opening
number, which 11 minutes into it, finds Thollem
working a soothing three chord tonic to close
the piece. Inspired by and inserted in art by
China Faith Star, a nice package by all involved.
-Thurston Hunger
Note: tracks have silent spaces between sections

Lacy/ Carter/ Centazzo – “October Wind Vol.2” – [Ictus]

humana   6/23/2018   CD, Jazz

This is Volume 2 of a recording of a concert in Milano, Italy in 1976. The release of both occurred on the tenth anniversary of Steve Lacey’s death. Lacey wrote the compositions and played soprano saxophone; Kent Carter was on double bass; and Andrea Centazzo performed drum set and percussion, in addition to writing the liner notes describing how he and Gilles Laheurte mixed, edited, and produced this unique treasure of improv jazz. The first epic track gives you enough time to get your tao on. “Flakes” and “Weal (Part 1)” are my favorites.

Jordan, Kidd, Fielder, Alvin Flutterman, Joel, Swell, Steve – “Masters of Improvisation” – [Valid Records]

lexi glass   6/5/2018   CD, Jazz

Free jazz explorations from New Orleans saxophonist Kidd Jordan and his longtime collaborators, drummer Alvin Fielder and pianist Joel Futterman. On this release, trombonist Steve Swell visits from New York and joins the trio in the Crescent City for a performance of three improvisational works. “Expansion” (T1), the most bombastic of the three, is a wild tumble of color and energy, but still anchored by familiar jazz patterns, like recognizable chord progressions on the piano and steady drumming rhythms. “Residue” (T2), my favorite, begins with more subdued passages that builds into a soulful meditation; this wouldn’t be out of place next to the wonderful Alice Coltrane record in recurrent. “Sawdust on the Floor” (T3) ends with a wild frenzy, then a drunken march, and, for the finale, a loose, impassioned rendition of “Summertime.” Not totally facemelting, but there’s challenging ideas here, all the more impressive coming from the 81-year old Jordan.

Monk, Thelonious – “Thelonious Monk Vol.2” – [Real Gone Music]

Hemroid The Leader   6/4/2018   CD, Jazz

“SIX CLASSIC ALBUMS”– 44 tracks from 1957-59 on 4 CDs from European imprint Real Gone Jazz, 2012. Rollins, Coltrane, Pettiford, Roach, Haynes, Charlie Rouse.. gang’s all here. . Back cover of the booklet has the personnel. CD4 solo in SF. He had a ring that said MONK, he would hold it upside down and it spelled KNOW. “Always know,” he said.

Logan Hone’s Similar Fashion – “Logan Hone’s Similar Fashion” – [Pfmentum]

humana   6/4/2018   CD, Jazz

This is refreshingly accessible avant-garde jazz from a quartet featuring Hone on alto sax and bass clarinet, Lauren Baba on viola, Gregory Uhlmann on guitar, and Mike Lockwood on drums.They are capable composers and improvisers. “Play” (7) sounds like a wonky circus act, while “Morning Bear” (9) is a lovely creation (written by and featuring pizzicato by Baba) worthy of many listens.

Otherworld Ensemble – “Live At Malmitalo” – [Edgetone Records]

Cousin Mary   5/10/2018   CD, Jazz

Oakland musician and Outsound New Music Summit organizer Rent Romus takes his sax and flute to Helsinki, Finland where he is joined by excellent Finnish musicians to make this remarkable live 2017 album.  Very weird but very beautiful and listenable.  Sound is terrific, lovely tones from all instruments.  The tracks do not remind me of anything I have heard before and that’s a good thing.  (A kantele is a traditional Finnish zither.)

Hill, Andrew – “Black Fire” – [Blue Note]

Cousin Mary   5/10/2018   CD, Jazz

Hard bop meets avant garde in this outstanding session from 1963.  Original recording and remastering were both done by Rudy Van Gelder.  Excellent piano from leader Andrew Hill, stunning “side men” include Joe Henderson on sax, Richard Davis on bass, Roy Haynes on drums.  Does it get any better than that?  Edgy and marvelous.

Chen/ Kaiser/ Smith/ Winant – “Ocean of Storms” – [Fractal Music]

billiejoe   4/18/2018   CD, Jazz

Ambient spacey jazz brought to you by piano, trumpet, guitar, and percussion. Long trips. Smith and Kaiser go way back but this album came out this year. Perhaps Ocean of Storms refers to the Oceanus Procellarum, a basaltic plain on the moon that is the result of ancient volcanic eruptions.

— Billie Joe Tolliver

Segala, Luca Libertrio – “La Rete Indra” – [Amirani Records/Amirani Contemporary]

Hemroid The Leader   4/12/2018   CD, Jazz

Sax-bass-drums trio recorded in Milan, 2015. Tony’s Hungry is an Afro-mid-eastern groove that recalls John Zorn’s Masada. Segala’s free-and-easy melodic tenor brings to mind classic Sonny Rollins. At the same time, Segala’s compositions are very sharp. Fresh take, not dated. A quality recording. Intellectual blues, European jazz.

Parker, Evan / Lazro, Daunik / McPhee, Joe – “Seven Pieces Live At Willisau 1995” – [Clean Feed]

Phil Phactor   4/11/2018   CD, Jazz


Clean Feed brings the goods once again with this document of a 1995 meeting of three titans of the modern saxophone. From the opening long-held tones of “Echoes of Memory,” it’s clear that this is going to be a conversation, not a shouting match. These guys know how to play, but they also know how to listen. Moments reminiscent of a Bach fugue evolve effortlessly into moments of unbridled free play. This recording has been remastered from cassette, and the tape hiss and occasional cough really help in the feeling of being there. The track “Florid” (T4) is solo Evan Parker, and it is one of his classic circular-breathing ascending-to-heaven epics. Worth the price of admission all by itself. The last track ends with extended rhythmic clapping.

Motif – “My Head Is Listening” [Clean Feed]

humana   3/17/2018   Jazz

Energetic, fresh, forward-thinking jazz from Norway, all composed by Ole Morten Vagan, who plays double bass. The last track (“Lontano Sea”) is the most subdued of the bunch. Make sure your head is listening as you take in this unique sound.

Cambien, Jonas Trio – “Zoology of The Future, a” – [Clean Feed]

Phil Phactor   3/14/2018   CD, Jazz

Modern, quirky, jazz miniatures from this trio of Europeans. It’s the very opposite of a skronk-fest, as all the tracks are composed (at least in part), and most clock at under five minutes. The compositions are highly rhythmic, with the melodic material hinting at all kinds of things from modern classical to lounge jazz. A polite, measured treat.

Stein, Norbert/ Pata Messengers – “We are Here For You/ Derby Girl” – [Pata Music]

Hemroid The Leader   2/19/2018   CD, Jazz

German tenor saxophonist Norbert Stein calls his high-minded yet addictive European jazz quartet the Pata Messengers, after patyaphysics, an “an imaginary realm additional to metaphysics” developed by the Parisian absurdist Alfred Jarry (1873-1907). Fluid from freedom to in time, according to Michael Rusenberg, “Pata music floats in a large area of brackish water … between singable waltz … and complete dissolution of the meter.”
Drummer Etienne Nillesen uses only a prepared snare drum and cymbal for a kit and makes it work very well. Philip Zoubek is Stein’s first piano player and rounds out the proceedings, you can hear the difference between this and the other Stein / Pata Music releases in our library.

Liberatore, Matteo – “Solos” – [Innova Recordings]

billiejoe   2/6/2018   CD, Jazz

Liberatore lives in Brooklyn and is from Italy. This album is solo guitar experiments. It sounds like a meditation on vibrations. Very conceptual on first hear but the playful qualities come through.
– Billie Joe Tolliver

Bad Jazz – “Endtable Transmissions” – [Tymbal Tapes]

billiejoe   1/16/2018   CD, Jazz

This project was formed out of NorCal Noisefest in 2014. They are Ben Salomon on percussion and invented instruments, Tania Chen on found objects, toys, and electronics, and Bryan Day also on invented instruments. It sounds like sonic examinations. Their homemade sounds make for some great creative experiences. These are some noise researchers.
— Billie Joe Tolliver

Evangelista, Karl/ Grex – “a Love Supreme” – [Brux Records]

billiejoe   1/16/2018   CD, Jazz

This is John Coltrane’s work arranged and produced by Evangelista, the Filipino-American guitarist and composer. On this album he is playing guitar with M. Rei Scampavia on keys and electronics, Robert Lopez on drums, and Dan Clucas on trumpet. All together they are called Grex. To me it sounds like psych with trumpet. It’s emotional and playful.
— Billie Joe Tolliver