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Music Reviews

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

Gerowitz, Joshua – “Solano Canyon” – [Pfmentum]

Phil Phactor   1/16/2018   CD, Jazz

This is the debut album from Socal-based guitarist Joshua Gerowitz, and it’s exceedingly hard to pin down. The lead-off track seems simple enough, with the horns blowing over a swinging, dad-jazz vamp, when all of a sudden Gerowitz launches a fuzzed-out attack and blows things wide open. The Hamburger Isand tracks (T2, T5, T7) are noisy, vocal-led drone improvisations and available in a variety of track lengths for your programming convenience. Morning Landscape Illusion (T4) is a bluesy dirge with lots of filigreed horn work that slowly builds in intensity. Last track is a lonely, looper-ed, Bill Frisell-style send off.

Allen, Marshall Volcano Quartet – “Volcano Swing” – [Vibraphone Records]

Hemroid The Leader   12/28/2017   CD, Jazz

Marshall Allen Volcano Quartet, Volcano Swing

Marshall Allen was part of the Sun Ra Arkestra and this band is a continuation of that. They were in London in 2011 when a volcano exploded in Iceland, grounding all lights. The band took a three-day residency at Cafe Oto in North London.

They stopped by the BBC Radio to promote the gig and recorded this CD. First track is totally interstellar, but then they settle into a traumatic jazz quartet groove. the end of the CD there is a live interview and Marshall Allen reveals that he was a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra trapped in Seattle when Mount Saint Helens exploded in 1984.

Burrell, Kenny – “Cool Cookin'” – [Cadet Records]

Hemroid The Leader   12/19/2017   12-inch, Jazz

Detroit guitarist Kenny Burrell recorded at the Village Vanguard with Rochard Davis (b) and Roy Haynes (d). Also includes a mess of reissues from his other Cadet albums, even Christmas tunes. This is head-in-the-clouds stuff, but not interstellar. “Cool” guitar jazz.

Newsome, Sam – “Straight Horn of Africa, The a Path to Liberation” – [Self Released]

Hemroid The Leader   12/19/2017   CD, Jazz

Solo soprano sax originals by Sam Newsome, who was in Terence Blanchard’s band in the 90s. A solo investigation, “The Straight Horn of Africa,” ventures to many places – swinging, otherworldly sounds, African nature sounds, American jazz sounds, Mimmo-isms, Afrobeat and Highlife — it’s all here. Really cool sounds, pure, beautiful, strange.

Mazurek, Rob – “Chimeric Stoned Horn” – [Astral Spirits]

Max Level   12/18/2017   CD, Jazz

A fantastic listen. Trumpeter/cornetist Mazurek dives fully into electronic manipulation of his piccolo trumpet. Synth processing, samples, and loops are the tools being used. My impression is that the trumpet is largely the source of the sounds, and sometimes that is apparent, but a lot of the time it’s hard to tell–the sounds are bent and modified and crushed and corroded and squonked-out beyond recognition, so who knows? Mazurek’s super creative manipulation drops you into a sound-world the likes of which you have probably never heard before. Long tracks, short tracks, it’s all here. Fascinating.

Brooklyn Rider – “Spontaneous Symbols” – [In a Circle Records]

Hemroid The Leader   12/7/2017   CD, Jazz

New-music string quartet with compositions from Brooklyn composers Tyondai Braxton (Battles), Kyle Sanna, and others. You may wonder, “Why?” as the album starts with technically very difficult yet musically vacant material. Progressing through the material, I had a hard time connecting. Track 8 “Sequence …” is very different: seductive, melodic. Listening to the CD on repeat, successive listens were more interesting. I still feel special about Track 8 but… I dunno. Now it’s in your hands.

Sharrock, Linda Network, The – “Live At The Bab-ilo 25/VIII/2016” – [Improvising Beings]

lexi glass   11/22/2017   CD, Jazz


Second official release from the Linda Sharrock Network, the ensemble fronted by the renowned jazz vocalist and former wife and collaborator of Sonny, in a return to her art after suffering a debilitating stroke in 2009. The group’s recordings includes the 2014 (but even more resonant today) studio/live work No is No (Don’t Fuck Around with Your Women) and 2016’s They Begin to Speak.

Live, Vol. 1 is a ~50 minute a performance from the Bab-Ilo, a club in Montmartre. Sharrock’s mighty vocals are of course the heart of the work, exploring a unique range that I haven’t heard in free jazz, a strange middle range between the high-end gestures of Mario Rechtern’s sax, Itaru Oki’s trumpet, flugelhorn, and flute, and the deeper sounds from Yoram Rosilio’s bass, Makoto Sato’s rumbling percussion and Lucien Johnson’s tenor sax. In her tortured wails you can hear both the extreme pain and delirious joy of creation. Another standout element in the work is the the accordion of Claude Parle: at the start of the piece, he adds long pulls of the instrument, but later creates rapid skittering tones that resemble a tape-rewinding sound, or sometimes Sun Ra’s synths. A powerful performance that can be viewed here.

Escreet, John – “Unknown, The” – [Sunnyside Records]

Hemroid The Leader   11/21/2017   CD, Jazz

Totally improvised music from talented improvisers, quality live recording. Pianist John Escreet adds Evan Parker to his working trio of bassist John Hebert and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. The quartet has recorded previously in 2014. This Feb 2016 live recording in Holland documents their first time playing completely improvised music. Two long Tunes, from consecutive dates- the first 45 minutes the second 30 minutes and it ends with the audience clapping. Well worth it. Shows a lot of range from sensitive Stillness to overblown Madness. Top-level musicianship. Tyshawn Sorey is a great drummer.

Hearts & Minds – “Hearts and Minds” – [Astral Spirits]

Phil Phactor   11/7/2017   12-inch, Jazz


Man oh man, does free jazz get more fun than this? I don’t think so. Coming out of Chicago and released on Austin-based cassette label Astral Spirits (“new wave of heavy free jazz”), Hearts and Minds is a trio composed of bass clarinetist Jason Stein (fun fact: Amy Schumer’s brother), keyboardist Paul Giallorenzo, and drummer Frank Rosaly. Giallorenzo often sounds like two players in one, playing bass lines with his left hand while doubling the melody with the right. Other times he’s putting down smooth chords, getting noisy (a la the recent Thollem/Mazurek record), or spinning out tender melodies (check the solo on Irresolute). Jason Stein is the star of the show. A master on the bass clarinet, he can do all the free jazz tricks???clicking sounds, dissonant overtones, rapid-fire passages, circular breathing???but he’s also always melodic and always swinging. On Three for One, he lays down some klezmer-esque wailing over a slinky Sun Ra groove and then leads you down into a dark underworld that slowly fractures and expands before your eyes (ears?). Almost overshadowed in all of this is superstar drummer Frank Rosaly, never flashy, but pushing and pulling behind the scenes and always keeping it groovy. Great, great stuff that will appeal to fans of both traditional and free jazz, as well as prog, funk, noise, +++.

Shipp, Matthew Quartet – “Not Bound” – [Fortune Records]

Phil Phactor   11/1/2017   CD, Jazz

Matthew Shipp adds wind player Daniel Carter to his long-time trio composed of Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums. The group works with an easy familiarity, favoring patient exploration over fast-paced fireworks. The opener soul secrets (T1) sets the tone for the album: a moody, modal composition which sees the bandmembers anticipating each others moves and effortlessly passing motifs around. If you associate Shipp with thundering left-hand chords, you’ll find a different side of him here. The track is (T2) opens with two minutes of drums over a walking bass line followed by spare, angular trumpet lines from Carter that recall middle-period Miles Davis. The group generates the most heat on totality (T4), which is also, to my mind, the most satisfying. A solid outing.

Adams, Steve / Perkis, Tim – “a Few Eccentricities” – [Self Released]

Max Level   10/24/2017   CD, Jazz

This is delightful. Check out Adams (ROVA Saxophone Quartet) on various saxes and flutes playing duets with electronics master Perkis. On some of the pieces the two players work within the same timbral environment and pitch range, rendering the line between the two less than clear. But not always– sometimes it is quite obvious who is doing what, just as one would expect with duets involving such dissimilar instruments. Each piece explores different terrain and they are all compelling and fun to listen to. A great release from two local musical treasures.

Mimmo, Gianni – “One Way Ticket” – [Amirani Records/Amirani Contemporary]

Naysayer   10/23/2017   CD, Jazz

Gianni Mimmo is that unique musician/artist that is so dedicated to his craft, his art, that he really lives it to the fullest. “One Way Ticket” is a solo project for this soprano sax jazz improviser, but here the improvisation is with a twist. The fifteen selections, bookended by spoken word, include original compositions and eight interpretations of classic works by artists including, Mingus, Lacy, Monk, Webern, and Ellington. On the international jazz circuit, Mimmo is compared to Steve Lacy in his skill and expertise. It shows here. Interweaving such an array of sounds and tones Mimmo plays with ideas, elongating sounds and then switching shape with lightening speed. The recording is so intimate that we hear Mimmo’s breathing, his buzz into the horn, his fingers pressing the keys and the keys moving on the saxophone. These sounds become faint, but continuous percussive additions to the sound of the sax itself. Unique, challenging, elegant. .

Mezzacappa, Lisa – “AvantNOIR” – [Clean Feed]

Max Level   10/17/2017   CD, Jazz

A great record. It may as well be subtitled “People Up to No Good in Sketchy Locations in San Francisco at Night” because that is exactly what it sounds like. A high concept record–music composed by bassist/bandleader Mezzacappa as accompaniment to (and extension of) noir literary works and films that she found intriguing and inspirational. Her detailed liner notes lay it all out. The music is skillfully realized by an ensemble of first-rate local jazz/avant-garde players. It twists and turns, making the listener wonder what is waiting in the next dark alley. Snippets of film dialog pop up here and there, and I like the way the electronics of Tim Perkis add a sense of subtle unease throughout. An evocative ride through nighttime SF more than a few decades ago… Fillmore Street, Army Street (not Cesar Chavez), Green Street, etc.

Centazzo, Andrea/ Sakata, Akira/ Fujiwara, Kiyoto – “Bridges” – [Ictus]

Phil Phactor   10/4/2017   CD, Jazz

Reeds/drums/bass exploration recorded in Milan in 2012. Although Sakata has worked with both Bill Laswell and DJ Krush, he stays well within the free jazz idiom herm, with a soulful, searching sound that recalls both Ornette Coleman and Steve Lacy. What really makes this album special, however, is the near-telepathic communication among the band members, all the more remarkable given that this was their first meeting. The first track begins with the players quietly testing each other, but they quickly cohere around a common thread and move through a variety of spaces. The second track is quiet and contemplative, with Sakata switching to clarinet, Centazzo dazzling us with an array of bells and chimes, and Fujiwara drawing out tones with his bow. Track 3 picks up the pace again, and then on track 4, we’re in for a treat as Sakata puts down his horn and grunts and growls his way through a Damo Suzuki-esque dirge. The last track is based on Stella by Starlight and sees the drums and bass play it (relatively) straight while Sakata blows over the top. Overall, well worth your time if you’re into this sort of thing.

Winslow, Conrad – “Perfect Nothing Catalog, The” – [Innova Recordings]

billiejoe   10/4/2017   CD, Jazz

Conrad Winslow is a composer working in Brooklyn from Alaska and has studied at NYU and Juilliard. The group is violin, flute, cello, and percussion. It’s got that fun silence silence silence then crash John Cage feel I personally enjoy. The whole thing is also a performance piece with costume and candles and choreographed ritual-like movements. Very brainy High Art kinda stuff.
-Billie Joe Tolliver

Mezei, Szilard / Guazzaloca, Nicola – “Lucca and Bologna Concerts” – [Amirani Records/Amirani Contemporary]

Naysayer   9/18/2017   CD, Jazz

A brilliant recording by Hungarian viola player, Szilard Mezei and Italian piano player, Nicola Guazzaloca. These master musicians pair up for recordings at 2 concerts and give performances of improvisational bliss. From slow and quiet almost silence, to loud bursts of volatile sound, Szilard bows, scratches and engulfs his viola, nursing and cursing a rich array of sounds, even bits and hints of Hungarian folk tunes. Nicaola, plucks and strums the inside of the piano then moves to eloquent chords, patterns, trills and other innovations on the piano keyboard. The interplay between them is thrilling to listen to, hearing the two shadow and mimic each other, then explore around the other’s sounds. Serious for sure, but fun. Lots of fun from these improvisers.

Animals & Giraffes – “July” – [Edgetone Records]

Phil Phactor   8/28/2017   CD, Jazz

being on top is a good hip opener – claudia la rocco’s voice is a quiet snarl: calm, measured, sometimes provocative, always defiant. – remember the way her legs spear and thrust – each track finds her accompanied by a different set of bay area musicians. – put the mountain in a box, put the box in a dumpster – rumblings and rattlings, abrasive synths, extended techniques galore, the sounds are sometimes with and sometime against, but always underneath. – your skin looks buttery and delicious – it’s la rocco’s voice that dominates, telling stories about ballet, the body, poisonous relationships, and sexual violence. – you don’t cry anymore when you’re sad – smack in the middle of the album, “public access” (T5) sees la rocca in conversation with saxophonist david boyce and the mood briefly relaxes. – do you want that kind of attention?