Music Reviews

López, Brandon – “vilevilevilevilevilevilevilevile” – [Tao Forms]

Preston Peace   5/8/2023   CD, Jazz

This young man from North Jersey viciously attacks his double bass on these solo performances. His technique varies between sawing, plucking, and even drumming on the instrument’s wooden body (“Piri”). Agitated hummed vocals accompany “LikeTheEdgeOfAMachete” and “RealBadVibes”, the former reminiscent of William Parker’s “Sonic Animation” with more force and anguish. Some of the textures López coaxes from his strings resemble tormented wind instruments more than a bass. At other times, creaking doors, idling engines, and other nonmusical sources come to mind. On the final track, “The Real Bad Vibe”, it sounds as though his bass might disintegrate under the strain at any moment. A sinister, anxious feeling underlines the entire experience, as though some deep-seated wrong were being suddenly uncovered.

Unknown to Known – “Live at the Library Lounge” – [Self Release]

aarbor   5/2/2023   CD, Jazz

Unknown to Known is a quartet with Idris Rahman and Tamar Osborn on woodwinds, Jihad Darwish oscillating between the sitar, double bass and electric bass, and Yusuf Ahmed on the drums and various hybrid percussion instruments. The nature of this band’s instrumentation means that performances can be entirely acoustic or amplified. This was a conscious decision made at conception. This is a live improvised performance amongst the books of The Standard’s Library Lounge in London; spanning order and chaos, science and religion, myths and symbols. AArbor

Ahmed, Yazz – “Polyhymnia” – [Ropeadope Records]

aarbor   4/14/2023   12-inch, Jazz

Born in London to a British mother and a Bahraini father, Yazz Ahmed spent her childhood in Bahrain before returning to London at the age of nine. She started playing the trumpet at an early age, encouraged by her maternal grandfather Terry Brown, a jazz trumpet player. In addition to the trumpet she plays the fluegelhorn and is a composer. This is her third album, released in 2019.  Polyhymnia is the Greek muse of music, poetry and dance, a character whom Ahmed describes as “a goddess for the arts“, it is a six-movement suite devoted to “six women of exceptional qualities, role models with whom [she] felt a strong bond”: Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, Ruby Bridges, Haaifa Al-Mansour, Barbara Thompson, and the Suffragettes. Most Americans know that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus in November 1955, but don’t know that the bus number was 2857, which is the name of the track devoted to Rosa. Ruby Bridges was also a Civil Rights activist. She was the first and only African-American child to enter the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960, escorted by 4 Federal Marshalls, as a part of the integration of the New Orleans school system. An advocate for female education Malala Yousafzai was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize in 2014. Haifaa Al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female film director. Her wish is to empower women and girls to use the arts as a “gentle way to catalyse a change”. Barbara Thompson is one of the UK’s leading saxophone players who is also a bandleader and composer despite having Parkinson’s disease. Ahmed’s music brings in many elements: a New Orleans carnival for Ruby Bridges, the number 2857 represented metrically and melodically for Rosa Parks, reworking the Suffragettes’ protest song, “Shoulder to Shoulder” with jazz harmony, Arabic scales and rhythms for the track “Deeds not Words”. Her use of Arabic musical materials throughout are very distinctive and quite wonderful. She even had a quarter-tone flugelhorn specially made, to allow her to use scales specific to Arabic music. The musicians here are mostly women and from Tomorrow’s Warriors – Started by the Jazz Warriors it is the leading program producing the most exciting New London Jazz artists. AArbor

Sun Ra Arkestra – “Living Sky” – [Omni Sonic]

karma   4/13/2023   12-inch, Jazz

Third album by Sun Ra Arkestra with Marshall Allen as bandleader. Allen is a sprightly 98 years old, but shows no signs of slowing down. This album was commissioned by Ahmet Ulug, who runs the American-Turkish label Omni Sound (named after a quote by Sun Ra that he wrote in Istanbul).

This album is all instrumental, and starts with a reinterpretation of Chopin’s Prelude in A Major. “Somebody Else’s Idea” without vocals adds a different dimension. The EVI sounds like a human voice vocalizing, leaving the listener to interpret the meaning. Marshall Allen composes three songs for this album, and the two disc set ends with a cover of ‘Wish upon a Star’ (from Pinocchio).

Excellent jazz that shows that the Arkestra can be contemporary and relevant while respecting the tradition and teachings of Sun Ra.

Haldeman, Tim – “Open Water as a Child” – [Woolgathering Records]

carsonstreet   3/21/2023   CD, Jazz

Open Water As a Child, by saxophonist Tim Haldemanwas originally conceived as a one-off concert for the Ann Arbor Jazz Festival. Tim says of the work, “The concert was a love letter to our friends and neighbors in Flint, who’ve been enduring the tragic results of the total failure by those ‘in power’. I needed a way to express my anger and sadness, so I reached out to some friends. The musical arrangements are loose, leaving space for the musicians to improvise. Recently my favorite thing about playing music is to explore how a piece can grow unpredictably into something new. What I wrote was a launching pad for the musicians. I wanted to hear what everyone would do with it.” Minimal, quiet with poetic readings on some tracks. You’ll feel as if you are in a beat cafe.

Noertker’s Moxie – “Pantomime In Billville” – [Edgetone Records]

carsonstreet   3/21/2023   CD, Jazz

In 2001, Bill Noertker formed Noertker’s Moxie as a vehicle for his thematic compositions. Since then he has composed over 150 pieces of music and has released sixteen CDs, including the soundtrack for Curious Worlds: the Art and Imagination of David Beck and the extended suites Sketches of Catalonia; The Blue Rider; The Druidh; and Tricycle. The pieces herein are Noertker’s reflections on his travels, his encounters with art, his penchant for poetry, his love of Catalonia, his sense of wonder at words, his fondness for the tritone, his fascination with film. Sweet – play it.

Galper, Hal – “Ivory Forest Redux” – [Origin Records]

carsonstreet   3/21/2023   CD, Jazz

Pianist Hal Galper and guitarist John Scofield have come together beautifully despite their differences. Scofield’s 1979 quartet release, Rough House featured Galper, along with bassist Stafford James and then young drummer, Adam Nussbaum. In essence, the groundbreaking pianist had found a partner who simply allowed him to be himself. Galper’s 1980 release, Ivory Forest was supposed to be Scofield’s next offering, but he was unable to release it in his name following his signing with a different label. Galper became the de facto leader of the date, an easy adjustment considering that he had composed all four original compositions on the album. Hal Galper along with John Scofield, Wayne Dockery and Adam Nussbaum – hard to beat.

Frankel, Danny w/ Cline, Nels and Goldings, Larry – “The Interplanetary Note/Beat Conference” – [Self-release]

carsonstreet   3/21/2023   CD, Jazz

Danny Frankel says of this album: “I want to talk about my new record, The Interplanetary Note/Beat Conference, with Nels Cline (Nels Cline Singers, Wilco) and Larry Goldings (who’s played with Jack DeJohnette and John Scofield). I started planning the recording a few years back. I was on a tour and spontaneously I’d write an idea in the back of the tour book on the blank pages. I’d write down an image real quick, like, “Let’s pretend we’re driving in a car in Israel in 1967.” (That became “Gypsy Cabster” with theatrical electric sitar, nutty ’60s drumbeat, and Teischord electric keyboard.) On that song I solo for eight bars towards the end, and I tried to capture the phrasing of a drunk poet. My friend Pablo calls this recording a psychedelic organ trio. Money Mark says he likes to clean his house while it’s on! It’s all good.” This is notes on the back of a napkin music. Jazz with some psych, some ambient and some experimental.

Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quartet – “Where Here Meets There” – [Self Release]

carsonstreet   3/21/2023   CD, Jazz

Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quartet led by vibraphonist, percussionist Brian O’ Neil categorizes itself as travelling to a future moment where American music is as exotic as its past. Hence, a persuasive declaration as the band combines Eastern modalities with cool jazz grooves and world music. They also delve into the annals of American popular music by performing three Gershwin compositions and one comp by jazz vibraphonist Cal Tjader amid several group-penned originals.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – “Hypnotic Brass Ensemble” – [Honest Jons Records]

aarbor   3/15/2023   CD, Jazz

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is an eight-piece, Chicago-based brass ensemble consisting of eight sons of the jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran. Their musical style ranges from hip hop to jazz to funk and rock, including calypso and gypsy music. The brothers were raised in a house where music was a constant element of the household. Phil Cohran’s “Circle of Sound” held rehearsals in the living room and put on live shows in the adjacent loft/theatre called the “Sun Ark”. The brothers were obliged to wake at 6am and play their horns before and after school. As adolescents, they played around Chicago as the Phil Cohran Youth Ensemble. Later they played in the subway and on the street. Here they are joined by such luminaries as Tony Allen [6], Malcolm Catto [1,2,11,12], and Damon Albarn [13]. This is their first full length from 2009. All tracks worthy. AArbor

Schubert, Frank Paul, Kazuhisa Uchihashi and Klaus Kugel – “Black Holes are Hard to Find” – [Nemu]

davidjames   2/20/2023   CD, Jazz

Highly atmospheric and exploratory alto and soprano saxophones, guitar/electronics, and percussion.  Seven contrasting pieces move in and out of various grooves and moods; highly pantonal, and polyrhythmic. The fantastic, extended title track is replete with rhythmic invention; a masterful performance by the trio.  All of the tracks flow together orchestrally; this group really knows how to stretch out. The closest historical parallel might be music by the late Steve Lacy, the soprano saxophonist, if that description works.  Five stars!

~David James

Noah Garabedian – “Consider the Stars Beneath Us” [Outside In Music]

Albion Moonlight   2/17/2023   CD, Jazz

Albion Moonlight 2/22/23 CD, A Library

Bassist and composer of Armenian descent, Noah Garabedian leads a quintet including Dayna Stephans (saxophones), Carmen Staaf (piano), Jimmy Macbride (drums), and Samuel Adams (Effects, programming, additional recording), who also produced the album. The album is dedicated to Garabedian’s father, about whom he says “… this album is neither a eulogy nor a memorial. It is a celebration of his life and spirit, as well as all the celestial bodies who continue to guide us through life.”

The production is sublime. The electronics are very subtle. Garabedian says ” …releasing a purely acoustic album would have been misleading as to whom I am as an artist right now. …it’s all about finding balance between acoustic and electronic sounds.” The quintet’s playing is very light and precise. It has a 70s ECM Records feel. Lush and pleasant.


RedGreenBlue – “The End and the Beginning” – [Astral Spirits]

Thurston Hunger   12/6/2022   CD, Jazz

Note for the Goodwrench DJ Review send two KFJC boxtops to the station…

You could start at the Beginning, side A listen for a few minutes to the upright bass question mark, over organ drone and gong/rim-shot/tap of drums, and take a guess where they are from. The land of Art Ensemble, of Underground Duo/Quartet/Orchestra Something about Chicago that produces the slinkiest, suavest grooves. This album feels like a separated at birth twin to Joshua Abrams’ “Represencing” – mystical winds blowing in off the Lake? Charlie Kirchen’s bass leads the meditation, Ryan Packard’s percussion is aquatic, but keep an ear on Paul Giallorenzo’s keys which hit your BuddhaMachine right on the third eye towards the end of this side long piece. Or perhaps start on the flip side with “The End” where Kirchen is more insistent, but still a man making a bass statement. His mates are joined by Ben LaMar Gay who percolates on his cornet for 10 or so minutes before Giallorenzo’s organ shimmers in for a calming respite. The quartet spends some time in a darker place before rising radiance before a solemn end to “The End.”
-Thurston Hunger
PS Hah, looking up Ben, he’s connected to the Natural Information Society helmed by Abrams. Chicago improv scene a small world with big sound!

Mazzy, Jimmy / Newberger, Eli – “Shake It Down” – [Stomp Off Records]

karma   12/4/2022   CD, Jazz

1996 release. Jimmy Mazzy and Eli Newberger are traditional jazz musicians. Unlike classic jazz (which is different than traditional jazz), this album features banjo (Mazzy) and tuba (Newberger). The goal of the album was to record jazz and traditional pop standards in the country blues style. The result is accessible without being pedestrian; tributary without being derivative. Though innovative with its choice of instrumentation, the album is old-school, good-time jazz. In an era where it seems like everything is rapidly changing and change occurs for the sake of change, it is nice to have some things just like they used to be.

Connors, Loren, and Carter, Daniel – “The Departing of a Dream Vol. VII” – [Family Vineyard]

Brian Damage   11/18/2022   12-inch, Jazz

A dark, atmospheric release from two of those New York avante-garde cats, Loren Connors (guitar) and Daniel Carter (horns, reeds).

It’s two 15-minute soundscapes; the soundtrack to being trapped in a huge, dark cave. There is music out there, somewhere. You can hear it, but you can’t precisely locate it. Is it meant to reassure, or menace?

It’s either the soundtrack to a dream, or a nightmare.

Ford, Ricky – “The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Pauls Scene” – [Whaling City Sound]

Brian Damage   11/14/2022   CD, Jazz

Ricky Ford may not have the public profile of some of our other tenor giants, but that makes his playing no less compelling. Now 68, he has played in some legendary bands: the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the age of 20, Charles Mingus, Dannie Richmond, the Mingus Dynasty, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Mal Waldron. He has recorded with Yusef Lateef, Sonny Stitt, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, and more.

All this varied background comes pouring out on Paul’s Scene: a virtuosic performance from start to finish, in many modern jazz styles. Lighting the fuse with a gorgeous bossa nova, Mr. Ford moves from strength to strength, ripping through a dozen tracks in perfect form. There’s not a clunker in the bunch. Inventive, lyrical, melodic playing, a smokin’ band (Mark Soskin – piano, Jerome Harris – bass, Barry Altschul – drums), fantastic songwriting and arrangements, and an impeccable recording make this a winner.

Let’s cut to the chase: Paul’s Scene is the best modern jazz record of the year. It gets my highest recommendation.

Robbe, Fabien – “24 Preludes” – [Mazeto Square]

Brian Damage   11/14/2022   CD, Jazz

Fabien Robbe is a French musician from Brittany. A precocious musician, he started in on trumpet at a very young age until he discovered his neighbor’s piano at age 7. A diversion to electric guitar in his teens and twenties faded, and he found himself back with his real love: piano.

24 Préludes is a newly-recorded collection of pieces of music he has been writing over a period of 35 years. The influences range from soundtracks, to Vince Guaraldi-esque piano jazz, to Chopin etudes, yet it all sounds of-a-piece because it comes from the mind and hands of one person.

This is really delightful, and there is something here for everyone, even if only to use as a sonic palate cleanser to juxtapose between heavier or more disparate things. This is ripe for use as a topping on a sonic layer cake on Day of Experiments!

I love it; I’m going to play it. You should, too.

Ambarchi, Oren / Berthling, Johan / Werliin, Andreas – “Ghosted” – [Drag City]

Thurston Hunger   10/25/2022   12-inch, Jazz

Clearlight dawn, open freeway, gas tank filled, mind empty but lucid and ready for the road. This Drag City lp embarks in pristine manner. On the flip side it travels at night, headlights off easing up on the accelerator. Exquisite drone/jazz/rock ragas for a three piece, although the mesmerizing lead-off track features a guest passenger riding shotgun on the ngoni, Christer Bothen. Bothen is no stranger to playing with Fire! And 2/3 of that Swedish project are here as the engine, Johan Berthling on bass and Andreas Werliin on drums. (Side note: KFJC has an Oren + full Fire! trio 2012 release including a flaming Mats Gustaffson). The entire album is a smooth ride from start to finish, merges lanes with The Necks in that vivid hypnotic. Ambarchi through-out adds treated guitar vapors, almost there/not-there, like the air with the windows down, or the freeway vanishing on the distant horizon.

-Thurston Hunger

Clevenger, Nathan – “I had a Dream About Amnesia” – [Apoplectics]

carsonstreet   10/19/2022   CD, Jazz

Nathan is from Oakland, CA. i had a dream about amnesia presents two suites of new music, composed and recorded during the Covid-19 quarantine. Five Memos from the New Millennium (for Lee Konitz)’ is a series of pieces composed for soloists and duos to perform during lockdown.
Trio 2021(the last three tracks) is a suite of pieces for trio, composed on plague themes, and premiered live (in the studio) as part of the online festival, Unsolitary Music Series. Really impressive supporting cast including: Cory Wright (bass clainet), Kasey Knudsen (alto sax), Sam Bevan (bass), Mark Clifford (vibraphone) Johnn Finkbeiner (guitar), Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), Beth Schenck, Nathan Clevenger (piano, guitar, percussion) and Jordan Glenn (drums percussion). Minimalist with a classical feel on many tracks. Not in your face experimental but not trad jazz either. Very nice.

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