KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Dickey, Whit Trio – "Expanding Light" – [Tao Forms]

aarbor   2/24/2021   CD, Jazz

Whit Dickey made a name for himself as the former drummer of David S. Ware’s famous quartet. Since then Dickey’s musical contributions have gone well beyond his work as a drummer. Dickey is also composer. In recent years he has been recording with small groups. Here he plays with a new trio: his long time collaborator alto saxophonist Rob Brown, and an amazing young bass player, Brandon Lopez. Dickey described the experience of recording with his new trio as “incessantly and mightily grabbing the dragon by the tail, and not caring.” In other words, losing oneself to intangible inspiration, wherever it may lead. The result is a visceral ferocity that is very appealing. AArbor

Fuller, Wesley – "Seven By Seven" – [Neuma]

aarbor   2/17/2021   CD, Jazz

Wesley Fuller died at the age of 89 as this, his first full length release was about to be pressed. He was a pioneer in the field of electroacoustic music. His music combines acoustic instruments (piano, violin, viola, flute and percussion) and fixed media (formerly known as tape). It illustrates the development of electroacoustic music over the decades – from 1970s-era analog synthesizers housed in institutions to living room digital studios. He described his approach here by saying “…the computer is being used as a composer, and it is, if you will, a kind of collaboration between composers.” AArbor

Newberger / Mazzy / Thompson – "Men They Will Become, The" – [Stomp Off Records]

aarbor   2/10/2021   CD, Jazz

Eli Newberger is a pediatrician and a musician whose undergrad studies were at Juilliard. In 1999 he wrote a book called The Men They Will Become and was inspired to get his Dixieland outfit together to record a companion album to the book looking at issues in the book with a musical lens. This could be a trite rehash of well-known old tunes, but it isn’t – there are some absolute treasures here. The 3 musicians (tuba, piano, clarinet and voice) recreate these tunes with love, expertise and a slight edge which make them well worth playing. (love the tuba!) Tracks 5 and 20 are instrumentals. AArbor

Nels Cline Singers, The – “Share The Wealth” – [Blue Note]

SlartiBartfast   1/24/2021   12-inch, Jazz

This is a trippy, noisy, rocking, and fuzzy fusion/prog/psyche Jazz 2020 release from the sextet of The Nels Cline Singers. No singing here, except for one track with some guttural vocal whispers. This is a musical journey through a wide range of musical styles. Imagine taking a bit of DNA from the Mahavishnu Orch., Charlie Hunter, King Crimson, John Zorn, and a hint of Zappa, mixed it all together, and creating a finely crafted 2LP release on Blue Note. With Nels Cline (gt fx), Scott Amendola (dr), Skerik  (ten. Sax, fx), Trevor Dunn (bass, fx), Brian Marsella (keys, fx), and Cyro Baptista (perc.), “Share the Wealth” is bound to appeal to a wide array of musical tastes and ears. It will keep your mind swirling and your toes tapping.

Cohran, Kelan Philip & The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – "Kelan Philip Cohran & The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble" – [Honest Jon's Records]

aarbor   12/9/2020   12-inch, Jazz

Phil Cohran was a jazz musician, best known for playing the trumpet in the Sun Ra Arkestra from 1959-1961 and for founding the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and Afro-Arts Theatre. This was one of his last recordings (from 2012, he died in 2017 at the age of 90). At times it sounds like a New Orleans brass band, at times like klezmer, at times like Balkan gypsy music, at times like Red Baraat, but it cooks and is always interesting. AArbor 

Greenleif, Phillip – "Bellingham For David Ireland" – [500 Capp Street Foundation]

humana   11/23/2020   CD, Jazz

This is a fascinating jazz experience made richer by reading the liner notes as you listen to the 60+ minutes of jazz diffusing throughout the David Ireland House (which is an art installation created by the late artist David Ireland) in the Mission District of San Francisco. Greenlief composed this map-work, which, if you look closely at the album cover, is just that–a score based on the jigsaw pieces of maps of Bellingham, Washington, where Ireland grew up. The live performance was based on the score, but also on the conversations among the musicians placed in various locales of the house, along with the ambient noises such as sirens coming from both the inside and outside of the house. Greenlief set up in the entryway with his sax where he hoped to be able to hear the gongs, percussion, contrabass, violin, voice, tuba, and electronics emanating from different rooms in the two-story house. This is an ineffable aural treat.

Cramp, Dominic / Khoury, Mike / Greenlief, Phillip / Robair, – Compassion and Evidence -[Creative Sources Recording]

Max Level   11/3/2020   CD, Jazz

Electronics, keyboards, percussion, reeds, and viola in amorphous music/sound improvisations performed at Oakland’s Temescal Arts Center in 2018. Local improv stalwarts Greenlief and Robair are quite familiar to me; the other two players not so much. I enjoyed the electronic/keyboards/percussion angle the most, although it is nice to hear the reeds and viola come to the forefront every now and then. A couple of short pieces (3 to 4 mins) and a couple of longer ones (13 and 27 mins.)

Trio Linguae – “Signals” – [Origin Records]

aarbor   9/9/2020   CD, Jazz

Trio Linguae (lin-gwee) is trumpeter Kevin Woods, Guitarist John Stowell and pianist Miles Black. This is their debut release. It’s a collection of original works by Woods and Black and some others from the likes of Jobim, Wayne Shorter, Bill Evans and Harold Arlen.

AArbor

Parker, Maceo – "Soul Food – Cooking With Maceo" – [Funk Garage]

Sir Cumference   7/29/2020   CD, Jazz

This is the first studio album in eight years from this legendary sax machine.

Covering songs from Dr. John, The Meters, Allen Toussaint, Aretha Franklin, Prince and even a couple of his own back catalog, Parker seasoned his funk with talent from around New Orleans where the album was recorded to give these tracks a little of that big easy sound.

Maceo’s version Prince’s “Other Side of the Pillow” really gives off a Ray Charles vibe – which is apparently what he set out to do! And speaking of Ray Charles, the track Hard Times – originally performed by Charles’ sax man, David “Fathead” Newman – and the final track “Grazing in the Grass” (along with “…Pillow”) are more towards the soul and jazz end of this album’s spectrum, with the others leaning towards the funkier edge.

Nothing earth-shattering in this release, but some quite serviceable tunes to get us through these interesting times.

Boone, Benjamin With The Ghana Jazz Collective – “Joy” – [Origin Records]

aarbor   7/1/2020   CD, Jazz

Benjamin Boone is a  saxophonist, composer, and Professor of Music at California State University Fresno. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Ghana from 2017-18). He grew up in the small textile town of Statesville, North Carolina, the youngest of five sons. “My brothers pursued history, literature, art and biology, so I have always gravitated towards interdisciplinary projects,” he says. “I like to make artistic statements that address culturally relevant topics …” While he was in Ghana he performed with the musicians on this release: Bernard Ayisa (tenor sax), Victor Dey, Jr. (keyboards), Bright Osei (bass), Frank Kissi (drums) and Sandra Hudson (vocals). This recording was made the week before he left Ghana. Tracks 1, 3, 5 and 6 are Boone’s compositions, the others are his arrangements. Boone says: “In Ghana music is participatory, egoless, and woven into the very fabric of existence. People live with joy and make music with joy.”

 AArbor  

Mitchell, Roscoe Sextet – "Sound" – [Delmark Records]

Cousin Mary   6/14/2020   CD, Jazz

This Sextet working from the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) recorded these tracks in 1966. It skronks, plunks, and shrieks and is not for the faint hearted. But it is lightened with flashes of grace and humor (harmonica on track 2!) that show its humanity.

Mezzacappa, Lisa Six – Cosmicomics – [Queen Bee]

Max Level   4/21/2020   CD, Jazz

Bay Area composer/bassist/bandleader Mezzacappa writes the material and leads a first-rate ensemble of local musicians. These engaging compositions are jazz-based but draw from many other traditions as well. They take their inspiration from the “Cosmicomics” series of short stories by author Italo Calvino—the liner notes provide elaboration on the story behind each piece. Many of the tracks do lean in a cosmic direction, with titles such as ‘The Soft Moon’, ‘Solar Storms’, ‘The Distance of the Moon’, and ‘The Form of Space.’ The three tracks with ‘Signs’ in the title are mood pieces by way of conducted improvisation. I like the way electronics wizard Tim Perkis lays out for long periods, entering every now and then to enhance the mood with unexpected sounds. Also, for some reason Mark Clifford’s vibraphone sounds like moonlight to me, which seems totally appropriate for this material. Mezzacappa’s instincts always serve her music well and while it is not always obvious, one can often detect a sly sense of humor informing her composing and arranging.

Pike, Dave – Jazz For The Jet Set – [Atlantic (Jazz)]

aarbor   2/5/2020   12-inch, Jazz

Recorded in NYC in the Fall of 1965. Vibraphonist Dave Pike plays mariba here and Herbie Hancock plays the organ (an instrument he rarely played again).  This is Herbie Mann’s first outing as a record producer. The charm of this album is that even though it’s a “Jazz” album it’s also got a dash of boogaloo and pop with catchy melodies. AArbor

Hooker, William – "…Is Eternal Life" – [Superior Viaduct]

Thurston Hunger   1/27/2020   12-inch, Jazz

Portrait of the Shaman as a Young Drummer. William and friends, 1975-76 – two recorded at public libraries, thee very bastion of civilization (and apparently at times of free jazz!). Four sides. Live. Very very live.

Drum Form – Starts with William singing, less the ecstatic prophet and more the spiritual poet. Gentle bells chime. One man, two arms, a mind and a mouth all firing, and the cat ends up scatting into the distance.

Soy: Material/Seven – David Murray on sweet sax spirals, Mark Miller on bass. Miller mostly scurries after Murray though sometimes strums half chords. William surrounds them both, whole lotta snare going on. Some of his riding the sound those “aaaaah” yells in the mix, around 10min William takes the helm solo. Hi-hat attack. The trio reconnects, things get a little saltier. Yo, soy the sauce.

Passages (Anthill) – David S. Ware leaps into the breach like Ayler on fire, William battening down the flames. Man, by 7:50 the duo is working! William especially. Whatever you call this (passages/anthill?) it’s a helluva rollercoaster!

Pieces I & II – Way way way out in space. A trinary star system with William trading rays and ripples with Les Goodson and Hasaan Dawkins. Quite a vortex of sound.

Above and Beyond – Going out the way we came in, William singing to his skins. Deep drum rolls! Ceremony or solo performance?

Cool early capture of a man who permeates KFJC library. I will always remember (and always be enthralled) hearing his “Architecture (The Book Of Numbers)”

-Thurston Hunger

Radical Empathy Trio – Reality and Other Imaginary Places – [Esp-Disk]

Max Level   1/21/2020   CD, Jazz

Three masterful improvisers—Thollem McDonas – keyboards, Nels Cline – guitar, and Michael Wimberly – drums–present two 18-minute pieces of inspired improvisation, recorded 2017 in Brooklyn. We feel very early on that we are in good hands. I especially enjoy hearing Thollem’s acoustic piano give way to his electronic keyboards, usually leading to some noisy interactions with Cline’s guitar, and then back again. As usual, Cline’s guitar exists on a completely different plane from the rest of us–he’s that advanced. Wimberly’s tasteful percussion accents are pretty much perfect throughout. Dive in.

Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra – “I Roam The Cosmos” – [Art Yard]

humana   10/6/2019   12-inch, Jazz

This is an unreleased performance recorded at Slug’s Saloon in New York in July of 1972. It’s pretty incredible that, even though Sun Ra left this earthly plain in 1993, his words, music, and compositions continue to reverberate through time and space. Vocalist June Tyson recites the lyrics to “Astro Black” over the backdrop of “Discipline 27-II”, followed by a call and response between Tyson and Sun Ra set to the horns and instruments of the Arkestra. The vibe is mellow and accessible. The liner notes are a must-read as they describe Sun Ra’s connections to Egypt, the sun, and the cosmos.

Shoup, Wally / Bill Horist / Paul Kikuchi – “Chemical Language” – [New Atlantis Records]

abacus   8/16/2019   CD, Jazz

free and expressive rock more than anything, heavy on both on creative on sonic levels, this seattle jazz improv power trio rips throughout. wally is the ultimate party man, rip roaring with jazz heads for decades, bill’s precise preparations and explorations redefine what guitars are meant to do, and kikuchi flows freely within the intuitive improv these heads carry (and with a wealth of technical and extended techniques to boot). the album title basically lays it out for you, cuz i guess sound is psychoactive on a chemical level or something?

Remez, Nadav, Tyshawn Sorey, and Antonin Tri Hoang – “ELK3” – [Out Now Recordings]

atavist   7/8/2019   CD, Jazz

This is a recording of a fairly spontaneous collaboration that spun out of an improvised music workshop the three musicians attended in 2014. Guitar, drums, alto saxophone and, occasionally, piano and bass clarinet, dip their toes in the water, splash around a bit, and then retreat into silent spaces. Track 5 in particular has a few of those extended near-silences that can be difficult to translate to radio. When the sound gradually returns, the reed instrument provides a nice droney texture. Much of the record, by contrast, is punctuated by the off-balance drum fills, saxophone-as-mosquito, and guitar picking invoking broken glass experienced during free jazz explorations. It’s good to be getting more of Tyshawn Sorey into the library. This third addition is certainly the most frenetic and clearly improvised piece we’ve added by him. I particularly enjoyed his piano work on track 7.

Antonyms 1 – “Established Mode of Speech” – [Sub Rosa]

Cousin Mary   7/2/2019   CD, Jazz

These four tracks by a saxophone quartet (Steve Lacy on soprano, Ned Rothenberg on alto, Roy Nathanson on tenor and Eric Sleichim on baritone) are from a live performance. Breathy and honky but it never gets monotonous. Very pleasant in an abstract way. The enthusiastic audience response make me think it would have been fun to see and hear this live.

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