KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Frisell, Bill – "Guitar in the Space Age" – [Sony Classical]

Cousin Mary   3/2/2019   CD, Jazz

This is an homage to the great electric guitarists of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Represented are surf, blues, psych and exotica as played in fine Bill Frisell style. Purists might complain that the tracks are not like the originals while Frisell fans might find it a bit light weight, but I think it is just right.

Sun Ra Trio, The – “God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be” – [Cosmic Myth]

mickeyslim   2/24/2019   12-inch, Jazz

“What the f*ck is this?!” you say. It’s, like, a REAL jazz trio, but it’s Sun Ra… That’s right folks, Sun Ra on piano is joined by Hayes Burnett on bass, and Samaria Celestial on drums. Originally released on Sun Ra’s El Saturn Label in 1979, and re-released here on Cosmic Myth Records. This is a pretty straightforward jazz trio, with all songs composed and arranged by Sun Ra. Toe-tappin’ and finger snappin’, easy listening, very accessible for those not into traditional avante-garde Sun Ra jazz. Drop the needle already!

Lowe, Frank – “Fresh” – [Arista Records]

mickeyslim   2/24/2019   12-inch, Jazz

Spontaneous improvisational music from avante-garde jazz saxophonist Frank Lowe, his third release as bandleader, accompanied by Lester and Joseph Bowie, Abdul Wadud, Steve Reid, Charles Bobo Shaw, and Selene Feng. This pops, stings, and punches you in the gut. Warbley, skronked-out scrapes and screeches. Improv madness that waxes and wanes, an all-out physical assault AND sweet nothings whispered in your ear. Tread lightly, “Fresh” indeed.

Hay, Emily / Liebig, Steuart – “Nomads” – [Pfmentum]

Phil Phactor   2/6/2019   CD, Jazz

Emily Hay and Steuart Liebig at the 2016 Norcal Noise Festival

Almost 75+ minutes of bass/flute/vox improv explorations from these two veterans of the scene, both of whom are well-represented in our library. They waste no time getting started with Santa Ana Noise Festival (T1), a 90-second blast of rumbling bass and rapid-fire treble that quickly makes their intentions clear. What you notice right away is Emily Hay’s unique ability to switch effortlessly from flute to voice and back, often several times in the same phrase. Flute lines, caterwauls, trills, screams all part of a single organic mouth-instrument. Saint Mark’s, which follows, is more stately, almost operatic, but a subtle menace pervades the proceedings. My favorite track might be the 17-minute Shapeshifter Lab 01 (T4), in which both performers skillfully use electronics to broaden their palette and flesh out the sound. Plenty here for adventurous ears!

PG13 – “PG13” – [Edgetone Records]

atavist   1/16/2019   CD, Jazz

Thick riffs meet saxophone. Sax by P. Greenlief, guitar by J. Shiurba (sounds like he uses an octave pedal), drums by T. Scandura. Driving, mathy rhythms punctuated by freakouts. Would be a welcome addition to the collections of folks into Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Don Caballero, Combat Astronomy. A jazz record that fits in a rock set.

Modular String Trio – “Ants, Bees and Butterflies” – [Clean Feed]

Naysayer   1/16/2019   CD, Jazz

Modular String Trio is not what it’s name says. It’s a quartet with a string trio inside of it. Violin, cello and double bass make up the trio. while a modular synthesizer makes this group the quartet. Hailing from Poland and the Ukraine, the quartet’s musical interplay extend the meaning and understanding of jazz, pushing those boundaries with superb exploratory sounds that are unique yet make sense. The trio is a combination classical sound (strings) but with very obvious improvisational jazz roots. The violin and cello bounce around each other’s notes like butterflies, bees and ants moving through their space. The bass does less than keep it together but rather adds to the complex journey of sound. Add to this the modular synthesizer playing its own brand of improv, bleeping and squonking throughout the string’s interplay. And then, the contrabass player, Jacek Mazurkiewicz electronically processes his instrument in real time!!! What does this mean?…. a truly unique, enjoyable, but not easy listen of music in a new take.

Bley, Paul – “Improvisie” – [Bamboo]

Naysayer   11/24/2018   CD, Jazz

Paul Bley’s “Improvisie”, finishes off his trilogy of experimental electronic free jazz explorations with Annette Peacock. Recorded live in 1971 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the two selections have Bley on electric piano and synthesizer ( as in MOOG), Peacock on electric and acoustic piano, synthesizer, electric bass and vocals, and Han Bennick on percussion. Peacock supposedly was the one who pushed the MOOG on Bley and with much success for the both of them. This is at the beginning of the MOOG so folks are trying to figure it out. Bley was happy that a keyboard was added but now he and Peacock were figuring out all the nuances of the thing. The improvisational interplay between Bley and Peacock is stunning, displaying a real understanding of the others musicianship. Peacock adds agonizing vocals (in a good way, a really good way) to the second piece. It almost shocks the listener. The pleasurable surprise, though, is Bennick’s percussion performance. He does so many amazing things with the drums, cymbals and whatever else he had present, adding to, accentuating, and filling out the sounds of Bley and Peacock. It almost gets lost but is so necessary. Definitely take a hard listen. A wonderful piece of music by some masters who were really going for the extreme.

Bailey, Derek/ Goodman, Greg – “Extracting Fish-Bones From The Back of The Despoiler” – [Beak Doctor, The]

Max Level   11/6/2018   12-inch, Jazz

Two side-long tracks (20 and 21 minutes) of entertaining guitar/piano adventures recorded live in 1992. Bailey practically invented the language of modern improvised guitar and is in good form on this recording– scratching and jabbing, and occasionally projecting electric flurries of sound. Pianist Goodman spends little if any time playing the piano keys during these performances, concentrating instead on producing unusual sounds from the interior of the instrument. I could describe this record as a lot of plinking and plunking, but that would be selling it short– dedicated listeners will find some inspired music-making going on here. Well-recorded and a high quality pressing on heavyweight vinyl, too.

Warwick, Dionne – “Odds & Ends” – [Rhino Entertainment Co.]

Naysayer   10/13/2018   CD, Jazz

Dionne Warwick is truly one of the greats. Unclassifiable for some: jazz, blues, gospel, soul, r&b, pop? Where does she fit in when actually she fits in everywhere. These 25 songs plus some promo material are from one of her golden eras when she was on Scepter Records and was working with the brilliant team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Recorded between 1962 and 1971, these recordings capture an era that in some instances, remains timeless. The quality and catchiness of Bacharach’s instrumentation, the depth yet simplicity of David’s lyrics, found their interpreter in the unique voice of Warwick. They were a trio made for each other and the continued hits demonstrated their quality. This collection comes from rarities and lost bits of the time. Many of the selections are recordings of her classics sung in other languages: French, German and Italian. When Warwick stole Paris in her concert tour, she was asked by many to record in their language and the results are here. Superb renderings of her choice work. Also there are alternate takes and some obscurities of equal quality. With each song, Warwick sings in her unique way, nailing the lyric with superb style and interpretation, rising above but not dominating the glorious orchestrations of Bacharach. Also, this was 1962 when the trio’s first hit came about. One can not disregard the barriers and walls of prejudice they overcame with this artistic relationship. A profound collection. And she is Whitney Houston’s aunt.

Levin, Daniel / Maneri, Mat – “Transcendent Function, The” – [Clean Feed]

Naysayer   10/10/2018   CD, Jazz

Daniel Levin (cello) and Mat Maneri (viola) have composed six pieces of improvisation using instruments not usually noted for duets let alone jazz duets. Using Jung’s comments about consciousness vs unconsciousness, they explore the freedom of improv with an organization of sorts that flows from melody to full on busrts of string sound. Classical, free form microtonal interplay between the two guide, float and battle throughout the selections. Whether bowed or plucked, the listener can never predict what will happen next yet each new phrase is a pleasure to the ear. Skronk and melody all in one.

Actual Trio – “Act II” – [Self Release]

mickeyslim   9/26/2018   CD, Jazz

Actual Trio is Bay Area jazz veterans John Schott (guitar/composer), Dan Seamans (bass), and John Haynes (drums). Recorded December 2016. The previous summer, apparently though, these compositions sounded happy and joyful. But after that year’s election (what the artists describe as “our looming national catastrophe”), they considered not making the recording at all.

What comes out of this is a technicolor palette of anxiety. I find that the music, while sometimes pretending to be cool and groovy, is in fact tense and jumpy. It has an improvisational feel most of the time, but is also clearly composed at other points.

Play it, spin it, slip it in…

Noertker, Bill / Oi, Mark – “nOOi” – [Edgetone Records]

Louie Caliente   9/18/2018   CD, Jazz

San Francisco bass + guitar duo pushing boundaries of compositional technique via telepathic improvisational dialogues, and “the blurring of standard electric guitar/electric bass roles”.

Intricate, interconnected noodling. The pair are not afraid of a melody, but not afraid to stretch it into new dimensions either. A variety of moods on display here, from the playful Primary Colors (T-8) to the melancholy Krystyna’s Theme (T-7), reminiscent of Lonely Woman. Things get a little strung-out at times, like on Idee Fixe (T-3), but nothing that’s going to hurt you.

Flaherty / Corsano / Yeh – “a Rock In The Snow” – [Important Records]

lexi glass   8/21/2018   CD, Jazz

Live recordings from 2004 from avant saxophonist Paul Flaherty, drummer Chris Corsano, and C. Spencer Yeh aka Burning Star Core. Flaherty and Corsano had been developing their high energy free jams as the Flaherty/Corsano Duo for years before these sessions, and here Yeh adds violin and vocals to the mix. Yeh’s distorted playing moves in parallel with Flaherty’s white hot saxophone solos, like a form and its fuzzy shadow that follows along until it suddenly finds a life of its own. At times Yeh escalates the intensity into some Flynt-style fiddling freakouts. Corsano’s drumming is, as always, a total pleasure to hear – thoroughly precise and powerful, but still free, artful, brilliant. When he steps away from the action in the middle of T2 and T4, it feels like being in the eye of a storm. Yeh’s vocal stylings – from his throat-scraping utterances in T2, crazed yelps in T4, and last dying gasps in the final aftermath of “Swamp-Like Heartache” – add another weird dimension to the tracks. I’ll stop now and refer you to the much more entertaining track-by-track liner notes from Johnny Coorz, aka John Olson, who got to know the trio well when they toured with Wolf Eyes (and Prurient, damn… and that probably explains the title of T2) in 2005.

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.

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