KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Callier, Terry – "New Folk Sound of Terry Callier, The" – [Craft Recordings]

humana   5/5/2019   CD, Jazz

Fortunately for us this man’s smooth as silk voice and beautiful guitar work is making it into the KFJC coffers, because it is indeed a treasure. Recorded when Callier was 23 years old, released a few years later to an ungrateful audience, this sterling collection of mostly traditional folk songs shows off the young musician’s talents to a T. Although he would later be known for his jazz stylings, Callier lends his masterful voice to bring us some nostalgic songs from the fold tradition. Enjoy!

Nilssen-Love, Paal – “New Japanese Noise” – [PNL Records]

lexi glass   4/23/2019   CD, Jazz

Norwegian free jazz drummer Paal Nilssen-Love brings together a killer lineup for this one: saxophonist Akira Sakata, guitarist Kiko Dinucci, and Japanoise legends Kohei Gomi (aka Pain Jerk) and Toshiji Mikawa (of Hijokaidan/Incapacitants). New Japanese Noise is the companion release to New Brazilian Funk (recently added to our library); both are recordings of explosive live sets recorded at the 2018 Roskilde Festival in Denmark. “Stiff Upper Lip Jeeves” (T1) blasts off with propulsive drumming, furious sax, damaged guitar, and – bubbling up into whatever free space is left over – brilliant rainbow electronics. The energy just barely lets up with the rock-inspired grooves of “Up the Line to Death” (T2), “Eats, Shites, and Leaves” (T3) finds Sakata’s strangely beautiful clarinet figures beset by rustling, then raging, rhythms. In the showstopper “The Bone People” (T4), Sakata’s maniacal growls summon a storm of howling evil spirits. The quintet bows out with a(nother) blast on the encore “Birdsong” (T5).

Evans, Peter / Weasel Walter – “Poisonous” – [Ug/Explode]

atavist   4/17/2019   CD, Jazz

Presented here are seven frantic, manic blasts of trumpet and drums. How much sound can these two instruments produce, with the help of some electronics? Turns out the answer is, “not a small amount”. This release is firmly in the free jazz vein, as in free to be as noisy and unhinged as possible. Peter Evans spans the spectrum of possible trumpet sounds, and manages to coax new, decidedly un-trumpet-like sounds from his tortured brass. KFJC has other pieces from this artist. Weasel Walter, a veteran of a variety of projects both in and out of the jazz world, including Flying Luttenbachers and To Live and Shave in LA, is well-known to the station for his frenetic drum rushes and all-around troublemaking, and here he’s exorcising more of his demons with unabated fury. A highlight for me is track three, “Sulfur Tuft”—the echoey, reverby washes of sound quickly pile up into a writhing, shrieking wall that captured my attention and held on for dear life.

Martin, Billy – illyB Eats 2- (Amulet Records)

Naysayer   3/27/2019   CD, Jazz

This is volume 2 in Billy Martin’s beats series. Amazing drumming minimalism with some assistance by Eddie Bobe on congas. The idea is possibly for mixing but it stands on its own as stripped down beats, heavy on the bass. The rhythms aren’t always easy; very much the jazz touch is noticeable. I was impressed with the volume of sound and intensity of the rhythms. It;s actually a great example of “Less is More”.

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.

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