Ashley Henry, who will turn 30 this year, is a part of the New London Jazz scene, but his style is more traditional than his compatriots. This is gentle piano jazz. I didn’t find it very challenging but it’s authentic, well played and composed by Henry himself. Henry’s musical resume is impressive for musician his age. Be sure to check out the track Battle which features Binker Golding and Moses Boyd, it is much closer in sound and spirit to what I consider the sound of the New London Jazz scene. Makaya McCraven is featured on Dark Honey (4TheStorm). AArbor
All the way back in July 2019, Phillip Greenlief planned to perform at KFJC with the Social Stutter Quartet to promote their performance at that year’s Outsound New Music Summit. Unfortunately, one of the quartet wasn’t able to make it, so Greenlief pulled out this gigantic book of graphic scores, and the then trio performed from the pages of this book. Little did we know, we were getting a live sneak peak into what would become this first-in-a-series album of improvised works to these graphic scores.
Whether the trio consists of more traditional instruments or live electronics, these trios bring to life these graphic scores that, while they look like twisted barbed wire, don’t have that harsh, scratchy, metallic feel. Each track is quite different than the last, but all maintain a certain placidity that momentarily gets disrupted, only to lull you back into that oh-so-comfortable false sense of security.
Ingeniously designed, masterfully-executed, perfect for KFJC. Enjoy!
Skronky skronk noisejazz. Improv-jamz galore. Frantic freestlyin’ just enough to take you under and bring you back. Strings/wind/percussion, probably Weeks on sax at some point, not that you’d be able to tell through the madness. Did you already take the red pill? Only one way to find out…
Michael Blake is a saxophone player from Canada who has lived in the SF Bay Area but spent serious time in New York playing with artists including The Lounge Lizards (1990-1999), Charlie Hunter, Medeski, Martin and Wood and many others. He has released 15 albums, this is a live album from 2010. Blake wrote all the tracks here and is joined by Steven Bernstein on trumpet and slide trumpet, Marcus Rojas on tuba and G. Calvin Weston on drums. The best part of this recording is its playfulness and sense of humor. AArbor
Drums and tenor sax duo. Free Jazz Explorations. Inspired and interesting interplay. I can recommend each track individually, but listening to the whole CD in one sitting is somewhat exhausting. Free jazz drums/sax duet records tend to be like that for me. I can’t help it–after a while I’m like where’s the upright bass dude? Four adventurous tracks here, 11 to 14 minutes each; pick one (or two) and you can’t go wrong.
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
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
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
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.
Murray, Kevin / Parker, William / Sewelson, Dave / Ghandhi, Kaelen – “Live At The Bushwick Series” -[Gaucimusic]
skrony improv jazz, 38-minute-long track from seasoned improv veterans
Cohran, Kelan Philip & The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – "Kelan Philip Cohran & The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble" – [Honest Jon's Records]
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
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]
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 (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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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)”
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