New-music string quartet with compositions from Brooklyn composers Tyondai Braxton (Battles), Kyle Sanna, and others. You may wonder, “Why?” as the album starts with technically very difficult yet musically vacant material. Progressing through the material, I had a hard time connecting. Track 8 “Sequence …” is very different: seductive, melodic. Listening to the CD on repeat, successive listens were more interesting. I still feel special about Track 8 but… I dunno. Now it’s in your hands.
Second official release from the Linda Sharrock Network, the ensemble fronted by the renowned jazz vocalist and former wife and collaborator of Sonny, in a return to her art after suffering a debilitating stroke in 2009. The group’s recordings includes the 2014 (but even more resonant today) studio/live work No is No (Don’t Fuck Around with Your Women) and 2016’s They Begin to Speak.
Live, Vol. 1 is a ~50 minute a performance from the Bab-Ilo, a club in Montmartre. Sharrock’s mighty vocals are of course the heart of the work, exploring a unique range that I haven’t heard in free jazz, a strange middle range between the high-end gestures of Mario Rechtern’s sax, Itaru Oki’s trumpet, flugelhorn, and flute, and the deeper sounds from Yoram Rosilio’s bass, Makoto Sato’s rumbling percussion and Lucien Johnson’s tenor sax. In her tortured wails you can hear both the extreme pain and delirious joy of creation. Another standout element in the work is the the accordion of Claude Parle: at the start of the piece, he adds long pulls of the instrument, but later creates rapid skittering tones that resemble a tape-rewinding sound, or sometimes Sun Ra’s synths. A powerful performance that can be viewed here.
Totally improvised music from talented improvisers, quality live recording. Pianist John Escreet adds Evan Parker to his working trio of bassist John Hebert and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. The quartet has recorded previously in 2014. This Feb 2016 live recording in Holland documents their first time playing completely improvised music. Two long Tunes, from consecutive dates- the first 45 minutes the second 30 minutes and it ends with the audience clapping. Well worth it. Shows a lot of range from sensitive Stillness to overblown Madness. Top-level musicianship. Tyshawn Sorey is a great drummer.
Man oh man, does free jazz get more fun than this? I don’t think so. Coming out of Chicago and released on Austin-based cassette label Astral Spirits (“new wave of heavy free jazz”), Hearts and Minds is a trio composed of bass clarinetist Jason Stein (fun fact: Amy Schumer’s brother), keyboardist Paul Giallorenzo, and drummer Frank Rosaly. Giallorenzo often sounds like two players in one, playing bass lines with his left hand while doubling the melody with the right. Other times he’s putting down smooth chords, getting noisy (a la the recent Thollem/Mazurek record), or spinning out tender melodies (check the solo on Irresolute). Jason Stein is the star of the show. A master on the bass clarinet, he can do all the free jazz tricks???clicking sounds, dissonant overtones, rapid-fire passages, circular breathing???but he’s also always melodic and always swinging. On Three for One, he lays down some klezmer-esque wailing over a slinky Sun Ra groove and then leads you down into a dark underworld that slowly fractures and expands before your eyes (ears?). Almost overshadowed in all of this is superstar drummer Frank Rosaly, never flashy, but pushing and pulling behind the scenes and always keeping it groovy. Great, great stuff that will appeal to fans of both traditional and free jazz, as well as prog, funk, noise, +++.
Matthew Shipp adds wind player Daniel Carter to his long-time trio composed of Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums. The group works with an easy familiarity, favoring patient exploration over fast-paced fireworks. The opener soul secrets (T1) sets the tone for the album: a moody, modal composition which sees the bandmembers anticipating each others moves and effortlessly passing motifs around. If you associate Shipp with thundering left-hand chords, you’ll find a different side of him here. The track is (T2) opens with two minutes of drums over a walking bass line followed by spare, angular trumpet lines from Carter that recall middle-period Miles Davis. The group generates the most heat on totality (T4), which is also, to my mind, the most satisfying. A solid outing.
This is delightful. Check out Adams (ROVA Saxophone Quartet) on various saxes and flutes playing duets with electronics master Perkis. On some of the pieces the two players work within the same timbral environment and pitch range, rendering the line between the two less than clear. But not always– sometimes it is quite obvious who is doing what, just as one would expect with duets involving such dissimilar instruments. Each piece explores different terrain and they are all compelling and fun to listen to. A great release from two local musical treasures.
Gianni Mimmo is that unique musician/artist that is so dedicated to his craft, his art, that he really lives it to the fullest. “One Way Ticket” is a solo project for this soprano sax jazz improviser, but here the improvisation is with a twist. The fifteen selections, bookended by spoken word, include original compositions and eight interpretations of classic works by artists including, Mingus, Lacy, Monk, Webern, and Ellington. On the international jazz circuit, Mimmo is compared to Steve Lacy in his skill and expertise. It shows here. Interweaving such an array of sounds and tones Mimmo plays with ideas, elongating sounds and then switching shape with lightening speed. The recording is so intimate that we hear Mimmo’s breathing, his buzz into the horn, his fingers pressing the keys and the keys moving on the saxophone. These sounds become faint, but continuous percussive additions to the sound of the sax itself. Unique, challenging, elegant. .
A great record. It may as well be subtitled “People Up to No Good in Sketchy Locations in San Francisco at Night” because that is exactly what it sounds like. A high concept record–music composed by bassist/bandleader Mezzacappa as accompaniment to (and extension of) noir literary works and films that she found intriguing and inspirational. Her detailed liner notes lay it all out. The music is skillfully realized by an ensemble of first-rate local jazz/avant-garde players. It twists and turns, making the listener wonder what is waiting in the next dark alley. Snippets of film dialog pop up here and there, and I like the way the electronics of Tim Perkis add a sense of subtle unease throughout. An evocative ride through nighttime SF more than a few decades ago… Fillmore Street, Army Street (not Cesar Chavez), Green Street, etc.
Reeds/drums/bass exploration recorded in Milan in 2012. Although Sakata has worked with both Bill Laswell and DJ Krush, he stays well within the free jazz idiom herm, with a soulful, searching sound that recalls both Ornette Coleman and Steve Lacy. What really makes this album special, however, is the near-telepathic communication among the band members, all the more remarkable given that this was their first meeting. The first track begins with the players quietly testing each other, but they quickly cohere around a common thread and move through a variety of spaces. The second track is quiet and contemplative, with Sakata switching to clarinet, Centazzo dazzling us with an array of bells and chimes, and Fujiwara drawing out tones with his bow. Track 3 picks up the pace again, and then on track 4, we’re in for a treat as Sakata puts down his horn and grunts and growls his way through a Damo Suzuki-esque dirge. The last track is based on Stella by Starlight and sees the drums and bass play it (relatively) straight while Sakata blows over the top. Overall, well worth your time if you’re into this sort of thing.
Rodrigues, Ernesto/ Greenlief, Phillip/ Swafford, Tom – “Sidereus Nuncius” – [Creative Sources Recording]
The track/album name comes from a 1610 astronomy work by Galileo. Sidereus Nuncius is often translated as “Starry Messanger”. Here it is a highly improvised musical work for viola, violin and tenor sax. Very breathy, wispy, fluttery and delicate. Recorded live in Seattle in 2006.
Conrad Winslow is a composer working in Brooklyn from Alaska and has studied at NYU and Juilliard. The group is violin, flute, cello, and percussion. It’s got that fun silence silence silence then crash John Cage feel I personally enjoy. The whole thing is also a performance piece with costume and candles and choreographed ritual-like movements. Very brainy High Art kinda stuff.
-Billie Joe Tolliver
Mezei, Szilard / Guazzaloca, Nicola – “Lucca and Bologna Concerts” – [Amirani Records/Amirani Contemporary]
A brilliant recording by Hungarian viola player, Szilard Mezei and Italian piano player, Nicola Guazzaloca. These master musicians pair up for recordings at 2 concerts and give performances of improvisational bliss. From slow and quiet almost silence, to loud bursts of volatile sound, Szilard bows, scratches and engulfs his viola, nursing and cursing a rich array of sounds, even bits and hints of Hungarian folk tunes. Nicaola, plucks and strums the inside of the piano then moves to eloquent chords, patterns, trills and other innovations on the piano keyboard. The interplay between them is thrilling to listen to, hearing the two shadow and mimic each other, then explore around the other’s sounds. Serious for sure, but fun. Lots of fun from these improvisers.
Recorded last year. Jazz improv jam with Hocevar leading on drums, Fraser on bass, St. Louis on cello, Clarke on synth, Corren on piano, Rasmussen and Qu on sax, and Tevis on trumpet. Skronky crashy good time. 48 minutes long. Just strap in and enjoy.
— Billie Joe Tolliver
being on top is a good hip opener – claudia la rocco’s voice is a quiet snarl: calm, measured, sometimes provocative, always defiant. – remember the way her legs spear and thrust – each track finds her accompanied by a different set of bay area musicians. – put the mountain in a box, put the box in a dumpster – rumblings and rattlings, abrasive synths, extended techniques galore, the sounds are sometimes with and sometime against, but always underneath. – your skin looks buttery and delicious – it’s la rocco’s voice that dominates, telling stories about ballet, the body, poisonous relationships, and sexual violence. – you don’t cry anymore when you’re sad – smack in the middle of the album, “public access” (T5) sees la rocca in conversation with saxophonist david boyce and the mood briefly relaxes. – do you want that kind of attention?
The result of an exchange between the Washington and Sweden chapters of Women in Jazz, The Harold Trio recorded this in LA for Edgetone Records in May 2016. All three women are international performers, working in places as diverse as India, Brazil, Uganda, and Sweden. They bring a broadly-informed sound that draws on jazz, classical musics, and improvisation to these impressionistic improvised tunes.
Amy K Bormet (piano/wurlitzer/voice)
Biggi Vinkeloe (alto saxophone/flute)
Tina Raymond (drumset)
This is the second album by the Schimscheimer Family Trio, the fake sibling musicians this time accompanied by their fake uncle (Ben Goldberg on Bb and contra-alto clarinet). “Broken Home” is a sort of concept album musically describing the families semi-traumatic family experiences, their fake relatives, and some animals that could cause problems. All instrumental, Jon Arkin (drums, percussion, electronics), Michael Coleman (keyboards) and Kasey Knudsen (alto sax, electronics) are working in Henry Cow territory, sort of, with a lot of other ideas floating around. Songs might start out with a straight ahead jazz riff and then change into a series of repetitive notes, jumping into a tappable rhythm which then gets covered and challenged by another rhythm. Tempos change, time signatures change. The sounds twist and bend. Yet it sounds light and humorous. The quality of the musician’s skills is superb. They are putting so many sound ideas in to play, yet in this enjoyable almost bouncy way, with out letting you forget the sinister underneath. A truly enjoyable experience and a great listening surprise.
Dan Phillips is a Chicago guitarist who moved to Bangkok Thailand 20 years ago. His music is featured here and it is Groove oriented but also pays tribute to the AACM. Hamid drake on drums. Brass section is very strong. Recalls Raul Bjorkenheim, or Lester Bowie’ s Brass Fantasy.
Somewhere between AHH! and UH! lie these collectively improvised free jazz livestock orgies out on improvising beings. The same 50-minute-plus composition is performed in the studio on disc 1 and live on disc 2. Linda Sharrock’s post-stroke vocals are wild and primal. Very challenging and rewarding. The sidemen are right along with her, Itaru Oki, Makoto Sato, Eric Zinman, Mario Rechturn et al. CD1’s larger group’s collective improvising recalls Ornette Coleman Free Jazz LP. CD2 is a smaller group and it gets raw.
Chris Corsano – drums
Sylvie Courvoisier – piano
Nate Wooley – trumpet
The premiere recording of this lineup, in Brooklyn 2015. These four tracks work out a very promising relationship. Wooley and corsano come from a DIY/free music background and Courvoisier was educated at the conservatory in Lausanne. But maybe these distinctions are not very important as they are having a very advanced musical discussion.
The first track is 21 minutes long and it is the wildest and most tenuous. They continue to explore through the next two and by the last tune there is a sound. This band has a great sound and I think they would be crazy not to record more of it.
Trumpeter Rob Mazurek (Chicago Underground, Isotope 217) and electric pianist Thollem McDonas (Tsigoti, Estamos Ensemble) meet for the first time in Marfa and head for the outer limits. As might be expected from a pair of experienced improvisers with incredibly diverse interests, they hit a variety of spots along the way. It helps that Mazurek is packing a sampler, a modular synth, bells, and his prodigious voice in addition to his horn. Electric-era Miles is the obvious referent, but there are also Oval-style glitch experiments, modular synth workouts, free-folk psych freakouts, and even some “straight” free-improv. Of particular note are those moments when Mazurek’s shamanic chanting breaks through the squall, and the whole thing threatens to break itself apart. Noisy, messy, and joyous.
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