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Music Reviews

Cimposium Volume 6 [coll] – [Cadence/North Country]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

Tantalizing sampler for live NY music
from the Rusch family label…lot’s of
angles on upright bass anchored jazz. Some
musical chair action so you can hear a
couple of the many moods of Joe McPhee,
check out drummers like Jay Rosen (gentle)
and Lou Grassi(accelerates on #9 in the
wake of a Steve Swell) Other faves #3 was
like another world (w/ McPhee, Kowald!,
Smoker),#6 the late Glenn Spearman swings
sultry sweet #11 chomping guitar & zig-zag
cello breed brooding tension.
Taste ’em all

Wong/Kavee/Perea – “Gathering of Ancestors ” – [Asianimprov Records]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

Very fluid album. Francis Wong’s subtle
sax swish, bubbles and burps from John-
Carlos Perea’s fretless bass, Elliot
Humberto Kavee’s splendid cymbal and hi
-hat shimmer. Very refreshing w/ hummable,
liquid lines…tapping tribal genetic
inlaid melody memories. Perea and Wong
stir turns at flute into the flow that
I think will draw a lot of people in
(a sort of underwater tunnel to psych?)
A nicely BALANCED trio.

Gustafsson, Mats – “Education of Lars Jerry, the ” – [Xeric]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Eight-legged solo album of “that can’t be
a sax” sounds. A baritone barrage of audio
amazement: rocket launcher pfoots, morse
code mouthings, tone scraping baboonery,
filtered yelps, foghorn flutter, scrawing
(don’t know what it means, but I heard it)
sustained train brake whistle…and on.
Cool valve-popping exploding percussive
sounds throughout. Always inventive and
engaging, recorded with more dark reverb
than a Pole LP (and lot’s of Swedish body
English on that horn). Rec’d in splendid
spider-fi!

Parker, William – “Through Acceptance of the Mys. ” – [Eremite]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

An augmented re-release of works originally put
out by Parker himself on his Centering Records…
back in 1981!! Check the concise liner notes for
dates of original recordings…AND for Parker’s
account of his epiphany. He’s a thinking man’s
composer. He may not have been in his tone world
at this point, but he was well on his way. On
“Commitment” his bass rumbles like a get-away car
in the alley. The title track reminds me of Teiji
Ito’s soundtrack work, the flute there a beautiful
beacon. The last track, Parker recites poetry over
duelling violin (one of them bein Billy Bang!)
in an ode to his father. Coltrane tribute on
track #3, the initial track is the free-est piece,
(a smaller Little Huey, if you will) but there is a
fine still point in the midst of all that soloing
and glorious chaos. Go find it.

Ibarra, Susie / Charles, Denis – “Drum Talk ” – [Wobbly Rail]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

More live sounds from Wobbly Rail, this time
a perconversation. Susie Ibarra is a frequent
flyer with William Parker’s Little Huey Orch,
and also often a Matthew Shipp-mate. Sonically
she has sailed into island territory, studying
Philippine Kulintang, as well as Javanese and
Balinese Gamelan. She’s teamed here with
another island castaway, Denis Charles from
the Virgin Islands then many years in New York.
An exotic flare definitely pervades track #4,
but throughout the overriding sense is athletic
energy. Well #5 is sort of a soft shuffler, but
the rest is robust and forceful! Hard to believe
that within a few months of this Charles would
die in his sleep.

Ackley, Bruce Trio – “Hearing, the ” – [Avant]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

A ROVA goes a-roving, and connects with the
vaunted rhythm section from Masada. I wonder
if the tracks are provided as they were
recorded. It seems to me momentum mounts here,
with a turning point during the stellar seventh
track. The project gels there. Throughout
Joey Baron is a dynamo demon of drum, so
vibrant and a joy to listen to. Greg Cohen
mostly serves as an anchor, but does get to
step out and take a bow…to his bass at least
once. Ackely’s sax is high and reedy. Quite a
mix here of structure and solo.

Gebbia, Gianni – “H Portraits ” – [Rastascan Records]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

Here’s a don’t miss. Solo saxplorations from
Italian wizard Gebbia. He’s worked with
luminaries like Hooker/Ranaldo and Kowald.
But this is all him, showcasing so many
different shades of the sax. From windy drones
to cycling that sounds like Superman pedaling
a stationary bike till sparks fly, to Twilight
Zone tiptoe thooops, to pipsqueak popsquonks
to some damn dizzy circular breathing benders.
Is #6 one-mouth, two saxes? In #12 Gebbia adds
in some Tuvan throat trickery. Sort of a,
“I didn’t know the sax could do that
album, but I’m sure glad it can.”
It’s the H-bomb! Gianni-gigantor!

Connah’s, Graham Sour Note 7 – “Gurney to the Lincoln Center.. ” – [Rastascan Records]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

Alice in Wonderland-the jazz musical?’ Scat-
hop post-bop. An exceptional septet, Composer
Connah is the piano at the center o the vortex,
and his nimble playing will send Shipp shivers
up and down your spine keys. Great interplay
between (old New Klezmerian) Ben Goldberg on
clarinet, and Rob Suddut(no slack saxophonifier
he). Most inspiration player: Elliot H Kavee
is like a jockey at the drum kit, keeping the
horses galloping. This has a nearly frantic
place for the most part. The Charming Jewlia
often leads the pack, breathlessly wordful
and often melodically escorted by at least
Connah or Goldberg. “Ondine” will likely be a
funky crowd-pleaser. For all the dizzy chart
chases and solos…this is remarkably not
cluttered. Miles of smiles, the Sour’s sweet,
and Graham’s crackers!

Byron, Don – “Nu Blaxploitation ” – [Blue Note C/O Capitol]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

A wave of Existential Dred overcomes Byron,
and he no longer keeps his sidekick Sadiq at
Bey. Byron’s clarinet lines are a lot more
subtle here than the strident thought-flow
lines from Sadiq. The album has a def’knit
Blue Note groove, very inviting but you step
in & must contemplate some of the “ish” that
Sadiq is dishing. (yep this is a radio-edit
version so EVERYone can play this powerhouse).
“Furman” and “Dodi” decapitate the headlines.
I actually preferred the Blax-Files flow on
“Alien” and “I Cannot Commit.” Sakim Bey’s
voice gets that good preacher waivering Gil
Scott is my hero tenor at times. Three tracks
also have yearning vox from Dean Bowman: two
steamy Mandrill droppings & Jimi’s If 6 Was 9.
Byron blazes his own trails as always.

Lacy, Steve – “Solo:Live at Unity Temple ” – [Wobbly Rail]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

Here is the sound of a graceful bird in flight as
captured by sax legend Lacy. The notes ride on
such smooth air, and despite a few octave leaps
and dives…you know the wings will not fail. You
are never surprised nor stunned by the playing:
no circular breathing calisthenics or over-blowing
throaty blow-outs. Instead you are continually
caressed by the wind of Lacy’s mind. The inital
homage to Thelonius Monk is ripe with melody and
soothing phrases. “Revenue” takes its theme up
high where the air gets a little thin, but there’s
no panic or plummeting. “Absence” starts off with
a spoken beatnik beatitude. No new compositions,
but all recorded live 1997 solo in a temple built
by Frank Lloyd Wright, and floated, foundation
and all, into the clouds by Lacy.

Sexmob – “Din of Inequity ” – [Columbia Records (Jazz)]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

Well, a guy plays around with “Spanish Fly” long
enough and sooner or later a Sexmob’s gonna break
out. Steven Bernstein has shed his Lounge Lizard
skin, and created this other project to flirt w/
Briggan Krauss’ sex-a-mo-phone. While there is
plenty of four-play, Wolleson/Scherr do provide
some locking bump and grind rhythm.(Wolleson!!!
“power-splashes” and at other points he even goes
dubmarining.) The excitement, though, is between
Krauss’ sexy saxy screams & Bernstein’s slippery
slide trumpet. They’ll ride together on a riff
awhile, then it’s off for a teasing call and
response of solo gyrations. There’s a lot of
sweat and energy, but the pace never rushes, a
funky writhing like…well sex, and with plenty
of goofiness and fun. Covers of James Bond
themes, Prince and a drunk hot-tub “Macarena”
A gorgeous orgiastic elastic score

Sirone – “Live ” – [Unheard Music Series]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

1981 and you are there, just don’t get in Kazunori Sugiyama’s
way as he records Sirone and his trio (with Denis Charles!!!)
The album is pierced by a shrill and willful flute solo by
Sirone on the first cut, like a bird busy in mating season,
the trills are relentless. I dig it but if you don’t, relax as
that gives way to the trademark tuned rolling of Charles’ drums
at the very end. Charles then opens up the second track with a
nice dancing rhythm that pits and pats your elbow and knees,
alto Claude Lawrence comes in with a simple sweet refrain over
Sirone’s mellow bass, but then the expressive nature of Charles’
is allowed to shine. Nothing could be more warm than the cap’n
at the helm for a spell, the trio joins up again for a few well-
charted bars and then it’s all rubber and rapid rigid fingers
till then as Sirone takes a solo. Next up “The Journey” is all
Sirone (not quite as fast as on #2) but circling around his own
grunts and moans. “When It’s Over” feels like nighttime in the
desert. Charles’ drums are loping and is that Sirone moonlighting
on trombone?’ “Vision” then follows launched by hand (no sticks
please) as Charles softly slaps the toms with his bare hands
before jetting off into a more typical trio take of free
exploration.

Kondo, Toshinori – “Fukyo ” – [Tzadik]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Jazz

Yeah, Miles…yeah, Spaceheads, but Kondo has his own fanfare
and flare when it comes to live electronic processing on his
native instrument, the trumpet. But these 14 transmissions,
like his earlier “Nerve Tripper” CD, never sound very native.
Martian flurries, echoing envelopes, sneakery squeaks. A key
is how well he grabs and locks a sample and then plays off it
(liners proudly state ‘no overdubs’). Whereas “Nerve Tripper”
cranked up some sort of adrenaline overload, this album is
more for abstract contemplation. Is not a live self sample a
mirror of sorts? I’m curious how much of his lips and spit
come through the compress/delay/robot factory…as this does
have a lot of squishiness to it. Melody gets toyed with, see
the slow steps out on the ledge in the closing track. Overall
this is a record for the shape and color of sound rather than
its linear arrangement. “Rissetsu” has that watercolor smear
that reminds me of Jon Hassel. “Seisei” is for the blow hole
in your whale soul. Earlier interviews with Kondo discuss the
musical importance of body conditioning via the martial art,
Shintaido, but does that get short-circuited by enhancements
of the man-machine? Who cares, just give the conundrummer some.

Formanek, Michael – “Am I Bothering You? ” – [Screwgun]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   CD, Jazz

A bass player with some pretty “Wide Open Spaces”
in his mind cuts loose with an album that would
be wrong to call “just” acoustic bass. He explores
a variety of sounds, from scrapescapes to plunky
funkettes to slack-string rattlings to see-saw
dizziness to tapping and shuffling all around
the body of the bass behemoth. He even winds
things up in some Muddy Waters. All on his
lonesome, no overdubs or preservatives added.
I bet he had a blast being out of the rhythm
anchor section, in more of the sonic spotlight.
Maybe next he’ll tackle some duo projects
a la Peter Kowald…or at least hopefully he
won’t wait 20 years for the next solo album.
Formidable and Formanek-able.

Shepp, Archie – “Things Have Got to Change ” – [Impulse C/O Mca]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Archie Shepp is the man. Smart, soulful, a stirring player
nd here leader). This album has two that really stoke the
fires, and one more sparse electronic mediation between them.
On the title cut, there’s some pretty early use of noisy
overloaded electronics percolating beneath the chanted
mantra that if you blur your ears almost sounds like “Space
is the Place.” You’ve also got LeRoy Jenkins sawing away on
his violin, James Spaulding’s flute dances through the flames
as well. A true *battery* of percussion drives this pressure
corker to pop. And pop it does as Shepp drops some gas into
the mix on the second half…an elevating melody comes in
towards the end, but Shepp rises again with a solo, and the
album ends in locked groove of Romulus Franceschini and
Donald Cooper going galaxian eternally. As ruling as that is
“Money Blues” is where it’s at. It starts with an almost
whispered chorus, as if folks are politely watching the
clock at work….but it quicky rises in tone and demand.
Thus we get 18 minutes of payday, with Joe Lee Wilson as
union negotiator and vocal labor leader…but it’s the
Shepp family (backup) singers and deep brass bump-bump
Bump-BUMP that give this a Motown-like 1-2. Add in other
solo spirals and an avalanche of drums.
Cash this one in often…

Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet w/ Ojai Camerata, the Kaiser/Diaz-Infante Sextet “The Alchemical Mass / Suite Solutio” [pfMENTUM] (cd)

cujo   7/13/2005   CD, Jazz

Extremely talented L.A. improvisor/composer Jeff Kaiser wows with his large ensemble piece ‘The Alchemical Mass?. Based on an abbreviated text of a latin mass by 16th century alchemist heretic Nicholas Cibenensis, and recorded live in 2003 in Ventura. The Introitus starts off pointillistic & devoid of melody, turns a bit creepy when the chorus starts to sing, then goes all demented with a TomWaitsy percussion-laden tango. The Kyrie features some phrygian (certainly not yer regular diatonic) writing, this mode persists throughout the piece. The Collecta and Gloria features flugelhorn solo over crazed whispering (always a personal favorite). There is a mad tornado of horns and saxes in the Offertorium, and the chorus closes everything off nicely. The companion work, Suite Solutio, is for a much smaller ensemble (sextet) but at times (Part II) can really get loud. Part I is a rhythmically fluctuating loosely Pink Panther kind of groove, Part II is a hellishly noisy track featuring huge blocks of crashing metal and a screeching horn. Then most of the work focuses on duets – guitar vs flugelhorn in Part 3, trumpet and trombone in Part 4, bass and guitar in Part V. The whole work closes on a fantastically long gong strike. Guest starring Vinny Golia and Ernesto Diaz-Infante.
Cujo, July 2005

Mcgregor, Chris – “Brotherhood of Breath ” – [Akarma Records]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Chris McGregor grew up in South Africa and made his first mark on jazz as a member of The Blue Notes, a racially-integrated band that combined traditional African rhythms with the free improvisation of American jazz. Unfortunately, that band was forced into exile, along with other notable South Africans like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, during the tumultuous apartheid regime of the 1960’s. Relocated to London, McGregor began to emulate one of his musical heroes, Duke Ellington, by forming his own big band, a large ensemble that included members of The Blue Notes along with some of the best ‘free jazz? musicians Britain had to offer at the time. This 1971 release is the first recording by McGregor’s large ensemble, dubbed the Brotherhood of Breath, which continued to tour and record throughout the 70’s and 80’s with a revolving cast of characters. Side One of this record features three compositions of medium length, two energetic ensemble pieces bookending a quieter middle section that focuses on a smaller ‘jazz combo? sound. Be sure to check out saxophonist John Surman’s highly impassioned contributions on the third track, ‘The Bride.’ Side Two delves even more deeply into the band’s African roots, starting with a lively foray into township swing, followed by a 20-minute improvisation that sounds like Sun Ra if he’d come from South Africa instead of Saturn. The final track is a quick but sprightly march, driven along at jazz tempo. All in all, an auspicious debut for McGregor’s Brotherhood.

Harper, Billy – “Capra Black ” – [Strata-East]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Texas-born saxophonist Billy Harper had played with many of the greats (Gil Evans, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones) before recording this first album as a leader in 1973. Influenced heavily by Coltrane, Harper was part of the ‘black consciousness? movement in jazz, which fueled such artist-owned labels as Strata-East in New York, Tribe Records in Detroit, and Black Jazz in Chicago. This session for Strata-East features an all-star cast, including George Cables (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), Julian Priester (trombone), Billy Cobham (drums), and more, including a special appearance by drummer Elvin Jones on the track ‘Sir Galahad.’ One of the quintessential traits of this strain of jazz, the vocal chorus, is featured prominently on the two tracks from Side Black, linking the music to its roots in gospel. The equally-important blues influence shines through clearly, as well; just check out the track ‘New Breed? for evidence of that. All in all, an impressive debut from Mr. Harper. Interesting bit of trivia: Harper’s next album release was BLACK SAINT, inaugurating the label of the same name, which is still active today.

Grimes, Henry Trio – “Live at the Kerava Jazz Fest ” – [Ayler Records]

Rococo   7/9/2005   CD, Jazz

Not many jazz musicians have a back story as interesting as that of bassist Henry Grimes. Trained at Julliard, Grimes spent the 1960’s as sideman to jazz legends like Coltrane, Mingus, Shepp, Ayler, Rollins, and others. Then around 1970, Grimes moved to the West coast and dropped out of the jazz scene entirely. Spending most of the 70’s battling with manic depression and working odd jobs, Grimes completely lost touch with his former jazz associates, and even sold his bass! Then in 2002, he was re-located by writer and social worker Marshall Marrotte, who re-introduced Grimes to the music world through an influential article in The Wire. Given a new bass to play by William Parker, Grimes was soon ready for more musical action. This live trio date, featuring Hamid Drake on drums and David Murray on sax and clarinet, finds Grimes on equal footing with his forward-thinking counterparts. The trio format, in particular, seems to be a good one for showcasing the bass, and Grimes contributes two of the four original compositions here, as well. Energetic and passionate playing from all involved.

The Gianluigi Trovesi Octet “Fugace” [ECM] (cd)

cujo   7/5/2005   CD, Jazz

Unique Italian octet led by reedman/composer Trovesi plays 3637 seconds of tightly-controlled, masterfully-performed, ultra-calm, improvisatory soundscape of clarinet sturdily buttressed by pairs of brass, drums, and low strings. Along the way, you will hear strains of swing, harpsichord interludes (the sipariettos), funk, Jimi, W.C. Handy, Satch, scratch, electronic doodling, Ennio, calypso, Italian folk song, Alfredo Casella. The liner notes would have you believe the success of this smoky flowing jazz journey is all due to Trovesi’s upbringing in some kind of Italian post-war musical melting pot, but I hear the success owing far more to the decade these 8 have spent together improvising. Smooth like a good gelato.

-Cujo, January 2005

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