KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

David S. Ware String Ensemble “Threads” Thirsty Ear

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Liner notes present the confession of a former
flame thrower falling in love with a fountain.
Cooler composing heads prevail, at least for
now; however this certainly has flashes of
Ware’s scintillating solos (the “Weave” cuts)
Overall, there’s a quasi illbient undervibe.
Fans of the recent El-P should enjoy the
“Sufic Passages” with its bass and cymbal
smooth ride. That’s an easy entry. I dug the
opening track, very tense, very “Angel Heart”
with all players getting limber. The twin
strings of Daniel Bernard Roumain and Mat
Maneri are thickened further by Matthew
Shipp’s banks of synth strings. Especially
on the title track, which will either be
beautiful or bogged down for listeners. I
think this is a nice first step towards a
balance between blast and ballad…chops and
comps…purists can still return and burn
with older Wares.

Courvoisier, Sylvie/Feldman, Mark/Friedlander, Erik “Abaton” [ECM]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Three’s company, New York Avant style? Swiss miss Sylvie
Courvoisier moves to NYC to join her violinist husband
Mark Feldman, and cellist Erik Friedlander makes three.
The trio may also be known as Abaton as this release is.
I really enjoyed the second disc of improvisations,
where the playing seems hyperdramatic. The first disc of
compositions by pianist Courvoisier seems restrained,
albeit with moments of madness. Maybe she is striving to
not spotlight herself, indeed she sits out “Poco a poco.”
“Abaton” has a tense Hitchcock running-up-and-down-stairs
vibe that leads to the furious flights Feldman excels at.
It is by far the most fervid of the four, by its end tho’
silence overshadows the return of the running strings.
The 19 improvisations, none longer than 5 minutes, are
like watching batting practicer: quicker crowd-pleasing
action. From pizzicato caves(#5) to weird whistly string
playing(#17), to wind-swept melodies(#11), firecracker
snap(#9). Lots of prepared piano too. Both rewarding in
different ways.

Cosmosamatics Three s/t [Boxholder]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

In space, no one can hear you scream. In the vacuum of bass,
one is less likely to hear a sax scream. This album rides
on watery crests of tom rolls and cymbal crashes from JAY
ROSEN, while saxmen SONNY SIMMONS and MICHAEL MARCUS trade
a lot of spry cycles and merge for half-chords, keeping a
pretty taught tether to the melody of these compositions.
No doubt there are solar flashes (certainly on “Avant Garde
Destruct”), but the moonwalk cord keeps the hornmen closer
to the mothership, which works fine by this passenger (and
the Amsterdam-ned in attendance for tracks #5-#8). Two of
those live numbers, “12 Seasons of Love” and Simmons’ solo
rendition of “‘Round Midnight” balance a more stately flow
against burnished extended solos. Rosen returns invigorated
for a 2.5 min drum rollick to launch the closing “Requiem”
with rooted baritone from Marcus and cool oblique echos
from Simmons eventually join them. “Futura” and “Bring on
the Funk” give the listener the smoothest flight path,
I dug those, but along with “Avant…” my favorite was
a very nebulous “Tonal Magnitudes” with slippery scales
and solos. Next stop, Venus.

Masashi Harada’s Condanction Ensemble “Enter the Continent” [Emanem]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Bostan-based set of musicians performing guided
improv, not by baton…nor by game piece…but by
the feet (and body) of dancer Masashi Harada.
Results traverse a very spacious nebula of sound.
Starlight flicker of Phil Tomasic’s sliding guitar,
windy wordless vocals from the whole cast, breathy
work from Nmperign duo, rings of string from Aleta
Cole and Dan Levin. The sound always appears to be
way up high, although there’s mysterious dark matter
(not just molten trombone) in much of the silence
that this ensemble manages to preserve. This is
Halloween jazz with an otherworldy beauty. I wish
I had witnessed the Big band big Bang at the point
of creation. Proof of an expanding universe

CKW Trio “The Is” [Black Hat]

Thurston Hunger   1/22/2005   A Library, CD, Format, Jazz

There’s a lot of doors into this fine release from this local
trio (and once and future veterans of KFJC’s pit). #4 offers
an acid-folk tablet of tabla, flute and bouzouki, as welcome
as it is unique on this CD. “Mondrian en Amerique” has more
complicated lines and colors than its title’s inspiration,
it’s kinda of Clusone-y in its sawing cello and giddy spurts
and stalls. On “4+#11m6m7” (known as track 7 to its friends)
a bassoon goes hunting in a forest of trinkling percussion,
bowed cello grows like shadows on the trees. “R’izhii” is a
hobo’s waltz with dixie DT’s and Klezmer shakes. “Augmented”
was my fave, very fluid, high register intertwined sax and
cello. “Iram” pumps a spastic, avant funk nicely. On #8 Alex
Kelly’s slithery cello (sounding like some analog electronics
oscillating wondrously) connects a more fiery beginning to
passages with chinese gong and sweeter pondering’s from band
and label leader, Michael Cooke. While Cooke is the obvious
sonic focal point, Kelly’s wildcard nature is what I think
elevates this band. The letter W and assorted batterie are
provided by Andrew Wilshusen, his talent is as an empath
between the other two gents. I could see him adding touches
of electronics to the mix as well. This ain’t “Was” jazz,
enjoy the evolving “Is.”

Mraz, George – “Moravia ” – [Milestone]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

George Mraz is from the eastern part of what was Czechoslovakia so his jazz influences include a lot of the more traditional folk music of the area. His bass playing is very full and classical and that sets the pace for this recording – no “up” songs. Zuzana Lapcikova plays the cymbalom (hammer dulcimer) and sings some songs in Moravian – you probably won’t understand them, but it is pretty, interesting and different – give it a try! *review by David Richoux

Irzarry, Ralph & Timbalaye – “Best Kept Secret ” – [Shanachie Entertainment]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Following many years working with Ruben Blades, Timbal player Ralph Irizarry has formed his own group. The result is naturally percussive, but there is a lot more going on here. It is a bit hard to figure expressive jazz in a danceable Latin style, but these guys do it somehow, without being too “commercial.” *review by David Richoux

Cimposium Vol 7 [coll] – [Creative Improvised Music]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Yet another great sample of jazz and more from all over the place. All recorded at the Spirit Room in Rossie, New York in 1999. From slightly scary sax squirts to tasty violin & guitar, cello & trombone duets, this covers a lot of territory. Track 9 is an almost trad reading of “Just a Closer Walk,” but most everything else is original compositions. Lots of short tracks here, drop them in anyplace! *review by David Richoux

Kronos Quartet – “Caravan ” – [Nonesuch Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

WOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!!!!!!!!!!!
It seems like the Good Ol’ Kronos Quartet have ditched just about everything they have done before and decided to take a trip around the world. No more Microtonal Minimal Modernista Composition for the KQ – they are playing HOT FIDDLE (and HOT CELLO) in so many styles – Jazz, Slavic, Electro/Beat, Arabic, Turkish, Portuguese, Argentine, Gypsy-Romanian, Indian, Mexican, even a bit of Surf! Many guest artists on many percussion, keyboard and other instruments add a whole lot to this very fun recording. You probably won’t dance to it, but you will find great things here… a few notes on the better tracks:
#3 combines the quartet with tabla – very Indian
#5 is Killer, but it takes a bit to get going – best track here (stick with it!)
#6- Gloomy Sunday might sound familiar, but it is SO SAD!
#7 is goofy electronica #8 modern Argentine tango.
#10 Iranian-Turkoman traditional folk/dance Spike Fiddle!
#11 Sufi trance music – slowly building, very dramatic, traditional instruments accompany.
#12 Armenian Surf via Dick Dale!
*review by David Richoux

A La Carte Brass + Percussion – “Live on U ” – [Union Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

It has taken almost 20 years for the music of the Dirty Dozen and ReBirth Brass Bands to finally expand out of New Orleans, finding young musicians who now understand that it is something more than just brass and percussion – it is a drive, a spirit, and “A LA CARTE has got it, plenty! They are from the Washington D.C. area, been around since 1994 and they take a lot of influence from the D.D. (they use that band’s arrangement of Caravan) I really enjoyed this live and lively performance. The 4 man percussion section is quite strong, especially when the Brazilian samba style beat gets going. The trumpets and bari sax are also very hot- and the tuba is very much in control of the whole thing! Slipping in a few rock/soul/torch songs sung by Shaun Murphy (of Little Feat) and a rapping track were nice touches.
Unusual “vocal drumming” on track 12! *review by David Richoux

Blythe, Arthur Trio – “Spirits in the Field ” – [Savant Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Arthur Blythe and Bob Stewart have a long association, and they really work well together. The tuba is providing just as much “melody” as rhythm and Stewart really knows how to play! Blythe on Alto is both tuneful and honking (at points) but mostly the fluid style he has mastered weaves around the tuba voice so amazingly well. When you ad the incredible percussion of Cecil Brooks to the mix – this little trio becomes a monster! There is a taste of New Orleans street / funk, a lot of driving hard bop, and just a ton of wonderful interaction in music. This was recorded live in Amsterdam in 1999, the audience is really into it! Not scary, just great! *review by David Richoux

Mora’s Modern Rhythmists – “Call of the Freaks ” – [Mr. Ace Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

This project from southern California’s ultra retro swing band picks some of the more obscure tunes from jazz history. Some male, some female vocals, some novelty renditions of interesting songs that were not especially “hits” – but they do have merit. Please remember that jazz musicians were not considered respectable in all social circles back in those days – these songs reflect some of that “outsider” status. Fun and swinging stuff!
*review by David Richoux

Dixie Power Trio – “Ain’t My Fault ” – [Dpt, Inc/New Line Brass]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

The third CD from this multi-talented east coast trio plus one – mixing powerful tuba lines with jazz/zydeco/boogie style music. This group is also now part of the New Line Brass Band but I think they actually work better in quartet form. (A few of the tracks have extra musicians from the NLBB helping out.) New Orleans Mardi Gras standards mix well with swinging dixie tunes and band originals. The shifting from trumpet to accordion is interesting and gives the band a whole new flavor, but it is Andy Kochenour on tuba that makes the group really move! *review by David Richoux

Gress, Drew – “Spin & Drift ” – [Premonition Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Complex quartet stuff here with Drew Gress mostly on bass (but some pedal steel,) Tim Berne on reeds (with some multi-track recording,) Uri Caine on piano and Tom Rainey on drums. Not very squonky – it moves right along even with extended bass solos. Tasty! *review by David Richoux

Ware, Bill – “Sir Duke ” – [Knitting Factory Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Like many other jazzers, Bill Ware shows his respects to The Duke (and I don’t mean John Wayne) with a selection of his classics. With just the addition of Marc Ribot on the guitar, this recording does not have quite the same pulse & drive of his “Vibe” CD from a while back, but it is still quite good. The up songs are tasty, especially Caravan and “A” Train but the moodier songs need a little something, in my opinion. *review by David Richoux

Cohen, Greg – “Way Low ” – [Jasrac]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Bassist Greg Cohen has lined up a bunch of his New York friends to make this VERY SWANK recording. Taking a few cuts from Duke Ellington (the little known title track and Creole Rhapsody) a Bud Powell tune and he rest his own compositions, Cohen really sets up a great, if short CD. Dave Douglas on the vital trumpet and Scott Robinson on the reeds are outstanding, but the rest of the group ain’t small change either… check it all out, please! *review by David Richoux

Ballin’ the Jack – “Big Head, the ” – [Knitting Factory Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

This 2nd installment from the group of KFR regulars is an outstanding look back to the days of big band jazz as it progressed through “Hot Jazz” to “Swing” to “Bop.” The adaptation and arrangements of both hits and somewhat obscure songs by Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, and others bring the genre into the 21st century with just a little kicking and screaming. Hot and tasty licks (including some from Anthony Coleman on the B3 organ this time) – even a Glenn Miller standard ballad is turned into a moody sax and bone gumbo (samples of a 30’s announcer and Miller Orchestra performance are blended into the mix.) Ballin’ the Jack have done the research well, and I think they had a lot of fun making this record. Not scary at all – just wonderful and varied – give any track a spin! *review by David Richoux

Youngblood Brass Band – “Word on the Street ” – [E Pluribus Bumpass Music]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Much like the A La Carte Brass & Percussion we have added recently, this group is not from New Orleans but they have learned well from the many 3rd Generation street brass groups of New Orleans – recently they went to that city and won first place in a semi-formal competition for this style. Not bad for a bunch of white highschool punks from the Milwaukee area who used to call the group ” One Lard Biskit.” Very tight horn section, fluid bass-tuba lines, good drumming, solo and group vocals and a overall sense of fun and well learned roots make this a worthwhile addition to the KFJC library – check it out! *review by David Richoux

Romus, Rent-Life’s Blood Trio – “Blood Motions ” – [Jazzheads]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Fresh from his appearance at a local bowling lane (well, actually recorded a couple of years ago) – Rent Romus and his Life’s Blood Trio take on some classic Mingus bop, Dolphy freejazz and some fresh honkin’ squalkin’ screamin’ Saxophone displays – minimal but very supporting bass and drums let Rent go wild on his horn. You know what you are in for, so you Better Get Hit In Your Soul! *review by David Richoux

Bitches Brew – “Gooey Dewey ” – [Flatbed Lamborgini]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

A lot of die-hard jazz fanatics were extremely pissed when Miles went into his “electro-fusion” period, mixing effects, rock instruments and “non-jazz” elements to his work. This recording is a tribute to those times (much like “Yo Miles”) but the focus is more on the interplay between the sax and trumpet with the rhythm section mostly relegated to laying down a strong groove. Marc Collins on didjeridoo (track 4) is a nice change-up. If you like Electro-Miles, you will like this recording… *review by David Richoux

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