KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

MTKJ Quartet “Making Room For Spaces” [Nine Winds]

Thurston Hunger   12/8/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Like ROVA, MTKJ feels so strongly bout the connection between
members that they’re all in for a letter and all in for the
long haul. (Well ROVA stuck with it even when it became ROAA)
Anyways this is NOT your father’s West Coast jazz, nothing
as sunny as a convertible drive by the beach, instead we’re
looking over the edge of windy, desolate seaside cliff. We’re
treated to stellar composition, utilizing dramatic pauses
(tightened by Paul Kikuchi’s snare rolls) and major thematic
shifts, check out the 3 minute mark into the leadoff track!
Just gorgeous, later that same piece sounds like Salt Peanuts
are mixed in. Composition includes other moments of homage
along with setting up great dual play between Kris Tiner’s
trumpet and Jason Mears’ reeds. Everyone gets a chance to
solo shine, including bassist Ivan Johnson who can tiptoe tap
on the great intro to #4, or get rubbery as he desends down
the end of the final cut, leading a Mears landing. The album
title speaks volumes in the silence these guys keep alive
like fragile bubbles in convoluted metal sculpture pulled
through a soap rinse. Gaze with your ears.

Kahil El’Zabar & David Murray – “We Is” – [delmark]

Funkminsta Fulla   11/3/2004   Jazz

Kahil El’Zabar & David Murray – “We Is” – [delmark]

an intimate yet brightly mic’d live recording at the Bop Shop record store in Rochester, NY does well to capture these animated players’ performance.

tr1 grooves like the gospel of A Love Supreme; in lieu of Coltrane’s Elvin Jones on trap, here we have the capable Kahil El’Zabar (Ethnic Heritage Ens.) to deliver us the sermon with spirited hand percussion, tasteful trap rhythms and soulful call & response.

tr2, 5 feature upbeat splatter trap ‘n bop squaks – slightly challenging yet ultimately accessible invites to walk amongst the hallowed halls of hard bop

tr3 – delicate thumb organ open, warm vox sing truths throughout, beautiful development of Murray’s sax, rich conversation at -9min then solo vibes kiss with water-like bliss before pump organ confessionals draw this ‘Blues Affirmation? to sombre close

tr4 – swank bass clari + hand perc. that hits right + Band of Gypsys-esque vocal / lyrical feel makes for a toe-tapping time!

mad hatter

[coll:] Voices In The Wilderness – [Tzadik]

Hunter Gatherer   11/2/2004   CD, Jazz

This double CD is part of 2003’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of Masada, the jazz quartet that John Zorn leads. Masada doesn’t play on this CD. Instead 24 songs from their song book are performed and produced by about 80 of Mr. Zorn’s musician friends.

The Masada Book is a collection of more than 200 songs written by Zorn with melodies and harmonies in an attempt to create a new type of Jewish music that is more than the traditional music with new arrangements. He wanted ‘a combination of Ornette Coleman and the Jewish scales.’ (As near as I can tell the Jewish’also called Spanish’scale is the same as a harmonic minor scale begining on the 5th tone.) The scale that the music is based on has that minor-third leap surrounded by half tones that gives the songs a definite ‘Middle east? or at least ‘non-Western? sound.

The arrangements and interpretations of the music are as varied as the musicians who perform on this release, ranging from straight forward acoustic jazz to rock-jazz fusion. The overall feeling is one of joyfulness and optimism. I felt that the vocals on some of the tracks didn’t really add anything to the songs, so I would recommend sticking to the instrumentals.
This release is a lot to absorb. Frankly, you’ll have to explore it for yourself. Here are a few suggestions to get started: CD1: 2-Kisofim, 8-Nevelah, 10-Tirzah; CD2: 4-Tannaim, 11-Tiferet, 12-Kedem.

–Hunter Gatherer

Breuker Kollektief, Willem “With Strings Attached” [bvhaast]

Thurston Hunger   10/26/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

To unfairly reduce the Kollektief, this is a group committed
to serious fun. The musicianship is top-notch, but the accent
probably falls on the fun. In selecting the six composers for
this collection, each one brought something unexpected if not
unaccepted to the concert hall. I think this attitude is the
key to Breuker, breaking the rules, breaking the walls down.
Typewriters turn up on at least two tracks, one of which you
have heard, even if you think not. George Gershwin shines in
the keys of Henk de Jonge, it seems so polished and stately
that it’s easy to forget his rebellious origins. Read the
liner notes for more info on that and the others here (as
well as the importance for lapsing copyrights). The one
composer still above ground is actually not just a composer
but a band member. Alfred Janson’s 20+ minute piece has some
sax daggers, trumpet wisteria that blossoms into fire, and
about 12:30 into it the strings fritter while Janson himself
straps on his accordion to carry out the vendetta with a
hint of a smoking scat-gun as well. Towards the end of that
piece, the players chase each other sonically (and probably
physically on stage to boot.) Tremendous, don’t miss the
return of the sinewy “Sensemaya” with snakey strings.
Hail to the Kollektief!

Electric Masada – “John Zorn 50TH Birthday Celabr ” – [Tzadik]

Daryl Licht   10/2/2004   CD, Jazz

Electric Masada is a new variant of Zorn’s long running and
multi-facted Masada project. The group, which may be Zorn’s
most exciting and creative project ever, features many of the
top players in the Downtown NYC scene such as, Marc Ribot
(the big star of this CD, IMHO) and Ikue Mori. On this disc,
they are captured live in September 2003 as part of Zorn’s
incredible month long series of concerts at Tonic (NYC) to
celebrate his 50th birthday. Rocking riffs, free jazz skronk,
hard swinging grooves, and atmospheric electronic exoctica
are all blended together to create the unique and incredible
Electric Masada sonic attack. Powerful, yet lyrical; this is
improvisational music at its finest. Genre blurring; this casts
a light down the path of the future of music and beautifully
represents the forward thinking aesthetic of KFJC. One of
the top releases this year – don’t miss out! DL

Larry Stabbins “Monadic” [Emanem]

Thurston Hunger   9/1/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Solo saxaphone from UK soprano and tenor-drizer Stabbins.
For erudite enlightenment, seek the liner notes. I can tell
you that this album starts off with a buzzy, windy blower
that then tracks into a spiraling number. Not super cyclone
circular breathing, but spin and hold style. #2 then tracks
into a fuzzier, sputtering piece. About 1/2 way through #3
we move to a drier, tighter dart-like sound. Not harsh in
a Gustaffson style, but more bird like. The soprano takes
over and we get a sort of splintered take on the theme to
Close Encounters. Indeed, Stabbins often has encounters of
his own that drift very near melody. This solo outing has
many down-right hummable parts to go with the other more
peculiar saxy pyrotechnics. But plenty of squiggliness
and nasally wailing like on #5 half-way through. Back on
the tenor train certainly by 12 minutes into #7. That
piece starts with perhaps the most memorable melody on
the album but it gets well and nicely frayed over its
17 minutes. A surprisingly nasty almost R&B smoky start
on the last track before a very abrupt end to the album.
Word on the sleeve is that Stabbins has been a long-time
collaborator on the UK free scene, but this shows he can
stand alone just fine. Mind the tracking…

Trio X 3 “New Jazz Meeting – Baden Baden 2002 ” [Hat Hut]

Thurston Hunger   9/1/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Catchy like an abstract painting…dualing splatter platters
of trios cubed. This New Jazz Meeting features a trick that
is older than it sounds: splicing electronics w/ improv. On
the fly and in situ sounds are sliced & diced by top-notch
twiddlers: Philip Jeck, Bernhard Lang and Christof Kurzmann.
The first disc is all live, while the second (my slight fave)
was a studio effort. Electronics came in originally often
via percussion, and here that is a primary tactic. But also
treated textures hover at the edges of pieces, especially on
the studio disk. The use of lighter horns: Philippe Racine’s
flute, Marcus Weiss’s saxes and a very vital Steve Lacy are
open enough that they never obliterate whatever more subtle
programming is going on. NOTE : contrary to the “band-name”
never do we catch the starting 9 on the field all at once.
Tracks 1-2, 1-4, 1-6 have a few hectic (rewarding) moments,
occasional chainsaw cut-up, wail-out. The rest is much more
nuanced, deep but never engulfing. The liner notes deliver
the recipe in greater detail, and emphasize the secret
rhythms of Lang. 1-1 gets things started tunefully with
a weird waft of brain-funk. 2-6 showcases Lang on “flute”
(sampling Erik Dresher!). Great striking drones on 2-5. Of
the two epics, 2-7 is a winding tunnel that sustains
ominence. RIP Lacy, viva improv.

Pharoah Sanders “Izipho Zam” [Strata-East]

Thurston Hunger   7/27/2004   12-inch, Format, Jazz

Pharoah Sanders remains a regal presence, here we hear him
ascending the pyramidal throne with a throng of amazing
musicans. Sonny Sharrock is on here with bubbling guitar,
dual double bass quadruple soul are laid solid by Sirone
and Cecil McBee. Leon Thomas steals the show with a baritone
yodel that is deeper than the soul…much of this album
despite fiery flourishes, has an R&B skeleton. Sturdy yet
flowing. “Prince of Peace” comes with bells of peace and
sweet washes of sound. “Balance” has be-bop chops and
Sharrock gets more turbulent on this. There’s a nice dry as
a rattlesnake’s skin percussion break as well. The big
payoff is the title track, all 28:50 of it. Thomas’ jazz
yodel returns, transplanted from the river of “Prince”
to a garden of sounds galore. Branches of percussion sway,
thumb piano ferns wave and flutebird moves in and out
of the growth. Free jazz, fire music in its most deceptively
cool environs. All done in 1969…this along with “Tauhid”
are essential Sanders. Towering.

Pierre Labbe “Risque et Pendule” [Actuelle]

Thurston Hunger   6/2/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Six piece ensemble of Montreal McNuggets led by reedman Pierre
Labbe. While this album has moments that fly like free jazz
(stoking the Ornette Coleman stove on #7) and slices of the
lead-off track, this album does toss a lot of proggy precision
down the pipe as well. #6 is the zenith of the latter. Overall
spidery cello and spiky violin keep the listeners on our toes
with meticulously mapped stretches between the improv work.
Toss in a lot of cuckoo clock percussion and you get an album
that snaps into place more than it swings to and fro. Bernard
Falaise (from Miriodor) knifes guitar through at key times,
notably on “Bloops!!” Also on #3 he brings a sort of Masada
coolness and on #8 his work against Labbe’s sax stairsteps
up nicely in the bookend composed sections surrounding more
free fire from Labbe. The more Falaise the better on this
album for me and Labbe’s flute work is gusty and gutsy. The
last piece is a gorgeous slow farewell to a largely skittish
album. Several tracks go from spellbinding to sonically
dispelled in seconds, it succeeds and fails in weird ways.

Moe!Kestra! “Two Forms of Multitudes: Conducted Improvisations” [Dephine Knormal]

Thurston Hunger   5/18/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

You shoulda seen justa what eye heard. Twins here share the
same genetic material, a loose blueprint more than a score,
but diverge wildly. The idea of 30 odd improvisers in a
blender may scare some away, but Moe Staiano is remarkably
up to the match. Indeed, more remarkable is his manic energy
when leading these conductions. “Piece No. 5” has the same
exhilaration of a run-away train, it relies on percussion
especially snare-kept-a-rollin’ rhythmns. Which is not to
say that there aren’t Dreyblattic string charges, very nice
theremin freak-outs, those bouncy Korean style gongs and a
funny coda at the start of #6, kinda like falling down
circular stairs. I’m partial to “Piece No. 4” thanks to its
KFJC connection and I think a more vibrant recording by our
own Akeem. Additionally, while percussion furnaces are
churning, the horns are more out front, we get some searing
Jesse Quattro exhortations, even Looney piano can be heard
through the din along with barbed cello and the return of
the theremin though in more of a Hitchcock mood. Yeah, there
are moments when the center cannot hold, but those might be
your favorites moments. Moehem!

Mylab s/t [Terminus Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/24/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Keyboardist Wayne Horvitz went Snake Pliskin from NYC
some time ago and has helped spark a remarkable scene
in Seattle. Tucker Martine is one of the less covert
masters of the intangible, his production skills
glisten on every track here. While the album starts
out with some deep-fried rhythm and blues (not mere
watered down R&B) by the end of the album we’re no
longer in Kansas…nor New York nor Seattle. Cameo
creme from folks like gypsy Eyvind Kang (#6!!),
recent KFJC visitor Skerik, former Ponga pal Bobby
Previte, Bill Frisell fret fritters. Briggan Krauss
flamethrows on the noisiest track here (#11-my fave).
Even the banjo and dobro of Danny Barnes somehow fit
into the Mylab sink. The expansive palette and crew of
cameos may prevent Mylab from reaching any consistent
orbit (soundtracks sure would be a nice experiment.)
Trust in Tucker for the touch-ups.

Teuber, Hans/Rucker, Paul “Oil” [Jackson Street]

Thurston Hunger   1/28/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Interesting to hear a sax player not trying to peel
paint off yer earlids nor squeeze more notes into a
solo than clowns in a Volkswagen. Teuber’s playing
here is air-tight in parts; smooth (and reflective) as
a pool of water. By the way it is not a tenor as listed
on the cover, it’s alto. Though at times it sounded like
a french horn to me, polished, shiny. At other times it
was relaxed and subdued as a clarinet on claritin. He’s
paired up with a very tightly strung cello from Paul
Rucker. On most tracks it feels like Rucker is going
to have a string SNAP and that adds a nice tension to
the mellifluous playing of Teuber. Lot’s of reverb
on that sax…like walking through an impeccably clean
subway? “Somber Time” is a beauty. “Some Are More
Equal” features nice percussive pphhht’s from Teuber
at the beginning. Art of restraint overall.

Parker, William/Joe Morris/Ham – “Eloping with the Sun ” – [Hypo Production]

Daryl Licht   1/7/2004   CD, Jazz

Three of the leading lights in the world of improvised music combine forces to create this
very unique release. Performing respectively on the sintir (a Morroccan bass lute usually
associated with Gnawa music), banjo and banjouke (a ukelele hybrid), and frame drum,
these remarkable musicians create a sound that is both reminiscent of traditional
instrumental Middle Eastern and African folk music and seemingly totally new at the same time. On each of the five tracks, Parker and Drake lay down a rhythmic groove while Morris freestyles over them like Earl Scruggs on crack. Innovative and hypnotic – play! DL

Trio S s/t [Zitherine]

Thurston Hunger   12/10/2003   CD, Format, Jazz

To say this is a trio of three Robert Horry’s probably
doesn’t mean much, so I shouldn’t start the review that
way. That might mislead, like “Majorca” the leadoff cut
on this eponymous Trio S release. “Majorca” bristles w/
a Tony Conrad/Amps for Christ power, that evaporates for
the remainder of the album. It’s not bad, it’s just that
it’s like a body with a different head. The rest of the
album laps at your ears…soft raindrops on shallow pools
of sound…well the “Russian” Anthony’s River is a 20
second exception. Read Wieselman’s notes on all-natural
perceived melodies…and relax to the flow of this album.
Me, I’ll be pacing next door hoping that Trio S’ next
effort features pursued inorganic melodies…built with
more air and fire, and covered in loamier foam.

Malachi Thompson and Africa Brass “Blue Jazz” [Delmark]

Thurston Hunger   12/3/2003   CD, Format, Jazz

Malachi Thompson is 30 years down the AACM/Chicago
railroad tracks. This album kicks off with an “And the
Grammy goes to…” solid but glossy vibe. But along
comes “Genesis/Rebirth” the closer to Thompson’s Black
Metropolis Suite. The sweet toe-tappin’ evaporates,
and a heart-stoppin’ composition rises like a new sun
in an old sky. Slight flamenco flares arc off Harrison
Bankhead’s bass; the Africa Brass octet which earlier
were turning on dimes, polishing the bop now construct
a slow monolith for Steve Berry to ponder over…until
there’s these crazy feudal/futuristic fanfare. Then
saxist Ari Brown gets a chance to wail on this triumph
of a track. That heaviness keeps a rolling into the
thick bluesy Louis Armstrong triptych tribute. Dee
Alexander starts that on the dark side of the moan,
it then jumps a train and ends as a playful talking
blues against Berry and Brown, now on clarinet. Read
the booklet’s understory arguing against divisions of
blues versus jazz in words, the best argument is the
music… Ends up in fun at the “Mudhole.”

Berne, Tim and Science Friction “the sublime and.” [Thirsty Ear]

Thurston Hunger   10/9/2003   CD, Format, Jazz

Science Friction is Berne’s latest group, with
some familiar figures. Marc Ducret on electric
guitar is somehow able to insert notes between
the fiery charges of Berne’s alto. He’s just a
tremendous guitarist, who we should hear more
of…his use of volume washes works well with
the keys and electronics of Craig Taborn. When
Taborn is leading, this album can prick up
some prog rock ears…but this is really an
explosive jazz album, that gets the Blue Series
nod thanks to the electronics (not just Taborn,
visit “Mrs. Subliminal” to hear Tim dabbling
in delay. Tom Rainey remains Berne’s reigning
drummer king. His looseness fits well with the
dizzying work here. I actually live for the
moments when a few of the scored bars kick in.
Those sections are hairpin tight and move
quickly in unexpected directions. “Smallfry”
is unique in its ice cracking ambience. This
is all live, no safety net.

Shipp, Matthew – “Equilibrium ” – [Thirsty Ear Recordings]

Daryl Licht   1/15/2003   CD, Jazz

Anybody who has been at KFJC for, oh, more than a week or two, should already
know that Matthew Shipp is widely regarded as the finest pianist in Jazz today.
What is, perhaps, even more impressive to me than his incredible talent as a pianist,
is the fact that he continues to explore new territories, rather than resting on his
laurels. He could easily and, quite rightly, be satisfied with the adulation of his
coll and fans and withy the fact that he, unlike the majority musicians of any style, can
make a living creating music he loves. But Shipp, through both his performances and
his work as curator of Thirsty Ear’s peerless ‘Blue Series?, continues to push his limits
and expand the concept of what Jazz is and can be. This outstanding release is the
logical ‘next step? down Shipp’s personal path of sonic exploration, in that it brings
together all the aspects of his recent recordings into a seamless mix of Jazz, beats,
and electronic music. There are tracks (3) that remind you of the organic, ambient,
post-music soundscapes of the ‘New Orbit? CD. There are tracks (2 and 4) that mix
Jazz with electronics and beats, as heard on the ‘Nu Bop? CD. The remaining
material is reminiscent of his ‘Pastoral Compusure? CD, in that fairly ‘straight ahead?
Jazz tracks combine, in a less heavy handed manner, some of the elements described
above to organically morph into a more modern, new form of Jazz. This is a brilliant
album that, truly, can (and should) be played on almost every show. Don’t be afraid of
the blue dot. Enjoy!!! DL

Drake, Hamid and Assif Tsahar – “Soul Bodies, Vol. 1 ” – [Ayler Records]

Daryl Licht   1/6/2003   CD, Jazz

Having been duly impressed with, ‘Piercing The Veil?, Drake’s outstanding
2001 duo release with William Parker, I was looking forward to this release
with great anticipation. As the liner notes indicate, Drake is currently one of
the most respected percussionists in the Free Jazz scene and, like Parker, his
playing impresses in seemingly every context. Tsahar, while less known, has
been a major contributor in the NYC Free Jazz scene for the last decade or so,
through his performances and his efforts as the head of Hopscotch Records
and co-founder of the awesome Vision Festival. After the useless introduction
track, there are three lenghty tracks. Two of them (the first and third tracks)
are awesome freedom chases that are reminiscent of John Coltrane’s duo
blowouts with Rashid Ali. The first of these, ‘Soul Bodies?, starts out slowly,
with Tsahar soloing, before it really takes off; whereas the latter, ‘Heart’s Mind?
is pretty scorching from beginning to end. The second track, ‘Clay Dancers?, is
an excellent Middle-Eastern flavored piece in which Drake chants in Arabic
while playing the frame drumand Tsahar adds some very tasteful bass clarinet.
Excellent! DL

Howard, Noah – “Live at the Unity Temple” – [Ayler Records]

Daryl Licht   12/18/2002   CD, Jazz

Like all but the biggest names in free jazz, Noah Howard has labored in relative obscurity for many
years, despite performing with such luminaries as Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, and Sun Ra and
having releases on such legendary labels as ESP, Freedom, and so on. On this release, Howard
leads his long-running and very tight quartet through five original compositions, including two of
his signature pieces, ‘The Blessing? and ‘Schizophrenic Blues?. Howard’s playing is crisp,
melodic, and clear: alternating intense freedom chases with passages of mournful,
Coleman-esque alto wailing. Pianist Bobby Few is also quite impressive on this date, providing an appropriate foundation in every instance for Howard’s alto flights. In fact, my only real complaint
with this release is that Few’s incredible assaults on the keyboard are often times difficult to fully
hear (and appreciate) amongst Howard and Duncan’s sonic attack; such is the nature of live to
two track recordings. Overall, a very satisfying blast of free jazz – enjoy! DL

Cohran, Philip & the A.H.E. – “On the Beach ” – [Aestruarium]

Daryl Licht   7/21/2001   CD, Jazz

Although he has been credited on only a few releases, Phil Cohran has been among the leading lights of the Chicago Jazz scene for over 40 years. Highlights of his resume include being a member of the Arkestra in the early 60’s and being one of the founders of the AACM, along with such notables as Richard Muhal Abrams, Lester Bowie, and so on. This release documents previously unissued recordings of Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble from the mid-60’s. The music sounds like what you’d expect from an associate of Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble crew: extended jams that display a heavy African/Middle Eastern influence, with lots of hand percussion, bells, and exotic, homemade instruments like the violin uke and the Frankophone (an amplified Kalimba). Highlights include the showcase for the droning violin uke, ‘Unity? and the two Frankophone showcases, ‘On The Beach? and ‘New Frankophone Blues?. Truly a great discovery. Play! DL

Note – This is an archival review. This CD was originally added to KFJC’s library in 2001. It is a long-running tradition at KFJC for DJs to add their own comments to these ‘official? reviews. As a matter of historical context and plain ol? ‘purient interest?, these comments (mis-spellings and all!) are provided below.

‘On The Beach? shreds! – Hawkeye Joe

Cohrannasaurus Wrecks!! – Thurston Hunger

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