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Music Reviews

Jackson, Franz & the Salty Dog – “Yellow Fire ” – [Delmark]

David Richoux   1/15/2005   CD, Jazz

A recent recording (not a reissue) of the Salty Dogs, a Chicago style trad band from Purdue that has been around since the late 1950s! Still playing great music (most of the tunes on this CD could have been heard in some Chicago jazz joints since the early 1920s) this is just great, swinging, driving, hot jazz. Some good vocals, just a bit of hokum – but check them out!
*review by David Richoux

Beebe, Jim – Chicago Jazz – “Saturday Night Function ” – [Delmark]

David Richoux   1/15/2005   CD, Jazz

2 LPs in one CD, a bargain pack of great Chicago Style traditional jazz recorded in the late 1970s with an all-star lineup of musicians from the mid-west and west coast. Trombonist Jim Beebe had a great deal of experience before these sessions and the band definitely knows what it is all about. There are two trumpets (or trumpet/cornet) for that unmistakable King Oliver-Louis Armstrong style lead line. There are a lot of different looks here, from boogie-woogie to slow blues, swingers to New Orleans jazz standards. Some well placed vocals, but the important part is how this band really cooks, regardless of the line-up.
*review by David Richoux

Butcher, John/Robair, Gino “New Oakland Burr” [Rastascan]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Recently issued capture of two 2001 sessions between local
percussion-plus purveyor (and chief man at Rastascan) Gino
Robair, and UK sax whacker John Butcher. The album starts
with high-pitched twitting over a (bowed?) rumble droner;
it’s hard to tell if that whistling is amplified Butcher or
Robair sawing on some styrofoam or both. The key is that
both guys are willing to stretch their sonic repetoire to
the point of illusion. Thus at times on this you’ll get the
“drummer” squonking away, while the “horn” player is tapping
out a spit-rhythm or other percussion. On other tracks, both
guys approach an alien sound together, like on “Slug Tag”
where they are speaking metal slowscrape. Robair’s ebowed
snare appears on the “Pudsey Surprise” like a fly trapped
buzzing in window screen, Butcher bugzaps some electrosax.
A lot of turf covered here from the drone-tundra of “Fid”
and “Peal” to more squigglery on “Blagovest.” Humor not
to be discounted, hear the sax whinny on “Vug” and Robair
gets in on the joke, but I’m not sure on what instrument.
Would have been great to see this in person live, these
tracks are as short as they are strange…so they are very
easy to squeeze in and play musical ears.

Peter Brotzmann’s Chicago Tentet Plus Two “Broken English” [Okka Disc]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Despite a leading gentle mantra guided by Hamid Drake’s vocal
prayer, frame drum and soul…do not be deceived, this is
**horsepower** jazz. Peter Brotzmann knows how to whip up a
stampede. He rides into the fray with a gypsy’s tarogato,
calming cycles to go with Drake’s dream chant… But just
shy of six minutes, skyscrapers of sound shoot up through
the idyll. Cue the lurching Longberg-Holm cello…unleash
the dual drumheart of Zerang and Drake pumping at more than
capacity, and the race has begun. Brotzmann has amassed
some mighty thoroughbreds…plenty of NRG and BBQ to keep
the fire music flaming…but “Stonewater” does have some
stillness running deep in pockets. Ultimately it is the
sputtering saxes that stand-out, I’m telling you I hear
horses…lip-flipping, braying, raging stags. So even when
we get a little clarinet soft-shoe around 18 minutes in,
and then a very faint cello/bass duo, I’m waiting for
the hoofs…which leap in almost like a bad edit. For all
the fine playing, track one is acoustically imbalanced.
The second tracks stays strong throughout, a nice brass
oven at the end of its first third. The piece pauses
for a trumpet soliloquy at 13:36 (McPhee?) then it’s
over to Gustaffson for his pyrotechnique. Late in the
piece a drum duet locks in, invites in a swinging set
from the whole twelve and boom, a cliffhanger ending.
Years of music barely fit into 67 minutes, escape words.
Listen, follow one player for awhile, repeat..

Bradford, Bobby/Wong, Francis/Roper, William “Purple Gums” [Asian Improv]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Roper’s tuba is smudgy and thick, he also plays the
conch shell…and this reminded me of one gigantic
conch shell at the bottom. Wong’s sax is smoky but
not so much so that you cannot see Bobby Bradford
darting in and out on cornet. All of these are
improvisations that work just fine on their own…but
on several of the pieces, Roper puts down the tuba
and delivers some monologues…that even when tackling
touchy issues like segregation (#4) do so with a noble
sort of whim. He’s not singing, but his voice is so
rich and sonorous that you want him to keep on talking
despite it somewhat distracting from the music. Well,
I sure…did he seems like quite a character, check
“You A Square.” If you want the straight music, they
have got you covered as well.

Archie Shepp – ?Attica Blues? – [Impulse!]

Hunter Gatherer   1/5/2005   CD, Jazz

This is a 3/2003 reissue of an album originally released in 1972.

Saxophonist Archie Shepp is one of the pioneers of free jazz. He has a degree in comparative literature, is a composer, and is a published playwright and poet. He’s also a radical who makes no secret of his anger about social injustice.

So given the topic of the Attica prison riots (in which a four day revolt was squashed by 1,000 state troopers who killed 29 inmates and 10 hostages) I was looking forward to popping in this CD and hearing about what a shit whitey is.

But Mr. Shepp is smarter than that. Plenty of rage is here, and you can hear it in his alto and soprano saxophone lines throughout the whole CD. You can especially hear it in the cacophonous funk-based free jazz (free funk?) of the title track.

The rage almost gives way to despair later in the CD with lyrics like ‘I would rather be a plant than a man in this land.’ Even on the prettiest song Ballad for a Child, discordant strings belie the lyrics ‘What the world needs is a baby’s smile.’

2, 4, and 7 are spoken word ‘invocations? of which 4 is the most interesting. ‘Blues for George Jackson? refers to the Black Panther leader shot to death under suspicious circumstances while in prison.

There are elements of R&B, soul, funk, and even big band underneath the jazz elements, making each track seem familiar but not quite comfortable.

Most of the songs track through, so watch the endings. Also, the last track features some spontaneous (to put it nicely) singing by a 7-year-old.

–Hunter Gatherer

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.

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