KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

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

Benjamin, Sathima Bea – “A Morning in Paris” – [Enja Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/30/1997   CD, Jazz

Quite a story from ’63: a Nazi’s secret tape, a young chanteuse takes a chance, the Duke helps and heralds here husband’s (Dollar Brand to-be Abdullah Ibrahim) combo and we’re the happy ending when we play these refreshing trad ballads. Sathima’s voice is satiny, evoking a soulfulness beyond today’s brand of vocal cords on steroids. Makaya Ntshoko’s drums are mic’d as pure fountains of cymbals with soft, splashing snare. Svend Asmussen pops champagne violin bubbles. Ellington guests on two of his pieces, Billy Stayhorn adds a pair working the lower 44, and Ibrahim fills the rest with subtle strength. On all cuts, you can hear the space between their fingers. For a one-day session of one-takes, this is remarkably relaxed. Soothing and lucid as a clear mind in dawn’s light.

-Thurston Hunger

Copyright © 2019 KFJC 89.7 FM
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Public Inspection File