Music Reviews

Tenor, Jimi & UMO – “Mysterium Magnum” – [Herakles Records]

Naysayer   5/3/2016   CD, Jazz

Jimi Tenor is constantly pushing himself to try out new things, or reinterpret things he is familiar with, or put a twist on things familiar, or….. Needless to say, a chameleon of sound. Jimi Tenor, his name a combination of his favorite youth idol Jimmy Osmmond (HOT!!!!) and the tenor saxophone, comes from Finland and has created music electronic, jazz, big band, industrial. He has made his own electronic-mechanic instruments. Needless to say, creative and out there. “Mysterium Magnum”, the 2015 release on Herakles Records, continues this push. Tenor performs with UMO the Finnish national Jazz Orchestra, creating 12 pieces of tight, solid and clear jazz. UMO are amazing in their playing. Clear, crisp sounds punch through these big band orchestra pieces. Oh the horns. There is a retro feel to the numbers, going back to sixties studio orchestras performing soundtracks and backup for big name singers of the past. But it’s more than that for as the band plays on Tenor comes in with the craziest synth sounds I’ve heard in a while. Squonks, squeaks, blurbles. It’s a 1960’s Russian synthesizer, the RITM-2. Oh it is so good. I just couldn’t stop smiling…. and laughing…. and jumping around. The whole thing plays it straight, but it is not, not really, not with Tenor at the helm. And at the controls of the RITM-2. Enjoy.

Bad Luck – “3” – [Tables & Chairs Music]

Thurston Hunger   4/15/2016   12-inch, Jazz

Fantastic sax and drum duo from Seattle. KFJC DJ/MD
aBacus Finch said they are even more potent live which
is high praise voltage considering this 2014 recording.
Their album is bristling sharp percussion from Chris
Icasiano, his snare is crisp and he’s more about tight
rhythms than florid free-for-all bursts. Iscasiano likes
to shadow his tenor partner Neil Welch on staircase sax
runs. Welch’s style is often staccato and sweet, and
he augments it all with outstanding electronics. A high
drone sample piercing over the top on “Power Ballad”
during breaks is one example, it ends in a dark alley
where you night bump into Der Club of Gore. Most of
side B has a charged distortion bucking at your ears,
makes that feel like it could plug right into an old
Pop Group ditty. “Tour Song” rises and falls, with some
silence at times, it’s like the duo are playing on
a nuclear sub during a meltdown. I’m not sure if it’s
the electronics or Welch’s compositions (quick flicking
melodies) but this jazz vinyl flat out rocks. More swinging
than Zu, but it’s got that similar brash appeal. Welch’s
use of effects is seamless and spectacular. The duo
ends the album with a short smoldering “Heart Machine”
and then a cover of the Art Ensemble’s “Nonaah” that
palpitates and thumps in cycles. If it weren’t for
Bad Luck our radio station would be a little less lively.
-Thurston Hunger

Parker, William – “Stan’s Hat Flapping In The Wind” – [Centering Records]

Hemroid The Leader   4/13/2016   CD, Jazz

19 Songs about the mysteries of death and life as revealed to a Native American who’s hat began flapping in the wind. Between 5:00 and :22 long.
Music & Lyrics by William Parker. Sung by Lisa Sokolov. Cooper-Moore at the piano.
Sokolov does a great job interpreting and straddling the line between brassy Musical singing and more delicate Jazz vocals. The lyric is very well written.
16 (Prayer) & 17 (Invocation) deliver two different looks to the album. Reminds me of Ran Blake & Jeanne Lee which is
apropos because one of the songs mentions her.

Romus, Rent/ Rankin-parker, Teddy / Pearce, Daniel – “Live At Vamp Vintage” – [Edgetone Records]

Louie Caliente   4/10/2016   CD, Jazz

Free jazz trio recorded live at Vamp Vintage in Oakland.

The album takes its name from the sea god of Irish mythology, and also from the leukocyte-immunogobulin-like receptor, a protean which regulates the immune system and inflammatory response. All tracks have names taken from cellular biology.

This is improvised jazz inspired at times by part by post-rock and drone. It’s very cohesive and listenable, not too “out-there”.

All three musicians are very accomplished and short biographies are provided in the liner notes. Rent Romus is on alto and soprano sax, as well as flute. He is influenced by jazz greats such as Albert Ayler and Sun Ra, and non-jazz greats like Derek Bailey and Merzbow. These influences are apparent in his solos, which alternate between long melodic riffs and repetitive otherworldly honking. Oakland resident Teddy Rankin-Parker is a renowned cellist who has played with Iron and Wine and Primus. On this album, he switches between rhythmic plucking and slow, dissonant drones. Daniel Pearce plays drums, skittery and rumbly, but not often explosive.

Tapio & Tuomi Duo – “Matka” – [Karkia Mistika Records]

Hemroid The Leader   4/6/2016   CD, Jazz

Finish duo Jorma Tapio on reeds and flutes and Janne Tuomi on percussion. “Ranging in mood from serious to wanton.”
Sometimes it’s a heated free jazz duo, other times it’s very primitive with vocalizations and hand percussion. Draws you in.

Weiss, Dan – “Sixteen: Drummers Suite” – [Pi Recordings]

Arcanum   4/5/2016   CD, Jazz

This Work is far over my Head. Please read the liner notes if want to know the premise of this introspeculative refractioned cross communication from a metaphysical post bop/down beat/fusion jazz drummers index. I dont think Im done with this reveiw

Guru knows my questions before I ask them
Guru explained to me that one grows out of suffering
Guru knows I am sick before any symptoms show themselves
Guru has thrown me in the fire every chance he can get
Guru has heated my car up by sitting down in it
Guru has taught me, by example, the true meaning of discipline
Guru has taught me that happiness is attained when one realizes what one has
Guru has imparted knowledge that I have only begun to understand after some years
Guru has taught me about restraint and development
Guru has taught me how to see the bigger picture

Isbin, Gilbert & Walton, Scott – “Recall” – [Pfmentum]

billiejoe   3/30/2016   CD, Jazz

Recorded in Sebastopol. Walton on piano and Isbin on guitar. Short stringy songs featuring an eight course lute. It gets freer towards the end of the album such as the grabby screechy bass on track 7. One track is named Terpsichore which is the muse of dance from Greek mythology. Some of it is rather classical and chambery.
— Billie Joe Tolliver

Murray, Kevin Quartet – “Primary Sound” – [Subruckus Collective]

Hemroid The Leader   3/23/2016   CD, Jazz

Four tunes recorded straight to tape from local quartet. Led by 16-year old drummer and Subruckus Collective label head Kevin Murray. It’s 1 of 40 copies.
Opening tune by Murray, 2 & 4 are improvisations, 3 is an Ayler tune.
The recording is straight-to-tape, very casual in feel, like a jam session or live set. Murray played with William Parker at school and it inspired him. The band feels for a way out but never gets too far gone or even particularly skronky, rhythm keeps it moving. Very enjoyable.

Cook – Greene – “a 39 Year Reunion Celebration” – [Studio 234]

abacus   3/21/2016   CD, Jazz

an intimate gathering of long lost comrades in free improvisation, veterans of the creative jazz scenes around New York / Boston / and beyond. even the tightest compositions unravel into beautifully quilted conversations: minimal yet lush, interwoven in psychic interdependency, drums and piano as one Improvising Being, old friends unloading an unspoken bond. introspective yet outgoing, both humorous and somber, the purest of personalities sonically palpable.

United Slaves, The – “United Slaves #2-3” – [Improvising Beings]

abacus   3/21/2016   CD, Jazz

haphazard collective of jazz journeymen (Owl Xounds, Arthur Doyle, Temple of Bon Matin, Other Matter) fall together into free drone jazz freakout meditations of varying portions; from 5-53 minutes, biting off more than they can muster in hodgepodge sound conundrums. broken swing swaying crooked in the windscapes, rhythm section chain rattling against the noisy tumult of rock unhinged in synth bewilderment. hippy burnout jam sessions for long come-downs at sunset meanderings: lost forever.

Jamieson, Andrew – “Heard The Voice” – [Edgetone Records]

Hemroid The Leader   3/9/2016   CD, Jazz

Dedicated to spiritual transformation at the piano, Andrew Jamieson earned his Master’s degree in music composition from Mills College. Passionate about black gospel music, he plays for faith communities in Oakland and San Leandro. Jamieson is also a free improviser with Ell3 and Nine Fingers. “Heard The Voice” is his attempt to integrate these traditions. African American church music is reconstructed with an eye towards Sun Ra, John Cage, and free improvisation. Reharmonized and improvised passages illustrate the struggle and fervor of a spiritual journey. Harmonies recall Thelonious Monk. Descending harmonies and extensive use of the pedal gives the music a wild conflict. We have other versions of many of these traditional songs in the library from artists like Mahalia Jackson and Fishbone.

O’Keefe, Pat – “Contents May Differ” – [Innova Recordings]

Hemroid The Leader   3/2/2016   CD, Jazz

Five pieces written for clarinetist Pat O’Keefe, mostly solo. On this release O’Keefe is concerned with legacy, and considers the composers as his collaborators.
Dissonant Grooves opens the album with dissonant pitches set to accessible rhythms. Dendrite soundtracks snowflake formation. Contents May Differ explores close-miking. The Broken Mirror Of Memory (6-9) adds piano and electronics to very compelling effect.

James, David GPS – “Billionaire Blues” – [Self Produced]

Hemroid The Leader   3/2/2016   CD, Jazz

Chamber jazz septet – viola, guitar, drums, bass, clarinet, trombone. Lush arrangements. Sounds downright old-fashioned sometimes. Sesame Street, bowling alley. All composed by guitarist David James. Vocals on #4. We have more David James in the library. Features Lisa Mezzacappa on bass. Funded by the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music.

Wiener Kids – “What a Mess” – [Self Release]

billiejoe   2/29/2016   CD, Jazz

Jazz ska band for Saturday morning cartoons. Playful and orderly at the same time. Aram Shelton, Cory Wright, and Jordan Glenn from Oakland and guests. Primarily percussion, brass, and winds.
I liked the drum solo on track 8.
— Billie Joe Tolliver

Slobber Pup – “Pole Axe” – [Rare Noise Records]

felix   2/23/2016   12-inch, Jazz

Slobber Pup’s double album Pole Axe is free jazz. The band is made up of four people: Jamie Saft on organ and keys, Joe Morris on guitar, Mats Gustafsson on saxophones and Balazs Pandi on drums. As Morris has described it, the album is a manifestation of glacial time: “a state of deep listening between musicians, when time is felt and understood by all, but does not need to be overtly stated. Everyone is experiencing the pulse, yet everyone’s focus is on the larger arc of the music.” One Amazon reviewer described it as a bunch of people warming up, while another as “fabulous improvisation by masters at their craft. Jamie Saft and Joe Morris can read minds.”
–Double Felix

Bjorkenheim, Raoul Ecstasy – “Out of The Blue” – [Cuneiform Records]

Hemroid The Leader   2/17/2016   CD, Jazz

Helsinki jazz quartet – guitar, sax, bass, and drums. The tight and funky rhythm section supports outwards-looking lead instruments. The guitar uses distortion and the saxophone plays a variety of voices and textures. Some times more mellower, sometimes all out whammy-bar.

Track 3 “Fly In The House of Love” buzzes along, blinking, water dripping, buzzing.
Track 4 “Uptown” has a commanding intro – sax and guitar trading off with bass and drums. Slide guitar. Really energized.
Track 7 “Roller Coaster” shares something cool with Ornette Coleman.
Track 8 “Zebra Dreams” muted guitar strings sound like African thumb piano, sax animal cries. Then it gets more complicated..

Saffron – “Dawning” – [Palmetto Records]

felix   2/9/2016   CD, Jazz

Vocals, sitar, tabla, saxophone, and piano make up the album Dawning by the ensemble Saffron. Formed in November 2009, the group is composed of musicians from the East and West: each bringing their own style, and all joined together by the love poetry of the Sufi mystic, Rumi. Saffron layers classical Indian music with a hint of jazz forms atop lines from Rumi in Persian. The music is meditative. Check out the first (haunted) track entitled “Dawning” at 21 minutes or the lively “Tease” at 17 minutes. But if those are too long for you there are shorter pieces as well.

–Double Felix

Wright, Cory Outfit – “Apples + Oranges” – [Singlespeed Music]

humana   2/8/2016   CD, Jazz

This lively jazz release lives up to its name–the mixing of crisp apples with juicy oranges provides a counterpoint to the ears with the fine musicians conversing in a challenging and stimulating way. Oakland-based Wright composes the music and plays tenor sax and B-flat clarinet, and each piece is sustainable in its energy, with the likes of Lisa Mezzacappa contributing bass and Jordan Glenn on drums. This is not a snoozer at all, but rather uplifting and energizing.

Custer, Beth Ensemble – “For The Grace of Any Man” – [Bc Records]

Arcanum   2/3/2016   CD, Jazz

Beth Custer is a San Francisco based composer, performer, bandleader, and the proprietor of BC Records. She has over thirty-five recordings out with her ensembles one of which is The Beth Custer Ensemble. For The Grace of Any Man is a collection of original songs and instrumentals with some crackling arrangements of a few cover songs, all penned by Custer and guitarist David James. This CD sparkles with choral singing and clarinet, guitar and trumpet solos abound. Some great guest musicians round out the work.

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