Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fire Maidens From Outer Space, Suddenly Alien

We are most certainly experiencing a flowering of women in jazz in the last several decades. When I went to Berklee College of Music in 1971-2 there were maybe three females enrolled. That no doubt has changed but beyond that we have plenty of women making great jazz out there now, outside of the schools per se. Sax, flute, electrician Bonnie Kane is one of the very worthwhile players in the avant camp these days, as you can hear readily on her trio Fire Maidens From Outer Space and their album Suddenly Alien (Starrynight Records snr6).

Joining Bonnie is the excellent bassist Reuben Radding, here cranked up a bit on the electric bass guitar, and drummer David Miller, who adds a good deal of pop and sizzle.

Bonnie brings a great feel for tone color on her saxes and flutes, a fanfarish presence that flows nicely overtop the churning rhythm section. a good incorporation of electronics and lots of open free energy-invention. Bonnie, Dave and Reuben kick up plenty of dust.

Here's a good one to clear the leaves and brighten your senses! Recommended.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Do Tell Plays the Music of Julius Hemphill, HotEnd

The advanced rootedness of Julius Hemphill's classic compositions sound well in the hands of the trio Do Tell on their album Hotend (Amirani Records 043). The trio is distinguished by the presence of the hip and backboned tuba work of Mark Weaver, the soulful cornet of Dan Clucas and the solid drumming and extracurricular electronics of Dave Wayne.

We get the churn and burn of vintage Julius with "Floppy," "Dogon A.D.," "Body," "Hotend," "The Hard Blues," and "G Song." Do Tell quite obviously relish the pieces and dig right into them like a hearty handshake from an old friend.

There is plenty of space, understandably, for all three to move around and through. They do not fail to get it all going. This is in the classic tuba trio zone. Weaver, like Joe Daily with Sam Rivers, gets into the riffs like a tuba variant of the contrabass role but then he also solos like a horn. He plays a nice part too in the melody-heads as warranted. Wayne plays a swinging funk to nail down the groove. And Dan is filled with good solo ideas and limber phrasing so nothing ever becomes tiresome.

A happy confluence is Hotend. It manages to be ahead avant wise yet remains accessible to anybody with a sense for jazz in the wide possibilities it has for us. Bravo!

Monday, October 24, 2016

I Belong to the Band, Bakers of the Lost Future

There is over-the-top music and then there is music that is over the top of that. I Belong to the Band and their Bakers of the Lost Future (inexhaustible editions 2016) belongs to the second tier of outness. It is a collective snort into deep space. I mean the snoring snort. The deep dream snort.

All came together, as these things sometimes do, as a near accident. Vocalist Jean-Michel van Schouwberg and live concrete artist Adam Bohman were invited to Budapest to do the soundtrack for Peter Strickland's second film, "Berberian Sound Studio." Multi-instrumentalist and electronician Zsolt Sores booked studio time and gathered together with the two and resident vibraphonist-synth-miscellanea transforming Oliver Mayne. Add Katalan Ladik on vocals for one cut and you have the spontaneous two-CD set on hand.

It is one of those sessions where everyone intuits the objectives and comes up with premier ultra-outer collective improvs that, to me anyway, completely nail down a long moment of utterly alien sound art. The melange of sound-timbre-tones is bracing, brilliant, bewitching and things too complex to give a name to.

Just listen to the CD-length "intergalactic goulash vs sneezawee gaspacho" for starters. It goes a long way and covers many spontaneous  movements where no one is attempting to stand out and in the process ALL stand out. It is a remarkably successful, poetically fulsome blast of creative nihilist affirmation.

This is seriously out music that manages to be great fun at the same time. The Budapest air must have had just the right makeup! Everything very much hangs together.

Anyone into a new outness, a collage of meaningful noise, seek no further!!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Wadada Leo Smith, America's National Parks

Wadada Leo Smith embodies perfectly the adage "older and wiser." In the past decade or so his music has attained a kind of Zen perfection of balance, between the written and the improvised, between his trumpet and the band, between sound and silence, between soul and space.

The new one, America's National Parks (Cuneiform Rune 430-431), gives us two disks of thematically related pieces dedicated to the remarkable sites in the US and to celebrate Wadada's birthday number 75, which falls this December.

The integration of master improvisers and striking compositional structures is complete, directional in the most comprehensive and significant sense. Wadada on trumpet, Anthony Davis on piano, Addey Walters on cello, John Lindberg on bass and Pheeroen akLaf on drums are ideal proponents of the composed totality of this suite, but they also take on the improvisational spaces as the best Jazz ensembles have done, seemlessly yet with total personal presence. Like the Hot Five, Ellington's best units, Miles Davis's quintets there is an uncanny meld of individual and group. If Gunther Schuller's vision of Third Stream music was never quite realized in the '50s-'60s, the New Stream music of Wadada brings his own organic intersection of composed and improvised into play in ways that more than fulfill the promise of new music-avant jazz, because every note and the sum total of the music work together as one. It is Wadada music, long beyond the dual label of our past aspirations. Total and without flaw.

I cannot think of another artist today who has achieved such a level of art music without sacrificing the immediacy of improvisation. But all of this is made possible after years of AACM glories, many bright moments by the very best of the new jazz artists, and we must not and do not fail to appreciate all the greatness that precedes this wondrous phase.

But listen to this music and much of what Wadada has been doing lately. It has risen above what has been to be what is now! Like the Parks, Wadada Leo Smith has become a kind of national treasure. And America's National Parks is one of the pinnacles of his art.

No one with a serious interest in new music should miss this. The top of the peak is in site, or is already before us. It is here. Now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Benji Kaplan, Uai So

Benji Kaplan's Uai So (self released) is so unexpected that it cannot be pigeonholed. Not at all. Benji gives us an album of his songs, his vocals, his nylon-stringed guitar. They and he are Brazilian (by way of New York, but that is just a matter of space!), and there is substantial melodic content and lilt happening.

But then the music is arranged for chamber ensemble and so finely done as to fall into a new music classical camp as well as one for songstership.

And truth to tell the two aspects of this music fit together so well thanks to Benji's sensibilities that the results are absolutely uncanny.

The music flows beautifully and oscillates between Brazilian song and new classical so rapidly as to truly meld together as one unprecedented newness.

Honestly this one is so well fabricated and substantial as to get me reeling with surprise and delight.

This fellow is something else! Something else!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Matt Ulery's Loom / Large, Festival

Matt Ulery is one of those Chicago jazz presences that I welcome with virtually everything I hear of his, going back to my Cadence days. I may miss a few, but he never fails to interest me on those things I do receive.

His latest is a big band Loom/Large and the album is called Festival (Woolgathering Records 0003). Or rather, I should say that the first half of the program is a 14 piece outfit complete with strings and the second half is by his quintet.

An increasingly sure sense of "orchestration" is to be heard on the large band numbers, from the ravishing arrangement of Rowles' "The Peacock" through to the Ulery original.

Matt plays bass and tuba here in his developed, special way. The large band is especially well apportioned and there is an impressive handling of sections and good solo spots. Zach Brock is especially lucid on his violin solos.

The quintet numbers (Ulery plus Russ Johnson on trumpet, Geof Bradfield on bass clarinet and clarinet, Rob Clearfield on piano and pump organ and Jon Deitemyer on drums) show his increasing use of the small group as a sort of mini-orchestra with significant arranged passages and an overall lyrical compositional bent which reminds us where Ulery has been but also how his fluid line sense continues to grow.

Ulery gives us one of his very best here. More lyric than avant, you find yourself drawn to the endless charm of his inventive imagination.

Excellent album.

Trygve Seim, Rumi Songs

When one is on the receiving end of all the newness out there as I am in my reviewer-blogger capacity, one can never be sure what one will be exposed to next. Trygve Seim's Rumi Songs (ECM 2449) is one of those where I had no idea what to expect, and was happily shocked by the old-in-the-new, the lyrical-in-the-deep sort of music to be heard here.

Seim plays tenor and soprano sax in the way that ice on a small pond may build up over time. It is all of a piece as that sheet of ice, yet there is an ever-varying way it hangs together from section-to-section, piece-to-piece. Certainly Garbarek's imprint is upon what he does, but he transforms it all.

The program is a series of songs Seim composed out of the poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi in the English translations of Coleman Banks and Kabir Helminski. Now this is deep imagination at work to begin with. Seim sets them to music--his own saxophones, the accordion of Frode Haltli, the cello of Svante Henryson, and the stunning vibratoless mezzo-soprano voice of Tora Augestad.

There are tightly composed lieder where the sequence and arrangement give musical life to the poetry; and there are others where there is a looser structure that allows for improvisation. As a listener one suspends expectations and lets music and meaning wash over one's senses.

The unique ensemble sound in the hands of Seim, his appropriation of Indian, Arabic and perhaps Euro folk elements give depth and musical voice to the imagery of the poems.

I find the music haunting, not easily forgotten, ever opening like the paper-flower sculptures as a kid I mused over. There is more. And then more. And unlike the paper structures you can unfold the aural world repeatedly.

It is music that puts you somewhere you do not expect to be but are glad of it. This is the new ECM I suppose you could say, or a part of it, expanding the open and ambiant creativity the label has always espoused but giving us things with a further sense of depth, a sonance that transcends categorization.