Sunday, May 31, 2015

NZ Music Month: Syzygy - Tongue Grooves

For Part 4 of my New Zealand Music Month posts (Part 1Part 2 and Part 3), I've been revisiting an album I listened to a lot during my time at music school.
NZ Jazz New Zealand Jazz

Syzygy: creative music ensemble - Tongue Grooves (Yellow Eye)

Jeff Henderson (as) Joe Callwood (g) John Bell (vibes) Paul Dyne (b/e.bass) Chris O’Connor (d)
Recorded in Wellington during 1996, I never managed to hear this group live. But later on I did get to hear the members in various other groups playing around Wellington (particularly from 1999 up until I headed to the U.S in 2004. And again between 2005-2009). This album may be a bit harder to track down than the other three albums I've written about this month. Originally I brought it from Slowboat Records and somewhere along my travels I lost it. But thanks to Gemm, I managed to get another copy from Slowboat.

Tongue Grooves has plenty of variety - the grinding "Pain and Darkness", straight ahead swinging "Nquitpausuckowashawmen",  the comedy of "Saydah's Tongue Groove", the mellow "Breathe Now", the high energy of "The Risk" and the angular "Demented #2" - but there is also continuity that glues the album together into a solid work. 

Mike Nock recordings aside, Tongue Grooves was the NZ jazz album I listened to the most during music school (C.L. Bob (live and recordings) got plenty of airtime too). It was rare that anyone ever mentioned NZ jazz around school (Paul, Chris and Jeff (briefly) taught me at the university, as did John but I don't remember having any classes with him). The curriculum didn't place any emphasis on NZ jazz and I cannot recall playing tunes by Kiwis (although there were a couple of big band charts by Alan Broadbent), nor can I remember our jazz history class spending any time on the NZ scene. I hope this changes.

Listening to Tongue Grooves this month has brought back memories of 1999 and listening in my bedroom overlooking the car park out back of The George. Nostalgia has kicked in and I want to check out more NZ jazz recordings from that time period. I'm sure there are plenty of NZ jazz albums from the 90s that I haven't heard but Tongue Grooves must still rank very highly. Next time I'm home I'll have to hit the used record stores to try and track some of them down.
New Zealand Jazz

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Enigma of Miles Davis - Down Beat January 7 1960

For Miles' birthday (b.1926) here is Barbara Gardner's feature The Enigma of Miles Davis from the January 7, 1960 issue of Down Beat magazine. Click on image below to view PDF of the full article. Enjoy.
Links to all the vintage magazine articles I've posted can be found here.

Barbara Gardber

Sunday, May 24, 2015

NZ Music Month: Colin Hemmingsen & Dave Lisik - Fate and the Processor

For the latest instalment of NZ Music Month posts (Here are Part 1 and Part 2), I have been listening to one of the stalwarts of the New Zealand jazz scene paired with a recent transplant from Canada.

NZ Jazz New Zealand Jazz
Colin Hemmingsen & Dave Lisik - Fate and the Processor (Rattle) 2011. 

In comparison to Colin’s other recordings Fate and the Processor stands out as being the most “different.” Is it jazz? I'll say yes (although Rattle didn't release it on their jazz imprint). I find the album is best absorbed in one sitting and at 48 minutes this is very manageable. In fact, it is rare for me to put this album on just to listen to one track. I'm not all that sure why - perhaps it is the suite-like nature of the work.
While the album is adventurous, I still find it very listenable - perhaps in part due to Colin's melodic conception, which has got hold of me as I've listened this month. Colin provides all of the source sounds from his arsenal of woodwinds (tenor & soprano sax, clarinet & bass clarinet, bassoon) which were then arranged and shaped into the final album by Lisik and his computer. At times the sounds are largely acoustic, layered on top of each other. At other times the acoustic tones of Hemmingsen are blended with varying degrees of electro-acoustic manipulations from Lisik. There is plenty of variety as far as texture and density which helps the music from getting bogged down. Each time I return to the album I continue to notice things I missed previously, which makes for rewarding listening.

All in all, it's nice to hear Colin reaching out into areas I hadn't associated with him before hearing this album. Listening to Fate and the Processor leaves me wanting to hear Colin record with acoustic group playing free improvisations.
New Zealand Jazz

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Shape of Jazz to Come - Original Down Beat Review

On May 22, 1959 Ornette Coleman's quartet recorded the music that would appear on The Shape of Jazz to Come. I was about 17 when first heard the album, and it definitely made an impact on me. John S. Wilson reviewed the album in the December 10, 1959 issue of Down Beat magazine. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

John S Wilson original review

Sunday, May 17, 2015

NZ Music Month: Paul Dyne & Richard Nunns - Hikoi

Part two of the New Zealand Music Month posts. The previous instalment is here.

NZ Jazz New Zealand Jazz
Richard Nunns & Paul Dyne - Hikoi / Journey (Rattle) 2011

Over the last decade Rattle Records has established itself as the heavy weight jazz record label in New Zealand. Their releases are fairly broad stylistically and include those by veterans, such as the duo here, and younger musicians such as The Jac. With jazz releases from New Zealand it almost seems that unless an album is self-released, it's on Rattle. 

This two disc set is towards the more adventurous end if the Rattle spectrum, and I've been focusing on Hikoi (disc 1), which features seven improvised duos between Richard Nunns (Taonga Puoro - traditional Maori Instruments) and Paul Dyne (bass).

Hikoi clocks in at 36 minutes, with tracks ranging in length from a little over one minute through 12 minutes. The disc is very intimate and the playing is in a conversational style, which I feel is at the heart of any successful duo performance. The nature of Taonga Puoro is the antithesis of pyrotechnic displays of technical wizardry (although there is little doubt Richard is a virtuoso), and as a result, minimalism comes to the fore. The duo embraces space and silence, making it a critical component across the album. Paul mostly employs a pizzicato technique, but he also plays arco at times ("Tongariro - Rangitata") and sparingly uses percussive textures ("Manawatu - Wairau"). The albums is wonderfully recorded and I can't recall hearing Paul sound better (sonically).

Journey (Disc 2) features the sextet of Nunns and Dyne joined by Amy Rempel (p) Tim Hopkins (ts) and Dave Lisik & Jorge Sosa (electronics). Considering how much I enjoy Hikoi, I have not listened to Journey nearly as much - I think I miss the silence of the former. The two discs make an interesting contrast though - the ancient/acoustic Hikoi and the modern/digital Journey. Highly recommended.

If you are interested in hearing more from Richard Nunns playing Taonga Puoro in improv-related works, try these albums: Rangirua (duo with Evan Parker), This Appearing World (trio with Jeff Henderson and Marilyn Crispell - which is an outgrowth of Jeff’s project "Urban Taniwha"),  and Tuhonohono (with Judy Bailey and Steve Garden).
New Zealand Jazz

Jackie McLean - Down Beat Feature 1963

Here's Ira Gitler's feature on Jackie McLean (b. May 17, 1931) from the September 12, 1963 issue of Down Beat Magazine. Who knew fans established a Jackie McLean fan club that presented him in concert?
More vintage magazine articles can be found here.
Ira Gitler

Sunday, May 10, 2015

NZ Music Month: Hayden Chisholm - Breve

Last month was Jazz Appreciation Month and this month is New Zealand Music Month. So I have decided to get on board and write a little on a NZ Jazz Album each week.
Matt Penman John Taylor
Hayden Chisholm - Breve (Pirouet)
Hayden Chisholm (as) Matt Penman (b) John Taylor (p) 

Recorded December 18/19, 2013.

I always look forward to new releases from Hayden, and Breve (released in March 2015) is a wonderful mix of new and slightly less new. The trio’s first release (video and audio) was on Plush Music and then partially reissued in Hayden’s box set 13 Views of the Hearts Cargo and as Breve - Live at Plush. Of the nine tracks on Breve, "Patche" and "So It Goes" (by Penman & Taylor respectively) are the only tunes that appear on the Plush concert recordings. Some of the tunes penned by Hayden also appear on earlier recordings - "Fly" and "Barely A Moon" can be found on the trio recording Fragmented Teaching (with Simon Nabatov & Jochen Rueckert). There's a vocal version of "Fly" floating around somewhere for those that want to hear it in it's stripped back (original?) form. I thought it was on Hayden's blog, but a quick search there was fruitless.

While it is not strictly a ballad album, there is a very intimate, hushed feeling, with the trio projecting a balanced approach to their collective interplay and, at times, quite a dark/introspective mood. There's plenty of nuance to tune in to - Hayden's shaping of a held note at 1:06 on "Barely A Moon" gives me a kick each time I hear it. No one is in a rush during this hour of music and even when the tempo is raised ("Tinkerbell Swing" & "Augmented Waltz") the trio maintain a relaxed demeanour. Perhaps it's the lack of drums or (more likely I feel) the trio's ability to execute Hayden's vision for this music that brings the relaxed feel and balanced ensemble sound. Either way, it doesn't really matter. During one listen through I was really drawn into Matt's work on bass. At first it was his tone the grabbed me and as the album progressed his accompaniment held my attention more and more - a great blend of support and embellishment. A couple of moments that come to mind are the way his bass lines develop during "Pass A Cage, Lea" and his conversational playing with Taylor during the piano solo on "So It Goes" (he plays a very nice solo here too). I've given the album at least half a dozen listens so far and I know it won't stop there.
http://www.kyberg-studio.com
Penman/Taylor/Chisholm
New Zealand Jazz

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

ICP Orchestra at Constellation

ICP Orchestra Constellation ChicagoThe ICP Orchestra was in town Saturday thru Monday, although prior commitments meant I could only get along to the opening concert of their tour of the United States on Saturday night (May 2) at Constellation. I've heard them live a few times now and have come to expect it to be an excellent night of music - they did not disappoint.

There's always plenty of variety in a set from the ICP. Moments of free improvisations, interludes from small ensembles leading into the full band, fun,  classic swing (Michael Moore provided a great arrangement of "Moten Swing"), Herbie Nichols and Thelonious Monk (arrangements of "Blue Chopsticks" & "Jackie-ing" by Mengelberg) and originals from the band members including Ab Baars and Tristan Honsinger as well as ICP co-founder Misha Mengelberg (the piano stool is now filled by Guus Janssen).

ICP Orchestra Constellation ChicagoEveryone in the group has room to move and here are some scribbles from my notebook. A very cohesive improvisation from the string section as the intro a tune from Baars. "'Round Midnight" was a great feature for Tobias Delius' tenor. Thomas Heberer's cornet tone makes me want to check out his work in other settings. Moore and Baar's joint solo chorus on "Moten Swing" was lovely and the ensemble horn parts sounded tight.

I jump at the chance to hear Han Bennink. He deserves extra credit for having flown in from Greece that afternoon and still swinging up a storm at age 73. His "antics" (see left) get plenty of attention but I dig his playing (even when he's playing on the floor) in addition to being a creative soloist and accompanist, he can really lay down a groove. It's kind of an "old fashioned" groove that oozes swing and personality yet it never feels dated to me.

If there was one minor quibble, it was that they only played one set. But I would prefer to hear once excellent set than a multiple average sets!
Following the gig I picked up their latest release East of the Sun which I have on as I write, and I 'm looking forward to giving it plenty of spins in the future.

For those of you in (or visiting) Chicago, make sure you get along to Constellation - it's a fantastic venue with excellent programming.
ICP Orchestra Constellation Chicago
ICP Orchestra Constellation Chicago

ICP Orchestra Constellation Chicago

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Mingus Ah Um - Down Beat Review 1959

I discovered Mingus Ah Um around 40 years after it was recorded (May 5 and 12, 1959). I remember buying it with a stack of coins from busking (I picked up Mingus Dynasty a month or so later...I think they had just been reissued). For a time back then I was listening to a lot of Mingus. I still occasionally return to Ah Um and Dynasty (it's been nice listening to it today as I got the post ready and earlier I there year I was working a little on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"), these days my go to Mingus albums are Oh Yeah and Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. Below is Leonard Feather's review from the November 26, 1959 issue of Down Beat.
Click on image to view full review as PDF. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.
Down Beat Magazine Leonard Feather