Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol. 3

Charlie Haden Dewey Redman Paul Motian
It's Wednesday night after class and that means beer and jazz time. Only one disc tonight as there are dishes waiting to be done - Kieth Jarrett's The Survivor's Suite (ECM) from 1976 with Jarrett (piano, soprano sax, bass recorder, celeste, osi drum) Dewey Redman (tenor sax, percussion) Charlie Haden (bass) Paul Motian (drums, percussion)

The album is comprised of two tracks, each running over 20 minutes with fluctuations in feel and density that keep things moving along and engaging, which makes for a really well-paced album.

While many listeners are probably more interested in Jarrett's piano playing, I'm curious about his work on soprano saxophone. His playing doesn't sound like other players of the straight horn or that era (or since really). It's a stripped-back approach, kind of raw and unpolished with an emphasis on melody, sound and texture rather than flashy chops. Sam Newsome describes Jarrett's approach to the soprano as "organic" - it's definitely not genetically modified. Well worth checking out (as is Sam's playing!).

Haden's bass playing is a wonderful lesson in economy that is seldom heard. As and accompanist and soloist, he has the rare quality of being able to use the minimum amount of notes to maximum effect - with a great sound to boot. His partnership with Motian is one of my favorite rhythm sections. For that reason alone I don't know why I haven't checked out more from this group (aside from some listen sessions at the library some years ago). Add it to the list I guess! I'll get around to it, but before I do, The Survivor's Suite will get a few more listens. The 48 minutes fly by (hence this being a rather quick post). Highly recommended. And now it's time to do the dishes.

More Lambic Jazz: Volume 1 - Volume 2

Monday, September 26, 2016

A bit of recent listening

In addition to the albums mentioned in other posts, here's a taste of what else has been having a spin over the past couple of months.

photo credit: my wife (thank you!)
Herbie Hancock: Inventions and Dimensions (Blue Note)
It's not nearly as well known as the albums that proceeded it (Empyrean Isles and Maiden Voyage) but I'm not too sure why because it's a fine, fine album. Maybe it's because the latter albums featured tunes, whereas the music on Inventions is largely improvised.

Marilyn Crispell: Nothing Ever Was, Anyway: Music of Annette Peacock (ECM)
This is one of my go-to albums when I'm after something with a great sense of space. Even when things get a bit busier, the trio still maintains a vastness to the sound. The last listen through I focussed on Paul Motian's very conversational playing.


Roland Kirk: Domino (Verve)
Regardless of the instrument(s) he's playing, I love the infectious energy that Rahsaan Roland Kirk brings to the music. I've said it before and I'll say it again - a lot of people sleep on Rahsaan, don't let him pass you by.

Mat Maneri: Trinity (ECM)
I picked up this solo violin/viola album on a whim as I have been meaning to listen to his work (I heard him at the Hungry Brain a couple of years ago and really enjoyed his playing). Maybe it will strike me when the mood is right, but so far I haven't been able to get into the flow of this one.

Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now (Reprise)
Sometimes (not always) I feel the arrangements are a little bit overblown, but regardless of that, the vocals always hit the spot. Added bonus are some nice Wayne Shorter solos scattered throughout. His short soprano feature on "Answer Me, My Love" has a speaking quality that appeals to me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol. 2

St. Louis Fond Traditional Gueuze Van Honsebrouck
The post-class hang continues and I'm going to try and keep these going for the rest of the semester.

The night started off with Paul Motian: Time and Time Again (ECM) Paul Motian (d) Joe Lovano (ts) Bill Frisell (g)
I was introduced to the Motian by way of Lee Konitz (and come to think of it, that's how I first heard Frisell too) and I was taken by his playing, both as a soloist and as an accompanist. This album is a great feature of the latter. I enjoy the way he doesn't play time the way you might expect, breaking things up, creating dialogue with the rest of the trio, seamlessly moving between different pulses and textures so naturally and utilizing space in ways few drummers do. Lately, I'm enjoying Motian the composer and there are some really nice tunes here - "Wednesday," "Whirlpool" and "K.T." They have a uncluttered, folk-song or nursery rhyme simpleness that appeals to me.

This trio is a great showcase three very identifiable musical personalities and while I 'm not a huge fan of Joe Lovano, this is the setting in which I prefer to listen to his music. As opposed to degenerating into an all-star hit out, these personalities come together as one to form a true ensemble sound, although at times they provide the illusion of moving independently of one another - perhaps a side-effect of playing together for 20+ years.

Next up was Liz Gorrill (these days known as Kazzrie Jaxen) and Andy Fite: Cosmic Comedy (New Artists Records) - a live set of nine piano and guitar duets to round the night out. There are a couple of things that stand out to me listening to these two - Karrie's rhythmic nature and drive and Andy's articulation and tone with an emphasis on the acoustic side of his instrument (which seems to be a rarity). There are plenty of surprises as they take some familiar forms to new places, it's a wild ride but a lot of fun. I'm not sure I can really put this into words but I feel it's rare to hear jazz like this - spontaneous improvisation at its finest. The music feels as if it could go anywhere and often, at the blink of an eye, it takes off on another plane. The way Andy's lines slide over the piano dirge on "Blues for the Child" always gives me a kick, and then there's the counterpoint throughout the album. It's hard to play favorites but the quiet surge of "A Dream of April" snuck up on me tonight.

Accompanying the music tonight was St. Louis Fond Traditional Gueuze by Van Honsebrouck. And now it's time to tune in to the cricket (1st test NZ vs India). Yes that's right, I'm combining three of my favorite things tonight.... make that four as I played some sax before dinner!

Vol.1 can be found here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Steve Coleman Interview - Cadence Magazine 1986

This interview from August 1986 issue of Cadence features a fairly young Steve Coleman. This is the earliest interview I have found so far, but I may just need to dig a little deeper. Click on the image to view full interview as a PDF (This was the best quality I could get on my phone). More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Cadence Magazine

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A good night in (aka Lambic Jazz vol.1)


Michael Formanek Ensemble KolosusI decided a post-class relaxing night at home was on the cards. Tonight this was in the form of listening to my friends, vocalist Cheryl Richards, guitarist Adam Caine and alto saxophonist Nick Lyons on Cheryl RichardsIf Not for You (New Artists). I don't mention my friends albums all too often (Hayden Chisholm being the one exception) but this is something I want to change. I find it quite hard writing about friends music and I'm not sure why really. Anyway....the majority of the album features vocal and guitar duos (Nick joins in on 3 of 10 pieces), and Adam's accompaniment really stands out to me. "Willow Weep for Me" in particular always grabs my ears with Adam touching on the blues in ways I haven't heard him play before. His playing on "My Melancholy Baby" is a treat too. Nick is at his relaxed, lyrical best on "Foolin' Myself." And Cheryl's phrasing on "You'd be so nice to come home to" leapt out at me tonight - softly touching down in places unexpected yet completely apt. Although I haven't been playing many standards of late, I still get a kick listening to them being interpreted in a personal way. Nick has album in the works that should be released shortly, so more friends will make and appearance in the near future.

If Not for You was followed up by something that I hadn't really given a decent listen to just yet, Michael Formanek's Ensemble Kolossus: The Distance (ECM). Although I have heard the majority of the personnel in various settings (both live and on recordings), very few.... if any, were large ensembles. So I didn't know what to expect with this album but that can be a good thing as it let's you sit back and be surprised. The title track kicks things off and is followed by "Exoskeleton" a suite in nine parts. There is plenty of room for soloists and the duties are spread throughout the group with pretty much everyone getting room to move at some stage. Often the ensemble is stripped back to a small group accompanying a soloist or there are sections of collective improvisation with varying numbers of players, rather than an over-reliance on more traditional soloist/rhythm section/backgrounds approach so common with big bands. I enjoyed the way Mary Halvorson's solo emerged from within the ensemble on "Part V - Without Regrets." I hadn't heard the tenor sax of Brian Settles before, but his playing on the title track put me in the right mood for the rest of the album. I found the ending somewhat abrupt and underwhelming but other than that, The Distance went down well this evening and I would recommend it to those of you into big bands. Outside of Kenny Wheeler's Music for Large and Small Ensembles I can't think of too many large ensemble albums on ECM (a Dave Holland album rings a bell too). Are there any others that you would recommend?

Tonight's listening session was accompanied by a bottle of Lindemans Cuvée René Oude Gauze and now I'm going to read a little from Peter Ind's Jazz Visions: Lennie Tristano and his Legacy - definitely not a traditional biography by any means but it is an interesting read that I find myself returning to on a fairly regular basis, even if it's only to read a few pages.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Nautilus: Infrablue

Nautilus: Infrablue (Two Rivers)
Hayden Chisholm (as) Jurgen Friedrich (p) Robert Lucaciu (b) Philipp Scholz (d)
Jurgen Friedrich Robert Lucaciu Philipp Scholz

Over the last couple of months Infrablue has been on pretty regular rotation.
The music is unhurried which could lead some to miss the subtleties that unfold throughout. The key for me is the conversational approach to the ensemble as a whole which leads to a well-balanced group sound with no single voice dominating the album. Overall I would place the sound as understated, subtle,  intimate, warm, somewhat introverted and at times, there is a feeling of vulnerability. Occasionally things get ramped up like on "Armageddon" although it doesn't feel out of place. 

The compositions are shared amongst Chisholm (4), Friedrich (3) and Lucaciu (2). During the last couple of listens I have concentrated on Hayden's tunes. "Star Shepherd," "Inward Expansion" and "Love Rush" are on the new box set that I am slowly making my way through (most recently I've been listening to The Void Between Us and Sisyphus Runs). The latter two tunes feature duo passages between sax and piano that I have been enjoying. "Fly" must be his most recorded composition (one of my favorites) and it's great hearing artists revisiting compositions over time with different (or the same!) personnel. I think it helps listeners associate a body of tunes with an artists as opposed to an endless string of compositions. The trend seems to be to write tunes, record them, tour and then put them aside and move onto writing a new batch of compositions for the next project. Anyway, before I get too far off topic..... Nautilus played at the 2015 Jazzahead festival and video of their performance is up on Youtube.

I got my copy of Infrablue (along with the download) from Bandcamp.


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Sonny Rollins Blindfold Tests 1962

I haven't posted a Blindfold Test for a while and as today is Sonny Rollins' birthday (September 7, 1930) these articles, from August 2 and 16, 1962, seem like the appropriate choice. My introduction to Sonny came by the way of his classic recordings from the 50s, starting with Saxophone Colossus, then Way Out West... Newk's Time, Freedom Suite, Monk's Brilliant Corners, Dizzy's Sonny Side Up, and one that got a lot of airtime - A Night at the Village Vanguard. These days I find myself checking out his work from the 60s,  The Bridge and Sonny Meets Hawk were introduced to me back when I was at music school, but until more recently I never really gave this era a decent listen. There's plenty up on YouTube - today I spent some time watching a few videos from the late 60s with Alan Dawson and NHOP, and a couple of earlier clips featuring groups with Jim Hall and Don Cherry. Whereas Coltrane used composition to develop his music, Rollins developed his by delving deeper into the standard repertoire. Eventually I will get around to listening to more of the live recordings from this era - they're well worth a listen!
Open the images in a new window to view the full size articles. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.