Wednesday, July 30, 2014

a couple of discs from the nyc trip

Last week I was in New York City and, as I usually try to do, I stopped by the Jazz Record Center and Downtown Music Gallery - I managed to behave, limiting myself to one album from each store. All jazz fans who make it to NYC need add these two stores to their schedules.

The Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts (Elemental Records)
The two concerts were recorded during 1965 for broadcast of on WKCR-FM, the tapes recently came to light and were released earlier this year filling a spot in the decade-long gap in Giuffre's discography following the release of Free Fall.
The first disc features the trio of Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet & tenor sax) Richard Davis (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums) and opens with Giuffre on Tenor sax. The tone is robust and not what many would associate with Giuffre if they have only heard the airy whispers his earlier work (although there are recordings from 1952 with Howard Rumsey where he honks, growls and wails).

Fans of Ornette Coleman will be interested to hear the trio's sparse and slower take on Coleman's "Crossroads" with Giuffre on clarinet.

It's great hearing Giuffre playing this music with drums. Chambers fits in well and uses space nicely, mixing up broken time, color/texture playing and time. Check out drive "Drive" where his playing flows between approaches very smoothly. Davis sounds great here too (duo spots with Giuffre and solo playing) - the excellent recording quality is a bonus too. It's an interesting piece that mixes up fairly introspective sections with more full throttle playing. At 11 minutes it's the longest track on the disc and the trio keep it interesting throughout.

The last two pieces - "Quadrangles" and "Angles" - contrast one another. The former being a quieter piece with Giuffre on clarinet, the later a kicking off with some powerful tenor playing moving into a section with Giuffre playing high, single note attacks before taking the tune out.

The second disc is from a concert from earlier in 1965 featuring the quartet of Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet & tenor sax) Don Friedman (piano) Barre Phillips (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums). The two concerts have four tunes in common and a more listenings will be required before I draw to many comparisons. On the surface the obvious change is the fuller sound of the ensemble due to the addition of piano. Even so, the change is not as dramatic as I expected. There is still plenty of space and density/texture seems to be a detail Giuffre paid plenty of attention to. On many occasions only two or three of the quartet are playing. When all four are present often a couple of them are keeping their roles to interjections and responses. Players entering and dropping out (seemingly at will) caught my ear and I found it compelling listening.

The recording quality is very nice and it's a nice package too - 27 pages of photographs and notes from Zev Feldman (Producer) Philippe Carles (author) Bob Blumenthal (critic) George Klabin (Recording engineer) Juanita Giuffre (Jimmy's Wife) Paul Bley (an except from his book Stopping Time) Jim Hall and Steve Swallow. A must for fans of Giuffre. I've added this to the my "best of 2014" list.

John Zorn Stephen Gosling
Stephen Gosling Trio: John Zorn's In The Hall Of Mirrors (Tzadik)
I recently heard Gosling playing "Illuminations" on Zorn's Rimbaud and a quick search brought up this recently released album (recorded in February, 2014). For this album (like on "Illuminations"), Stephen Gosling performs works by composed by John Zorn (yes, the piano pieces are 100% notated) with improvised accompaniment from Greg Cohen (bass) Tyshawn Sorey (drums)

I'm curios about the preparation of the rhythm section. Did they have scores or had they heard the pieces before the recording? If the answer is no, then their playing is all the more remarkable. There is a high level of communication between the bass and drums as a pair and in combination with the piano.

The six compositions span from 2010 - 2014 and there is plenty of variety - from the mellow opening "Epode" to the rumbling intensity of "Maldoror" and power of "Illuminations" to the balladry of "In Lovely Blueness" to the minimal and abstract "Nightwood."

A small complaint - I understand the visual confusion of being in a hall of mirrors but did that require them to make the liner notes so difficult to read?

It's a recording that blurs the lines…. classical…. jazz ….. third stream….. other? Worth while checking out for those interesting in piano trios, new music or something a bit different. A fantastic candidate for a blindfold test!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Impact Records: Our Man In Paris

It's been a while since added to this series of the blog. Here are the previous entries - Kings of SwingKind Of BlueCharlie ParkerBillie and PresOut To Lunch.

I picked up Dexter Gordon's Our Man In Paris (Blue Note) towards the end of my last year at high school or during the summer before heading to music school. I can't remember what led me to this album but it was on heavy rotation over the summer leading to the start of music school and I transcribed a few of the solos. Although I have played some of the tracks to students over the years it's not an album I return to often. Listening to it when I was working on this post was the first time I had given the album a run for quite some time. Back then I think I was drawn to the boldness of his tone and the excitement of the faster tracks (“Scrapple From The Apple,” “Broadway,” and “A Night In Tunisia” - I also had heard other artists play them). Now my attention was drawn to the ballad (“Stairway To The Stars”) and the track I don’t remember as a well as the others (“Our Love Is Hear To Stay"). I have mixed feelings about this album now - it's one of nostalgia rather than musical affinity. However, the shimmering cymbals of Kenny Clarke grabbed me and I feel I will likely return to the album for his playing alone – Klook plays great on the entire album.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Charlie Haden

Haden @ Jazz Middelheim August 2009
photo by Guy Van de Poel
The web is alive with tributes to Charlie Haden and I felt it was necessary to add my two cents. I spent some time on Friday afternoon listening to some selections from the post-Ornette quartet "Old and New Dreams" and Etudes (trio with Geri Allen & Paul Motian), Memoirs (trio Paul Bley & Paul Motian). He has plenty of room to shine on Soapsuds, Soapsuds, a duo with Ornette Coleman.

Improvisers (on any instrument) can learn so much from his melodicism and economy. The later being a rare quality (we all tend to over-play) and is something I am becoming increasing interested in. The man could say a lot with a little and his music came from a deep place. One of my favourites.

I first heard Haden during my mid-late teens on Ornette Coleman’s The Shape Of Jazz To Come. At the time my ears were drawn to Ornette's playing and it wasn't until years later that I started coming to grips with the importance of Haden in this music. It’s an album that I’ll write about separately at a later date.

He was brought to my attention again a couple of years later on Lee KonitzAlone Together (Blue Note). This album got some serious airplay in 1999-2001. I was transcribing Lee’s solo on “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and my saxophone teacher challenged me, saying something along the lines of, “Why? What are you going to learn from that?” – I didn’t know what to say! Haden’s backing of Konitz (and Brad Mehldau) is superb – not a wasted note on the entire album. The same can be said for his solos to. I heard a Konitz/Haden duo set was recorded but I have never managed to track it down (I found a pic of the album cover somewhere online years ago). If anybody out there can direct me to it I’d be extremely grateful.

I only heard Haden in person once – a duo with Paul Bley at the Blue Note in NYC in 2009. I could only afford to sit at the bar, where they crammed us in like sardines. It was a pretty disappointing listening experience and put me off going to the Blue Note again (it was my first time there). I spent the evening squeezed in the corner unable to see the bandstand and having to put plenty of chatter around me. However, I had no complaints about the music.

Here are links to just a few of the many tributes: Nate Chinen at the New York Times, the Free Jazz Collective BlogNPR Remembering Charlie Haden.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gig: Carol Liebowitz Trio Scholes St Studio

On Friday July 25th I will be playing as part of the Carol Liebowitz Trio at Scholes Street Studio in Brooklyn. We're playing the first set (7.30pm) followed by the FIDO Quartet at 9pm.
The entrance is at 375 Lorimer Street on the ground floor of the red brick townhouse at the corner of Scholes Street.
L Line to Lorimer stop
Stay in the FRONT of the train (if coming from Manhattan).  This will bring you to the exit at Metropolitan Ave. and Lorimer St.  Walk down Lorimer away from Metropolitan and toward Devoe, for a total of 8 blocks, to the corner of Lorimer and Scholes.

G Line to Broadway stop
The exit is at Broadway and Union.  Walk up Union toward Walgreens for a total of 3 blocks.  Turn right on Scholes Street and walk to the end of the block, to the corner of Scholes and Lorimer.

J, Z, M Line to Lorimer stop
The exit is at Broadway and Lorimer Street. Lorimer is not well-marked here; just look for the tall apartment buildings and walk up Lorimer toward them. Continue walking up Lorimer past a park and ball field for a total of 4 blocks to the corner of Lorimer and Scholes. 

Parking is usually available on the street, especially on the Lorimer side of the building. 

Friday, July 04, 2014

James Falzone at The Hideout

On Wednesday evening I was at The Hideout  for  Umbrella Music's "Immediate Sound Series" who were presenting clarinetist James Falzone.

The first set featured the solo work entitled "Sighs Too Deep For Words." Falzone combined clarinet, bells, shruti box and singing bowls for the 45 minute piece that ebbed and flowed between meditative and powerfully intense (with plenty in between). His clarinet tone is full of variety - whispers, growls, microtonal shadings,  very powerful high register and great use of dynamics.
During one section the shruti box functioned as a drone. Aside from that it was used sparingly - mostly a single chord to start or end a phrase/section (the chord remained the same throughout the set). At first I was a little disappointed he was playing through the P.A but it helped bring out the percussive key/finger sounds and it added positively to the overall sound. The live sound was good for the entire night (although they pushed my volume limits at times) and both sets were recorded.

For the second set Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone) and Frank Rosaly (drums) joined Falzone (on Bb and Eb Clarinet) for the Trio's debut performance.  If I was to sum things up quickly I would say the vibes laid down a pad of sound over which the clarinet played melodies (lyrical, but not as you would expect) as the drums moved between time and texture playing. But that is selling things short. It was a very coherent set. There was a nice sense of form from the trio playing what I assume were two free improvisations. Things were paced well and the trio used a variety of density, textures and dynamics. If they decide to release the recording I will be keen to revisit it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Recent Listening: John Surman

John Surman is a player I have been meaning to check out for a while now. I’m not only interested in his soprano work but also the fact that his music crosses from the jazz realm into the “what do you call this?” abyss.

The Spaces In Between (ECM) – Surman (soprano/baritone sax, bass clarinet) and Chris Laurence (bass) joined by the string quartet of Patrick Kiernan, Rita Manning (violin) Bill Hawkes (viola) and Nick Cooper (cello). Very melodic playing at times blurs the line between improvisations and composed material. Overall the feel is unhurried, melodic and somewhat introspective. There’s almost a suite-like feel to the album with the pieces flowing together well – just as I felt it was getting a bit bogged down things picked up again. It was fun trying to pick which instrument Surman would play on each track as I listened to the introductions. Recorded in 2006 at the St. Gerold monastery in Austria, which I believe is where the Bley/Phillips/Parker album Sankt Gerold was recorded (also on ECM).

In The Evenings Out There (ECM) This one is usually listed under the leadership of pianist Paul Bley but the other musicians – John Surman (baritone/bass clarinet) Gary Peacock (b) and Tony Oxley (d) – share credit on the album spine.
The album mixes things up over the 12 tracks with solo (4 by Bley, 2 by Peacock, 1 by Surman on Baritone), duo (Peacock/Oxley, Bley/Peacock, Oxley/Bley) and 2 quartet performances (Surman on baritone and bass clarinet). The recording has a very open feel, there’s plenty of space for the musicians to play, listen and react – free and melodic. As usual when I hear Bley I wonder why I don’t listen to more from him. It would have been nice to hear a bit more from Surman. Apparently the pieces here were recorded at the session in 1991 that resulted in Adventure Playground that was released under Surman’s name – I’ll have to check that.

Fragments (ECM) 
Another from Bley, is time with Bill Frisell (g) and Paul Motian (d) joining Surman (4 tracks on Bass Clarinet 2 each on Baritone and soprano and sits one track out). Of the nine tracks, there were a few that I had heard before (Frisell’s “Monica Jane” Carla Bley’s “Seven” and “Closer” and Annette Peacock’s “Nothing Ever Was, Anyway”). Quite a mellow set with Surman’s “Line Down” being the odd-one-out, but it does provide some contrast. Strong individual voices yet the quartet come together and work well.

The Biography of Rev. Absalom Dawe (ECM 1994)
This is the first solo album I’ve heard from Surman – he has recorded a few dating back to the late 1970s. The horns (baritone & soprano sax, bass clarinet, some alto clarinet too) get a pretty even spread across the album. Most of the tracks utilize some form multi-tracking with Surman accompanying himself on one or more horns or synth, although there is space for unaccompanied playing. Overall this one didn’t grab me as much as the discs with Bley, but there was still plenty to like (I could take or leave the synth parts). I feel like I’ll warm up to it – the second listen was better than the first. ”The Far Corner’s” did give me a chance to hear his soprano tone on its lonesome (aside from the ever-present ECM reverb).

Under the leadership of Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem comes Thimar (ECM, 1997) with John Surman (soprano sax/bass clarinet) and Dave Holland (bass).
The album has an unhurried feel to it. The occasional (and very subtle) vocal from Brahem (on “Qurb” for example) adds a little extra of color to the fairly stripped-back feel of the album. Surman divides his time pretty evenly between two horns – four on bass clarinet and five of soprano (including an unaccompanied feature on “Wagt”) and he sits two tunes out. It would have been nice to hear him play some baritone too. At times his soprano summons an “eastern flavor” – not surprising considering the material. There is one composition each from Holland and Surman – the remaining nine are from Brahem.

Surman gets a rich tone on both baritone and bass clarinet and there’s a buzz to his soprano tone that I enjoy. He’s a melodic player with a sense on drama. Not someone I hear mentioned all too often but well worth checking out. I’m looking forward to exploring some more – perhaps some of his earlier work and the other session with Bley/Oxley/Peacock.