Friday, August 30, 2013

Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Sony, 2013)

The husband and wife team of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks make a quantum leap forward on their new album Made Up Mind. Both are guitarists of some renown and Tedeschi has a nice rough around the edges singing voice akin to early 1970’s Bonnie Raitt. They are accompanied by a shifting cast of characters from both of their respective bands and everybody works well together. While their previous two LP’s seemed somewhat tentative to me, this is a superior group effort which is tightly song focused. Kicking things off nicely with the title track “Made Up Mind” the band is taught and Tedeschi’s singing is strong and powerful without being strained. She sounds even better on the slow burning “Do I Look Worried” where the band mines some deep blues territory. “Misunderstood” and “Whiskey Legs” are excellent also, but the highlight of the album is “The Storm” where the dam really breaks and torrid streams of electric guitar flow forward. This was a superior blues/rock effort and should appeal to a wide range of listeners. Made Up Mind -

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Interesting Links

Clarinetist Jeremiah Cymerman has been recording some excellent podcasts for free download. Recent guests have included Mary Halvorson, Chris Speed and Elliott Sharp.

Ethan Iverson interviews Jed Eisenman, general manager of the Village Vanguard.

Sonny Rollins gets a lengthy profile in Men's Journal

Monday, August 26, 2013

Konvoj Ensemble with Evan Parker and Stan Sandell - Thoughts of (Konvoj, 2013)

The Konvoj Ensemble is a musical collective dedicated to exploring the boundaries of improvised music. On this album, they are joined by the well known avant-garde saxophonist Evan Parker and pianist Stan Sandell. They develop a free improvisation that waxes and wanes over the course of fifty plus minutes of continuous music. The group works really well building sections of quiet tension and torrential release of musical energy with the group barreling headlong into furious improvisation. Along with traditional acoustic instruments, there are great slabs of industrial lawnmower sounding electronics, which bulldoze square blocks of music. Parker and Sandell fit in well, carving out their own spots in the maelstrom and making pithy statements the spaces open up. Konvoj

Eric Alexander - Blues at Midnight (Venus Jazz, 2013)

This is a fine and accessible mainstream jazz album under the leadership of tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander in the company of the great pianist Harold Mabern, Nat Reeves on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums. Mabern is nearly a co-leader on this release, as his playing whether as an accompanist or soloist is stellar throughout and he receives several sparkling solo opportunities.  The band plays a romping selection of blues, hard-bop and ballads, beginning with “Sayonara Blues” a fast paced performance where everyone gets a chance to air out their instruments. The Gene Ammons nod “Hittin’ the Jug” is a perfect vehicle for Alexander who shares the same huge tone as the great saxophonist.  Maybern is also well represented on this track as well as the following standard “Willow Weep For Me.” Bobby Timmons’ “Dis Here” is tailor made for him as well, and Mabern responds with a ripe and full-bodied solo. Alexander is inspired as well, developing a well articulated tenor saxophone solo. “Caribe” has a nicely upbeat and danceable feel, focused on bracing swing from the rhythm section and a strong deep toned tenor saxophone interlude. Blues at Midnight -

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

John Coltrane - Afro Blue Impressions (Pablo, 1977; Concord, 2013)

Recorded in Stockholm and Berlin during a 1963 tour, John Coltrane’s classic quartet featured himself on tenor and soprano saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. This was one of the most famous bands in jazz history, and this album captures two well played concerts. This new re-mastering clears up the slightly muddy sound of the previous issue, and adds extra tracks from the Stockholm performance leaving a clear record of a great band in full flight. The album starts with a couple of ballads, "Lonnie's Lament" which would go on to anchor the Crescent LP and Coltrane's well known ballad "Naima." The explosive improvisation "Chasin' the Trane" follows, a much briefer version then the lauded blowout of torrid angst from the 1961 Village Vanguard Recording, but still very powerful. There is an epic version of "My Favorite Things" which features some great piano playing from McCoy Tyner. Bubbling soprano saxophone launches propulsively into improvisation after developing the enduring melody of the song, developing into a long but compelling performance. Another staple of the band's playbook, "Afro Blue," features Coltrane staying on soprano saxophone, developing an exciting nasal swirling sound. "Cousin Mary" begins with a well played feature for piano, bass and drums. Coltrane makes a late entrance, heightening the drama of his explosive solo, developing into a powerful highlight, egged on by Jones' ever-potent drumming. The wistful ballad "I Want to Talk About You" is taken on tenor saxophone and receives a wonderful unaccompanied tag ending. This song is repeated twice on the album, and it is really interesting to see how Coltrane develops the unaccompanied ending each time. "Spiritual" opens strong and sombre with Coltrane on deeply hued tenor saxophone. After making way for the trio, he returns on soprano saxophone for a probing and searching solo. The album also includes the wonderfully exciting "Impressions," moving the music into an uptempo overdrive with piano, bass and drums setting the table before Coltrane enters grandly with an authoritative solo. This was an excellent snapshot of a great band live on tour. Developing new material, and re-evaluating older themes, the music is continually exciting and moving. Afro Blue Impressions

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ivo Perelman - The Edge (Leo, 2013)

Tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman has been issuing albums at a furious rate recently, almost like in the 1950’s and 60’s when artists like John Coltrane would issue two or three albums per year. Like Coltrane, Perelman’s albums are continually questioning the musical orthodoxy and looking for new parts of the musical map to explore. On this album Perelman is in the association of frequent collaborator Matthew Shipp on piano, Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums. “Clarinblasen” starts with ominous bowed bass before the rest of the band enters. The band is very powerful, with Shipp dropping percussive piano chords while Perelman sweeps majestically through it all. “Lancaster” has a freely opening start, and then moves into potent improvisation. Morris, Bisio and Dickey make an amazing rhythm team and it is clear that this is a truly collective band. Perelman drives the music hard with gales of saxophone that are thrilling to behold. The group builds to a fabulous improvisation, laying it all on the line. “Volcanic” encapsulates everything this band is about and is practically a mission statement for the incredible outpouring of great music Preleman has been releasing of date. Standing on the shoulders of Albert Ayler, and Pharoah Sanders, Perelman stakes his own claim to the cosmos with some astonishing playing rendering his considerable technique into the realm of pure emotion. “Websterisms” is a fascinating way to close the album, conjuring the huge brawny tone of Ben Webster and using it to his own devices, to create a loving tribute. The Edge -

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rob Mazurek and Exploding Star Electro Acoustic Ensemble - The Space Between CD/DVD (Delmark, 2013)

One thing that you can be sure of when you listen to an album by cornetist and musical conceptualist Ron Mazurek is that it will always be something different and it will never be boring. This album fleshes out his Exploding Star Orchestra with additional players like Nicole Mitchell on flute and spoken word recitation by Damon Locks. Although split up into different sections, the music is a through improvised program with sections, but not necessarily breaks. The music itself is fascinating, yet very difficult to describe. Electronic soundscapes that pervade the album definitely recall the Sun Ra Arkestra, but the brass and flute weaving through the sculpted sound brings a completely modern feel to the proceedings. Locks has a commanding voice, and is used to great effect on the spoken parts, but there are also snatches of voice that are sampled and drift like leaves on the wind. The DVD portion is just as inscrutable as the CD version, with a film directed by Marianne Kim that has the music of the CD playing as accompaniment to an experimental film that is split into two parts on either side of the screen. On the left a woman, presumably Ms. Kim, stretches and poses and dances, while on the other side Mazurek stares broodingly and plays his horn (silently un-synched to the music.) Slowly over the course of the film the two sides ease together closing the “spaces between” and bringing to a close one of Rob Mazurek’s most experimental projects. The Space Between -

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Will Bernard - Just Like Downtown (Posi-Tone, 2013)

Guitarist Will Bernard presents a fine album of soulful modern jazz in the company of John Ellis on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Rudy Royston on drums and Brian Charette on organ. “Sweet Spot” has an upbeat tempo with nice saxophone and snappy drumming. Ellis’ sound is tightly wound and a bit gritty, perfect for this setting. Solos for organ and guitar are featured before everyone comes together to end the tune in a hard driving motion. A repetitive groove builds tension on “Dancing Days” and this organ focused song is a great feature for Charette. Bernard’s guitar sneaks in, building a funk rhythm and stepping out for a fine solo. After a complicated and choppy opening, “Little Hand” has Ellis stretching out over organ and drums with a focused solo while the organ keeps pushing the pace. Bernard then steps forward, with an appealing Grant Green like tone taking center stage. After a bubbling organ feature, Ellis leads the tune to close with a strong statement of his own. “Route 46” develops a groove from the bass pedals of the organ and the saxophone builds things up to the point where Bernard can assert himself with some intuitive and nimble guitar playing. The whole band becomes one and drives this tune home with strong and powerful swing. Jazz fans who revere the guitar and organ records that were a staple of the Blue Note and Prestige catalogs of the 1950’s and 1960’s will find a lot to enjoy here, the subtle propulsive groove of this music is well played and accessible. Just Like Downtown -

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp - The Art of the Duet (Leo Records, 2013)

Tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp have a simpatico musical relationship like few others. Perelman is in the midst of an extraordinary run of very high quality albums and many of them feature Shipp. On this album, their duality is especially poignant, pair of old friends that can immediately react to the emotions of the other and instinctively react to challenge, comfort or inspire their partner. Both Perelman and Shipp use the entire range of their respective instruments and this allows them a wide variety of sounds and moods to enrich their improvisations. There is a spontaneity that shows the musicians working without preconceived notions on thirteen freely improvised miniatures. Silence is often the third member of the group as they use open space to highlight their ideas and are comfortable enough with a shared silence that they do not feel the need to clutter the music unnecessarily. They communicate in a very meaningful fashion, from harsh and grating to soft, contemplative and subtle. This was a very well done album of music that ebbs and flows in a very personal fashion and leaves the listener with the feeling of having listened to a private and personal conversation between two musicians that have a keep kinship. The Art Of The Duet -

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

John Carter and Bobby Bradford Quartet - Flight For Four (Flying Dutchman: 1969, International Phonograph, 2013)

This is another fine entry is a series curated by the International Phonograph label that brings music needed attention to underappreciated recordings. Originally released on the Flying Dutchman label, The band was composed of John Carter on clarinet and tenor saxophone, Bobby Bradford on trumpet, Tom Williamson on bass and Buzz Freeman on drums. "Call To The Fastival" has a fast Ornettish beginning that mellows out as bass and drums shimmer under punchy trumpet. Bradford gets an excellent feature nudged along with savvy accompaniment. Although he is most well known for his clarinet playing, John Carter was also an excellent tenor saxophonist. Here he is fast and juking, like a tailback running for daylight as he builds dynamically to a furious solo. Harmonized horns usher in "The Second Set" playing in a quicksilver fashion over locked in bass and drums. Bradford's trumpet ripples with muscle, making way for a well played drum solo before the full band returns to complete the tune. "Woman" slows the pace of the music as trumpet and bass come in together in a moody fashion and the drums ease in completing an abstract opening. The open feel allows trumpet and bass to converse unhindered. A circular pattern develops on "Abstractions For Three Lovers" building tension amidst bowed bass and skittish cymbals. Bradford's powerful trumpet cuts through like a lance, followed by blues tinged saxophone supported by subtle brushes. "Domino" develops around nervous and anxious drumming, featuring Carter building a brawny saxophone feature, duking it out with Freeman's drumming. Bradford then is supported by Williamson's excellent bass playing for his own feature. This was an excellent band that recorded several albums in the 60's that have been collected in a Mosaic Select set. This album is packaged beautifully in a replica LP sleeve that contains the original liner notes and a new essay. Flight For Four -

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Harold Mabern - Live at Smalls (Smalls Live, 2013)

Veteran pianist Harold Mabern releases a splendid live album in the company of John Webber on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums. Mabern came up in the early 1960’s, moving to New York City from Memphis and apprenticing with jazz luminaries before he began recording as a leader at the end of that decade. This was a very exciting set recorded during June of 2012 and must have been a blast to listen to in person. “Alone Together” and “I’m Walking” are hard driving performances where Mabern builds percussive cascades of keyboard abutted by strong bass and drums. “Road Song” and “Boogie for McShann” delve deeper into blues and soul, building dynamic crescendos. Proving that he can make great music out of anything, Mabern and the trio dissect the theme from “Sesame Street” and turn it into a rollicking performance. Rounding out an excellent album is a fine rendition of “Afro-Blue” played with great vigor and enthusiasm. Mainstream jazz fans will definitely enjoy this album, it features a master musician at the top of his game. Harold Mabern: Live at Smalls -

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ivo Perelman - Serendipity (Leo, 2013)

Serendipity is defined as "the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way" and that is an apt description of the music on this album, a 43 minute continuous improvisation between Perelman on tenor saxophone, Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. When a supergroup like this comes together the expectations are high, and fortunately the music matches and even exceeds the goals for the recording. These musicians have been playing in each others groups for years and are able to trust and support one and other throughout this free improvisation. The music moves from caustic and harrowing (Perelman has a very distinctive manner of muscular playing during the intense moments) to thoughtful and reflective. Shipp has been partnering with Perelman on several recent albums and their tight bond is one of things that creates the structure of the music that works so well. All of the musicians are utterly professional and inspired throughout this album, taking inspiration from the likes of the classic John Coltrane quartet but refusing to fall into any cliche of the past. These men created this album totally in the moment and it stands as a vital accomplishment. Serendipity -

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Thursday, August 08, 2013

Odean Pope Trio with Marshall Allen - In This Moment (CIMP, 2013)

Adding the great Sun Ra alumnus Marshall Allen to Odean Pope’s trio for this album was a truly inspired move. It raises the music to a whole new level and produces an album that stands as one of the best of the year so for. The band is Odean Pope on tenor saxophone, Marshall Allen on alto saxophone, Lee Smith on bass and Craig McIver on drums. “Maze (Take One)” opens the album in a fast, free, loud and exciting manner. Thrilling squeals and squalls of saxophone joust and parry over powerful drumming. The two horns circle each other on “On This Day” in which their conversation turns into a furious game of tag full of raw wails and screams. The saxophones are closely recorded, and you can hear the air move through horn on the quieter passages. Martial drumming heralds “Maze (Take 2)” with thick bass underpinning the saxophones as they accent each other’s keening whines. The full band is an explosive unit when they are improvising together, achieving Ayler-ish overtones and high register squeals while locked into the bass and drums. The saxophones were difficult for me to tell apart, but one is more controlled and linear in its approach, while the other is wilder and even more adventurous. Everyone complements each other as the drums and bass are featured in a rattling blowout finale. Nicely harmonized horns open “Seeing in the Distance” before there is a tenor saxophone stepping out for a solo, adroitly exploring the terrain and accompanied by fast, light cymbal percussion. The drummer develops a more thunderous role as the saxophones break into shrill territory before shaking loose a bass solo and drum feature. “City Streets” and “Collage Four” takes the album out in a rollicking fashion where “City” develops a brawny swing feel where a tenor saxophone develops an excellent solo over propulsive bass and drums. The saxophone is spooled out at length, playing beautifully and with a bountiful musicality. Segueing directly into “Collage,” the album ends on a very high note which is indicative of this entire session. In This Moment - iTunes.

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Nick Hempton - Odd Man Out (Posi-Tone, 2013)

Since saxophonist Nick Hempton moved to the United States from Australia in 2004, he has carved out a solid niche for himself in the contemporary jazz scene. On this album, he is accompanied by his working band consisting of Art Hirahara on piano, Marco Panascia on bass and Dan Aran on drums. They come out of the gate in a very strong fashion with the first two tracks, “Nice Crackle” and “Five Ways Through Harsimus Cove” which are classy uptempo swingers, performances that wouldn't sound out of place on a Blue Note or Prestige date from another era. “Five Ways” in particular has a more open feel which suits Hempton well with the payoff coming in the form of a well constructed tenor solo in the midsection. “The Winnie Blues” has nice round robin soloing from the band members concluding with Hempton and the drummer trading ideas. “The Set Up” is a strong medium tempo performance developing a percussive piano unit that gives a chance for Hempton to channel Dexter Gordon in a magisterial solo accented by Dease’s trombone. “Fifth Floor Run-Up” builds the pace back up featuring brisk, tight playing especially from Dease, followed by saxophone over open ended rhythm. Nice thick bass and harmonizing horns build a classy swing on “The Slip.” Strong saxophone and bass solos make this track a winner. This is a fine straight-ahead jazz release, Hempton is a saxophonist and bandleader who plays in a very confident manner and a very accessible manner. Odd Man Out -

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Dave Douglas Quintet - Time Travel (Greenleaf, 2013)

Trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas began putting a new band together in 2012, eventually releasing the Be Still album that featured the vocals of Aoife O'Donovan. The new album, Time Travel, is a strictly instrumental affair, with Jon Irabagon on tenor saxophone, Matt Mitchell on piano, Linda Oh on bass and Rudy Royston on drums joining Douglas on this project. The album begins with “Bridge to Nowhere” which has a bright and swinging feel, with trumpet and saxophone intertwining nicely, recalling the great music Douglas made with saxophonist Chris Potter on the albums Magic Triangle and Leap of Faith.There is a fine piano solo, making for a malleable beat along with some strong and ripe drumming. There is a medium tempo full band introduction to “Time Travel” with Douglas probing and then building into a ripe brassy solo. Irabagon chimes is with an equally deep feature, developing a lightly coarse sandpaper tone, digging his heels in before releasing to a nice piano, bass and drums section. “Beware of Doug” has a jaunty theme with some spiffy trumpet aided and abetted by fast piano and a fleet drum solo. They head back to the swinging melody for a very accessible conclusion. The group keeps the music upbeat on “Garden State” where a propulsive riffing opening reveals clear punchy trumpet and brisk saxophone feature that is bristling with ideas. There is a well thought out bass solo before everyone returns to finish the song. This was a consistent and well made album that shows the benefit of a working group that can develop their music together in a satisfying manner. Time Travel -

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Monday, August 05, 2013

Matt Ulery's Loom - Wake An Echo (Greenleaf, 2013)

Matt Ulery’s band Loom sounds like a much larger ensemble than it really is. Consisting of Ulery on bass, Marquis Hill on trumpet, Geof Bradfield on bass clarinet, Rob Clearfield on piano and accordion and Jon Deitemyer on drums, their music focuses on episodic arrangements, long performances that weave differing colors and textures. "The Lady Vanishes" opens up the album with a medium tempoed lush arrangement building to a faster piano solo framed by swirling brass and clarinet. "Coriander" is one of the album’s highlights, with Clearfield ascending and descending the piano in a very well played feature. "Over Under Other" builds drama and then releases the tension was a very good feature for piano, bass and drums. They push and pull the momentum of the performance before making way for the remainder of the band to return. Clearfield switches to accordion on “My Favorite Stranger” making for an evocative sound when blended with trumpet and clarinet. Hill and Deitmeyer are excellent as well with a section of strong trumpet over rolling drums. “Carefree” lives up to its title, sporting light, spacious and pastel hued horns and a solid bass solo by the leader to round things out. Most of the compositions on this album were lengthy and packed with information. The music is not solo-centric, but uses the full band as the palette for its narrative. Wake An Echo -

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Saturday, August 03, 2013

Paul Dunmall and Tony Bianco - Tribute to Coltrane (SLAM, 2013)

About one year ago, tenor saxophonist Paul Dunmall and percussionist Tony Bianco issued an extraordinary album called Thank You to John Coltrane. This extraordinary LP knocked me out when I heard it last summer and became my number one album of the year at the end of 2012. They are back with a sequel that may be even better than last years masterpiece. The previous album mixed compositions from different phases of Coltrane's career, while this album focuses more on the free-jazz he created near the end of his life. "Wise One" is the exception from this pattern and along with "Reverend King" they make the more slower and hauntingly emotional aspects of the music. "Vigil" and "Sun Ship" are excoriating blasts of pure energy that shine with an incandescent light. Waves and waves of sound poor forth from Dunmall and Bianco as they allow no barriers to come between themselves and full mindful expression, one that not only sheds light on their extraordinary talent, but on the music John Coltrane made at the end of his life, much of it being unjustly ignored in the decades after his death. "Wise One" and "The Drum Thing" come from Coltrane's Crescent LP, which I always felt had a sombre air to it. Dunmall and Bianco keep the respectful tone on these performance, with understated percussion and saxophone. The driving "Ascent" however tries to rip a hole in the universe and discover the wonders that lie within. This was a wonderful album, shot through with passion, energy and burning drive to make the best music they possibly can. Highest possible recommendation, don't pass this up. Tribute to Coltrane -

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Friday, August 02, 2013

Albert Ayler - Live on the Riviera (ESP, 2013)

The great avant-garde saxophone player Albert Ayler's music has evolved since his early 60's entry as one of the vanguard musicians of the "new thing." After a series of excellent albums in the early to mid 1960's opportunities began to change, to the point where Impulse Records asked him to perform with vocalists and rock musicians to try and draw a larger audience. On this album from a French jazz festival in 1970, you hear aspects of the later works, as Ayler supports the vocalist Mary Maria Parks who sings and recites lyrics in a strange affected manner on "Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe" and "Island Harvest" where Ayler struggles to find purchase in this bizarre setting. He fares much better on "Masonic Inborn" where is is given space to improvise widely with drummer Allen Blairman and bassist Steve Tintweiss. The highlight of the set comes at the very end when Ayler revisits one his most well known themes, "Ghosts," where he proves that he was still a force to be reckoned with, using the folky melody to propel him to a hair-raising and thrilling improvisation. Live On the Riviera -

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