Wednesday, November 30, 2016

11th Annual Francis Davis/4th Annual NPR Jazz Critics Poll Ballot

Hello, sorry that blogging has been rather sparse lately, I have been under the weather, but hope to mount a comeback soon and finish the year strong. In the meantime, with the deadline looming, I submitted my choices to Francis Davis for his year end poll:

•Your choices for this year’s 10 best New Releases (albums released between last Thanksgiving and this, give or take) listed in descending order one-through-ten.
1. Cortex - Live in New York (Clean Feed, 2016)
2. The DKV Thing Trio - Collider (NotTwo Records, 2016)
3. Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord - 2016:EPs (Hot Cup, 2016)
4. LUME - Xabregas 10 (Clean Feed, 2016)
5. Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up - Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi Recordings, 2016)
6. John Zorn - Flaga: The Book of Angels Volume 27 (Tzadik, 2016)
7. Made to Break - Before the Code: Live (Audiographic Records, 2016)
8. Abbey Rader Quartet With Kidd Jordan - Reunion (ABRAY Productions, 2016)
9. Black Bombaim and Peter Brotzmann (Shhpuma, 2016)
10. Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Live (For Tune Records, 2016)

•Your top-three Reissues or Historical albums, again listed in descending order
1. Peter Kuhn - No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn 1978-1979 (NoBusiness Records, 2016)
2. David S. Ware and Matthew Shipp Duo - Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004 (AUM Fidelity, 2016)
3. Larry Young - In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance Records, 2016)

•Your choice for the year's best Vocal album


•Your choice for the year's best Debut album
1. Damana - Cornua Copiae (Clean Feed, 2016)

•Your choice for the year’s best Latin jazz album
1. Anat Cohen and Trio Brasileiro - Alegria da Casa (Anzic Records, 2016) Can this be considered Latin? If not, then n/a.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Ivo Perelman / Karl Berger / Gerald Cleaver - Art of the Improv Trio Vol 1 (Leo Records, 2016)

This is a fascinating and dynamic album recorded with tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman accompanied by Karl Berger on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums. All of these men are longtime veterans of the avant / free jazz scene, and this album also marks the beginning of Perelman’s ambitious Art of the Improv Trio series. The album is a series of collective improvisations, where everyone is playing their instruments in a thoughtful and open manner. Subtle peals of air and darting keyboard and percussion sounds encourage Perelman’s evocative saxophone into higher pitches and breathy lulls. Punchy, sharp squeaks and hollow clanks work also very well as the music develops. Moving further afield, several of the performances paint the air with quiet authority with thoughtful piano chords, notes and breath, developing a haunted air akin to the music that Albert Ayler developed with his acoustic trios in the mid 1960’s, at least until Perelman breaks the spell, by pushing his instrument into a more strident focus and truly claiming the music as his own. Always shifting and darting percussion never allows the music to become stale in combination with the circling nature of Perelman’s saxophone it gives the music a sense of energy that is comparable to an unstoppable cosmic force of nature that is yearning to break free. The music is in constant motion, as Berger takes his piano through descending trails of notes, and Perelman meets them with high pitched saxophone calls. Some of the improvisations will begin with Perelman alone, playing with a lonely, quiet and serious sound, that then develops a wide range of emotional color soon to be shaded patiently by Cleaver’s percussion in a quietly emotional performance. At times a feeling of abandoned sadness overflows in emotional squalls of saxophone and carries the music forward where Perelman becomes very forthright in his improvising, ascending and descending in passion and volume while Berger’s piano moves in the free space created by the harsher sounds. There are beautiful interludes for saxophone, with Perelman playing with a raw and wounded sound that is emotionally open and free from pretense. His tone is captivating and his patient cries of saxophone usher in sections that have ecstatic blasts of percussive drums and bursts of raw saxophone that meet and converse and delve even deeper into the artistic principles of improvised music. The album is complemented by wholly improvised music where the squeaks and squiggles of fast saxophone meet the shimmering nature of the percussion and piano in an example of great interplay. It becomes an exciting romp, playful and fun, between colleagues who have nothing but the highest respect for one another. Art of the Improv Trio Vol 1 -

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

King Crimson - On (and Off) The Road 1981-1984 (DGMLive, 2016)

In what has become a yearly autumnal tradition, the great progressive rock band King Crimson releases another lavish boxed set covering an aspect of the band’s history. This time the period covered is their tight trio of albums recorded in the early 1980’s with the lineup of leader and guitarist Robert Fripp, guitarist, vocalist and lyricist Adrian Belew, bassist and Chapman Stick player Tony Levin and drummer Bill Bruford. This was a taut and explosive unit that made both some of the poppiest and accessible songs in the band’s history along with explorative instrumentals all of which were played with admirable virtuosity. This exhaustive set presents the three studio albums the band recorded during this period, Discipline, Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair in remastered form as regular CD’s and high resolution formats. There are several live albums included in the collection, especially notable is a remastered version of Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal, which captured their last gig together as a band and also finds them in truly extraordinary form, mixing in classic compositions from the band’s earlier incantation, like “Red” and “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Pt.II” with some of the great song form based material from the period like the driving title track, the galloping "Thela Hun Ginjeet" and subtle, quieter material like the gentle slide guitar drenched ballad "Matte Kudasai." There is a generous amount of live material, including remastered DVD’s of the Three of a Perfect Pair: Live in Japan and Live at Frejus 1982 videos as well as various video clips of the band in action. There are a couple of interesting behind the scene parts, like the Are You Recording Gary? disc, which peeks into the inner-workings of the group, in a collage which was put together by David Singleton from original album session tapes. The Live at Moles Club disc is also very interesting, being a raw and exciting live performance taken from an audience cassette recording of the very first live performance by this quartet, while the band was still called Discipline, and would lead Robert Fripp to realize that this was truly King Crimson after all. There is a generous amount of liner material and ephemera included in the boxed set and it makes for a fascinating trawl through this ever changing and always exciting band. On (and Off) The Road 1981 - 1984 (CD/ DVD-a/ BluRay) -

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Live (For Tune Records, 2016)

One of the reasons that Mostly Other People Do the Killing has remained one of the most vital forces in modern jazz over the past decade is their willingness to embrace the joy and humor that can be found when playing music. From naming their tracks after small towns in Pennsylvania to the satirical dig at America’s culture of violence that gives them their name, the music is bright and buoyant and always a lot of fun. This album was recorded live during the Jazz and Beyond Improvised Music Festival on October 29th, 2012 at Jazz Klub Hipnoza in Katowice, Poland. After a few lineup changes, this returns to the original format with Moppa Elliott on bass, Kevin Shea on drums and adding a new wrinkle with electronics, Jon Irabagon on saxophone and Peter Evans on trumpet. Most of the compositions evolve in the form of suites, starting with “Handsome Eddy / Drainlick / Effort, Patience, Diligence” which allows them to move through a wide range of emotions and also shows how tight the band is as they cycle through these themes without a hitch. The centerpiece of the album is the near twenty-five minute medley of “Yo, Yeo, Yough / Dexter, Wayne, and Mobley / Round Bottom, Square Top.” This demonstrates how the group is able to integrate the progressive and avant-garde strains of jazz with a firm grounding in historical hard-bop. “Is Granny Spry? / Elliott Mills” pulls things into an even more experimental direction with varying tones of electronic sound and even more alarming human ones, before returning to more traditional jazz improvisation and then ending the concert in grand fashion with a short, riotous “My Delightful Muse.” This was a long disc that never flags on interest, and the live audience is totally engaged as well, making the group really push their music forward in a very exciting manner. Mostly Other People Do The Killing: Live -

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Schlippenbach Trio - The Warsaw Concert (Intakt Records, 2016)

The trio of Alexander von Schlippenbach on piano, Evan Parker on tenor and soprano saxophones and Paul Lovens on drums is one of the most famous and longstanding of the European free jazz groups. They have been playing together for decades, yet each concert or recording seems to be a new adventure, and they never fall into established roles or patterns. This particular concert was recorded on October 16, 2015 in Warsaw, and shows the trio in an inspired form, playing a collectively improvised free improvisation entitled "Warsaw Concert" for over fifty minutes of truly inspired music and then following that with "Where Is Kinga?" which is a brief and witty encore. The free improvisations develop material which has crystallized over the years, but never falls into a predictable rut. The musicians agree on no plan in advance, and nothing was discussed or decided, allowing a tabula rasa or blank slate that can be approached without preconceived notions. Everything improvised, and while there may be hints of particular jazz melodies, they should not be thought of as quotations. They are a reference points to the trio's history, which create contrasts and juxtapositions while also serving as an springboard for further development since the music is played continuously, without planned breaks. Although the band has already accomplished so much it is heartening to hear them continuously seeking new vistas to explore. von Schlippenbach's liner notes hint that the band will continue (with some reticence, perhaps?) Although he does note that the music they perform has an anti-depressant effect (not only for the musicians themselves, but for their fans as well) but there is a hint of autumnal sadness, though he writes that they will soldier on and in December they will be embarking upon a series of winter performances. Regardless of the future of the group, we must return full circle to the disc at hand. Regardless of any reservations the musicians may have held, this recording is another powerful document that deserves to be heard by a wide range of progressive jazz fans. The Warsaw Concert -

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Books: Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day (Day Street Books, 2016)

Altamont has become a touchstone, and one of the most important events in rock 'n' roll history. When Meredith "Murdock" Hunter was murdered by a group of Hell's Angels on film and right in front of where The Rolling Stones were playing a free concert, the event came to be seen as the climactic moment for the 1960's counterculture. Selvin dives deep behind the scenes to leave the cliches behind and expose what really happened. The Rolling Stones tour of the United States in 1969 was massively successful in terms of the quality of their performances, and the amount or money they raked in with very high ticket prices. This led to pressure being put on the band to perform a free concert to reach those who couldn't afford to see the band. What was originally the brain-child of Grateful Dead insider Rock Scully, quickly spiraled out of control with different people vying for influence and money. When the concert venue had to be changed literally at the last minute, they would up at the derelict Altamont Speedway, with inadequate transportation, medical facilities, and portentously, no police. The Hell's Angels were paid in beer to keep order and with the bikers and the crowd imbibing poor quality LSD cut with amphetamines in combination with alcohol, the show quickly descended into chaos. The Angels beat the crowd, musicians and organizers without mercy, and when Hunter foolishly pulled his pistol, his fate was sealed and ensured that the concert would go down in history. Selvin's research is excellent, pulling together contemporary interviews with historical  sources, and immaculately plotting the fateful steps that led to the disaster and the fallout of the debacle. He is not afraid to name names and put everything on the line, making this a masterstroke of rock 'n' roll literature. Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day -

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fail Better! - OWT (NoBusiness Records, 2016)

This is a very interesting group from the Portuguese jazz consisting of Marcelo dos Reis on electric guitar, Luís Vicente on trumpet, João Guimarães on alto saxophone, José Miguel Pereira on bass and João Pais Filipe on drums. The music was recorded live in April of 2014 at Salão Brazil in Coimbra. The music has a sweeping cinematic sound to it, underpinned by extensive bowed bass and low ominous percussion, which add an increased heartbeat of fear and anxiety to the proceedings. Trumpet is folded in slowly, developing a quiet and moody cadence, offset by the entrance of lighter toned saxophone. Guitar frames the intertwined horns making for a beguiling sound that is quiet but emotionally resonant. “Circular Measure” is one of the highlights of the album, with a massive amount of intensity building through raw trumpet and tribal sounding percussion, which sound brooding and portentous. Filipe’s percussion is the key here, developing a number of unique sounding rhythmic patterns that work well with the band and the framing action of the guitar. The music builds faster and takes on a hypnotic edge with open drums, intertwined horns which make for an excellently paced improvisation. The concluding track “Stellar” moves the band back into quieter territory, and they are capable of making a fine improvised statement even at a lower tempo. This album worked quite well, the band was well integrated, resourceful and respectful of one another and they used tact and logic in building their performances to a high level. This is a limited edition project of 300 records, so if it sounds good to you, don’t wait! OWT - NoBusiness Records

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Abbey Rader Quartet With Kidd Jordan - Reunion (ABRAY Productions, 2016)

Drummer Abbey Rader originally met saxophonist Kidd Jordan when he was touring with Billy Bang and Frank Lowe in the early 2000s. He knew that there was a spark between them and that he wanted to explore that connection further. But they weren’t able to meet again until this set was recorded live in October 2012 when Rader invited Jordan to sit in with his quartet, which features John McMinn on alto and soprano saxophones, Noah Brandmark tenor saxophone and Kyle Motl on bass. The other members of the band had never met Jordan  before, and it is a testament to the power of music that the band sounds like it’s been playing together for ages, and they play a fully improvised set that is filled with power and majesty. “New Found Spirits” opens the album in a fast and true fashion, with ripples of ripe saxophone coming forth in a torrid fashion. The music moves in a dynamic fashion, with Rader’s subtle but fast percussion moving the proceeding briskly forward. There is an excellent section of collective improvisation, with squalls and skronks of saxophone leading the way. There will be storms of sound and then the music will break to sections of intricate beauty, with deeply emotional cries of saxophone. There is a quiet percussion opening to “Facing the Wall” with the drum solo building to a boiling full group improvisation. The interplay between all members of the group is excellent and they play like a tight, well-oiled machine. The saxophone front line leads the group into a full on free blowout which is very exciting to hear. The very long performance “Talkin', Burnin', Prayin'” sums up all of the tension that the group has built so far and releases it in one long concentrated burst of energy. After another subtle percussion opening, the saxophones come barrelling into the mix in a thrilling fashion, and the music develops organically with no one trying to force the issue. One of the saxophonists uses some circular sounds that remind me of some of the most passionate moments of A Love Supreme to develop inertia and then burst forth with raw and immediate sounds over a complex and interesting rhythm. The music gradually winds down and works are spoken, but the best communication is the unspoken bond between the musicians who develop very exciting and forward thinking music on this album. Reunion -

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wadada Leo Smith - America's National Parks (Cuneiform Records, 2016)

Trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith has developed a series of long form performances recently, dealing with civil rights, environmentalism, and now championing the great American National Parks, both real and imagined. He is using an augmented version of his Golden Quintet on this recording, featuring Anthony Davis on piano, Ashley Walters on cello, John Lindberg on bass and Pheeroan akLaff on drums. The music is stoic and majestic throughout, trying to make clear the majesty of the landscape of the National Parks through music. The addition of the cello is a very nice touch, and Walters is able to dart around the music in addition to providing more articulated gravitas during the more somber passages. Smith uses a wide range of approaches to the music, much is improvised, but the over-arching compositions are composed in a written fashion as well as a unique visual style called Ankhrasmation. This gives the group a wide range of options to choose from while maintaining the integrity of the original composition. "New Orleans: The National Culture Park USA 1718" opens the album, investigating the birthplace of jazz and the history that that city has endured from its founding as a French port through Kartina to the present day. The deep and diverse culture of the city imbues the performance which ranges from meditative to jubilant and Smith's trumpet carries on the legacy of the legendary New Orleans based trumpeter Buddy Bolden. There is a different focus on "Eileen Jackson Southern, 1920-2002: A Literary National Park," since Southern was a historically important musicologist and author of the seminal works The Music of Black Americans and Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians. In this stoic performance, Smith makes the statement that the pursuit of knowledge can be as grand as the natural world. "Yellowstone: The First National Park and the Spirit of America – The Mountains, Super-Volcano Caldera and Its Ecosystem 1872" commemorates the first American National Park, and also echoes the volatility where all is not what it seems. For all of it's beauty, Yellowstone hides a secret, that fact that it is actually a dormant super-volcano with enough coiled energy stored within to provoke disaster on an epic scale. The band is able to tap into this energy and play music that flexes with grace and power. Smith's commitment to the cause of racial equality was made clear on his epic Ten Freedom Summers collection, and he expands upon that theme here with "The Mississippi River: Dark and Deep Dreams Flow the River – a National Memorial Park c. 5000 BC." This is the longest performance on the album, and while it celebrates the impact of the river on American life and the development of blues and jazz, the underlying current of the composition reflects the lost and broken African American bodies hidden in the river from the times of slavery through murdered civil rights activists up to today's need for a Black Lives Matter movement. It is to Smith's credit that he never shies away from difficult subjects but interprets and reflects them through his art. "Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks: The Giant Forest, Great Canyon, Cliffs, Peaks, Waterfalls and Cave Systems 1890" mirrors the bold and powerful grandeur of the trees of the great western American forests, with a powerful and stentorian performance, before the band ends the album with "Yosemite: The Glaciers, the Falls, the Wells and the Valley of Goodwill 1890" where they bring together all of the aspects of the music they have been performing, both composed and improvised into a towering performance that ends the album with sense of awe that nature imposes upon man. This was a very powerful and successful recording, and its ambition matched by the thoughtfulness of Smith's compositions and the beautiful playing of the band. America's National Parks -

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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

David S. Ware and Matthew Shipp Duo - Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004 (AUM Fidelity, 2016)

It is still startling and a little heartbreaking to hear the massive and unmistakable sound of David S. Ware's tenor saxophone in this exquisite duet with pianist Matthew Shipp. It is a reminder of what a protean force Ware was to modern jazz during his lifetime, and the simpatico relationship that he shared with Shipp, who was a member of the famous David S. Ware Quartet for many years. This is a beautifully recorded concert, and the empathy and respect the two musicians share for each other is palpable. This concert is one continuous long form improvisation presented in two sections: "Tao Flow" part one and part two; which stretch out to cover a marvelous range of textures and tempo shifts. There is a delightfully emotional encore to the concert with Ware quoting the spiritual "Wade in the Water" that is also included and makes for a poignant conclusion to the recording. Ware's depth of field and authority over the instrument is a joy to hear and Shipp is right there, interacting, goading, and dropping out entirely when necessary. The whole concert is improvised at the highest level of instrumental facility, and the emotions that it evokes make for an ecstatic deep listening experience. Matthew Shipp writes that he and Ware performed just a few duo concerts in that period. Thankfully, on this occasion, their work together in this form was professionally recorded. The very deep levels of communion which were developed within the context of Ware’s Quartet inform this work, but in equal evidence is each of them embracing the leaderless duo context, challenging and expanding their mutual language throughout. Following Ware’s unfortunate death in October 2012 on the eve of his sixty-third birthday, a project was undertaken to continue releasing works of Ware's music in order to further understand his distinctly potent sound and vision. Hopefully this series will continue to bear fruit like it does on this historic and fascinating recording. Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004 -

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