mardi 26 janvier 2010

Erik Friedlander : "Skin"

(Siam, 2000)

Cellist Erik Friedlander continues to explore new vistas of expression in the progressive modern jazz idiom. In alto saxophonist Andy Laster he has a partner with whom to contrast stylistically, while electric bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi and percussionist brother Satoshi create a rhythmic foundation that lives and breathes on its own. The Atlas Cello Quartet is also featured on most of this program. There are five "standards" of the 11 compositions that Friedlander interprets. Henry Mancini's "Susan" is serene and beautiful, with slight Afro-Cuban spice and melody similar to "Invitation." The title track "Skin I" is written by Julius Hemphill with Laster assimilating the writer's signature outcry over kinetic, almost industrial percussion and a 4/4 Afro-groove. "Sahel Va Danya" is a creative raga; "Eclipse" the Charles Mingus moody bell ringer, features Laster again wailing; and a solo cello version of "Golden Dawn" takes the Carlos Santana piece into very different sonic areas from the original. The rest are Friedlander's originals. Balkan measures of 7/4 and 4/4 collapse into no time. Slight snippets of cello, bass, and percussion lead to harder, then deliberate swing with harmonic bass overtones on "Split Screen," Friedlander's most involved writing. There's the urban landscape funk of "Fekunk," and the 6/8 Afro-groove "Life In-Line." The total string package is most prevalent on the pensive "Reflections" and more 20th century, contemporary-natured on "White Mountain." The ensemble is at its darkest during "Doomwatcher," replete with free emotional exchanges. Because Friedlander explores many avenues of improvisation and composition, he can't be pegged; his work doesn't fit into a definable bag. You could call it great modern music, and that would be enough. The sounds are challenging, eminently accessible, and definitely compelling, marking more progress in this marvelous musician's burgeoning career. Highly recommended, and a step beyond his previous CD, Topaz.

Michael G. Nastos (Allmusic)


dimanche 24 janvier 2010

Satoko Fujii : "Jo"

(Buzz, 1999)

Pianist Satoko Fujii has assembled a 15-piece band of intensely fierce improvisers from various sources, including NYC, Boston and Japan. Trumpeter Jack Walrath (ex-Charles Mingus), saxophonists Briggan Krauss and Chris Speed (Knitting Factory stable), trumpeter John Carlson and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring (Either/Orchestra), trumpeter Dave Ballou (Orange Then Blue, among others), trombonist Joey Sellers (a progressive big bandleader in his own right), and countrymen Stomu Takieshi (electric bass) and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura are part of this multi-national, multi-faceted avant-garde improvising unit. Fujii penned six of these eight pieces. "Jo" is apparently a midnight-dancing wolf, as depicted during the stalking title cut, brimming with counterpointed horn layers and a stealthy, slow 10/8 funk rhythm. Drummer Aaron Alexander solos, with Takieshi responding by his carnivorous lonesome. "Kyu" is free New Orleans-flavored funk-rock with urgent, kinetic lines, running dragster-fast over skittering, dodge-car improvisations, while calmer, echoing motifs and Kodo-like drum slams accent Tamura's "Okesa-Yansado," with a quite symphonic coda. The mournful elongated chart of the ballad "Reminiscence" leads to rubato horns pulsing in ghostly fashion. Fujii's voice is her ensemble, but you hear traces of her pianistic personality during the Tamura composition "Wakerasuka" — piano and percussion counterpoint trading places back and forth with sour, long horn tones, then combining forces, followed by group vocal outcries and a hard funk charge. Her inside-the-piano strings clattering inspires gossipy horns chattering amongst themselves for "Around the Corner," and the 13-minute "Sola" is slow-dirge funk, solemn and remorseful, quite mindful of a distinct Gil Evans approach. This is dense music with creative flourishes an occasional Oriental edge sewn in the fabric of richly textured writing and improvisation. Fujii has a unique concept, eluding hard definitions and parameters. Perhaps this is the opening salvo for what could be many expansive and intriguing works to come.

Michael G. Nastos (Allmusic)


Marc Ribot : "Requiem for what's-his-name"

(Les disques du crépuscule, 1992)

On his second release as a bandleader, guitarist Marc Ribot is joined by players familiar from his gigs as a hired sideman, including saxophonist Roy Nathanson of the Lounge Lizards and the Jazz Passengers and multi-reed player Ralph Carney from Tom Waits' touring band. Though less swinging and fresh than 1990's Rootless Cosmopolitans, this album's original compositions and renditions of Duke Ellington and Howlin' Wolf tunes still leave plenty of room for Ribot's discordant guitar stylings.

Brian Beatty (Allmusic)


mercredi 20 janvier 2010

Vernon Reid + Elliott Sharp + David Torn = Guitar Oblique

(Knitting Factory, 1998)

"Guitar Oblique" is an avant-jazz, superstar lineup. This guitar trio features Elliott Sharp, Vernon Reid (from Living Colour) and David Torn. Experimental, ambient, and multi-layered, the work of this trio is an otherworldly headspace untethered by a rhythm section. An exploration of dissonance and melody, effected guitars, and the interaction of the dissimilar, this trio's work is an impressive free-guitar alchemy from three of the instrument's most prolific and innovative players.

Tom Schulte (Allmusic)


mercredi 13 janvier 2010

Ray Anderson + Han Bennink + Christy Doran

(Hat Hut, 1994 & 1995)

About AZURETY : A multinational group, trombonist, Ray Anderson, (United States) and drummer, Han Bennink (Holland) are known for injecting wit and whimsy into various musical frameworks. The musicians infuse their playful tendencies into this set also featuring the equally talented electric guitarist, Christy Doran (Ireland). On this release, the trio is simply having a blast as they surge forward with the intensity of your average high-octane, heavy metal rock outfit. Here, Anderson's often-verbose mode of execution rides atop Bennink's rolling thunder, and Doran's quasi free-jazz/hard-rock style licks.
The trio engages in uninhibited dialogue in concert with ominous sounding undercurrents thanks to a rollicking and rolling presentation of pieces spanning bluesy, dirge-like progressions and turbulently executed exchanges. Doran utilizes delay effects amid blazingly fast single note leads, and a few ostinato motifs while Anderson and Bennink frequently trade sprightly fours. The musicians also provide the listener with softly enacted swing vamps along with some downright riotous interplay. Recommended !

Glenn Astarita (Allmusic)

About CHEERUP : This trio's first recording, the wonderful Azurety, met with acclaim by critics and music fans alike for its gleeful abandon, musically astute terrorism, and tunes that were stop-on-a-dime tight. The trio, which was initially together just for a tour, is now a working unit and this second recording proves it. The originals by Christy Doran and Ray Anderson were written specifically to the strengths — and current obsessions — of each musician. Doran wrote "No Return" — with its crunchy New Orleans funk — with Han Bennink in mind (the drummer had just returned from West Africa and developed a jones for using bells). For his part, Anderson composed "My Own Children Are the Reason Why I Need to Own My Publishing" — which is all but humorous — as a bluesy wonder for his trombone's lyrical swing and Doran's trademark atmospheric shading. It's late-night lounge blues with a purpose, which is, it seems, a tender and loving paean to Anderson's kids. The free stuff ("Tabasco Cart," "Buckethead," etc.) is so playful it's hard to notice at first all the maneuvering that's going on between the three. Bennink is ripping the skins off in an attempt to make Doran push himself beyond his usual Jimi Hendrix machinations and match him in percussive expression. The title track is more bells from Bennink and whistles, and Doran using an African folk song as his root melody for Anderson to cruise through the registers on the tuba. It's a joyous dance of melodic invention and polyrhythmic grace. The overtones created by Doran's riffing play an excellent invertible counterpoint to Bennink's bells and whistles. When it slides into guttersnipe funk and slips into an off-kilter Cuban mambo, Doran takes off Robert Fripp style, and carries the band into the stratosphere. This date is killer — a blast to listen to. Guaranteed to cheer you up, even if you don't need it.

Thom Jurek (Allmusic)

dimanche 10 janvier 2010

Fredy Studer : "Seven songs"

(Verabra, 1991)

"...Studer has created an extraordinary polycultural musical experience for open-minded listeners..." (JAZZIZ)

Fredy Studer was born in Lucerne, Switzerland where he still resides. He is a self - taught drummer and percussionist, one of the few who incorporate open improvisation as well as straight rock beats into his style, who's experiences as an active musician since the seventies are as various as playing with musicians from "A" like Abercrombie to "Z" like Zorn. For example :
In 1972, he was a founding member of the group "OM", along with Christy Doran, Urs Leimgruber and Bobby Burri (Japo). In 1977, he participated in the project "Percussion Profiles" with Jack DeJohnette, Pierre Favre, Dom Um Romao, David Friedman and George Gruntz (Japo).

During the eighties, he recorded several albums for ECM with Rainer Brüninghaus & Markus Stockhausen (1984), the Pierre Favre ensemble with Paul Motian and Nana Vasconcelos (1984) and Stephan Wittwer & Christy Doran (1987). Studer has also been in the percussion ensemble of Robyn Schulkowsky, performing compositions of Charles Ives, Steve Reich, John Cage and Edgard Varèse.

During the nineties, he was involved in the "Doran / Studer / Burri / Magnenat" quartet (Ecm, 1991), the "Doran / Studer / Minton / Bates / Ali » quintet playing the music of Jimi Hendrix and the power trio "Race the time » (with Christy Doran and Jamaaladeen Tacuma). Today, current groups include the hardcore chamber music trio "Koch - Schütz – Studer"(Intakt). Studer is also developing his series of duo recordings among others with female musicians : Jin Hi Kim, Joëlle Léandre, Amy Yoshida, Lauren Newton, Saadet Turkoz...


Christy Doran + Fredy Studer + Phil Minton + Django Bates + Amin Ali : "Play the music of Jimi Hendrix"

(Verabra, 1994)


Christy Doran + Fredy Studer + Jamaaladeen Tacuma : "Race the time"

(MGB, 1997)

The Irish-born Doran has lived in Lucerne, Switzerland, since he was a child. His first exposure to music came through his father, a singer of Irish ballads. In the '70s, Doran helped found the band OM, with Fredy Studer, Urs Leimgrumber, and Bobby Burri; the band recorded several times for the Japo/ECM label. Although not particularly well-known in the United States, Doran has played with a good many first-rate American experimental and free jazz musicians, including saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, flutist Robert Dick, trombonist Ray Anderson, and composer Carla Bley, among others. With Studer, Doran initiated a project celebrating the music of Jimi Hendrix; the band also included Amin Ali, Django Bates, and Phil Minton. The group toured and recorded in the mid-'90s. Doran's collaboration with Anderson dates to 1989; the two men combined with drummer Han Bennink to form a trio which performed occasionally through 1997. Doran has led record dates for the hatART, Synton, Intuition, and Planisphere labels. He is a prolific collaborator; in addition to those named above, he's also worked with trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, clarinetist Louis Sclavis, percussionist Marilyn Mazur, trumpeter Herb Robertson, pianist John Wolf Brennan, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, to name just a few. Doran formed the group New Bag in 1997; from 1998-2000 the band toured the world, playing dates in North and South America, Africa, and Europe. In 2001, the band toured to promote their CD Black Box (On Cue Records), which featured the Indian master drummer Muthuswamy Balasubramoniam. Doran teaches at the Musikhochschule of Lucerne. He's also given many workshops, lectures, and clinics.

Chris Kelsey (All Music)

"...As a trio, however, this group has some power...Doran races through the gamut of jazz rock styles, but with commitment, and his interplay with the formidably agile Studer bears the imprint of many years spend playing together. This trio is a perfect setting for Tacuma's harmonically and rhythmically elastic playing..." (Simon Hopkins, THE WIRE)


samedi 9 janvier 2010

Joe Gallant Illuminati : "Skin"

(Scratchy, 1990)

1- The Chilling tide (for Frank Smith)
2- Sacred heart (for Kathy Chambers)
3- Courtship
4- Metanoia (for prof. Lesh)
5- Centre street (for the Micros)
6- Belladonna (for Margaret Vititow)
7- Simulacrum (for Helen, Suzanne and Nina Gallant)

musicians :

Joe Gallant : bass
Tomas Ulrich : cello
Michelle Kinney : cello (1,3,5,7)
Phillip Johnson : sax (1,3,5,7)
Hagit Rosmarin : flute (1,3,7)
Steven Bernstein : trumpet (1,3,7)
Denise Puricelli : piano (1,3,7)
Ellen Christi : voice (1,3,7)
Tom Judson : accordion (1,3,7)
Vito Ricci : synthesizer & wrench guitar (1,3,7)
Dick Weller : drums (1,3,7)
Skip Reed : percussion (1,3,4,7)
Mark Feldman : violin (4,5,6)
Dennis Charles : drums (4)
Rashied Ali : drums (4)
Bern Nix : guitar (5)
Joel Forrester : piano (5)
David Hofstra : bass (5)
Richard dworkin : drums (5)
Suzanne Gallant : percussion (1)

Denise Cridge : viola (2,4)
Alex Zisk : violin (2)
Marina Zisk : violin (2)


When I first heard about Gallant's music, it was described to me as "avant-garde big band music." Although this cheeky description is in some ways accurate, like any label it fails to describe the breadth and flight of his compositions. Best known to Deadheads for his big band arrangements of the Grateful Dead albums "Blues For Allah" and "Terrapin Station," Gallant has also created several non-Dead related music projects of unusual beauty. With his band Illuminati, he released "Skin" in 1990, an early effort which evokes the tone poetry of the impressionist composers Debussy and Ravel and draws upon the thrills and difficulties of transforming one's life utterly, that period of transitional limbo and the entry into one's true destiny.

BS: How did music enter your life and consciousness?

JG: The big encounter was hearing a chamber ensemble when I was about 6 years old. They were playing a modern-sounding piece that was like an invitation from my future. I was completely transfixed. It was brilliant-sounding, like a laser lightsource. I took piano lessons at six, guitar lessons at ten, but I didn't hear those instruments inside me enough to embrace them. The next big encounter was my first rock concert: December 30, 1971, The Band at the Academy of Music on 14th street. It blew my mind. I was thunderstruck by the exotic, gypsy-circus vibe, the patchoulli/pot smell, the lights, the awesome hippy chicks! The Band just rocked that night. I knew I wanted to be a part of whatever magic was capable of happening on a stage full of musicians.

BS: And how did you hook up with the bass?

JG: I started "hearing" the bass in Freshman year High School and started playing upright and electric at the same time.

BS: Which bass players have turned you on and inside out over the years?

JG: Starting in 1972: The bass player with Steppenwolf, and Larry Taylor with Canned Heat. Then a few months later, Phil Lesh because I completely dug his approach and tone. He's the first of two bassists who changed and codified the course of my life, without a doubt. I had started trying to plunk out his bass lines on acoustic guitar the year before. Bruce Barlow, from Commander Cody is another important figure. On upright: Charles Mingus, Jean-Jacques Avenel, Alan Silva, Dave Holland, Ray Brown, George Duvivier, Charlie Haden. And, on electric, of course: Jaco Pastorius. What can you say? He changed it all up for all of us. In 1987 I heard my second most important bass influence: Anthony Jackson, a virtuoso who invented the 6-string bass. He's become a friend and teacher. I guess it's fair to say that if you want to hear where I really come from bass-wise, listen to Phil Lesh and Anthony Jackson.

BS: Which composers have particularly influenced your vision?

JG: First, Ingolf Dahl. His "Concerto a Tre" is my favorite composition of all time. Karlheinz Stockhausen, arch experimentalist, working in so many different genres. My favorite pieces are "Zeitmasse," "Telemusik," "Hymnen," and the remarkable "Adieu." I also like Schoenberg, Bartok, Berg, jazz composers like George Russell and Carla Bley and Cecil Taylor, a shimmering landing field of energy and ideas. Bach was a huge influence. Because I didn't study formally with a teacher for the first six years of playing, I would read through the Inventions and Cello Suites and try to imitate that contrapuntal, chordal style on electric.

BS: Why the name Illuminati for your band?

JG: I decided on the name in May of1982, while living on East 3rd Street, deriving it from the word "illumination," as used specifically in a text written by the philosopher Francis Bacon: "The first creature of God, in the works of the days, was the light of the sense. The last was the light of reason, and his Sabbath work ever since is the illumination of his spirit." I wasn't aware of the Robert Anton Wilson "Illuminati" books at that point. A friend turned me onto those books when I told him my choice for a name. I really didn't get much of an initial impression from the actual writing in the books. It seemed too pothead wink-wink for such a seemingly important subject. But I was very intrigued and went on to devour information about the history and legacy of those ideas, which led me through studies of the early Gnostic tradition, Rosicrucian, Masonic and Knights Templar philosophies, and lastly into a very deep and ongoing interest in Alchemy. I collect and read as much on the subject as I can, buying texts wherever I travel and ordering books from all over the US and Europe on a regular basis. Illuminati's music was always meant to be an expression of the spirit, at its metaphysical level, as well as being a continuing diary...
All of my solo CDs are very much about where I was at the time of their writing, gigging and recording. "Skin" (1990) was essentially a smaller-scale chamber writing/jazz disc, with a lot of melodic ideas and modernist string arranging, a bit on the poignant side, Ravel-esque, reflecting my love for my two French Impressionist heroes--Ravel and Debussy--in some of the harmonic aspects. Its music mirrors the period between 1987-90, when I was putting Illuminati back together relatively early in sobriety. It's sort of tenuous and fragile, but well-crafted.

BS: In your opinion what's the most interesting thing happening in the New York City music scene these days?

JG: There's no real high-octane launching-pad scene in NYC at the moment, where you feel swept up in a deep, spontaneous and fertile mission with people on similar explorations. Certainly nothing currently exists in Manhattan as an energy conduit, like, for example, Bebop in the '40s-'50s, or Abstract Expressionism in the '50s, or 1964-66 Warholesque, exploding-inevitable pop and happenings-into-the-free-jazz/'politics of revolution. Remember when there was sincere talk of necessary change for real, from a lot of different corners, in the national air? There's nothing now like the NYC Loft Movement of the late '60s or Punk/New Wave/'No New York in the '70s-early '80s, or the downtown, angular shriekback white hipster arrhythmia of the mid-'80s-The Present. These all began with ideas in fairly pure form, and became codified into scenes in a time of affordable housing (as necessary as laboratory Latin . . . work and prayer space, for committed working artists).
Astronomical rent increases in the mid-'80s, the arrival of yuppie-worship, Eurotrash and dotcom infection, the twisted cancerous fascism of the current mayor, and a generally distracted, disconnected national mindset (suffering from psychic hearing damage caused by the shrill desperate screaming hype of media) all helped kill or stultify anything as fragile (and potentially dangerous) as a new movement.
None of the truly important scenes of recent history would get very far if they were just beginning today, in this climate. I don't mean to sound like an old crank yelling at street signs, and I'm also not announcing anything that's unknown here. These scenes had a very multi-disciplinary mulch bed in which to cross-fertilize--painters, writers, musicians, poets, mixed-media artists, responding organically to the culture, politics and economics of their time, as do all ground zero environments of spontaneous artistic commonality and shared awareness defining a SCENE, as seen for example in the dazzling alembic of post-Beat San Francisco and its historic, never-to-be-repeated development, 1963-69.

article (excerpts) by Barry Smolin (2001/09/19 on