Corey Hall - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://jazzreview.com Mon, 22 May 2017 20:19:06 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb The Art of Aging by Richard Kimball http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/ambient-jazz-cd-reviews/the-art-of-aging-by-richard-kimball.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/ambient-jazz-cd-reviews/the-art-of-aging-by-richard-kimball.html The Art of Aging by Richard Kimball
James Taylor once sang, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time/Any fool can do it/There ain't nothin' to it..." Well, for pianist Richard Kimball, the secret of life, as exhibited on his unaccompanied solo release, The Art of Aging, is to push forward with a bright resolve, even when life's low notes threaten to pull you down. In this 10-song performance, Kimball promotes an approach where cooperation between hands and, at times, voice, results in a synergistic, one-man symphony.

James Taylor once sang, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time/Any fool can do it/There ain't nothin' to it..."  Well, for pianist Richard Kimball, the secret of life, as exhibited on his unaccompanied solo release, The Art of Aging, is to push forward with a bright resolve, even when life's low notes threaten to pull you down.  In this 10-song performance, Kimball promotes an approach where cooperation between hands and, at times, voice, results in a synergistic, one-man symphony.

Even though this CD's cover may, at first glance, look like a somber acknowledgment of The End – note the leafless tree branches (aging) -- the brightly-colored sky (art) balances off this inevitability with hope, energy, and the always-remembered innocence of youth.  These contrasts, possibilities, and realities are all explored and celebrated on The Art of Aging.

"Make Hay While the Sun Shines," the opener, contains a relaxed, loping-type feel.  One can almost envision a child skipping at the playground with its dancing upbeats on one and two, followed by the downbeats on three and four.  What makes this track most interesting is the contrast that Kimball brings into its latter stages. After attempting a passage that flirts with boogie-woogie, he then sings/scats along as he repeats the pattern for very effective effect.  The childlike images at the start, combined with this older man's voice, make this multi-generational piece work quite well.

Have you ever wanted to hear what is playing inside a cat's head during a melody or solo?  Well, Kimball allows our ears to eavesdrop in an aural/oral wood-shedding on "I'll Be Somewhere," as he plays and sings the wordless melody.  On this track especially, Kimball's bass and melody lines are in parallel unison.  The lines are equally out front without one deferring to the other.  Here, the "top" is as distinctive as the "bottom."

"Blackout in Bolivia," however, is driven by a precise, repetitive bass line that allows Kimball's right hand to create ideas through notes that fly in multiple directions. As the soloist hand climaxes and concludes, the (almost forgotten) bass line reappears, maintaining its presence and influence, serving a purpose quite similar to a metronome.

For the title track, which is the CD's centerpiece, Kimball revisits the sense of play apparent on the opener.  His emotions celebrate childhood in its purest, most joyful state, when natural curiosity and perspective are not yet soiled by society's expectations, bigotry, reality-soothing substances, or life experience.  Mostly assertive in approach, this song also has a few slowdowns which, most likely, represent the disappointments that come in any life.  The resiliency apparent in the playing from the low end also makes this track very distinctive.    

When explaining the concept for The Art of Aging – which was inspired by a chamber-music score he wrote for a PBS series entitled "Grow Old Along With Me," -- Kimball states, "This recording is dedicated to the belief that the portion of life we call aging can be negotiated with finesse and grace...that it can be lived artfully." Let's add onto Kimball's explanation by revisiting JT's reminder about the "Secret O' Life," when he concluded: "Try not to try too hard/It's just a lovely ride."

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Corey Hall) Ambient Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 28 Mar 2012 08:06:38 -0500
Castles and Hilltops by Tim Collins http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/ambient-jazz-cd-reviews/castles-and-hilltops-by-tim-collins.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/ambient-jazz-cd-reviews/castles-and-hilltops-by-tim-collins.html Castles and Hilltops by Tim Collins
With such a geographically visual image for an album title, vibraphonist Tim Collins leads his quartet through six original compositions and two covers where one's mental imagery can conjure various sublime locations through the tonal colors that this ensemble strives for and attains. Collins' quartet – pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Matt Clohesy, and drummer Tommy Crane – assert their energy immediately on "TNT," the very energetic and appropriately- named opener.  Collins' sound benefits from Grissett's accompaniment, which propels the melody while Crane explores his entire kit.  Crane's tom-tom runs and cymbal splashes help evoke a scene of being at sea. …

With such a geographically visual image for an album title, vibraphonist Tim Collins leads his quartet through six original compositions and two covers where one's mental imagery can conjure various sublime locations through the tonal colors that this ensemble strives for and attains.

Collins' quartet – pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Matt Clohesy, and drummer Tommy Crane – assert their energy immediately on "TNT," the very energetic and appropriately- named opener.  Collins' sound benefits from Grissett's accompaniment, which propels the melody while Crane explores his entire kit.  Crane's tom-tom runs and cymbal splashes help evoke a scene of being at sea.  At times, this song's more potent, scenic parts recall Tony Williams' "The Overture" from The Story of Neptune.  When the soloists clear a path for Crane at the song's crescendo, he responds with a solo that keeps the waves crashing against the rocks.

A different tonal texture -- one that toys with a New Orleans second-line flavor and strut – emerges on "Army Brat."  At times tight, but most times loose, the rhythm section's stop-and-go variations in feel allow Collins a springboard to segue seamlessly from bright melody to brighter improvisation.  This performance culminates with a feisty exchange between piano and vibes that Crane helps keeps happening with a roundhouse romp on his cymbals and drums.  On a disc characterized by well-oiled tightness, this moment serves as the most uninhibited.

Collins also covers compositions by Bjork Gudmundsdottir -- the singer from Iceland -- and Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne's "Into the Great Wide Open."  On Bjork's "The Anchor Song," the ensemble attempts and achieves a quiet, panoramic, take-it-all-in visual suggested by this album's title.  Clohesy's thick, low-end solo serves as an effective contrast and lead-in to Collins, whose instrument's natural shimmering sound and resonance is at its peak here.  Crane's cymbal work and quiet thunder rolls from his tom-toms at this song's peak provide this song's picturesque effect, along with Grissett, whose (mostly unaccompanied) solo carries the imagery further to its contemplative conclusion.

For Petty and Lynne's "Into the Great Wide Open," Collins begins with a straight reading that is punctuated at unpredictable moments by Crane's triplet-drops that alternate from snare to tom-tom, with an interspersing of cymbals.  This contrast works quite well and serves as a preview, for as the performance progresses, Crane alternates between a brief, soft backbeat and some cross-sticking, while Collins' playing evolves as he immerses himself into an improvisation where the sound waves from his vibes spread out evenly, farther and farther, much like the way waves in water move after a pebble is plopped into it.

Seen, indeed.          

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Corey Hall) Ambient Jazz - CD Reviews Thu, 01 Mar 2012 23:57:24 -0600
Spectacle: Live! by Peripheral Vision http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/spectacle-live-by-peripheral-vision.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/spectacle-live-by-peripheral-vision.html Spectacle: Live! by Peripheral Vision
To truly appreciate Peripheral Vision, a quartet based in Toronto, Canada, one may want to be hip to overtime hockey. It's like this: tenor saxophonist Trevor Hogg is the forward standing/playing nearest the goal/melody. Guitarist Don Scott is the other forward who stands near the faceoff circle ready to capture any rebounds and embellish Hogg's shots/ideas that he may not take, or need help to complete. Watching from a distance -- and providing an airtight, rhythmic foundation – are the defensemen on the blue line, bassist Michael Herring and drummer Nick Fraser. While the scoring/soloing almost always goes to the…

To truly appreciate Peripheral Vision, a quartet based in Toronto, Canada, one may want to be hip to overtime hockey. It's like this: tenor saxophonist Trevor Hogg is the forward standing/playing nearest the goal/melody. Guitarist Don Scott is the other forward who stands near the faceoff circle ready to capture any rebounds and embellish Hogg's shots/ideas that he may not take, or need help to complete. Watching from a distance -- and providing an airtight, rhythmic foundation – are the defensemen on the blue line, bassist Michael Herring and drummer Nick Fraser. While the scoring/soloing almost always goes to the forwards on the frontline, the d-men keep them inspired by providing the footwork and foundation.

On Spectacle: Live!, recorded at the Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, this ensemble shows that meticulous arrangements and energetic improvisations can coexist.

Hogg, whose precise sound and energy recall the late Michael Brecker, benefits from the color and comments added to his melodies by Scott, the co-leader who composed three songs. This is evident on "Living the Dream," the opener. Fraser, who is very precise throughout, punctuates his accompaniments with crisp press rolls that fuel Hogg's solo. As the solos by Hogg and Scott progress, the rhythm section vamps in perfect order. While such military-like precision can threaten to put the ensemble's overall sound into a straightjacket, Herring – the other co-leader who composed five songs -- and Fraser keep this from happening with a bass slap here and a cymbal shot there.

More volatility exists on "Teenage Breakup Song." Peripheral Vision is most daring here, as intensity is attempted through softness. Hogg offers delicate questions that Scott answers in a scenario where two people seemingly express themselves honestly while trying not to upset the other. The song's emotions well from a low-intensity conflict to uninhibited (teenage?) energy and back again thanks to Fraser's percussions. He begins with brushes on his snare and cymbals and then pushes the song to a crescendo with mallets on tom-toms and cymbals. All this drama from the drums happens underneath Hogg and Scott's hectic exchange.

"Butter Side Down," which echoes Monk's "Misterioso" with its carousel-like melody, is the first scoring opportunity for the "defensemen." While Herring solos, Fraser delicately accompanies, mostly on his cymbals. As the rhythm mates take their bow upfront, Scott provides the anchor as the accompanist.

Peripheral Vision also reveals a bluesy, relaxed feel on "Max." After Scott delivers a very warm and reaching solo, Hogg, Herring and Fraser take a brief stroll. The highlight here is Fraser's solo, aided by a strong guitar and bass vamp. As this solo unfurls, Hogg sneaks into the fray and arrives at the finish line with everyone else.

Seconds into "The Instigator," voices from the audience are heard, followed by a "Shh!" That friendly reminder to listen seems to come from an audience member, but it's really Fraser's cymbals following Herring's lead. Once the audience is quieted by...whoever! the ensemble then launches into a feature where Fraser shapes the song's texture from his drums.

Peripheral Vision's cooperative vibe is reflected first by its name – as opposed to having a name or names in front of the word quartet – and furthered by the very professional teamwork needed to make such thorough arrangements succeed.         

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Corey Hall) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sun, 29 Jan 2012 15:59:00 -0600
Putamayo Presents Jazz http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/putamayo-presents-jazz.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/putamayo-presents-jazz.html Putamayo Presents Jazz
Aficionados and neophytes alike should feel equally welcome when listening to Jazz, the accessible history lesson produced by Putamayo. Although this 12-song compilation presents an audio array that reaches as high as Blossom Dearie's top-shelf timbre on "They Say It's Spring," to the joint-jumping horns on Maxine Sullivan's " 'Taint No Use," the consistent core from start to finish remains a simple, steady swing that says plenty in a very limited time. For the aficionado, these classics are reminders about the art form's origins. For the neophyte, they serve as starting points that invite further exploration.

Aficionados and neophytes alike should feel equally welcome when listening to Jazz, the accessible history lesson produced by Putamayo. Although this 12-song compilation presents an audio array that reaches as high as Blossom Dearie's top-shelf timbre on "They Say It's Spring," to the joint-jumping horns on Maxine Sullivan's " 'Taint No Use," the consistent core from start to finish remains a simple, steady swing that says plenty in a very limited time. For the aficionado, these classics are reminders about the art form's origins. For the neophyte, they serve as starting points that invite further exploration.

For starters, all ears and feet get engaged immediately with the rolling piano and sashaying brushes/snare drum in-the-pocket work laid down by Albert "Tootie" Heath on Nina Simone's "My Baby Just Cares for Me." Simone's power comes from a diaphragm that emits a lush, full-bodied voice that still maintains full femininity. Simone's trio—which also includes bassist Jimmy Bonds—stays locked in on a catchy vamp even during her piano solo, and their release and the new swing they segue into at the song's climax makes this performance worth being called a classic.

Jazz really deserves the most appreciation when one realizes how much music is really played in such a limited time. This is first evident on the Nat King Cole Trio's "'Deed I Do." In a brisk, but still relaxed 2:15, listeners get treated to Cole's suave voice, his polished pianism that is featured in dialogue with guitarist Oscar Moore, and bassist Wally Prince, who presides over it all from the rear. To play so much music so well in such a short timeframe owing to that time period's recording-space limitations is a true testament to these cats' genius.

Although Jazz is a vocal-driven production—nine songs with vocals, three without—the instrumentalists whose singing is an added gift in their prodigious packages are also displayed. Let's consider Louis Armstrong and Chet Baker, whose external and internal axes are featured on "I Was Doing All Right," and "There Will Never Be Another You," respectively. On the former, "Satchmo" is joined by Oscar Peterson's quartet. After opening on his instrument for 16 tasty bars, Armstrong's voice—which always comes with a smile included free of charge—assumes its customary storytelling style. Armstrong's voice should really be appreciated when you consider the strain on the vocal chords that his style demanded.

Now listening to Chet Baker's light (almost femme) voice is a lesson in contrast. True, the trumpet is modest in volume, and the very straight vocal emphasizes the lyrics in an understated way, but Baker's beyond out-of-control lifestyle, documented in the 1988 film Let's Get Lost, makes one wonder how this lighter than light voice could come from such a soiled soul.

Although omitting Duke Ellington's numerous ensembles in this historical compilation may seem like a monumental error, there are two compositions from the maestro's pen included here: "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" co-written with Irving Mills, and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," co-written with Bob Russell. Anita O'Day interprets the former in her intimate style, while Mose Allison takes his turn on the latter. Listeners really get to enjoy Allison's stream-of-consciousness-like humming that comes from him, especially in the song's opening verse. It almost sounds as if Mose is enjoying some really fine cuisine while singing and playing his piano.

There are three instrumentals on Jazz: Zoot Sims' "Someone to Watch Over Me," Hampton Hawes' "The Sermon," and Cannonball Adderley and Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby." They are, naturally, excellent. Here, special mention will be given to the latter performance, which is the sweetest and most melodic. Evans, the song's co-writer, opens by laying flowers on the path for Cannonball, who then sings so well from his alto-playing soul while bassist Percy Heath and drummer Connie Kay keep it all simple and swinging.

Jazz concludes with Billie Holiday's "Lover Come Back to Me." Ray Brown prefaces Lady Day's plea by taking out his bow to make his doghouse bull-fiddle go deep into the blues of swing before the entire four-man ensemble, led by Oscar Peterson, lend their support. (Unfortunately, Joe Newman's trumpet is off-mic and not really felt.) Concluding this history lesson with this song proves to be an excellent choice when, to close her performance, Billie restates the title by inventing her own word as she goes, "Luv-ahhhhhhh...come back to me..." So much sizzle is present at this point that one can't help but see the wink and imagine the warmth that, no doubt, came with such a request.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Corey Hall) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Sun, 23 Oct 2011 16:01:34 -0500
Mark Wingfield and Kevin Kastning: I walked into the silver darkness http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/mark-wingfield-and-kevin-kastning-i-walked-into-the-silver-darkness.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/mark-wingfield-and-kevin-kastning-i-walked-into-the-silver-darkness.html Mark Wingfield and Kevin Kastning: I walked into the silver darkness

 

When motivating his keyboardist and producer, Robert "Baabe" Irving III, to expand his talents to painting as he had, Miles Davis told him, "Music is painting you can hear, and painting is music you can see." Painting with sounds is the approach that guitarists Mark Wingfield and Kevin Kastning have taken on I walked into the silver darkness (Greydisc), which, according to the liner notes, represents their first time ever playing together.

Now if Wingfield and Kastning's "paintings" could be described here in artistic terms, abstract would be the obvious choice. But isn't that rather general? Instead, let's try pointillism, which is defined on dictionary.com as, "the technique of painting elaborated from impressionism, in which dots of unmixed colour are juxtaposed on a white ground so that from a distance they fuse in the viewer's eye into appropriate intermediate tones."

More musically speaking, reference points for this recording may include the guitar/guitar-synthesizer experiments recorded approximately two decades ago by John Abercrombie and Al Di Meola, especially on the classic release Tirami Su. Evaluated on its own merits, I walked into the silver darkness is an attempt to merge moods via two separate approaches that are heard together in an improvised setting: Wingfield's solos and samples float above, while Kastning stays grounded, providing a foundation, through his six-string classical guitar, fretless guitar and 14-string guitars. Kastning's explorations on the 12-string extended baritone guitar are also quite novel.

Upon first listen to the opening track, "All distance transform," one might equate Wingfield's sampling sounds to those produced by the late Michael Brecker's electronic wind instrument. Then, later in the track, his sound segues to something resembling a trumpet. While the employment of technology may seem impersonal at times, the recording itself does have its natural moments, especially when Kastning's chording hand is heard as it changes positions on "From all the green around you."

(Let's dig these song titles for a minute: "Arch of unimagined bridges," "Into equilibrium hesitation," and "Scattered rain of sleep"! Are we, like, college educated or what? Okay. Back to the review.)

Wingfield and Kastning provide their most interesting interplay on "The sharp crucible of autumn." Their sounds jab and spar here and there, giving this track a somewhat nervous, jittery vibe, a welcome contrast from the recording's overall meditative, ethereal norm. As this disc progresses, the guitarists continue setting scenes and moods that also invite the listener to pick up their mental brushes and paint their own pictures. For "Long quiet transform of a thousand skies," the gentlemen employ much space to their advantage. This track really could be perfect soundtrack music accompanying a scene showing a lone, stranded traveler whose car has just quit on a deserted roadway at the highest of the hottest noon. The traveler walks and walks, while Wingfield and Kastning search and search, before he gets transformed via the former's solo to ...somewhere...mental... physical...or metaphysical...

Wingfield and Kastning are really at their maximum minimalistic best on "Scattered rain of sleep." This experiment--surprisingly the shortest track at less than two minutes—would really make perfect accompaniment sound design for Ken Nordine's Word Jazz. The gentlemen's explorations are given even greater suspense through effective uses of space and reverb.

For the closer, "Things left unspoken," Wingfield and Kastning deliver their best emotional performance. By keeping their expressions direct and simple, their abstract paintings in sound evolve into a ballad that actually tells a story from the heart. The longing feel achieved on this track makes it the best genuine emotional expression on an effort that, on the whole, could have used a few more.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Corey Hall) Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews Thu, 29 Sep 2011 09:45:50 -0500
Three Stories by Eldar Djangirov http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/three-stories-by-eldar-djangirov.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/three-stories-by-eldar-djangirov.html Three Stories by Eldar Djangirov
We all remember how Wynton Marsalis excelled with classical and jazz recordings during his 20s, approximately 30 years ago before finally committing full-life to Duke and them. Well, there is another young phenomenon, 24-year-old, Kyrgyzstan-born pianist Eldar Djangirov, who also has prolific chops in both worlds as displayed on Three Stories (Sony Masterworks Jazz).

We all remember how Wynton Marsalis excelled with classical and jazz recordings during his 20s, approximately 30 years ago before finally committing full-life to Duke and them. Well, there is another young phenomenon, 24-year-old, Kyrgyzstan-born pianist Eldar Djangirov, who also has prolific chops in both worlds as displayed on Three Stories (Sony Masterworks Jazz). 

Upon first encounter, one may think that Three Stories is only going to be a technical showcase where Eldar’s perfection, precision and rapido are going to rule. His take on the opener, Sammy Cahn’s “I Should Care,” bounces with a brightness that grabs your ears and respect. Eldar succeeds here because his accompanying bass notes are just as prominent as his hard-charging melody and improvisation. “I Should Care” really serves as a snapshot, though, as it shows how he can romp and roll on up-tempo toons (as Branford Marsalis calls ‘em) by taking freewheeling flights off its basic melody. An additional snapshot happens on the next track, Bach’s “Prelude in C# Major.” Here, Eldar’s precision is simultaneously assertive and controlled. His mastery with this classical composition as displayed on the opener, shows how Eldar’s ability to provide accompaniment that is equal in its intensity to his melody, playing and soloing  keeps this program energetic.

Bach’s prelude is followed by “Darn That Dream.” This interpretation is vital as it is the first—but certainly not the last—performance where Eldar proves that he can listen and play, and not just push the 88 to 100-miles-an hour. Here, Eldar begins in the high register before balancing his interpretation with bass notes in the middle register. This interpretation, at its best moments, resembles a duet between two contrasting registers.

Eldar’s approach on Three Stories also relies on space and subtlety. With his very careful touches, he seems to will the notes into the silent areas. Eldar also takes melodies and plays multiple variations upon them, while making sure his pacing allows for a passage to be savored, not blurred, into the next plunge. Take, for example, the way he explores the sublime melody that is Chick Corea’s “Windows.” Eldar highlights this track by addressing the composer’s and this song’s machismo, while closing quietly with a softness whose contrast provides much surprise.

On the title track, Eldar begins pleasantly enough, as his medium tempo runs from middle to high registers are rather pristine. These pleasantries, as you may have guessed, do not last too long as Eldar then carefully segues into an improvisation that offers a pointed contrast to the mild-mannered start. It is almost as if Eldar is setting you up with what a jaded listener might expect from a solo piano performance, you know, pleasant melodies and improvisations that blend into each other and go by unnoticed. But here, the pleasantries are interrupted by the performer himself. The clouds take on a darker, deeper hue, and the wind’s swirl gets an attitude as the notes take a stand that offer an alternate take on the melody presented just five minutes before.

“Russian Lullaby,” Eldar’s second original composition, evokes poignant feelings. This reading seems to be a reflection on something that has, perhaps, been lost. Only once does Eldar explore this song’s loud, angry dynamics, before returning (retreating?) to its conclusion/the situation’s reality. It is almost as if a mourner has her last, loud cry at the gravesite before someone with much understanding touches the mourner’s shoulder and quietly leads her away.

For this album’s magnum opus, Eldar arranges and performs an extended, 15-minute “Rhapsody in Blue.” (As a 15-year-old, Eldar performed this Gershwin composition with the Independence Symphony Orchestra.) This performance is where Eldar challenges himself to deliver multiple variations on the song’s melody, and in turn, challenges the listener to stay with him on this very adventurous ride. Sure, the performance begins pleasantly enough, as Eldar gives the melody straight; it is as if he is moving one foot around in the pool before immersing himself all at once. At each rest, Eldar comes up for air, before another plunge into improvisation begins. At these moments, you can almost imagine him saying, “You ready? Dig this!”

At first glance, one might wonder how a pianist can handle one song for nearly a quarter-hour. Good question. Well, Eldar has seemingly arranged this song into sections where the bass notes from his left hand set up the variations. Eldar also, at other points, delves into a stride section that then segues into an intense free-for-all before returning to the silence and subtlety noted before. There is also a lively, Latin-feel in this performance’s homestretch that he then employs before finishing with a high-stepping close.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Corey Hall) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sat, 03 Sep 2011 15:15:23 -0500
L'Imprevu by Vincent Courtois http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/l-imprevu-by-vincent-courtois.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/l-imprevu-by-vincent-courtois.html In string quartets, it may serve as the "bottom," the baby bass violin. In symphony orchestras, it is presented in multiples and blends in with the entire ensemble. But by itself on a 42-minute album? Well?.. This possibility is explored by Paris-born cellist Vincent Courtois on L'Imprevu, the very first release by re:think-art records. Here, Courtois offers 12 intriguing performances that feature his cello engaging in conversation, singing, snarling, and creating drama...by itself.

In string quartets, it may serve as the "bottom," the baby bass violin. In symphony orchestras, it is presented in multiples and blends in with the entire ensemble. But by itself on a 42-minute album? Well?...

This possibility is explored by Paris-born cellist Vincent Courtois on L'Imprevu, the very first release by re:think-art records. Here, Courtois offers 12 intriguing performances that feature his cello engaging in conversation, singing, snarling, and creating drama...by itself.

Well!

Courtois' mission on L'Imprevu—which means "unforeseen, unexpected" in English—is to take the cello beyond its traditional classical music context. This effort is not meant to be perfect, polite recital music. Courtois' approach recalls how the late Fred Hopkins explored the acoustic bass: get whatever and as much sound from the instrument; this includes all sounds beautiful and all sounds rough, through fingers and bow, on the neck, the belly, and the bridge.

The title track—the only selection not written by Courtois—bookends this album. With the first performance, Courtois engages the cello in a probing call and response between its high and low registers. For the closer, Courtois begins with a furious "bow-down," takes an eight-count rest, and then proceeds to pluck out contrasting notes, although the range is not as wide as the opener.

When performing "Alone with G" and "No Smoking," Courtois presents his pizzicato technique. What make these performances stand out, though, is the cello's prominent natural wood sound and string vibrations. The cello, especially on the latter selection, resembles an acoustic bass as Courtois tackles its lower ranges. "No Smoking" is most notable with its daring, allegro passages that peak before concluding with Courtois strumming his axe.

L'Imprevu's most dramatic moments happen on "Amnesique Tarentelle" and "Skins." Both performances could really serve as soundtracks for life's most memorable—or forgettable—happenings. Remember that time something important did (or did not) happen, and your heart's heart talked faster and screamed louder than your brain? Or perhaps you were being pursued on that darker and longer-than-it-has-ever-been-before city street? Well, those moments now come with music on "Amnesique Tarentelle." The racing heartbeats evoked from Courtois transition to swirling, abstract sounds before concluding abruptly with a mysterious sound that, perhaps, came from the cello's body.

With "Skins," Courtois delivers his best one-man orchestra performance through multi-tracking. Unlike the foreboding tone set with the aforementioned track, "Skins" has a brighter, more melodic vibe. While at least two cellos chant repeatedly below, Courtois presents a lower-pitched musing above before venturing into a fast flurry that provides interesting contrast. Remember those galloping horses shown in beer commercials—horses do like to bend an elbow or two at the bar, don't they?—well, that scene now has a newer, hipper soundtrack...no announcer needed.

Courtois comes closest to a traditional string quartet performance on "Regards" and "La Visite." On "Regards," Courtois' multi-tracking evokes an ethereal quality that, emotionally, is beautiful and brief. Courtois'precise performance in this style continues on "La Visite," which combines a straight, melodic start with a foray into more dramatic wonderings where his bow roams voici et voila for a very varied and dramatic effect.

 

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Corey Hall) Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews Thu, 04 Aug 2011 08:06:56 -0500
Riding Alone by Trio Shalva http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/new-age-cd-reviews/riding-alone-by-trio-shalva.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/new-age-cd-reviews/riding-alone-by-trio-shalva.html Pianist Assaf Gleizner, bass guitarist Koby Hayon and drummer Nadav Snir Zelniker form Trio Shalva. Shalva is a Hebrew word that means serenity. On Riding Alone, the ensemble’s independently-released recording, Trio Shalva explores standards and original music from Israel, their homeland. Trio Shalva’s sound, for the most part, is New Age. Think Scott Cossu or Fred Simon without the saxophonist out front.

Pianist Assaf Gleizner, bass guitarist Koby Hayon and drummer Nadav Snir Zelniker form Trio Shalva. Shalva is a Hebrew word that means serenity. On Riding Alone, the ensemble’s independently-released recording, Trio Shalva explores standards and original music from Israel, their homeland. Trio Shalva’s sound, for the most part, is New Age. Think Scott Cossu or Fred Simon without the saxophonist out front.

As the lead voice in an ensemble whose songs resemble vignettes that could serve as soundtracks for road trips, notice the disc’s cover, Gleizner’s solos stay close to the melody without becoming knuckle-busting technique displays. While he does not display the ozone-level chops that many be-bop pianists have, Gleizner does brush up against “A Night In Tunisia” during his solo on “Shir Ahava Bedoui,” an Israeli standard that opens this recording.

Another nod to a jazz standard, “Without a Song” is made by Hayon on “Kvar Avru HaShanim.” Here, Trio Shalva strives for and reaches dramatic heights as Gleizner assumes a contemplative role while Hayon takes the lead. When Gleizner returns to the lead, this song/story-for-the-mind intensifies via a vigorous conflict of wills/eventual decision where his solo is elevated by Zelniker, whose maneuvers on the cymbals are at their most assertive. This performance reaches a total resolution when Gleizner’s solo ends and the ensemble transitions into a triumphant release. Zelniker then lowers the heat by switching to a relaxed backbeat.

Trio Shalva’s reflective mood, while led by Gleizner, is solidified throughout by Zelniker. This is quite clear on “1-3-4-8,” a straight-ahead original written by Hayon. On this track, Zelniker fills the openings left by Gleizner with tasty brush work, cymbal touches, and even a brief press roll. On “Vertigo,” another Hayon original, Gleizner and Zelniker provide comping/cymbal support for Hayon’s solo. They play alongside the bass solo before seamlessly merging as one and returning the lead back to the pianist. This intersection in sound shows how Trio Shalva values talking with, never over, each other.

Trio Shalva also displays an affinity for Middle Eastern sound with “Sova,” a song written by clarinetist Eyal Seda. Here, Zelniker is heard at the start providing accompaniment on frame drum. The trio’s performance is notably more assertive, as Gleizner plays more toward the piano’s middle range, as opposed to the higher ranges like on most songs here. On “Misirlou,” the trio embraces tango and Latin music. Trio Shalva’s performance on this track, which at the start just begs for a belly dancer, begins as a waltz with Gleizner’s “Bolero”-type playing before everyone builds in momentum where his Latin jazz-flavored solo is propelled by Zelniker’s shifting, speedier accompaniment. As the solo continues building, the trio shows how they can also flat-out swing when needed.

For the closer, “Erev Shel Shoshanim,” everyone abandons their main axes. Gleizner plays melodica, Hayon plays nylon string guitar and Zelniker plays frame drum. This “experimenting with alternative instruments,” as the group calls it in the liner notes, succeeds as a meditative exploration with a totally different feel from everything else on this recording. With this track, a story played by the trio and imagined by the listener unfolds the way they would individually envision it.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Corey Hall) New Age - CD Reviews Sat, 23 Jul 2011 15:14:14 -0500
Imaginary Numbers by Tom Rizzo http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/big-band-swing-cd-reviews/imaginary-numbers-by-tom-rizzo.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/big-band-swing-cd-reviews/imaginary-numbers-by-tom-rizzo.html Remember how bassist Oscar Pettiford would take huge breaths between notes while soloing? This bad brother seemingly envisioned his instrument, his…self, as a horn, so you could hear him inhale before his fingers would pluck out a low-end exhale-ation.Pettiford came to mind while listening to guitarist Tom Rizzo’s debut album, Imaginary Numbers (Origin). With active accompaniment from a five-piece horn section and full rhythm section, Rizzo’s role here features his guitar in collaboration with

Remember how bassist Oscar Pettiford would take huge breaths between notes while soloing? This bad brother seemingly envisioned his instrument, his…self, as a horn, so you could hear him inhale before his fingers would pluck out a low-end exhale-ation.

Pettiford came to mind while listening to guitarist Tom Rizzo’s debut album, Imaginary Numbers (Origin). With active accompaniment from a five-piece horn section and full rhythm section, Rizzo’s role here features his guitar in collaboration with the horns. It’s almost as if Rizzo is the sixth horn here, standing alongside his brothers in brass. Perhaps the guitar featured on the disc’s front cover could, with some imagination, really be considered a horn with strings and frets.

Imaginary Numbers allows ample feature space for tenor and soprano saxophonist Bob Sheppard. Eight of the nine songs are arranged with much precision by trombonist Nick Lane and tuba player Ken Kugler, but the accompanists and section support all come across as sounding natural, not too tight. And while Imaginary Numbers 44:34 playing time may be slightly lean, its contents are not minimalist.

Rizzo contributes three original compositions to this effort, “B-Like,” the title track, and “Sco-Mi.” All three display his concept for this project and, except the title track, complement the other standards included by Benny Golson and J.J. Johnson, among others. With “B-Like,” Rizzo and his core rhythm mates, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe La Barbera, open and are then joined in swing by pianist Rich Eames and the horn section, which also features trumpeter Bob Summers and John Dickson, who plays French horn. Although the piano is somewhat low in the mix on this cut, Sheppard’s and Rizzo’s harmonizing and soloing carry the tune quite well.

For the title track, Rizzo presents his acoustic guitar in duet with soprano saxophone. He overdubs an electric guitar solo that blends beautifully with his acoustic accompaniment. This track is a departure from the others, as it is the only one that possesses a samba vibe.

Those of you familiar with Grace Under Pressure, John Scofield’s 1992 release that teamed guitar with a three-piece horn section, will recognize Rizzo’s nod to it on “Sco-Mi.” This track builds nicely, beginning with bouncy swing by Rizzo, Warrington and La Barbera, which is then followed by Sheppard’s tenor stating the melody with Rizzo, a combination that Scofield favored on his release. What makes this track most noteworthy is Summers’ muted trumpet becoming the third voice in the harmony. This combination and cooperation work really well here.

For the always harrowing “Lament,” Eames and Rizzo remain present and very delicate when accompanying Sheppard’s introduction on tenor. A sublime atmosphere is then maintained by the horns during Eames’ solo, before Sheppard brings this interpretation to its crescendo.

Now, unless you are told beforehand, you might never guess that the ensemble is going to play “Stella By Starlight,” judging from its introduction, which actually brings a marching band at a college football game to mind. This interpretation begins with tuba and trombone before soprano saxophone and trumpet enter. While all this is occurring, La Barbera adds a Gene Krupa-style dance on the tom-toms. Sure, the melody to this tune does get addressed, dissected and improvised on by Sheppard, Rizzo and Warrington, but the arrangements clever introduction and conclusion makes it the most radical rearrangement on the album.

The closer, “Along Came Betty,” begins with an ethereal feel that characterizes many records produced by ECM, but it evolves into the basic be-bop feel characterized by the early Blue Note recordings. While Sheppard’s tenor introduces the melody, his horn mates offer dreamy-like embellishment. Rizzo and Sheppard then take turns making the melody into a more meditative rendering. These musings abruptly become a be-bop stomp when La Barbera’s cymbal showers become a vigorous drum-kit workout. This serves as a good catalyst for solos by Rizzo and Sheppard.

With Imaginary Numbers, Rizzo places the entire ensemble as the purpose, with the soloing by himself and others as the complement. Even on the disc’s back cover, he lists the entire ensemble first, and his name last. For Rizzo, leadership means collaboration, not competition.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Corey Hall) Big Band / Swing - CD Reviews Sat, 26 Feb 2011 00:00:00 -0600
Standard Transmission by Bruce Williamson http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/standard-transmission-by-bruce-williamson.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/standard-transmission-by-bruce-williamson.html Well, let’s see. There’s this disc entitled Standard Transmission (Origin). There’s this cat, Bruce Williamson, playing reeds and backed by a rhythm section...and, we have the great, time-tested standards by Rodgers and Hart, Ray Noble and Monk, among others. This ought to be rather routine, so then, let’s press “Play.”This first track, Rodgers and Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” features Williamson’s energetic alto saxophone playing, while his overdubbed bass clarinet provides inter

Well, let’s see. There’s this disc entitled Standard Transmission (Origin). There’s this cat, Bruce Williamson, playing reeds and backed by a rhythm section...and, we have the great, time-tested standards by Rodgers and Hart, Ray Noble and Monk, among others. This ought to be rather routine, so then, let’s press “Play.”

This first track, Rodgers and Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” features Williamson’s energetic alto saxophone playing, while his overdubbed bass clarinet provides interesting embellishment. This combination is quite appealing, but not overdone; this is novel, not novelty. As a soloist, Williamson is propelled here by pianist Art Lande, who also receives special billing below the disc’s title. This Lande dude drives, too. Just listen to the way his piano joins with the bass clarinet to provide a bed for the drum solo by Alan Hall. Bass clarinet and piano driving a drum solo? That’s standard?

Let’s try track four, “Just You, Just Me.” That should be standard enough.

Oh, my! Listen to Lande and Hall having a conversation with keys and skins. Ah, now there’s some stride piano. Now Williamson and bassist Peter Barshay are having a mano-a-mano discussion. Now Williamson and Lande duet before the latter has a taste of free. (Hey, everybody! Grab a partner!) There are also dialogues here between Barshay and Hall, Williamson’s soprano and Hall, Lange and Barshay, and then everyone enters together—call it an All Skate if you want—to ride this tune out.

What’s with this “Steps to a Woven Dream”? Why are there two songs, “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and “Weaver of Dreams” listed below this title? Well, Hall’s brush work here is tasty, and his cymbals during Lande’s solo are quite catching as well. This ensemble then mixes it up well with rapid runs here, and slower paces there. Who would have guessed after all this, the song’s resolution would involve a soprano saxophone/piano duet?

Who is Williamson trying to kid here? Standard What?

What is so standard about Lande playing a melodic on “Don’t Blame Me”? Did Lande mean to evoke visions of an exotic, faraway land, as he and Williamson take turns with the song’s melody? Listen to Williamson, that rascal. This recording’s so intimate that one can even hear the keys being pressed on his alto saxophone before Barshay and Hall join in, transforming this tune into a ballad bristling with romance.

There is more tenderness on “Nature Boy.” Barshay’s opening solo features his thick notes laying a firm foundation for Williamson’s soprano saxophone, as he elongates this gem’s melody. Williamson’s soprano seemingly floats above the rhythm section only to land softly on terra firma at song’s end.

Now for the closer. Williamson presents “Mysterious Moon,” a mash-up where he plays the melody to “How High the Moon” while Lande simultaneously plays the melody to “Misterioso." Hall adds further contrast at the start with his brush work, managing to evoke a Western flick feel. “Mysterious Moon,” listed as a bonus track, is only 66 seconds long. Why so short? That’s not standard time!

Standard Transmission?

Better watch this Williamson cat on his next release. Who knows what musical mischief he might pull next?

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Corey Hall) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Fri, 25 Feb 2011 06:00:00 -0600