Isaac Laughlin - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://jazzreview.com Mon, 22 May 2017 10:30:37 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb It's Mostly Residual by Cuong Vu http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/it-s-mostly-residual-by-cuong-vu.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/it-s-mostly-residual-by-cuong-vu.html With It's Mostly Residual Cuong Vu, probably best recognizable in his capacity as the trumpet player in Pat Metheny's current group, has already released the sixt…

With It's Mostly Residual Cuong Vu, probably best recognizable in his capacity as the trumpet player in Pat Metheny's current group, has already released the sixth album of his young career. This album displays an outstanding confidence and a range of influences that extend well beyond the middle of the road; these traits both make for a stylish well executed album that is an enjoyable listen that holds up under repeated scrutiny.

This album features six tracks: all original compositions by Mr. Vu. These compositions tend to emphasize texture over improvised melody, but the group's collective dedication to these textures manages to avoid the listlessness that can come from deemphasizing the individual melodic voice. Part of the success of this album is that it also avoids falling into an emotional rut: there are lovely impressionistic compositions, but there are also more rhythmically driven compositions which manage to portray more jagged peaks while all carry a certain textural thread visible throughout the record. Noteworthy among these is the composition "Expressions of a Neurotic Impulse," which reminds this reviewer of the Herbie Hancock Composition "One Finger Snap."

The individual musicians on this album are all deserving of praise: Vu's trumpet playing isn't featured enough, but where it is especially on "Patchwork" and "Brittle, Like Twigs" it shines with modernity and style. Drummer Ted Poor makes contributions that show a strong appreciation for the collective goals of the ensemble, while also managing to also display significant individual verve. Bill Frisell, who is cropping up all over the place recently with little complaint from anyone, fits into the ensemble in a way that belies his status as a "guest": it's impossible to imagine this record without him. Stomu Takeishi is featured less than the rest of the band, but like the rest of the band he deserves to be commended for providing a unique voice while also perfectly matching the spirit of each composition.

The palette of this album includes a wide range of electronic and/or distorted sounds, some of which are attributable to Mr. Frisell or Mr. Vu's use of effects, while others have less discernible origins. Regardless of where they come from, these sounds are effectively used to expand the sonic range of the album without losing track of the focus of the compositions. There is a strong presence of fusion in the compositions as well as in the playing of all the players, but this is well homogenized with tendencies toward the avant garde and contemporary jazz styles creating an album that really spans several categories, without seeming at all contrived. This is album will probably most appeal to those with an interest in fusion, but dedicated listeners of any type of modern jazz will find something to appreciate here.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Isaac Laughlin) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Sun, 17 Jul 2005 13:00:00 -0500
State of Mind by Alain Bradette http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/state-of-mind-by-alain-bradette.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/state-of-mind-by-alain-bradette.html State of Mind by Alain Bradette
Although State of Mind is Alain Bradette's debut album as a leader he is not a newcomer; he already has a short but hard-hitting list of compositional accolades to h…
Although State of Mind is Alain Bradette's debut album as a leader he is not a newcomer; he already has a short but hard-hitting list of compositional accolades to his name, and is a full-time band member for Cirque Du Soleil's La Nouba. So, it is not surprising that State of Mind emerges as a confident and well-polished debut, in which Mr. Bradette establishes himself as a fully featured modern jazz saxophonist and composer.

In the title track Mr. Bradette identifies himself as an artist solidly in the post-Brecker tradition; we get the flawless chops, pretty sound, and dramatically swelling compositions that we expect. The supporting cast of musicians glimmer in all the right places, with the spotlight falling more often on pianist Alex Clements than anywhere else. Where the album disappoints is in its failure to provide the unexpected. Despite the inclusion of bass clarinet and alto flute among other eclectic choices in the instrumentation, the complete large ensemble appears on only a handful of tracks, and even then only in a background role. The album sticks instead to the usual saxophone and piano pattern with only a few exceptions.

Perhaps a benefit of sticking to a middle-of-the-road approach is the evenness that marks State of Mind. Mr. Bradette's approach on both tenor and soprano is consistent while his compositions manage to display myriad influences from third stream, to post-bop without making jarring transitions. The album displays a synthesis of a variety of modern jazz influences which result in an album that manages to be well-polished, pretty, and unobjectionable to both casual listeners and jazz connoisseurs, without the spectacular failures or successes that result from taking big risks.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Isaac Laughlin) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Mon, 04 Jul 2005 07:00:00 -0500
The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project by Various Artists http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/world-music-cd-reviews/the-afrobeat-sudan-aid-project-by-various-artists.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/world-music-cd-reviews/the-afrobeat-sudan-aid-project-by-various-artists.html There are many layers of activism to be heard on the collection of African music entitled ASAP: The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project. The aid project referred to in the…

There are many layers of activism to be heard on the collection of African music entitled ASAP: The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project. The aid project referred to in the title of this CD is intended to benefit the Darfur region of Sudan. This album puts its money where its mouth is: 100% of the profits from this CD go to support causes that oppose this tragedy. The label that deserves credit for this selfless act is the fledgling Modiba; which was founded by two Wesleyan University graduates with the desire to produce and promote African music and film. Afrobeat itself is an activist music and the tracks on this album refer to the usual themes of pan-Africanism and anti-globalization. There's plenty to feel good about this album politically (depending on your views on the above subjects), and fortunately there's also a good deal of music to feel good about as well.

The artists featured on this album are a distinguished bunch and they've all contributed solid tracks to this charitable effort. There are several tracks of what qualifies as afrobeat according to the narrowest definition of that style: tracks from Kokolo, Antibalas, Ikwunga and Tony Allen, all feature the driving dance rhythms and James Brown-esque horn sections popularized by Fela Kuti. There is also some material that shows a broader range of influences beginning to pervade afrobeat: Keziah Jones demonstrates an appreciation for hip-hop and electronic music in his outstanding track "Garan Garan", and Dele Sosimi makes a fruitful combination of contemporary jazz and afrobeat, a sadly under-explored realm. The opening track is an obtuse remix overlaid with excerpts from speeches about the tragedy in Darfur. Musically, it's one of those tracks that you just have to get through to get to the real stuff, but politically it's the only track on the album that directly addresses the Sudan cause, so it's a forgivable offense.

Available on iTunes and at the label's store, this is a collection of African pop that would serve as a good introduction for those looking to diversify their collection, while also providing some excellent material for connoisseurs of the genre. And of course, it supports a (several) good cause(s).

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Isaac Laughlin) World Music - CD Reviews Sat, 07 Aug 2004 07:10:02 -0500
Graduation by Graduation Trio http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/graduation-by-graduation-trio.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/graduation-by-graduation-trio.html This short, evidently untitled album by the Graduation Trio features just two lengthy tracks (each is about 20 minutes). This format is typical of the free, avant garde, co…
This short, evidently untitled album by the Graduation Trio features just two lengthy tracks (each is about 20 minutes). This format is typical of the free, avant garde, collective, electro-acoustic, improvised music category to which this album belongs. This is highbrow stuff: it requires an appreciation for the avant and a dedicated listener, it's music that refuses to be the background music that jazz often sadly becomes.

The music on this album was captured live in Brooklyn in May, 2003. It's a challenging recording assignment, not only because of the sonic variety produced by the musicians, but also because of the importance to the composition of the time and space in which it was produced. These two tracks hold up fairly well removed from their original performance context, which is a credit to the clarity of the recording (where murkiness prevails it seems to have been the intention of the musicians). There is one moment on the first track where the CD hiccups, it may or may not be duplicated on all copies, in more structured CDs it would spoil the whole track, but for this type of music it's a less damaging fault.

One of the strengths of this album is that it builds slowly, allowing you to buy into what the musicians are doing gradually, without taking an agonizing time getting to the point. The first track, "-stock" begins briskly with some of what sounds, at times, an awful lot like an electric guitar (although one can never be too sure of the origin of much of the sounds) which provides, if not a melodic base, at least a sort of central voice to take center stage. At times, the music threatens to develop into a sort of Tom Waits-ish broken-robots-marching groove, but the musicians here take pains to avoid it; that they manage to prevent any regularity without interrupting the forward progress of the music makes for great tension. This tension is helped by a strong dedication to build and release, instead of a commitment to complete obliteration which can, in other examples of this genre, be both exhausting and maddening.

The second track, "-custom" features no melodic content whatsoever, but is full of drama nonetheless. This track, which features mostly electronically generated noises, is reminiscent of channel surfing a television with no reception on psychotropics: it's fascinating in a way that only the person experiencing it can understand. This track evokes a strikingly cinematic in a David Lynch kind of way world of machine noises. It's full of lush statics and primitive computer sounds (remember that sound dialup modems make?) with an evident compositional element underlying the interactions between the various soundscapes. It all amounts to an exploration the meaning, to humans, of sounds which were intended to have no meaning to humans (but which, curiously, we constantly subject ourselves to), asking perhaps the question "If a modem dials in the auditorium and someone is there to hear it, what the hell?"

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Isaac Laughlin) Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews Mon, 15 Dec 2003 12:00:00 -0600