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Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews (1158)

Frank Carlberg's "Tivoli Trio" is one of those rare piano trio beasts that makes an immediate impression. It helps that Carlberg himself is a fascinating composer who has an immediately recognizable touch on the keys. He's also one of those players who's impossible to pigeonhole. His precise, lively piano playing seems informed by classical music, but he's a jazz dude through and through. There's no gimmick here – no pop covers and no bad boy posturing. Even within the jazz realm, Carlberg's style is idiosyncratic – he's clearly not a Chick / Herbie / McCoy / Bill Evans acolyte. Nor…

Agogic by Agogic

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Agogic is, in some ways, a musical homecoming celebration for Seattle natives Vu and D'Angelo (whose work with Matt Wilson, Human Feel and Kurt Rosenwinkel is nothing short of remarkable) following extended stays in Boston and New York City. Agogic's other two members – bassist Luke Bergman and drummer Evan Woodle – are products of Seattle's very fertile jazz and experimental music scene. With this young and extremely capable rhythm section in tow, Vu and D'Angelo are free to explore all sorts of stylistic variations and intersections, unfettered by big city music politics and the ensuing creative burnout.
Something Quiet is Bob Gluck's second recording following up his 2008 Sideways. This is his first recording as an acoustic jazz player. The trio consists of Gluck, Joe Giardullo on soprano sax, and Christopher Dean Sullivan on bass. On this recording the listener is treated to some intricate compositions, ensemble playing, and improvisation that ranges from the quietest of moments to the cacophony of all out interaction between the musicians. Gluck's compositions are entertaining for their depth
Prior to the 21st Century, Merle Haggard's name did not come up all too often when discussing modern jazz - or jazz of any kind, for that matter. Along with everything else, this seems to have changed. Pretend It's The End Of The World is the product of saxophonist Bryan Murray's quest to bring the name 'Merle Haggard' to the lips of Brooks-Brothers-wearing be-boppers, finger-snapping hipsters, and poetry-reciting beatniks the world over. The tongue-in-cheekiness of the whole concept is fleshed
This quartet provides a many-sided viewpoint, where freedom of expression is laconically aligned with the avant-garde strata. Stationed in Chicago, the quartet led by alto saxophonist Aram Shelton offers a program consisting of subtle hooks, detours and focused theme-building exercises. Engineered upon straightforward bop, capacious improvisation, and numerous subplots, the quartet throttles the intensity level throughout. Shelton and vibist Jason Adasiewicz are strong foils, whether they gen
Adventurous has always been the word for the music of Matthew Shipp, and Art of the Improviser his new two-CD set is no exception. At first glance, the purple-and-black cover, with its solid-set lettering, appears to be two disks of Matt solo, but it turns out to be two dates: one in a trio with drummer Whit Dickey and bassist Mike Bisio (recorded in Troy, New York) and a second solo at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. Both contain reworkings of previously recorded tunes, and there are two lov
These veteran Italian improvisers convey freedom of expression with a musical panorama that scales rather well. One of the compelling factors on this live recording pertains to the band’s ability to expand themes and subplots without concentrating on one mode of action. With capacious and unrestricting dialogues to complement a myriad of asymmetrical rhythmic variations, the musicians inject dainty contrasts and temperate flows into the grand schema.Saxophonist Edoardo Marraffa’s raspy voicing
On The Prairie Prophet, saxophonist Ernest Dawkins and his New Horizon Ensemble pay tribute to friend and mentor Fred Anderson, saxophonist and owner of the Velvet Lounge in Chicago who passed away on June 24, 2010. Dawkins and company traverse a diverse landscape of musical moods, from jubilant buoyancy ("Hymn for a Hip King"), to intense spontaneity ("Sketches"), to lyrical ensemble statements ("Balladesque," "Shades of the Prairie Prophet"). Standout soloing is in abundance throughout with st
A dog is a man’s best friend, indeed. And on this 2010 release, improvising sax great Lol Coxhill and eminent drummer/percussionist Roger Turner pay a bit of abstract homage to our much beloved canines. The improvisation is at times minimalist in scope, yet the continually moving parts equate into a polytonal feast for one’s psyche.Coxhill performs on his customary soprano saxophone and counters Turner’s bells hits, rim-shots, tom tom patterns and colorific integration of small percussion impl
Back-when, there was a TV preview-trailer for the science-fiction movie The Blob (the original, not the 1980s remake) that scared the living [fill in blank] out of me. “The monster that can’t be killed,” screamed the icy voice-over. The Blob was this formless, massive organism that basically absorbed anything living that it touched, growing ever larger in the process. Around the same time (we're talking late 1950s), the scary monsters of free jazz and rock & roll were threatening the world,
Doing something unique with the vibraphone is a tough road to walk, especially if one is a serious musician. Notoriously difficult to play with respect to the instrument’s lack of emotional variety, it’s no surprise its best practitioners have been those of the swing world like Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson and Terry Gibbs, or more modern ensemble-tied visionaries like Mike Mainieri, Steve Nelson or Stefon Harris. Truly original voices, such as Gary Burton’s, are very rare in this world.
Strange timing, this. Almost 25 years after it was originally recorded comes this medium-length conversation between two titans of American improvised music. Fans of jazz’ farther out shores will need little introduction to either of the participants here. But despite their joint (and lazy) labeling as “outcats,” the initial highpoints of their careers – Smith’s sparse and subtle phrasing with the Smith-Braxton-Jenkins trio vs. Blackwell’s upbeat tapdancing underneath the classic Ornette Coleman

Scarnoduo by Blastula

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Faced with the prospect of listening to an entire CD of improvised voice-and-percussion duos, I was initially a bit put-off and placed Scarnoduo into the 'back-burner' stack. But the CD's lovely packaging, of all things, made me curious. Once I got it into my CD player, the sheer inventiveness, broad humor, and technical excellence of Blastula quickly won me over. Scarnoduo is certainly one of the year’s very best avant-garde releases, and another feather in the cap for the consistently great Am
ElectroAcoustic Silence, also known as EASilence, is a collaborative effort involving an Italian jazz quartet and Japanese electronic musician Taketo Gohara. Though Gohara is credited with ‘sound design’ on the CD’s packaging, his contributions to Flatime hearken back to the synthesized swoops, sweeps, boops, and beeps I first heard from artists such as Pat Gleeson on Herbie Hancock’s early 70s LPs, or perhaps to the electronic palette of musique concrete as formulated by Pierre Schaffer and Pie
Drummer / composer / arranger Mark Lomax drives a free-leaning tenor sax-fronted power trio with sure hands and graceful instincts on his fifth recording as a leader, The State Of Black America. The Blacksburg, VA native, an active music educator, and drum clinician has also worked with Azar Lawrence, Delfeayo Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis, and Marlon Jordan. Lomax' compositions, while firmly rooted in the jazz tradition, give bassist Dean Hulett and tenor saxophonist Edwin Bayard plenty of room for
Trumpeter Ron Miles is one of those musicians who is always doing something that is worth paying attention to. This disc – prosaically titled 3ology With Ron Miles - is no exception. 3ology is a Denver-based saxophone – bass – drums trio that performs groove-based improvised music. Clearly, these three fellows have been playing together for quite some time – they've established a rich and multi-layered rapport, and never fall prey to all the sorts of excesses I associate with free improvisation
The first thing I thought when listening to “5000 Poems” the new recording from trombonist / composer Steve Swell and his 'Slammin' the Infinite' band was: “...good old Free Jazz!” This disc instantly transported me back to the late 1960s, when free jazz was really 'The New Thing,' and was really new - fresh and unencumbered by several decades worth of uninformed media baggage. 'Not Their Kind' opens “5000 Poems” with trombone and saxophone essaying a brief theme in a rush of splashy drums and C
As we enter the second decade of the 21st Century, Rich Halley has flourished into one of the world's very finest jazz tenor saxophonists. Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival is Halley's 11th as a leader, and his second with former Ornette sideman Bobby Bradford. The ace cornetist is a logical choice as a front-line partner – his cool, concise playing contrasts sharply with Halley's heated, note-intensive offerings. And though Halley's sound and approach to the horn clearly comes from the John Col
Guitarist and composer John Czajkowski's latest recording,“West ZooOpolis,” is one of the most unlikely projects I've encountered in quite some time. Equal parts progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion, and some other sort of undefined musical sub-genre, “West ZooOpolis” was conceived as a musical overlay to a 52-minute long, pre-recorded drum solo created by German drum virtuoso Marco Minnemann. For those of you who aren't familiar with Minnemann, he is possibly one of the greatest technical drum