Recorded in three locations in Moscow in 2013, this very powerful collective improvisation is led by Francois Carrier on alto saxophone, along with Michael Lambert on drums and Alexey Lapin on piano. The make a statement of purpose right off the bat on "JCC II" which has strong saxophone echoing grandly around the venue, the group as a whole is sharp and strong, especially Carrier who displays epic and protean power on his instrument. "JCC III" begins with a probing section for piano and drums, Lapin is quite patient in dropping showers of notes before Carrier comes in and the tome of the music begins to darken. Lambert drops the hammer and they are off with squalls of saxophone and drums framed by rumbling dark bass piano chords. Opening with strong group interplay, "JCC IV" allows Carrier to rear back and let loose a steaming stream of notes, honks and wails, before throttling lack and ending the piece with the sounds of quiet breath. "ESG-21 III" is an epic performance as the band begins the piece with protean wailing coming fast and hard, particularly Carrier who winds up and lets loose like a coiled spring, absolutely all out and thrilling. But as the booster rockets fall away, the music changes shape entirely. As if they have now been launched into the cosmos by the ferocity of the opening section, the music becomes a long and open exploration of musical space and time. This is the longest performance on the album and demonstrates the band is far from just a fire-breathing free jazz unit but a group that has almost telepathic unity that allows for the use of dynamics that shapes this excellent and exhausting album. The Russian Concerts Vol. 2 - francoiscarrier.com.
This is a potent collective improvisation group featuring Rodrigo Amado on tenor saxophone, Peter Evans on trumpet, Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums recorded in Lisbon in March of last year. The obvious precedent of this group given the instrumentation would be the classic quartets led by Ornette Coleman in the late 50's and early 60's. But while those bands improvised freely from Coleman's own quirky compositional ideas, this band takes things a step even further by collectively improvising without a net and molding the fear and exhilaration of such an endeavor into the music. "The Freedom Principle" lays things on the line as the group moves valiantly through sections of loud and exciting free jazz as a full unit and also sections for soloists supported by the fellow members and and sections of whisper quiet music where the listener must pay rapt attention to what is happening, considering that the music is being played at a low volume and a slow pace. The two remaining pieces, "Shadows" and "Pepper Packed" continue this sense of dynamism further with Evans sounding much different than he does on discs by Mostly Other People Do the Killing where he plays in more of a post-bop/free jazz sensibility, and in this case he takes quite a few risks in his trumpet playing and Amado follows suit moving from gutsy squalls of tenor saxophone to long lines of of ominous wind. The rhythm section is interesting also as Mira's cello gives him a lighter and sharper sound than a traditional bass and Ferrandini's drums add a depth of texture that makes for a successful recording. The Freedom Principle - amazon.com
John Esposito is a multi-faceted guy: a pianist, composer, band leader and collaborator, which are all referenced in this album. The band also includes Jeff Marx on saxophones and flutes and Jeff Siegel on drums and percussion. The opening "Oumou" and concluding track "Star Arrow" are very compelling, touching on the music of the mid 1960's John Coltrane Quartet and early 1970's McCoy Tyner band. Esposito makes use of the entire keyboard, building the music dramatically through lower rumbles of bass and drops and showers of brighter notes. Named for the Egyptian square where democracy protests took place, the title track "Tahrir" is appropriately dramatic with a powerful opening followed by rippling piano and drums. The collective improvisation on "Mr. K" works really well, with each member of the band fully supported by the other two for solos and trio playing. Seigel is the centerpiece on "Summit" taking a moody and open ended solo that fits the quality of feeling of the performance. "Glade" moves things in an entirely different direction with prepared piano, flute and very light percussion setting a mystical vibe. Marx and Siegel move to saxophone and drums but keep the exotic nature of the performance going strong. The powerful and fast "Mezzomprph" takes the group back into familiar modern jazz territory highlighted by Marx shifting between multiple horns. The hard work that went into this album really pays off, the music is challenging and thoughtful and makes a complete and coherent statement. Tahrir - amazon.com
Pianist Matthew Shipp and alto saxophonist Darius Jones make for a fine match, beginning on their earlier studio meeting Cosmic Lieder and building upon it with this sequel Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital. Both musicians have a distinct musical personality: Matthew Shipp makes use of the entire keyboard throwing hooks and jabs like the boxers he admires, while Darius Jones has a jagged and taut sensibility that can go from a whisper to a scream at a moments notice. They trust each other completely and that allows the music to flow at an organic pace. The dynamism that they are able to conjure is the key to the improvisation "2,327,694,748" where they circle each other building a dark sense of unease before letting loose with a torrid flow of musical information. Shipp manhandles the keyboard in a muscular and physical manner while Jones sends bolts of rough and sharp points to complement the excitement. The music really is exciting, too - while there are moments of darkness there are also shafts of like akin to the spiritual searching of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders on tracks like "Lord of Woe" where they may be worrying sections or phrases of music looking for a foothold in the wide open space and then suddenly everything clicks and their propensity for freedom (musical and personal) envelops the music and drives it skyward. This is dramatic and compelling music made by two of the most compelling members of the current improvised music scene. Both live and in the studio they create music that uses melody and freedom to create admirable and inspiring music. Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital - amazon.com
Eric Wyatt is a fine mainstream tenor saxophone player who makes exciting and well thought out music on his most recent album Borough of Kings. On this album he is accompanied by Duane Eubanks on trumpet, Clifton Anderson on trombone, Benito Gonzalez on piano, Ameen Saleem on bass and Shinnosuke Takahashi on drums. The group works well together as a whole, but I was particularly impressed with Gonzalez who drives some of these pieces like the opener “The People’s Champ” with a power that is reminiscent of McCoy Tyner’s epic early ‘70’s music, in addition to adding some Latin flourishes at times. Adding some flute to “Ancient Chinese Secrets” gives the music some interesting texture with the lighter instrument playing along with the lead tenor saxophone before dropping aside like a booster rocket as Wyatt develops a firm and deft solo statement. I enjoyed the music most when they were playing at high speed as on the title song “Borough of Kings” which begins slowly before Gonzalez puts the hammer down and launches the group into a high speed chase and a nice version of the John Coltrane classic “Countdown” in which all of the musicians are combined in one mission of pushing the music forward while also enjoying moments of fine soloing. Borough Of Kings - amazon.com
Matt Ulery - In the Ivory: Intricately composed and arranged music that transcends jazz to become something else entirely. Arrangement of vocals, strings and traditional instrumentation over the course of two discs a lengthy commitment. Chamber jazz feel, spiritual successor to the chamber jazz predecessors like Gunther Schuller and Chico Hamilton.
Damian Allegretti, Erik Friedlander & Tony Malaby - Stoddard Place: Thoughtful and patient improvised music (jazz?) Drummer Allegretti in a session with Malaby, saxophone and Friedlander on cello develop their own chamber approach, equally moving beyond jazz but using fractals and geometric orders to move into their own and construct a unique sound world.
Saxophonist Paul Shapiro (comic strip bio: cool) has made a lively career on the New York City "downtown" jazz scene playing with the likes of Steven Bernstein, The Microscopic Septet and a range of funk and rhythm and blues outfits. He brings all of those sensibilities together on this album and combines them with the music of his Jewish heritage to make this very successful album. In addition to Shapiro on tenor, alto and soprano saxophones in addition to shofar, the group features Marc Ribot on guitar, Brad Jones on bass, and Tony Lewis on drums. The music is full of life as demonstrated on "Get Me to The Shul on Time" where slamming drums lead the saxophone in to create an exotic feel. Shapiro sets up a nice groove, and Ribot contributes a typically excellent grinding guitar before the rhythm section breaks loose for a funky bass and drums interlude. They all return to the original melody before completing the song. "Surfin' Salami" opens with some dark, guttural saxophone entering into a deep strong full band improvisation full of sly humor as the song's name would imply. Ribot has a great opportunity to craft a slinky, grinding guitar solo filled with down and dirty goodness before another excellent short bass and drums interlude takes us back to the top. "Search Your Soul" changes to the pace to a slower and deeper feel, perfect for Ribot to add a bluesy rhythm and blues sensibility to the proceedings. Shapiro really digs into a feeing of dark streets filled with late night longing and pathos. The shift back into a higher gear on "Halil" with an urgent opening of Shapiro on saxophone and the remainder of the group hot on his heels. The msuic comes in waves, rising and falling like the sea and totally in the moment with all of the players locked in together in a common cause. Sections for gritty guitar and drums bubble up before the group hints at the melody once more before signing off. Highly recommended. Shofarot Verses - amazon.com