A really fantastic set from this Swedish nine piece ensemble – a record that's overflowing with brash performance and unbridled energy – adventurous, but never totally free – and always given the right sort of focus to make things come across with a tremendous amount of power! The feel is almost like a Moserobie Records take on a Charles Mingus style – and the lineup features Martin Kuchen on alto and tenor – who also composed the album's five long tracks – plus Magnus Broo on trumpet, Matthias Stahl on vibes, Goran Kajfes on cornet, Mats Aleklint on trombone, Eirik Hegdal on baritone, Alexander Zethson on piano, Johan Berthling on bass, and Andreas Werliin on drums. If you know any of those players at all, you can imagine the greatness of the group – on titles that include "Adror", "Equality & Death", "Pacemaker", "Disappeared Behind The Sun", and "Love Flee Thy House". CD
One of the headiest Peter Brotzmann albums we've heard in years, thanks to the sound of the Black Bombaim group from Portugal – who play with a guitar-heavy drive that almost takes us back to Brotzmann's Last Exit recordings of the 80s! The group play with a forward energy that takes off right from the start – heavy drums and full-on fuzzy guitar, plus some deep electric bass as well – all of which puts the reedman in a different setting than most of his recent projects, and one that reminds us just how well-suited he can be for such an experience! Some of the performances here really blow our minds all over again – with a tone that's strong, and incredibly clear – sometimes even more focused than on some of Brotzmann's other recent records, but still very free and sharp-edged overall. The album was recorded live in the studio, with a very jamming vibe – and the CD seems to have one more track than the vinyl LP. CD
The title might be a bit of a joke, but the music here is something else entirely – tremendously well-formed, well-played work from a group headed by bassist Mark Dresser – who also wrote all the material on the set! There's almost an AACM vibe to the whole thing – a mixture of larger concepts and individual spirits, always coming together in a highly collaborative way – and shining in the brilliance of players who include Nicole Mitchell on flutes, Marty Erlich on clarinet and bass clarinet, Michael Dessen on trombone, Joshua White on piano, David Morales Boroff on violin, and Jim Black on drums and percussion. The woodwinds have these shading, sliding qualities that are completely sublime – and often echoed, and augmented by the violin – in work that takes us back to the 70s brilliance of players like Leroy Jenkins or Billy Bang. Dresser's presence is felt strongly throughout – and titles include "Sedimental You", "Newtown Char", "Two Handfuls Of Peace", "Will Well", and "Trumpinputinstoopin". CD
Great work from the Canada Day combo of drummer Harris Eisenstadt – a group that may well be his best in recent years – thanks to a really creative sense of interplay between the musicians! The group features no piano – just the trumpet of Nate Wooley and tenor of Matt Bauder criss-crossing over drums from Harris and bass from Pascal Niggenkemper – in a way that begins with sort of an Ornette Coleman early 60s energy, but quickly takes off into very individual textures and tones – informed both by the song structures provided by Eisenstadt, and the sublime interplay between Wooley and Bauder. Things are never too far out, but always chromatically creative – and titles include "Sometimes You Gotta Ask For What You want", "A Fine Kettle Of Fish", "Innuendo Is Nobody's Friend", and "We All Ate What We Wanted To Eat", in a number of different sections. CD
A really unusual combination of instruments – or, that is, a familiar combination – but used here in really unusual ways! The group features Taiko Saito on vibes and marimba, Niko Meinhold on piano, and Tobias Schirmer on clarinet and bass clarinet – and all instruments are often used at the gentlest side of their sonic range – so that the flow of the tones together is almost more important than the performance of any individual member – always tuneful, even when dark – but also extremely creative in the way the sounds are put together! We're used to hearing modern clarinet players work with unusual phrasings from the time of Jimmy Giuffre onward – but we've never heard that instrument combined this way with piano and vibes – with a sound that reminds us that the right players can always unlock new possibilities from familiar instruments. Titles include "Wellen", "Etude In Eb", "Snow Moon Flower", "Bikkuri", "Komodo No Kodomo", and "Feldmannchen". CD
Bassist John Lindberg is the leader here – but the record starts with a beautiful solo clarinet piece by reedman Wendell Harrison – who we've loved ever since his Tribe Records work of the 70s! Harrison has played in many formats over the years – some more straight or polished than others – but here, in the company of a great trio, he reminds us that he can still be an incredibly powerful, spiritual player when needed – working here on both bass clarinet and standard clarinet – with a creative sound that rivals John Carter at his best on the instruments. The group also features wonderful vibes from Kevin Norton – whose tones balance things out nicely, and have this sharper attack at points that resonates well with Lindberg's bass. Norton also plays additional percussion – and titles include "Swooping Deep", "The Excavation", "The Left Wrist", "Devastation Of Vegetation", "Born In An Urban Ruin", and "Vermont Roadside Family". CD
Mat Maneri/Evan Parker/Lucian Ban —
Sounding Tears ... CD CleanFeed (Portugal), 2017. New Copy ...
An incredible combination of sounds – as the viola of Mat Maneri comes into play with the always-inventive reed work of Evan Parker – a player whose decades of creativity never seems to stop him from being completely fresh and in the moment! To our ears, the interplay between offbeat string and reed sounds is the real charm here – although the piano of Lucian Ban is certainly strong, and maybe adds in a dark current at all the right moments – even if his presence is sometimes a bit more conventional (although maybe that's also a good thing, too. Titles include "Blessed", "This", "Blue Light", "Da Da Da", "Parallex", and "Scilence". CD
Rob Mazurek's working here with a group of players who are most associated with his Sao Paulo Underground – although the album's not billed as such – and the leader has definitely leapt back strongly into that electronic mode that really characterized the initial second chapter of his career! Rob blows cornet on the record, but maybe handles more electronics overall – and the group also features more electronics from Thomas Rohrer, who also blows flute and soprano – plus additional keyboards from Guilherme Grado. More acoustic elements come into the music from the drums of Mauricio Takara and piano (both regular and prepared) of Philip Somervell – and overall, the sound is very dark and noisy – maybe more so than any other previous Sao Paulo projects. Titles include "The Blue Haze", "Android Sun", "Raked Harmonic Sun Burst Strata", "Sparklers For Eyes Like Splintered Lightning", and "Sun Flare Extensions & Other Dimensions". CD
Rob Mazurek —
Rome ... CD CleanFeed (Portugal), 2017. New Copy ...
An incredible solo record from Rob Mazurek – a wonderful change from some of his larger group and collaborative projects – even though we love those a heck of a lot too! This set's a great reminder of the core improvisational genius that Rob's always had, but which sometimes is overshadowed by the group activity on his other records. Here, Mazurek blows cornet alone, and also plays both standard and prepared piano – and colors things with just a dash of his great electronics – often used in more sparing and subtle ways than some of his group efforts. A really beautiful set from a musician who continues to reward us over the years – with titles that include "Twombly At New Church", "Gazing Through Walls", "King Of Rome", and "Sweet Life In Disrepair". CD
Meridian Trio (Nick Mazzarella/Matt Ulery/Jeremy C —
Triangulum ... CD CleanFeed (Portugal), 2017. New Copy ...
Triangulum – a great title for the wonderful energy of this group – which swings perfectly between the three sharp points of Nick Mazzarella on alto, Matt Ulery on bass, and Jeremy Cunningham on drums! These guys are freewheeling, but always soulful – not just because of Nick's well-shaped sense of tone – which can be arch-modern, yet with a surprisingly warm core – but also because the bass of Ulery has this completely rapt (wrapped?) approach – almost like some deep force watching over the whole proceedings, which then seems to set Cunningham free on drums. The group represents an amazing third (or fourth?) wave in the contemporary avant scene in Chicago – the kind of joyous expression that continues to make us proud to live in a city that can create music this wonderful. Titles include "Ringdown", "Reminiscing", "Witch Hazel", "Rhododendron", "Strange", and "Inflection Point". CD
A totally cool combination of musical elements – baritone sax and analog electronics – both played here by Jonah Parzen-Johnson with a style that's unlike anything else we can think of! Sure, saxes and electronics have come together before – ever since Richard Tietelbaum and Anthony Braxton first recorded together back in the 70s. But there's also a very different vibe here that comes both from the baritone, and its deeper sonic range – and the way that Jonah uses his electronics, sometimes with flutteringly rhythmic elements that really make the music shimmer, but without overwhelming it at all. He's also not afraid to blow straight and soulfully at times too – which is especially great when the electronics are more abstract – and throughout, the album's full of these revelatory moments that make the whole thing a delight. Titles include "These Shoulders Those Shoulders", "Cabin Pressure", "I Have Questions", "What Do I Do With Sorry", "Guns Make Us Murderers", and "Too Many Dreams". CD
The bass of Eric Revis sounds better than we ever remember – and that's saying a lot, because we've really liked his other records too! Yet here, it almost feels like Revis is out to re-state himself as a musician – coming on strong with a tone that could put him up there with the giants of earlier years – and beautifully matched with drummer Chad Taylor, who's always been an amazing example of that rare quality of being tight and loose at the same time! Ken Vandermark blows tenor and clarinet – but in a way that really seems to respect the path taken by Revis and Taylor – as does the piano of Kris Davis, which punctuates the sound perfectly. Titles include "Sing Me Some Cry", "PT 44", "Good Company", "Rye Eclipse", "Rumples", and "Drunkard's Lullaby". CD
The Rova Sax Quartet not only pay tribute to the late Steve Lacy – whose work on soprano sax was such a huge influence on their sound – they also reunite with guitarist Henry Kaiser, a Bay Area associate from the early days who was a key part of their scene! The quartet rework the songs that Steve Lacy first presented on his groundbreaking Saxophone Special album – but the presence of both Kaiser's guitar, and analog electronics from Kyle Bruckmann really make the whole thing sound quite unique – certainly in a mode that Lacy would approve, but also with maybe more of the noisy elements that marked the generation or Rova and Kaiser's early improvisations. Titles include "Staples", "Swishes", "Sops", "Dreams", and "Snaps" – plus bonus tracks "Cliches" and "Sidelines". CD
Susana Santos Silva/Torbjorn Zetterburg/Hampus Lin —
If Nothing Else ... CD CleanFeed (Portugal), 2015. New Copy ...
A wonderful continuation of the spirit of the previous collaboration between trumpet and flugelhorn player Susana Santos Silva and bassist Torbjorn Zetterberg – but a record that also adds in a cool extra element with the organ of Hampus Lindwall too! The music has this spacious, open quality – these tonefull lines from Silva which flow out in space, but which also have a quality that's not nearly as cold as, say, an ECM session of this type – thanks to the always-amazing, always-soulful work of Zetterberg on bass – who gives the record an organic grounding, which is then supported by Lindwall's lines on organ. And we're not exactly sure what type of organ he's using, but at times it almost feels like a pipe organ – as the sounds have both a depth, and sense of presence that really makes the music unique – even at points when his contributions are very low on the sonic totem pole. Titles include "Stop Chords", "Fiddling", "Distance", "First Initiative", "Second Initiative", "One Note Each", and "One Note Song". CD
A record that comes on with the frenzy of an Ornette Coleman Quartet session – and one with a very similar lineup too – given that Nate Wooley is on trumpet, Chris Pitsiokos is on alto, Brandon Lopez is on bass, and Dre Hocevar is on drums! Yet the sound is freer, and bolder too – as the instruments flurry together in clusters, then burst out into incredible sonic territory as the set moves on – with moments that include Wooley blowing fast and tuneful with a mute, like some speed freak Miles Davis – or hitting these popping, punctuated sounds that are really unusual. The record's one that really keeps us on the edge of our seats – and furthers the sense of surprise that can make real jazz improvisation so special! CD
We love the Trespass Trio – a group that offers up a very fresh setting for some musicians we first discovered in the Moserobie side of the universe – bassist Per Zanussi, drummer Raymond Strid, and reedman Martin Kuchen – who plays baritone, alto, and sopranino saxes on the album! Zanussi can have a deep bass sound at times, but also bows his instrument at points – with this beautiful current of melancholy – and there's a loose, almost ragged quality to the music that we never would have expected from the musicians years before – a mode that's powerful at moments, but maybe even more compelling when it opens up into some bluer currents of sound. Titles include "Sounds & Ruins", "In Tears", "Centers", "The Spirit Of Pitesti", and "Fri Kokko". CD
Think of this quartet as a string trio, plus vibes – and you'll definitely get the idea of the wonderful sound of this set! The group's led by Daniel Levin on cello, and also features Mat Maneri on viola and Torbjorn Zetterberg on bass – plus great vibes from Matt Moran, who's chromatic tones punctuate the string passages in this wonderful way! The cello and viola are often bowed, and balanced with the rich tone of Zetterberg's plucked bass – and titles include "Jumpman", "Glacier", "Matt/Torbjorn", "Aquamarine", "Lost & Found", and "Myths & Legends". CD
A beautiful tangle of reeds from this all-star group – Evan Parker, Daunik Lazro, and Joe McPhee – working together here in a sublime live performance that's over 20 years old, but still blows away most of the work by the younger generation! Each individual player has a very strong sense of texture – so that as the horns and moods shift, things only get more interesting, and more complex – that special way of hearing that can result in shapes and tones that few others on the instruments might imagine! Parker plays tenor and soprano, Lazro plays alto and baritone, and McPhee plays alto and soprano – as well as alto clarinet and pocket trumpet. Titles include "Florid", "Echoes Of Memory", "Concertino In Blue", "Tree Dancing", and "To Rush At The Wind". CD