Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kartet - Grand Laps

Kartet
Grand Laps
Songlines

Guillaume Orti - Saxophones
Benoit Delbecq - Piano
Hubert Dupont - Acoustic Bass
Stephane Galland - Drums

Kartet is a group operating somewhere in the intersection of avant-garde, mainstream and chamber jazz. I was not familiar with them before Grand Laps (French for "a long while"), but as it turns out the group began 25 years ago and this is their sixth album, although it’s been seven years since their previous release.

Even though the line-up is that of a classic jazz quartet, this is not a horn-with-rhythm section album; it’s more egalitarian in design. The music on Grand Laps generally unfolds at an unhurried pace, and the structures the group use emphasize dialog, not blazing displays of virtuosity. At some points I was reminded of Miles’ second quintet in their more introspective moments. There’s an MBase influence lurking as well in the angular nature of some of the compositions.

The most distinctive element of Kartet’s sound is owed to the presence of pianist Benoit Delbecq. His percussive style is immediately recognizable, and goes the furthest to define the group’s identity. Delbecq also shows his impressionistic side, with a wonderful blend of lyrically abstract playing. 

Guillaume Orti primarily plays alto, with a tone that’s a little thin in the upper register for my taste, as well as C-Melody and soprano saxes. He gives the music plenty of breathing room, although at times I wanted more direction from him to propel the music forward. Dupont does a nice job of providing support when needed while adding his own commentary. Galland, who replaces original Kartet drummer Chandler Sardjoe, implies the rhythmic structures with his shading, but turns up the intensity when required.

Kartet does a good job of integrating composed and improvised sections so that each flows easily into the other. The music on Grand Laps is challenging to the listener, but has a lyrical, attractive quality that is unexpected. A late night avant-garde album, perhaps?

Here's a video on the making of the album:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Steve Swell - Schemata and Heuristics for Clarinets #1

Tim Daisy's Relay Recordings has just released a new composition by trombonist Steve Swell as part of the Relay New Composer series. The piece is scored for four clarinets; the musicians involved are Ned Rothenberg, Guillermo Gregorio, Miguel Malla and Zara Acosta-Chen. If you're a fan of contemporary composition, or a fan of the clarinet, it's definitely worth checking out. The piece is available as a download from Relay Recordings' Bandcamp page.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Clean Feed Releases for April, 2014

Now listed on the Clean Feed site:

In Memory of Things Yet Seen
Eric Revis Quartet 

Wire Quartet
Rodrigo Amado Wire Quartet 

II
Lawnmower II 

The Visible Ones
Matthieu Donarier / Albert van Veenendaal 

Salvation Modes
Sei Miguel 

In Memory of… will be Revis’ third for the label, and based on the other two, one I’m really looking forward to hearing. Stef’s Free Jazz Blog already has a review of it. I also have high hopes for the new Rodrigo Amado; I thought Searching for Adam from 2010 was really strong.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Ingebrigt Haker Flaten/Frank Rosaly/Yells At Eels - Dallas 3/24/14

Dallas was fortunate to host former resident Bobby Bradford on Monday evening, along with a group consisting of Frode Gjerstad (Norway), Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (Austin) and Frank Rosaly (Chicago). Dennis Gonzalez of Yells At Eels was instrumental in bringing the group up to North Texas, with their appearance sandwiched between tour stops in Austin and Houston.

Yells at Eels opened the show, which was held in a storefront in Exposition Park called the Beefhaus. They were augmented by young tenor saxophonist Jason Jackson from Houston, like drummer Stefan Gonzalez a member of Ingebrigt's new group The Young Mothers.

Rather than go into detail about each performance, suffice it to say that it was an energizing, uplifting night. Some random impressions: Dennis Gonzalez is just getting better and better, Jason Jackson reminds me of a young, pre-smooth jazz Gato Barbieri, Frank Rosaly plays drums in a way you have to see to understand, and Bobby Bradford is holding his own in intense company just shy of his 80th birthday. Here are some photos from the concert:




Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sam Boshnack Quintet - Exploding Syndrome

Sam Boshnack Quintet
Exploding Syndrome

Sam Boshnack – Trumpet, flugelhorn
Beth Fleenor – Clarinet, bass clarinet, voice
Dawn Clement – Piano, Wurlitzer, additional keyboards
Isaac Castillo – Acoustic bass
Max Wood – Drums, percussion

“Sam”, as it turns out, is Samantha Boshnack, a Seattle-based trumpeter and composer who also leads a larger aggregation called the B’shnorkestra. This is her first release with this group, all of whom were unknown to me, although Sam has evidently been on the Pacific Northwest scene for quite some time.

When I first listened to Exploding Syndrome, it seemed like a solid post-bop session, well played, but perhaps of a piece with a lot that’s being released these days. There was something that kept drawing me back, though, to listen again, and I’m glad I stuck with it, because first impressions proved to be deceiving. 

First of all, the quality of the writing puts this one a notch above the rest. Boshnack’s compositions are able to effectively convey a mood, be it reflective or more agitated, and they don’t sound like abstract exercises. There are some subtle arranging touches as well; the front line of trumpet and clarinet/bass clarinet creates a rich texture, and there are times where distorted electric piano is laid on top of what sounds like prepared piano. 

Through the first few tracks, this makes for a nice, perhaps somewhat muted approach, but things take an interesting left turn at the end of the CD, on the tracks Dormant, Exploding Syndrome and Ashcloud. Basically a suite within an album that could be heard as a suite, there’s an extra dose of energy and edge, topped off on the title track with vocalizations that sound like a ninja on crack. The piece ends with a rousing trumpet fanfare.

I’d like to hear more of the Sam Boshnack that’s represented at the end of Exploding Syndrome. Hopefully, she’ll continue to take some chances and develop her voice. The album is available through CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes.

Here's a video clip of a live performance of the title track:

Upcoming 2014 Releases from Anthony Braxton

I realize that I haven't posted a lot about Anthony Braxton, but I love his work and always look forward to catching up with new developments in his music. As any fan of his can tell you, this can be a full-time job, as he seems to constantly generate new concepts: Diamond Curtain Wall, Echo Echo Mirror House, Pine Top Aerial, Falling River Music. The Braxton of today is far different from the Ghost Trance music of a few years ago, which is far different from his Quartet with Crispell, Dresser and Hemingway, which is far different from his 70's LPs on Arista...well, you get the idea.

His Tri-Centric Foundation, originally started in 1994, has steadily released new digital recordings and provided "official" access to bootlegs on a monthly basis since it was revived in 2010. Recently, the Foundation announced that new releases would be in CD format (previously the only physical release on the New Braxton House label was the opera Trillium E), and now we know some more information about upcoming 2014 releases:

Trio (New Haven) 2013, a 4-CD set of Braxton performing with drummers Tom Rainey and Tomas Fujiwara.

12 Duets (DCWM) 2012, 12-CD set presenting Braxton in duets with three partners: violinist Erica Dicker, vocalist Kyoko Kitamura and bassoonist Katherine Young.

3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011, a 3-CD set documenting Braxton’s newest composition system, Echo Echo Mirror House Music, featuring Braxton’s long-running septet with Taylor Ho Bynum (brass), Jessica Pavone (viola), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jay Rozen (tuba), Carl Testa (bass) and Aaron Siegel (percussion) to be released from Firehouse 12 Records.

Members of the Foundation will get a discount on these sets.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Danny Fox Trio – Wide Eyed

The Danny Fox Trio
Wide Eyed
Hot Cup Records

Danny Fox – Piano
Chris van Voorst van Beest – Bass
Max Goldman - Drums

When I first came across Wide Eyed, I thought, “Another piano trio?” I almost passed on the CD, but as it turns out Danny Fox and his group actually have something to say. 

Fox is a new name to me, but it turns out his debut CD came out on Songlines a couple of years back. He’s worked in diverse situations from jazz to chamber orchestras to a New Orleans repertory band, and this varied background might explain why Wide Eyed is not a theme-solos-theme, business-as-usual record.

Several pianists came to mind as I listened to Wide Eyed, but I realize that sounds like Fox is merely derivative and that’s not the case. What he does have is the ability to connect the dots between classical piano, contemporary jazz piano and the blues, somewhat like Paul Bley. I recently listened for the first time to the Russ Freeman Trio from 1957 (Russ Freeman/Richard Twardzik, Pacific Jazz) and I was struck by similarities to that what Freeman was doing back then and Fox’s approach today. The music that The Danny Fox Trio makes is harmonically adventurous, yet melodic and with a strong sense of groove, although not always “swing” in the traditional sense. Fox even throws in a little Ramey Lewis-style boogaloo for good measure.

"Accessible yet heady" is what Justin Cober Lake wrote about the group in Pop Matters, and that’s as good a description as I can think of to describe The Danny Fox Trio.

Here's a video for the song Sterling: