Friday, October 14, 2016

Wadada Leo Smith interview teaser

This past summer, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with legendary trumpeter, composer and band leader Wadada Leo Smith. Our conversation covered among many other topics his experience with the AACM, his thoughts collaboration and some of the particulars around his writing and creative process, the blues, his then upcoming album America's National Parks (out today on Cuneiform), politics, and nature.

The resulting piece will be published in the Norwegian weekly music supplement Musikkmagasinet, but here's an audio teaser, with mr. Smith discussing the blues as free music, and including excerpts from to tracks off his new album, respectively "New Orleans: The National Culture Park USA 1718" and "The Mississippi River: Dark and Deep Dreams Flow the River - a National Memorial Park c.5000 BC."

Have a listen here!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Listening Booth: Reviews and noteworthy releases, 1st quarter 2016

Below is a list of my published reviews from January of this year through to, and counting, the first week of April. Additionally, 30 noteworthy releases from the year so far, ordered alphabetically. It's not much, I'll grant, but the number will likely improve as I catch up with recent and upcoming releases, and revisit others during the 2nd quarter.
  • Aruán Ortiz Trio: Hidden Voices (Intakt Records) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, February 1st, 2016. Original grade 5 out of 6.
  • Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus: The Distance (ECM Records) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, February 29th, 2016. Original grade 5,5 out of 6.
  • Hanna Paulsberg Concept: Eastern Smiles (ODIN) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, February 29th, 2016. Original grade 4,5 out of 6.
  • Moskus: Ulv Ulv (Hubro) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, April 4th, 2016. Original grade 5 out of 6.
  • Bathysphere: Bathysphere (Driff Records) -- Reviewed for Jaznytt #238, 2016. Originally not graded.
  • Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Make the Magic Happen EP and Bring Their 'A' Game EP (Hot Cup Records) -- Reviewed for Jazznytt #238, 2016. Originally not graded.
  • Protean Reality: Protean Reality (Clean Feed) -- Reviewed for Jazznytt #238, 2016. Originally not graded.
Aditional published material:
  • "Pianistenes Pianist," my Paul Bley obitiuary for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, January 11th, 2016.
  • "Et jazza omland," highlights from Jazzland Records' output on the occasion of its 20 year anniversary, for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen March 14th, 2016.
Heavy Rotation, 1st quarter 2016:
  • Kenny Barron: Book of Intuition (Impulse)
  • Bent Shapes: Wolves of Want (Slumberland Records)
  • Big Ups: Before a Million Universes (Tough Love Records)
  • BJ the Chicago Kid: In My Mind (Universal)
  • Bombino: Azel (Partisan Records)
  • Thomas Borgmann, Max Johnson, Willis Kellers: One For Cisco (NoBusiness)
  • Cobalt: Slow Forever (Profound Lore)
  • Empirical: Connections (Cuneiform Records)
  • Field Music: Commontime (Memphis Industries)
  • Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus: The Distance (ECM Records)
  • Robbie Fulks: Upland Stories (Bloodshot Records)
  • Charles Gayle Trio: Live at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz (Jazzwerkstatt)
  • Gutbucket: Dance (Gut Records) 
  • William Hooker: LIGHT. The Early Years 1975-1989 (NoBusiness)
  • Anna Högberg Attack: Anna Högberg Attack (Omlott)
  • Kamaiyah: A Good Night in the Ghetto (self released)
  • Julie Kjær 3: Dobbeltgænger (Clean Feed)
  • Large Unit: Ana (PNL)
  • Jeff Lederer Brooklyn Blowhards: Brooklyn Blowhards (little(i)music)
  • Moskus: Ulv Ulv (Hubro)
  • Bob Mould: Patch the Sky (Merge)
  • Willie Nelson: Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin (Columbia/Legacy)
  • Aruán Ortiz Trio: Hidden Voices (Intakt Records)
  • Parquet Courts: Human Performance (Rough Trade)
  • Hanna Paulsberg Concept: Eastern Smiles (ODIN) 
  • Roswell Rudd, Jamie Saft, Trevor Dunn, Balasc Pandi: Strength & Power (RareNoiseRecords)
  • Rønnings Jazzmaskin: Jazzmaskin! (Losen Records)
  • Henry Threadgill Ensembel Double Up: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi Recordings) 
  • White Denim: Stiff (Downtown Records)
  • Wussy: Forever Sounds (Damnably) 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

More fave jazz albums of 2015

There's a Norwegian Christmas song that proclaims Christmas lasts until Easter. Although that silly ditty refutes said rather ludicrous claim in the following line, I'm going to run with it and use it as an excuse to post a woefully belated follow-up to my 10 fave jazz albums of 2015. Blame the delay on me recently becoming a father; the preparations for that seismic event in my life more or less turned my daily schedule upside down, leading in turn to me lagging somewhat behind on several releases from the year that was. Some of these, particularly the exciting debuts from Chris Pitsiokos Trio and Tomeka Reid Quartet, might even have affected my votes in the npr Jazz Critics Poll and El Intruso's international critics poll.

I did not post any Listening Booth/"records reviewed" updates during the latter half of 2015 nor during the first months of this year, but a few of the records that would've been included in one of those posts are listed below, with the relevant outlet listed in parentheses. I'm certain there still are a few 2015 releases that might deserve another spin or two, to be fair, and still a couple more I haven't really gotten to yet (notably Allen Lowe's In the Diaspora of the Diaspora releases). However, I'm confident in saying that the records below, in addition to my previously posted top ten (see link above), represent the cream of the crop of the new jazz albums that caught my ear over the past 12 plus months. Which, lest I be misunderstood, doesn't mean I think there weren't other noteworthy releases in 2015. Although these are listed roughly in order of, eh..., preference, I've decided to sort them into three tiers rather than making any attempt to properly rank them. I've also added 5 significant reissues/vault releases from the year that was below.

Heavy rotation:
  • Almeida / van Duynhoven / Klein: Vibrate in Sympathy (Clean Feed, reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Nov. 2nd 2015)
  • Rodrigo Amado: This Is Our Language (NotTwo Records)
  • Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity: Firehouse (Clean Feed)
  • Team Hegdal: Vol. 3 (Particular Recordings)
  • Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook-Up: After All Is Said (482 Music, reviewed for Jazznytt #236 2015) 
  • Chris Pitsiokos Trio: Gordian Twine (New Atlantis)
  • Made to Break: Before the Code (Trost)
  • Mikko Innanen with William Parker and Andrew Cyrille: Song For a New Decade (TUM Records)
  • Rob Mazurek / Exploding Star Orchestra: Galactic Parables: Volume 1 (Cuniform Records)
  • Sant'Anna Arresi Quintet by Evan Parker: Filu 'E Ferru (self-released)
Thoroughly enjoyed:
  • Lionel Loueke: GAÏA (Blue Note)
  • Ben Goldberg: Orphic Machine (Royal Potato Family)
  • Steve Coleman & the Council of Balance: Synovial Joints (Pi Recordings)
  • Satoko Fujii Tobira: Yamiyo Ni Karasau (Libra)
  • Tomeka Reid Quartet: Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thirsty Ear)
  • Jeremy Pelt: Tales, Musings and Other Reveries (High Note)
  • Steel Bridge Trio: Different Clocks (Relay Recordings) 
  • Rempis Percussion Quartet: Cash and Carry (Aerophonic Records) 
  • Susana Santos Silva: Impermanence (Carimba Porta-Jazz)
  • Snik: Metasediment Rock (Clean Feed, reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Sept. 28th 2015)
  • Mario Pavone: Blue Dialect (Clean Feed, reviewed for Jazznytt #235 2015) 
  • Rich Halley 4: Creating Structure (Pine Eagle Records, reviewed for Jazznytt #235 2015)
  • Nate Wooley Quintet: (Dance to) the Early Music (Clean Feed, reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Dec. 14th 2015)
  • Jackson / Berman / Strøm / Østvang: Southern Sun (Stone Floor Records)
  • Barry Altschul & 3dom Factor: Tales of the Unforseen (TUM)
  • Dave Douglas Quintet: Brazen Heart (Greenleaf Music)
  • Mark Lomax II and Eddie Bayard: #BLACKLIVESMATTER (self-released, reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen ...) 
  • Ran Blake: Ghost Tones: Portraits of George Russell (A-side Records)
  • William Parker: For Those Who Are, Still (3CD box set, AUM Fidelity)
  • Jacob Garchik: Ye Olde (Yestereve Records)
A further 20 notable recordings: 
  • Jónsson & More: No Way Out (Sunny Sky Records)
  • Bathysphere: Bathysphere (Driff Records, reviewed for Jazznytt #238 2016)
  • Wooley/Rempis/Niggenkemper/Corsano: From Wolves to Whales (Aerophonic Records, reviewed for Jazznytt #234 2015)
  • Matthew Shipp Quartet Declared Enemy: Our Lady of the Flowers (RogueArt)
  • ObLik: order disorder (Ormo Records. originally released in 2014, reviewed for Jazznytt #234 2015) 
  • Myra Melford: Snowy Egret (Enja) 
  • Will Mason Ensemble: Beams of the Huge Night (Amsterdam)
  • Mette Henriette: Mette Henriette (ECM) 
  • Adegoke Steve Colson: Tones For
  • Makaya McCraven: In the Moment (International Anthem)
  • Michael McNeill Trio: Flight (self-released)
  • Erik Friedlander: Oscalypso (Skipstone Records)
  • J.D. Allen Trio: Graffiti (Savant Records)
  • Matt Mitchell: Vista Accumulation (Pi Recordings) 
  • Ghost Train Orchestra:Hot Town (Accurate Records)
  • Michael Oien: And Now (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Amir ElSaffar: Crisis (Pi Recordings)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: To Duke (RogueArt)
  • Devin Gray: RelativE ResonancE (Skirl)
  • The Turbine!: Entropy/Enthalpy (RougueArt)
  • Sonny Sharrock: Ask the Ages (M.O.D. Technologies) 
  • Detail: First Detail (Rune Grammofon, reviewed for Jazz #234 2015)
  • John Carter & Bobby Bradford: Self Determination Music (Flying Dutchman/BNG)
  • Ornette Coleman: Science Fiction (Columbia/ORG)
  • Anthony Braxton: Trio & Duet (Delmark/Sackville)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ten fave jazz albums of 2015 (with promises of more to come)

2015 turned out to be a very eventful and busy year. So much so that I felt it necessary to cut down on many tasks and assignments I have previously performed with at least some sort of regularity, such as posting Listening Notes review updates on this site. It also means that my usual "fave jazz of the year" post is a tad late. Still, I thought what I could was post my ballot -- still more or less my ten favorite jazz albums of the year that was -- for NPR's Jazz Critics Poll, the results of which were announced earlier this December. I hope of following this up with a more comprehensive list early in the new year.

While such rankings may seem like a final judgement of sorts, they are at least in my case far more arbitrary. What differs a number 5 from a number 7, say. Often, very little if anything at all. Still, there was no way to look past the fact that the album in my top spot -- held by the wonderful Welcome Back, a duet record between the pianist Irene Schweizer and drummer Han Bennink in which the two veterans converse with such joy, wit, effortlessness and knowledge through European and American jazz idioms and beyond, with tasteful splashes of South-African melodies and rhythms -- was an album I enjoyed and played more than any other this past year. As for those ranked below, they are all excellent records in their own rights, as are many of those that didn't make the cut this time around (and that I hope to cover in the aforementioned future follow-up post). I don't really have the time to post any further comments on any of these at present, but all save the albums ranked at 9 and 10 have been previously reviewed by me in either Musikkmagasinet or Jazznytt. Though none of them have been translated at present, excerpts and/or pdf-files of the relevant reviews can be made available upon request. Until next year.

  1. Irene Schweizer & Han Bennink, Welcome Back (Intakt)
  2. Kirk Knuffke, Arms & Hands (Royal Potato Family)
  3. Chris Lightcap, Epicenter (Clean Feed)
  4. Rudresh Mahanthappa, Bird Calls (ACT)
  5. Max Johnson, Something Familiar (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  6. Darius Jones, Le Bebe de Brigitte (AUM Fidelity)
  7. Henry Threadgill, In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi)
  8. Mike Reed, A New Kind of Dance (482 Music)
  9. Gebhard Ullmann, Hat and Shoes (Between the Lines)
  10. James Brandon Lewis, Days of FreeMan (OKeh)

Friday, July 03, 2015

Fave Jazz of 2015, Jan. through June

While there are still many new 2015 releases in my "inbox" that I'm yet to thoroughly digest, or even get to at all (notably some Intakt releases), plus the fact that I'm just starting to sort through to advance copies of music about to be released (from Pi, NoBusiness, Clean Feed and RogueArt, among others), I thought it might be worhtwhile to stop and take a look at the records that have made the strongest impressions from January through June. Below is a list of 30 or so of my fave new jazz (in all its many, various guises) albums released in 2015 thus far. Reissues or music that has otherwise been previously available is not included.
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bird Calls (ACT)
  • Kirk Knuffke: Arms and Hands (Royal Potato Family)
  • Max Johnson Trio: Something Familiar (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth: Epicenter (Clean Feed)
  • Detail: First Detail (Rune Grammofon)
  • Henry Threadgill Zooid: In For a Penny, In For a Pound (Pi Recordings)
  • Gebhard Ullman's Basement Reearch: Hat and Shoes (Between the Lines)
  • Mikko Innanen with William Parker and Andrew Cyrille: Song For a New Decade (TUM Records)
  • Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity: Firehouse (Clean Feed)
  • Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook-Up:After All Is Said (482 Music)
  • Team Hegdal: Vol. 3 (Particular Recordings)
  • Mario Pavone: Blue Dialect (Clean Feed)
  • Rich Halley 4: Creating Structure (Pine Eagle Records)
  • Devin Grey and RelativE ResonancE: RelativE ResonancE (Skirl)
  • Ben Goldberg: Orphic Machine (Royal Potato Family)
  • Myra Melford: Snowy Egret (Enja)
  • Jack DeJohnette Made In Chicago: Made In Chicago - Live at the Chicago Jazz Festival (ECM)
  • Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Jeremiah (Hot Cup)
  • ObLik: order disorder (2014, Ormo Records)
  • Jeremy Pelt: Tales, Musings and other Reveries (Highnote)
  • Rempis Percussion Quartet: Cash and Carry (Aerophonic Records)
  • Ran Blake: Ghost Tones: Portraits of George Russell (A-side Records)
  • Makaya McCraven: In the Moment (International Anthem)
  • Charles Evans: On Beauty (More is More Records)
  • James Brandon Lewis: Days of FreeMan (OKeh)
  • Billy Mintz: The 2nd Bass Band... Live (Billy Mintz)
  • Wooley/Rempis/Niggenkemper/Corsano: From Wolves to Whales (Aerophonic Records)
  • Steve Coleman: Synovial Joints (Pi Recordings)
  • Vijay Iyer Trio: Break Stuff (ECM)
  • Skydive Trio: Sun Moee (Hubro)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ornette Coleman, 1930-2015: a few words, with a helping hand from Robert Palmer

Photo: Michael Hoefner / Wikimedia Commons
No single musician changed the way I hear, approach, perceive, feel, appreciate and think about music the way Ornette Coleman did. His music was... is mind expanding and profoundly touching. It can be relentless in its conviction, but also communal in its approach. Inclusive, even. "Friends and neighbors, that's where its at." It can be deceptively complex yet also alluringly simple, and vice versa. It is all of that, and so much more. And it has a democratic principle at its very core.

This democratic principle to music making has been a cornerstone for me for many years. It is one I see mirrored in so much of my fave music, both in jazz and beyond. Even in rock music, such as in the set up and approach of groups like Gang of Four (particularly the early version) and the Minutemen. I've written about this topic previously (e.g. ENO #1), and will likely return to it again.

Today, I'm feeling too sad to do much writing at all. The news of Ornette Coleman's death -- although I like many others had heard rumors his health had been poor -- has devastated me. Instead, I'll leave you with some words by the late, great Robert Palmer, who wrote about Coleman as well as any I've read.

"The Ornette Coleman quartet that debuted in New York at the old Five Spot, in the fall of 1959, approached the void and, at times, tumbled into it. The listeners that first night included Leonard Bernstein, Gunther Schuller, Neshui and Ahmet Ertegun, John Hammond, and almost every musician in town. Some heard formlessness and chaos, others a sound that would radically alter the course of jazz and inform the work of a generation of musicians to come.
"In the music we play,'" Ornette said, "no one player has the lead. Anyone can come out with it at any time."
 This new approach to group playing looked ahead with its polyrhythms, geared to exploration rather than to predetermined patterns, and its melodies that proceeded through a complex of unstated modulations rather than riding on a cushion of traditional chord progression. But the music also looked back through the jazz tradition with its collective improvisation and its personal, speechlike approach to intonation and phrasing (...)" -- from "Ornette Coleman and the Circle with a Hole in the Middle," reprinted in Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer (Scribner, New York, 2009)

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