Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dominic Miller, Silent Light

That I am covering an album slightly late is no reflection of what I think of it. It is more to do with a hectic period this year that has receded  and allowed me to get back to what matters. Dominic Miller is a creative, rather brilliant acoustic guitarist firmly on the dreamy side of the ECM sound. His latest album Silent Light (ECM 2518) allows him time to stretch out and weave atmospheric webs of luminous intimacy. He is joined on five of 11 numbers by the percussion and in one case drums of Miles Bould.

Dominic fills the air with lyrical, accomplished original playing that includes a wonderful ability to comp and pick away within a very sophisticated harmonic-melodic world that in the end is his alone. There are no easy words to describe what he comes up with on this fine album, except perhaps to say that the lyrical tradition of Ralph Towner and Oregon are in no way antithetical to this music, though there is no sign of imitation, just a parallel universe.

He brings to us a beauty that bears your close attention and makes a smile adorn your face almost involuntarily. I do not think I need to say any further for now. Just listen.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Machine Mass Plays Hendrix, with Michel Delville

Jimi Hendrix remains one of our greatest American rock musicians ever. His guitar work revolutionized how we would look at such things, and his concept and compositions remain ever fresh and vital. So when the fuse-prog trio Machine Mass elected to do a tribute album, Machine Mass Plays Hendrix (MoonJune 084), it was of course a worthy idea.

Michel Delville as one of the leading guitar practitioners in the adventuresome realms today is a natural hommage master. He turns in creative rock-solid performances and adds further electronics to the trio mix to fill things out. He is joined by Machine Mass regulars Tony Bianco on drums and Antoine Guenet on keyboards, synths and piano.

They take some of Hendrix's most compelling songs-compositions and make of them something both contemporary and spacy, without ever violating the spirit of the originals. So we get a notable mix of Jimi's classics, "Third Stone From the Sun," "Little Wing," "Voodoo Chile," "The Wind Cries Mary," etc.

It is an opportunity to get inside these tunes with an original take on them, and for Delville to let loose with freely spaced-out post-Hendrix guitar brilliance.

It may take a couple of listens to fully enter the Machine Mass zone. Once you do, it is a wondrous terrain of the very familiar combined with the unexpected.

Need I say more? Dig this one.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Markus Reuter, Featuring Sonar and Tobias Reber, Falling for Ascension

Some music you are at first thrown off a bit by, in that you weren't sure what to expect, but this was not quite it. Then later you settle in and find it is music of real excellence. It is part of the ever growing possibilities of a true artist, and as a true listener you need to be ready for anything. So this describes well my first, somewhat distracted listen and my later embrace of Markus Reuter's Falling for Ascension (Ronin RON018)..

That this is released on Nik Bartsch's Ronin label is not an accident. The themes for this album were written by Markus between 1985 and 1987. Yet they do not sound at all dated. They share with Bartsch's music a mesmeric minimal funk that sprawls wonderously outward with continually shifting, odd meters. It is a mid-sized ensemble of six players, Markus on touch guitars and soundscapes, plus two more guitars, bass guitars and live electronics.

Each segment carves out its meter-motif infinity with distinctly well hewn structure and flow. The final work "Unconditional" makes a definitive end of it with the most compelling and complex of all of them. I very much suppose your ears will hear the relation between the Crimsonian tide of those years as well as its place in the prog minimal funk that followed.

It is exceptional music for endlessly rewarding drift and ecstatic momentum. It is ensemble intricacy at its most musically stimulating, both rock and post-rock!

Grab it for sure!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Dialeto, Bartok in Rock

Dialeto is a very cool power trio in the fusion-prog mold. Their Bartok in Rock (Chromatic Music CMCD 001) is all those excellent things Bartokian adapted rather brilliantly for a fusion outing. Selections from "Mikrokosmos" and "Roumanian Folk Dances" form the bulk of the material. Everything sounds just right and there are some nice guitar solos to flesh things out a bit.

It is Nelson Coelho on electric guitar, Gabriel Costa on bass guitar and Fred Barley on drums. They are full of piss and vinegar as one might hope, so we get lots of great music with a ballsy edge. And that seems perfect as a coherent direction.

Why is Bartok so successfully adapted by jazz and now rock musicians? I cannot give you a particularly coherent answer except it always seems to fit right into an advanced contemporary concept, never more so that this Dialeto album.

It keeps sounding good every time I put it on. I kid you not, this one is muy hot!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Max Johnson, In the West

If I have not posted on this blog in a while, it is not because I seek to discontinue coverage. On the contrary. My everyday life has become more demanding lately. And everything else has taken a back seat. I aim to revive posting here. Today marks that beginning.

An auspicious one. The bassist Max Johnson has been getting more and more attention for his appearances as a top tier avant jazz bassist and a bandleader. In the West (Clean Feed 439) is in a way the culmination of his presence thus far. What we have is an excellent quartet of players at the pinnacle of the New York scene, playing mostly Johnson compositions. The framework is thoughtful, the players realizations central.

Max of course is the bassist for the date. His playing has catapulted him into one of the busier bassists on the scene and this album shows you why. His open-field playing shows a superior sense of note choice, timbral richness and an all-encompassing drive. And he in a way is ever soloing, in the sense that it all has an outstanding presence. His rhythm teammate Mike Pride on the drums shows himself as always a smart. flexible artist who drums as musically as anybody these days.

Susan Alcorn makes of the pedal steel guitar a timbrally rich, notefully central front-line force. There is always a close rapport with what she does and what else is going on at any given time. Kris Davis has become one of my favorite pianists in the avant jazz fold. She does all the right things in a very pianistic way. No note is wasted and no opportunity to contribute squandered. Listen to what she does here and you may not be able NOT to smile.

So there we are. In the West is no doubt Max Johnson at his very best to date. The quartet is excellent and there is edge-to-edge relevance.

Hear this one by all means.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Kevin Kastning, Mark Wingfield, The Line to Three

Well, buckle up your seat belt because The Line to Three (Greydisc 3533) takes you on a journey into deep space. It is a further collaboration between Kevin Kastning on 30-string contra-alto guitar, 15-string extended classical guitar, piano and percussion, and Mark Wingfield on electric guitar, live electronics and pre-recorded soundscapes.

This as you can imagine is post-psychedelic guitar art that in my head extends what Terje Rypdal forged for us--a new music psychedelia if you will--and takes it in very original and further outward directions.

The guitar work from the two is exceptional, beautifully extended guitar-as-art expansions into dramatically chromatic fields well supported by piano and soundscapes.

It is fabulous music! I wish I had made it, that is how germinal-internal it is for me.

I most heartily recommend it to you. Turn it on and tune it in!

Wynton Kelly Trio, Wes Montgomery, Smokin' in Seattle, 1966

To my mind any live Wes Montgomery that exists in decent sound and has not been circulated commercially until now is a release event of importance. So when Smokin' in Seattle, Live at the Penthouse (Resonance 2029) arrived in my mailbox a while back I was tingling in anticipation. The music, quite well recorded, comes from a couple of radio broadcasts from April 1966.

It is a worthy addition to what we have heard from the excellent collaboration of Wes on guitar and the Wynton Kelly Trio, which of course set the pace with two excellent albums, Smokin' at the Half Note and Full House. On this new release Wynton Kelly has bassist Ron Mcclure on board as well as Jimmy Cobb in the drum chair.

They as you would totally expect swing and smoke with authority for the date. Half of the numbers feature the trio alone, presumably as a warm up. These cuts do not detract from the whole, since of course Wynton was on top of the world then. The remaining cuts bring in Wes. And oh, what a great thing it is to hear more of him in a concentrated live jazz setting.

He is in terrific form, as is Wynton and the trio.

We lost so much when we lost Wes so early. But this music reminds us that we did not lose everything when he took his leave, because of course he left us his recorded output. This fills it in with some spectacular soloing. Do not miss it!