Thursday, December 31, 2015

Jack Bruce, More Jack Than Blues, HR Big Band Meets Jack Bruce, 2006

By now it is pretty clear to all that when we lost Jack Bruce we lost one of the pioneers of advanced electric bass, an irreplaceable vocal force and a major composer-performer in rock and jazz in the latter 20th century. A new DVD/CD set of his 2006 German Jazzfestival performance is out, and it is a most welcome addition. More Jack Than Blues (MIG 80312 CD & DVD) gives us an hour of Jack in very good form, singing and playing some of his most familiar material (and some less so) with the HR Big Band as his backdrop.

The arrangements are very much a plus, appropriate and expansive without countering the thrust of the Brucian way. So "We're Going Wrong," the old Cream number, has layers of combustible horn lines that further the song. So also there are some very nice Jack and bigband versions of "Never Tell Your Mother She's Out of Tune," "Rope Ladder," "Born Under A Bad Sign," "Theme from An Imaginary Western," and even "Sunshine of Your Love."

Jack's bass is in full bloom here, but he also plays acoustic guitar and piano in his inimitable way. His vocal instrument may show the slight effects of time, but it has everything there to make it the shining singularity it was and is.

The HR Bigband is a powerhouse with excellent, well rehearsed ensembles and worthy soloists.

This adds to every number a new jazz-inflected breadth without losing the primacy of the original versions. That night in Frankfurt was a triumph and one cannot watch and listen without a feeling of the sadness of loss. Yet of course Jack lives on here for us.

A real addition for all Jack Bruce enthusiasts, and a good set in itself. I am glad to have it! Check it out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Adam Rudolph Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra, Turn Towards the Light

Getting this album and seeing who was on it immediately filled me with expectations. Adam Rudolf Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra? Yes. The album at hand is called Turn Towards the Light (Cuneiform Rune 406). It turns out this is the ninth album by Rudolph and his extended guitar outfit, but this album is an all-new grouping, with 13 compositions by Rudolph that he "improvisationally" conducts. It is a stellar line-up consisting of:

Electric guitar and effects: Rez Abbasi, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, David Gilmore, Miles Okazaki, Marvin Sewell

Bass guitar: Damon Banks

Acoustic guitar and effects: Marco Capelli

Electric bass and lap steel guitars: Jerome Harris

Electric and national steel guitars: Joel Harrison

Electric guitar and banjo: Kenny Wessel

That was enough to get my interest! And here there were nine previous albums, and every single one I have missed. Not entirely surprising, since I only know lately what is sent me and so I do not cover and hear EVERYTHING, even if I could. So I put the music on and found myself in a sort of jazz-rock guitar heaven.

These are thick walls of guitar improvisations and structural spontaneity around good compositional ideas and content Adam Rudolph thought out. It is music structured, often outside in overall effect, freely unfolding according to the given foundation of each number.

These are all PLAYERS of course, so they do indeed GO forward and make something fascinating out of what Rudolph sets them out to do. It is very electric music in result, not so much insistent in a rock way--there is no pounding pulse that ordinarily accompanies fused and psychedelic song-structured music. This IS motif and riff-based often enough. And there is pulse much of the time, but no pounding per se. You could say it is an electric version of Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists, except it isn't. In common with that group though are composed parts for multiple guitarists, yet mostly this is more free and out-rockish in result.

What it is--a virtual cornucopia of modern jazz-rock electricity--does not translate into an easily described thing. It is a guitar ORCHESTRA, and so it does have multiple layers of structured and improvised segments that come together to give us 13 stringed universes, all contrasting within a general stylistic originality.

It is music to stimulate and excite the guitar lover in you. And in the process it presents composed-improvised music that innovates by letting the flow of parts and guitar excellence come at us, segment by segment. It is serious. It is great fun. I would suggest you hear it by all means.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Wolves in the Throne Room, Live at the Bell House 9.12.11

Every so often I get something in the mail that's a sort of "What? Who expected this?" That happened recently with a small consignment of music from the boutique Saint Roch Av. Recordings label, a New Orleans-based entity located on the street so named in the label. The release that hit me mightily was the album by the group Wolves in the Throne Room, namely Live at the Bell House 9.12.11 (Saint Roch Av. limited edition cassette).

This has that huge sound of amassed guitars, bass and drums plus exorcist-type vocals. At one point this stuff was called Death Metal and its hugeness and worked-out chordal progressions sound a little like some of those Viking type groups a friend of mine turned me on to a few years back. So post-Death Metal?

The point is the music and this band has worked pretty hard to get a very effective wall of sound that makes the whole thing stand on its sonic head in a way.

The date was part of the band's Celestial Lineage tour. The Bell House gig was in Brooklyn.

It is music that will sound familiar to anyone who has checked out this sort of thing, but they really do excel at getting one big overwhelming sound with Gothic chord progressions and pounding drums.

I like this band! It's not about chops here, but it sure is about POWER walls!

The label has a website if this sounds interesting to you:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Spaghetti Eastern Music, Sketches of Spam, Sal Cataldi

I get swamped sometimes with music, but in the end that means I get things and pay attention to them and reap the rewards of the unknown now and again. Such a thing is undoubtedly Spaghetti Eastern, Sal Cataldi's inaugural project by that name, and the album Sketches of Spam (Bad Egg Music).

First off, the music knocked me out. Sal's post-Rypdalian electric guitar work is very hip on the one hand, and he gives us some excellent space rocking things that show off his beautiful electric sound and conceptual post-psychedelic Milesian imagination.

And then there is the acoustic guitar-vocal songs, on the other hand. He can sing and the songs have a quirky darkness-in-light that Sal suggests is out of the Nick Drake-John Martyn bag. That may well be but the songs stand on their own. Henry Miller comes up too in Sal's ruminations, and we hear from him on the miseries of New York. I do not say no to that, any of it. Then there is something like "Nap Dust," based on Zappa's progressions from "Sleep Dirt." It is cool. "Ticket to Ride"? A remake that works.

There is 70 minutes of musical strength here. I love his electric work and I appreciate the songs. It's a nicely DIY album with overdubs to get a group thing when he needs it. What counts is it is very good indeed.

It's good, first-rate, original music. And it belongs on this page for the excellent guitar work. So I would like to recommend this one to you. It stands out as important. Encore! You can find this one on Bandcamp. You should.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sonny Sharrock, Ask the Ages, with Pharoah Sanders, Elvin Jones, Charnett Moffett

If you do not know the late Sonny Sharrock's guitar playing, you need to remedy that. He was the original avant jazz guitarist, the one who started it all, pretty much.

One of his very best albums, Ask the Ages has just been remastered and reissued (MOD 0016). It is an excellent example of Sonny in his later period, recorded not that long before his untimely demise.

The first thing to note is the seminal personnel: percussion titan Elvin Jones is on drums, the master Pharoah Sanders plays tenor and soprano, and Charnett Moffett is on bass. Along with Sonny this is a fabulous outfit, truly for the ages, and they completely mesh. Not surprising. Sonny was on Pharoah's first Impulse album and all knew and appreciated each other's work. And of course Pharoah played with Elvin on some key Coltrane dates.

The quality of Sharrock's originals is another wonderful element. Every one is quite memorable, classic.

And then the soloing. It is outstanding on all fronts. Sonny had gotten a considerably bit more metallic in his playing and that comes through here along with his shredded skronk. He is in beautiful form, to say the least. And for that matter, so are Pharoah, Elvin and Charnett.

This was a date that managed to synthesize the swinging outness that Elvin favored with the electricity of Sharrock in peak mode. Pharoah sounds essential. And Charnett, too.

This is a way to start appreciating Sonny, if you don't know his work. But it is a landmark date regardless, something all who cherish modern avant jazz will need to hear and own. But for the out rockers this is equally essential.

A classic among classics!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Slobber Pup, Pole Axe

Slobber Pup? Hell, yeah! They come front and center with their second album, Pole Axe (Rare Noise). It is the potent pairing of guitarist Joe Morris, keyboardist Jamie Saft, drummer Balasz Pandi, and for this outing the saxophonics of Mats-Olof Gustaffson.

The Rare Noise label favors some heatedly outside electric music and Slobber Pup makes some of the best such sounds of any outfit going. The potent combination of the plugged-in versions of Joe Morris and Jamie Saft and the sheer viscerality of Mats-Olof Gustaffson joined with the creatively out percussives of Balasz Pandi...all this portended some great music when I put the music on my machine. I certainly was not disappointed.

One of my very first musical mentors was right to remind me long ago that, as much as technical and instrument-specific abilities that you must learn in your early days is crucial, it ultimately has to fit properly into a group context if you are going to play music in your life. Nobody thrives much doing nothing but unaccompanied solos...except perhaps Cecil Taylor, but that's another story. And even he gets a group together much of the time. And face it, the solo piano is complete in itself if the player is exceptional. Not to put down the many excellent unaccompanied solo efforts of avant improvisers out there since the early '70s either. Just a general truth.

And so Slobber Pup combines some very potent players who work together to create a very cosmic group sound, filled with virtuosity now and then but also working to achieve a special blend of free electrics that is much more than a collection of solos and accompaniment. I suppose you could say at times that all are soloing at once, yet there is a lot of attention to achieving four-way torque.

On the other hand you get moments when Joe Morris lets his special outside ability fly in the wind overtop the maelstrom, with some of his best cranked playing ever.

So you guitarists reading this should take note--what he is doing here is a product of a great deal of hard work, years of finding his own voice, and then a long time interacting with others in ensembles, finding the give-and-take.

And that is certainly true of everybody in Slobber Pup. It's hard to sound like this with the sort of edge-of-the-universe virtuosity that is a good deal harder to achieve than some of the mainstream normalities. I don't mean playing on changes; that is an art in itself. I mean that it is very difficult to fly without instruments with consistently artistic results, so to speak, to take off for parts unknown trusting the instinctual freedom you achieve with years of dedicated, sometimes financially un-remunerative, finger busting hard labor and mutual cooperation.

All that goes into this music. And all that helps make this music a deluge of creative overtopping, a fine, fascinating suite of electric excesses and bold sound sculpting.

Bravo! Check this one by all means if you seek to go into musical orbit as a passenger on a first-class spaceship.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Joe Louis Walker, Live in Istanbul, 1995, DVD

If you do not know the music of electric guitarist, singer, songwriter, bandleader Joe Louis Walker you probably should. He is a bluesman-blues rocker of power and soul. And you can hear him do a full set with a good band in the 85-minute DVD Live in Istanbul (MVD Visual 7505D), recorded in 1995.

Joe is in peak form and his band is right there with him. The excellent sound and visuals of the set are first-rate, the audience into the moment, and Joe is up for it.

We get nine songs and all the fire generated from them. Joe is in the mood to play and his vocals are sharp and cutting. It reminds you that Walker kept the blues alive then when many of the classic electric bluesmen of the classic period had passed and there weren't as many out there doing it right.

He surely was. He surely still is. And this DVD gives you a full set to demonstrate why he is both a master of the art and a consummate showman. And a crack guitarist, of course.

So grab this if that sounds good to you. It's got that something.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Marc Ducret Trio + 3, Metatonal

Guitarist-composer Marc Ducret seems to have turned a page and entered into more extroverted jazz-rock avant territory on his latest, Metatonal (Ayler 148). His outfit is billed numerically here as the Trio + 3, which it very much is. The Trio of course is Marc on electric guitar, Bruno Chevillon, double bass, and Eric Echampard, drums. The Plus 3 are Fabrice Martinez on trumpet, Christophe Monniot on saxophones and Samuel Blaser on trombone.

The plus three add girth and breadth to the music in texture, nicely, and some productive solo time towards the end. The trio gets into jazz-fusion avant complexities with everyone putting in the strength needed and Marc coming through with some excellent soloing, great ideas, chops not for themselves but in the service of his very musical mind, and originality, that most rare of things.

The compositions are edgy, complex yet communicative, avant yet metallic in thrust and power. The rhythm section is possessed with momentum, drive and virtuosity that kicks everything along well. Check out their version of Dylan's "The Times They Are A Changing" for how far they can take something!

So what is missing? Nothing. I won't say this is Marc's best album because there are too many others that vie for that honor, but it is perhaps one of the most accessible. Its strengths are many and it will get the ears of adventurous rockers and fusionists without playing down to them.

So the whole thing is recorded live, too, remarkable for such complexities. What else is there to say but get this? Ayler Records needs your support if they are to continue and this is a great reason why they have importance. So do the right thing if you want something great. Give them a cash infusion!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fred Randolph, Song Without Singing

Fred Randolph, double bassist, electric bassist and composer of worthwhile jazz numbers puts it all together on the recent album Song Without Singing (Creative Spirit 003). It's a shifting set of players getting good traction on the Randolph compositions (plus one by Sting). Fred appears throughout. Matt Clark appears most of the time on piano and Rhodes, as does Rob Roth on tenor, Eric Jekabsen on trumpet, Greg Wyser-Pratte on drums and Brian Rice on percussion. There are guests here and there and all add something to the music.

The album showcases Randolph's bass playing at times and he sounds quite good. The music is often Latin-Afro tinged, well constructed, nicely arranged, and peppered with fine contemporary jazz soloing.

And the pieces carry the music forward in very pleasing ways. It is music to satisfy the sophisticated lover of classic Blue Note multi-horn arrangements, those who dig an Afro-Latin hard bop, and the novice listener, too, who may not know the jazz world that well but can respond to something lively and well played.

Nice! Recommended!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Henry Kaiser, Damon Smith, Weasel Walter, Plane Crash Two

If sometimes I cover albums that have been out for a while, it is not for lack of anything new. It's because the music is central, more so than the politics of review jockeying, poll-meistering or otherwise fulfilling a role in the INDUSTRY, though some of that is inevitable if you post regularly in the current musical world.

So today we go back to an album from last year that I missed, the potent trio of Henry Kasier's guitar, Damon Smith's double bass, and Weasel Walter's drum set for the album Plane Crash Two (New Atlantic Records 024).

It is a free trio date with Henry Kaiser in a post-Derek Bailey guitar mode, meaning that he seeks clusters of extra-extended sound complexes along with warbling melodically outside sustains. In perfect simultaneity is the bass abstractions of Damon Smith along with the clutter, clash and power diving drumming of Weasel Walter.

The music ranges between sound-color textural emanations and avant psychedelics, and it does so with excellent creative thrust.

In the process all three define personal spaces of out-taking that meld together in ever-interesting and ear-awakening ways.

It is an excellent example of Henry Kaiser on the outer fringe, but also Damon and Weasel in interactive openness to create a trio of special sonance and varied warp drive modes.

This is a fine example of the fine line between power and finesse in avant trios who do not eschew a hint of avant rock as well as free jazziphonics.

Good show! Get it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Markus Reuter, Live in Bethlehem, 2013, Free Artist's Download

If you have the slightest interest in ambient processed guitar solo music, you should awaken yourself to action and get the free download that artist Markus Reuter has generously made available, Live in Bethlehem, 2013. I'll give you the link straight off, which you should copy and paste into your browser window

It is 48 magical minutes of Markus holding forth in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, that is). He utilizes digital delay and other effects to create a tapestry that turns his touch guitar into an other-worldly orchestra.

Now anyone who reads my blogs knows that I favor Reuter's music. His orchestral work "Todmorden" was one of my classical records of the year in 2015 (see my Gapplegate Classical-Modern Review blog), and he's made many fine recordings with the touch guitar, some of which have been reviewed on these pages.

Live in Bethlehem extends the Reuter oceans of sound into a remarkable zone that will give you, I hope, a feeling of wonder and peace. He's something of a musical wonder himself. And this extended live solo is indeed a wonderful thing.

So get this album and if you dig it, check out his other music. Happy holidays if you are reading this now! Happy life, either way.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Aaron Clift Experiment, Outer Light, Inner Darkness

If you hate progressive rock, I am sorry for that. As long as I am sent good prog I will cover it. The same goes for all the genres I generally review when worthwhile, and that includes prog's trumped up (no not Donald-Trumped-up, that is another problem I address elsewhere) nemesis punk or alt. These kinds of frictions may create readership but I reject it all on principal. Prog had a period of excess long ago and that should be forgotten to my mind. There is good music to be heard out there today.

So yes, we have a very capable prog band at hand, the Aaron Clift Experiment and their album Outer Light, Inner Darkness (self released). It's a quartet headed by Aaron on keys and lead vocals, Eric Gutierrez on guitar (he's very good!) and mandolin, Devin North on electric bass and double bass, and Joe Resnick on drums and percussion. Some of the songs add arranged strings and that sounds nicely with the torque of the core group.

These are very good musicians, the songs are strong and well sung by Aaron, and the arrangements are well wrought. It's a basic lyricism going on, spiced by elaborate arrangements in the prog tradition but not derivative-sounding, and some good guitar work from Gutierrez.

It all comes off as original, a new band with a new sense of possibilities.

Hey, this is substantial music, not puffery, and it holds up with a bunch of listens. So go there if prog floats your boat!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pixel, Golden Years

OK, ready for some song oriented contemporary jazz-rock from some Norwegian musicians? We get jazz with pronounced song-form indie leanings and acoustic rock underpinnings. Presenting Pixel and their third album, Golden Years (Cuneiform Rune 412). (I covered their "We Are All Small" album here. Look it up in the index box above.)The band consists of double bassist and vocalist Ellen Andrea Wang, drummer Jon Audun Baar, trumpeter Jonas Kilmork Vemøy, and saxophonist Harald Lassen. Ellen convincingly does the lead vocals and everyone contributes their voices for a group vocal sound when needed.

This is instrumentally vibrant music from some definite players. Dig Ms. Wang's bass. She has a real sense. And the horns can go at it, too. Baar plays solid drums. But the exceptional difference here along with the instrumental prowess is an excellent compositional sense both in the horn arrangements and in the songs. They are distinctive and something unexpected in good ways. These are songs well sung and memorable, so that an indie audience can take to them, or anybody for that matter. They stick in the mind.

I am of the opinion that anything goes out there if it is done well. Pixel straddles jazz and song in ways that sound authentic. It is heartfelt and very musical. Perhaps those who do not ordinarily listen to jazz will find this attractive and stimulating. They should. It is progressive musically without being "progressive" in the categorical sense.

If you find the idea of this music interesting as I describe it, I think this one will please you. It did that for me. Listen to these folks! This is art, whatever else you may want to call it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Raoul Borkenheim ECsTaSy, Out of the Blue

Finnish electric guitarist Raoul Borkenheim and his ECsTaSy/Transcendant Quartet give us an exceptional set on the second album for this line-up, Out of the Blue (Cuneiform Rune 413).

Featuring drummer Markku Ounaskari, bassist Jori Huhtala and saxophonist Pauli Lyytinen, this is advanced modern jazz from a VERY capable group of jazz-rockers.

It is an adventurous gathering of originals--with shorter song-oriented offerings alternating with longer improvisatory excursions that affirm that this as a band of real strength. The rhythm team is very open and creative as well as driving; Paul and Raoul turn in some great work as soloists of originality and vision.

In the end Borkenheim stuns with his very developed sense of line-composition, bluesy and outside alternatingly, a sort of dynamo that takes something from the Terje Rypdal advanced melodic modernity and makes of it his own original style. He has chops, certainly, but most importantly a musical sensibility that avoids all cliche and propels us all into a stratospheric zone.

Combine Raoul's guitar wizardry with these three very excellent sideman and you have an exceptional album of avant fuse-rock.

It's one of those albums that will wow anyone dedicated to the new electric jazz.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Karavan Sarai, Woven Landscapes

Today we delve into an excellent eclectic world music album, Woven Landscapes by Karavan Sarai (Karavan Sarai Music). It centers around eight compositions by Narayan Sijan, who sings and plays an oud, saz, buzuk, setar, baglama and kopak saz. He is joined by Carmen Rizzo on electronics, keyboard, drums and percussion, in addition to several guests.

The music is a contemporary re-presentation of the music of the ancient silk route caravans, covering India, Persia, Turkey, the Balkans and Arabia long ago. The continual traffic spread musical cultures as they traveled back and forth, giving rise to much cross-fertilization and redevelopment of stylistic paradigms.

Narayan Sijan creatively restates those musical folkways in a set of songs that owe much to the old ways yet manage to put it in modern context.

Strings and percussion are constants here along with haunting vocal lines. The music has an authentic yet contemporary feel. It gives us pause, helping us recall the roots and routes of civilization as forwarded by the interactions of long distance trade. It is the opposite of the small-minded fanatic insularism of those in Eye-sil, who would wage a barbaric war against the rest of the world. This is pro-civilization(s), anti-barbarism.

And so for that and for the music's excellence I strongly recommend it to you.

Any string players who read this blog will gain much from Sijan's prowess on the ancient instruments he has mastered. But everyone with a musical sense will get much out of this beautiful record!!

Very recommended.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Rank Strangers, Lady President

We return today to the alternative rock juggernaut Rank Strangers and the first volume of their trilogy, namely Lady President (Veto Vinyl LP). See the earlier postings on volume two and three here for more background. Suffice to say that this trilogy marks the 25th year of the band. Mike Wisti heads it with lead vocals, lead guitars. There is Davin Odegaard on bass, Shawn Davis on drums.

Lady President has all the strengths of the other volumes: a down-to-earth alt naturalness that thrives on strong songs, good arrangements and a disarming faux casual way.

This is DIY rock from Minneapolis in the grand tradition that goes back to early Kinks and on to today, but with an original sound and style that sounds like right now. And Wisti on guitar will throw you something unexpected now and again in between effective power chording and note-sounding arrangements.

It is an affirmation of Rank Strangers as a central alt band. Get the whole trilogy, but if not just yet, start here, or for that matter anywhere in the threesome.

Seriously, this reinstates the creativity of songmeister bands with its own take. Onward to 25 more years!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Jimmy Burns, It Ain't Right

Jimmy Burns is the blues. He's the blues from down on the Delta and up to Chicago. He's the soul blues. You can hear all this on his latest, It Ain't Right (Delmark 841).

Jimmy on vocals and guitar, his fine band, they move the blues along without leaving the roots behind, on 15 tunes that call forth the hard times and then send them packing. That's what the blues is meant to do and he is right there.

The band is a fine outfit, featuring Anthony Palmer on lead guitar, and they go through some serious paces on the collection of standards and new songs that puts the album right into your ear-zone.

There's gospel-soul and there is stomping sanctification. Jimmy is a singer of truth with the sound of truth. And he lets you HEAR it throughout.

Delmark knows the blues and so we get another gem from where the blues still LIVE, I ain't telling you no lie!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Cedric Theys, Eternity's Antechamber

So you may not know Cedric Theys. I did not so much until happily he contacted me on social media and sent me his album Eternity's Antechamber (Mad Ducks Records, available on Bandcamp).

It's Cedric on touch guitar and electronic digital delay processing. And as it turns out, that is a fine thing. His conception is orchestral and the sound universe is a spiral of density and spacetime, a program of cosmic sounds both ambient and tone-worthy.

It's all about shifting envelopes of sound color, soundscaping and such. It is something akin to my Aurora Dreaming I and Aurora Dreaming II, not to toot my own horn, but just to say that aurally we both are different but share an opening onto the universe that you might also hear on some of Markus Reuter's works (for example see Gapplegate Classical-Modern Review for an orchestral work of Reuter's that I also recommend).

So that is only to say that it has genetic affinity with things I like and sounds that exist in my own imagination. And it is on its own turf so that the liking is of a thing-in-itself wholly engaging and originally distinct.

I recommend this to the space-ambient prone. It's excellent.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Hot Jazz Jumpers, The Very Next Thing

Jazz can be fun? Sure. It is usually mostly serious these days, as an art form, and that can be fun of course if you dig it, but there are not so many groups today that are designed to come across with high-times humor, though serious about it in the end. The Hot Jazz Jumpers take an approach to old-time jazz and roots music that most certainly has the sort of zany approach to the tradition that jug bands did back in the day and later in the hands of Jim Kweskin. In a way this band is a more musically involved, a serious but ultimately fun equivalent.

The Hot Jazz Jumpers have a CD/DVD set out called The Very Next Thing (OTBR 0002) and that's what I've been getting into. It's headed by guitarist and tenor banjoist Nick Russo. He alone is worth the price of admission, a real player who covers a gamut of jazz and blues styles effortlessly--which means he has worked hard to get to this point.

There are two vocalists in the band. Betina Hershey has a vivacious old-timey style and goes for the melody lines as well as playing a credible rhythm guitar. Miles Griffith is over-the-top in a very music way, scatting and playing with the lines improvisationally in a scat style that sounds like Louis A on into space! He is fabulous. David Pleasant plays a tiny drum set with sticks and with hands, as well as a small tambourine he slaps and uses as a stick on the drums. He's really on it here and makes the rhythm take off in ways I don't think I've ever heard.

Essiet Essiet plays bass for most of this, spelled for a few tunes by Mamadou Ba. They are very much a presence. The trumpet of Gordon Au is great, both old-timey and modern at the same time.

And as you listen to the CD and the 11-cut live DVD you get "Caravan," "In A Mellow Tone," "Got My Mojo Working," "Sweet Georgia Brown" and other classics plus some jams. It's all about recreating the old-timey music in a special way, special to this band, which is both "authentic" but not afraid to take it their own way, modern, even pretty outside for a moment here and there.

The musicianship is very high, the songs good to hear this way, the singing tops and, yes, this really is a fun band!! I do very much recommend this one if you dig revisiting the roots in an original, zany sort of style. Oh, yes!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Marbin, Aggressive Hippies

Marbin is a group born out of a thousand or more live appearances, a fusion rock outfit that has grown out of intensive interaction with themselves and their audiences. Their new album, Agressive Hippies (Marbin Music) is their fifth. And to me it is their best. Dani Rabin, guitar, Danny Markovitch, saxes, Greg Essig, drums, and John W. Lauler, bass, give us nine Rabin-Markovitch originals in total.

These are fashioned out of small compositional segments and built up, driven strongly by the rhythm section and congealed by significant soloing from Rabin's electric guitar and Markovitch's sax.

It's the band at its hottest, with fire and irresistible momentum.

There is a core foundation in the harder sort of rock these days, but then a coral-island sort of building upon those foundations with personal originality from both Rabin and Markovitch.

Guitar fans will find much excellent work from Dani Rabin, who has evolved into his own sort of player, hard hitting and sound savvy.

But it is ultimately a group effort and excels in the way it hangs together, taking off from a classic fusion intricacy and going distinctly into Marbin territory.

Hear this one! Marbin has definitely arrived!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Patrick Higgins, Bachanalia

Patrick Higgins is an excellent and also I suppose a brave classical guitarist. Brave because he has recorded a worthy selection-arrangement of JS Bach's works for classical guitar and electronic enhancement. Bachanalia (Telegraph Harp 009) is the resultant album.

He is brave because the purists out there will no doubt be poo-pooing this sort of thing. It is essentially some wonderfully alive performances of Bach favorites for guitar which are then variably subject to digital delay and echo, so that you get the essence of the guitar performances and their extension or soundscaping.

I might find it slightly distracting if this music wasn't something so universally familiar (to me anyway) that the extensions did not take away from what you hear as much with internal memory as in real-time. It is Bach in a dream, you might say. And that dream does not subtract from the awakened experience you have and will encounter many times. The musical effect is at times like music you hear in the memory and how the mind can present it to the musical self as a thing extended outward.

If Higgins wasn't so effective and wonderfully bright in his initial renderings I suppose this would also be less interesting to me. But that is not so. He rings out the music with an artistry that is not to be denied.

In the end I find this album a real delight. Even my long-time partner liked it, and she to me is the bellwether of non-professional opinion.

And so I do recommend this to you strongly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rank Strangers, The Box

Minneapolis-based alt rock band Rank Strangers celebrates its 25th anniversary with a trilogy of albums. I covered volume 2, Ringtones, about a month ago here (see index). I will cover volume 1 in a little bit, but today I cover the final volume 3, The Box (self-released LP). Mike Wisti is the founding member, plays guitar and sings; David Odengaard sings and plays bass; and Shawn Davis is on drums.

This is disarmingly unpretentious DIY alt that keeps up a spontaneous immediacy even after 25 years. It has a raw but memorable quality. The songs have attitude in a whimsical way and musically this is substantial. Every so often Mike lets out with a skronky little gem moment on guitar, but this is primarily band-song-oriented.

The Box continues where Ringtones leaves off. A few songs have more than one version if you take the trilogy as a whole, but they are different enough that they are worthwhile. The lyrics are worth paying attention to for they have a quirky poetic quality.

OK, so this is one alt band that appeals to me and retains that experimental basement inventiveness that made alternative and punk-garage rock interesting in the first place. Yet this has a song orientation not especially simplistic so there is plenty to sink your teeth into.

Recommended without hesitation.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Simon Nabatov, Mark Dresser, Projections

Pianist Simon Nabatov and bassist Mark Dresser have been music companions and running buddies for 30 years. They have shared the stage together on numerous occasions but as a duo the first recorded meeting is at hand. Projections (Clean Feed 327) captures them live in a set at LOFT in Cologne last year.

The two show a togetherness that comes out of long association. It is spontaneous, improved new music of an advanced avantness and a "free jazz" expressivity. Extended and traditional techniques meld together for the sound of adventure. They phrase in sound and note with a great ability to drive thoroughly into a two-in-one zone that does not so much rely on regularity of pulse as clusters of sound, emanations of soul-spirit and cosmic expansion.

Simon is a master of unleashing torrents of harmonically ambiguous phrases at peak moments that Mark counters in kind. But then Dresser excels here too in contrasting attacks, bowed slurs and dynamic flurries that show much musical intelligence and long preparation. And both vary densities with envelopes of sound events that provide contrasts and polarities one listens to with fascination.

Few duos of piano and bass attain the sort of outside heights of Nabatov and Dresser here.

There is an unpredictable openness and stylistic coherence that lays out very well and keeps the listener in a state of anticipation and subsequent fulfillment.

This is avant improvisation on a very high plane. It creates worlds of rarified sound synergies and does it in ways that make for a very satisfying set.

Very recommended!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jaap Blonk & Damon Smith, Hugo Ball: Sechs Laut--und Klanggedichte, 1916

Something a little different today on this page. It is a realization of a cycle of "Six Sound Poems" by the Dada master Hugo Ball, Sechs Laut--und Klanggedichte, 1916 (bpa-4). Jaap Blonk as reciter-vocal artist and Damon Smith as double bassist freely recreate the sound poems in an avant improv mode.

It is uncompromising sound event-music that both pays homage to the iconoclastic Ball and shows us how his inspirational methods still remain prophetic to the avant movement we still recognize as central to modernism today.

Blonk enacts the texts with very inventive vocalizations that utilize all the dramatic and sonic resources of his vocal apparatus. Damon Smith makes of his contrabass an extension of his creative sound-producing imagination, using conventional and extended techniques in an avant bass kind of tour de force.

What that means is that you get a full CDs worth of adventure. This may put off those not used to the avant stylistic universe, though an open mind will get you at least half the way to where you need to be to appreciate such sounds. Those used to progressive avantness might need a few listens to get acclimated, but in the end the bass-vocal interactions will fascinate and give you much to experience.

Recommended listening for the intrepid. And some fabulously inventive bass and vocal performances!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Slivovitz, All You Can Eat

There is more than one way to skin a cat. Yet if this blog was about skinning cats, I would have run out of things to say long ago. Music gives you nearly infinite possibilities to get somewhere, far more than a cat skinning does.

So for example we have the new album by Slivovitz, All You Can Eat (MoonJune 074). It's their fourth, the third for MoonJune. And it is perhaps their best yet. The Naples-based aggregate comes up with a set of fusionoid rock that holds its own and breaks through to a hip originality. This is a band who has huddled together, forged ahead and gone into the studio for the first time in four years. And what comes out is fully formed, compositionally righteous and instrumentally inspiration-soaked.

It's a group effort in the best sense, with a sort of post-Zappa compositional core, a rhythm team strength in Vincenzo Lamaga (bass) and Salvatore Rainone (drums), some great electric and acoustic guitar from Marcello Giannini, ditto from the violin of Riccardo Villari, a nice horn team of Pietro Santangelo on tenor and alto plus Ciro Riccardi on trumpet. And then the harmonica voicings of Derek di Perri, a chromatic virtuoso.

The arrangements are full blown, taking advantage of the widely colorful instrumentation for various groupings, riff versus overarching melody lines, solo spots of note, and full tutti rampages.

This is fusion-prog with all the care and inspiration that you rightfully demand and they righteously deliver. There is so much music here, dense and prolific, that it is not something you'll tire of but instead will get more and more out of the more you listen. All You Can Eat is what it suggests, a super-abundance of musical courses that reward you for as close a listen, as ravenous a "feeding" so to speak, as you care to give.

Pretty astounding band, no doubt, and they are on a rampage in the best ways here!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Taxidermists, Honesty Box

Something new in the advanced alt-rock arena today: Taxidermists and their album Honesty Box (Telegraph Harp 008, all formats). It's a duo of Cooper Handy on vocals and electric guitar and Salvadore McNamara on drums, 21-year-olds who have been playing together since 2007, Western Massachusetts residents appearing here on their fourth album, the first recorded in a studio and the first to get wide distribution.

The music is in song-form. It has an alt edge. But what stands out is the inventive asymmetry of the dynamics, chordal sequence, and guitar presence, not so much virtuoso oriented but with a sort of quirkiness that does not suggest the Beefheart guitar way as it does parallel it, not really Beefheartian, not the early Kinks, not Syd Barrett, but something akin and related, only strongly alt-slacker in orientation.

I have listened and the more I hear the more this music stands out as a definite ART. It's probably too advanced and peculiarly underground to appeal to mainstream rockers, though they would most certainly gain much from repeated hearings.

It's not quite like anything, but so consistently so as to really stand out. Unexpected progressions, guitar parts, alternating quiet lyricism and loud metal powering, drumming that fits the contours of the songs perfectly and dramatically...

This is very, way cool. Do I need to say more?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pablo Villegas, Americano

Today we have an album by a fabulous classical guitarist. Pablo Villegas is his name. Americano (Harmonia Mundi 907649) is the name of the album. This is music of the Americas, South, Central and North. It is a nice assortment of music played with real artistry by Maestro Villegas. If you don't know of him, you certainly should. And this is a good place to get to know his wonderful playing.

We get Villa-Lobos "Etudes," selections from Bernstein's "West Side Story," something classic from Pedro Elías-Gutiérrez, a samba by Luiz Bonfá, a tango by Antonio Lauro, a John Williams piece in premier, some roots North American music adopted by Earl Scruggs and readopted by Pablo, and more besides.

The program covers much ground and the musicality of Villegas wins the day decisively in the end. He is a superb artist and his playing will win you over without a doubt.

This is one beautiful album! It is a near perfect melding of artistry and a re-presentation of music we either have never heard or have never heard quite like this before. Very recommended.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Ben Monder, Amorphae

Ben Monder and his electric guitar work are new to me--except on an excellent album by Barry Romberg that I reviewed some time ago on these pages (April 1, 2013). For his debut album on ECM, Amorphae (ECM 2421) Monder reveals an artistry that is as evocative as it is impressive.

Monder has an excellent harmonic sense, an orchestral approach to ambient guitar and an excellent sense of sound color and phrasing. The album at hand is spacy, freely improvised (except a reharmonization of "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning") and vital.

There are many high points. The two duets with the late Paul Motian (including the version of "Morning" cited above) is one of them. Then there are two unaccompanied solo improvisations, two duets with drummer giant Andrew Cyrille, and two more with Monder and Cyrille joined by Pete Rende on synthesizer.

Ultimately this is a showcase for Monder's special guitar sensibility with his cohorts contributing to the dramatic ambiance.

The high-ceiling, fully wet acoustics of the ECM production sets off what Monder is doing fabulously. His sometimes use of digital delay further heightens the sound for a sometimes orchestral density.

Throughout there is a care to establish the free space as hypnotically cosmic, oceanic, lyrically outside the pale of normalcy, and very much attractively musical in the best ways.

If interplanetary landscaping, soundscaping guitar ruminations sound like your kind of music, or one of them, this is a sterlingly pure and satisfying trip into such terrain that you need to hear. It establishes Monder definitively as an important contributor to the genre. It is also a wonderfully expansive listen!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Badi Assad, Hatched

Last April 23, 2014, I reviewed and recommended an album by Badi Assad, the Brazilian singer, songwriter and acoustic guitarist. Today I am back a year-and-a-half later with a new one by her, Hatched (QuatroVentos AA0001000). What changes in life we have experienced in that time disappear when listening to Badi, her songs, her depth, her playing, her voice.

It's Badi and her guitar in a small trio ensemble expanded at times with guests. The music has a post-samba groove to it that her nicely done guitar playing forwards, her voice affirms and the band reinforces. There is saudade to be felt in the music, surely, but a forward-moving hope, too.

Her songs are a major strength that go hand-in-hand with their vocalization and the guitar foundation that is so much a part of her presence.

This is music that makes you unhappy to be glad, glad to be unhappy, and happy to be happy, if I can get my feelings on her music across here. It is some really fine artistry and you should not miss it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Michael Gregory Jackson, After Before

A new Michael Gregory Jackson album always promises to be an event. After Before (self-released) is no exception. His highly original guitar wielding is given an excellent setting with the current members of his Clarity Quartet: Niels Praestholm, bass, Simon Spang-Hanssen, tenor and soprano sax, and Matias Wolf-Andreasen, drums.

There is cohesion and spirited togetherness in this band. They run through some extraordinarily worthwhile original compositions, including a couple of those inimitable songs Michael writes and sings, existing in a lyrical place all their own.

But there is of course a new jazz contemporary thing happening with the band as well, as you expect from Michael.

There is nothing derivative about Michael's playing. He has always been a school of one and he continues to be, though there is never a standing still. There is a funky kind of leverage to his soloing on this one, along with a scatter overall fullness when he feels that.

The band is very simpatico, each in his own way a voice of distinction. Together they make very beautiful music.

Michael Gregory Jackson, if you need to know, occupies a space in the jazz guitar world that is wholly original and extraordinarily schooled in its steady-state singularity. After Before is a new step along the way, deserving to be numbered among his very best albums, in ways that hang together as "new," very much new.

Highest recommendations!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Vahagni, Imagined Frequencies

Vahagni is a guitarist of great technical scope and imagination. He plays the acoustic guitar with a facility that rivals someone like McLaughlin or the flamenco greats. Yet his music is not easily pegged. Listen to Imagined Frequencies (self-released). It is Vahagni and an ensemble of vocalists, bass, drums, percussion, cello, violin, and sonic design.

He is Armenian but his music partakes of a wide expanse of world folk, jazz, fusion, flamenco and classical elements in a bracing mix that centers around Vahagni's very involved picking and line-weaving ways.

It is music that has a very original stamp to it--beyond easy classification, holding its own as vibrant arranged music as well as guitar excellence. And Vahagni is a monster!! Listen! Here is a link to stream the music (Copy url and paste in your browser to access.)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Eighty-pound Pug, Alex Lozupone Project, Pug Wife!

Alex Lozupone was kind enough to send me his latest albums and I've listened. What I hear intrests me very much, so naturally I am posting. Eight Pound Pug, aka the Alex Lozupone Project, is a improvisational outfit with a floating membership if I am correct. At any rate their latest, Pug Wife! (self released), which BandCamp classifies as "metal experimental improvisation jazz noise New York," which I suppose pretty much covers it, features Alex Lozupone on guitar/bass, David Tamura on keys and tenor sax (one track), Paul Feitzinger on drums, Chris Bacas on soprano sax, and Jen Kutler on "kegel synth" which is in part bodily activated, apparently.

This is a series of metal riffs set down with gravity by Alex, rocked out by Paul, and elaborated upon and against, avant style, by the other instruments.

It is fascinating music to me, though it is not exactly a guitar showcase at all points, you who read my blog looking for that. It IS guitar-centric, in that Alex's motif spinning centers it all and gives the music its "metal" sheen. And he does some improvisations here too in the band context and he takes it out in the process, so...

Beyond that is freedom and noise. And the premises are pretty clear all the time, so it gets my ear as seriously warped but seriously serious music. Does that make sense?

So maybe it is not going to grab everybody equally, but it is a true expression and a musical art, so what does it matter who will be pleased or possibly annoyed? It is either for you or it isn't! No kidding! Really, though, it caught MY ear anyway. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dwiki Dharmawan, So Far So Close

The progressive fusion realm goes ever forward to grow and develop in the hands of key players. MoonJune Records continues to spearhead the presentation of vibrant new efforts in the realm, today with an Indonesian keyboardist and a top-tier ensemble doing excellent things. I speak of Dwiki Dharmawan and his MoonJune debut album So Far So Close (MoonJune 075).

Dwiki has more than 30 years of performing under his belt and he shows what he can do as a keyboardist, composer and bandleader nicely. The band is something, too. We get Jimmy Haslip on electric bass and Chad Wackerman on drums and both hit the ground as ever they do, running. Then an old friend, Jerry Goodman of Flock and Mahavishnu fame, joins on violin for the first cut and shows us he still has it. The guitar mastery of Dewa Budjana and Tohpati is present for much of the time, with some incredible moments, and I Nyoman Windha plays traditional Indonesian instruments, and adds vocals on one of the numbers.

This is fusion that partakes of the golden age moments of the pre-trad '70s and '80s and updates it. Dwiki plays with assurance and fire and his arrangements-compositions ring nicely true.

An auspicious album, one that any fusionist will embrace and enjoy! Give it lots of spins!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Josh Maxey, Celebration of Soul

Some albums surprise you by being more than one thing. Josh Maxey, good guitarist and bandleader, gives you that on Celebration of Soul (Miles High 8634). It's an album of hip sounds that might suggest the William's Lifetime with Larry Young and John McLaughlin, or more with Ted Dunbar, but it is perhaps a little more grits-and-gravy meets streamlined interplanetary travel, too, than Williams' classic "Ego" was.

Josh plays the electric guitar well. He is joined by the equally lucid and very hip Brian Charette on organ, Chase Baird on saxophones in a very contemporary mode, plus Jeremy Noller on drums in a post-Tony drivenness, and Rodney Jones on second guitar for several cuts. Additional guitarists David and Brett Parnell (the latter on lap steel) and Michael Cioffero thicken the lines on some of the numbers.

The compositions are by Josh and they have a staying kind of constancy. His solo work is quite good, too.

It's music that comes through with excitement and yes, a soulful expressivity. I am sometimes reminded a little of later Charles Earland, too, in very good ways.

I like this one very much, foremost for the musical totality it gives you!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Nadav Lev, New Strings Attached

As always this blog is about guitar and bass playing in virtually any style. Today we delve into contemporary modern classical works that include classical acoustic or electric guitar, as nicely presented on Nadav Lev's New Strings Attached (DELOS 3488). The album is subtitled "Contemporary Music for Guitar by Young Israeli Composers," and that indeed is what we have.

Nadav Lev is a guitarist of both traditional and unconventional virtuosity. The works, six by six composers, cover a wide range of new music attitudes and chamber styles. Nadav himself plus Gilad Cohen, Yair Klartag, Jonathan Keren, Guy Barash and Ronnie Reshef each contribute a composition or composition set.

All of them give us some magnificent guitar realizations that are at times mind-boggling. Along with Lev's continual and vital presence is a spectrum of fellow performers: the Mivos String Quartet, mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham, violinist Miranda Cuckson, soprano Tehila Nini-Goldstein, mezzo-soprano Re'ut Ben-Ze'ev and the live electronics of Guy Barash.

The music is contemporary avant and uniformly worthwhile. The guitar work is excellent and sometimes even astonishing. Lev is a master!

If you want to be exposed to something exceptional and have a sense of adventure, New Strings Attached gives you all of that without fail!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cunao, Sangre y Arena

For those in search of something new yet laced with tradition, I would suggest to you the band Cunao and their new album Sangre y Arena. It is an outfit based in Los Angeles, filled with the spirit of traditional music from South America, centered on song form, vocals, acoustic guitar, violin, accordion, bass, percussion and etc. It is in the presence and beauty of the songs in performance, the instrumental strengths of the players and the whole-cloth success of the tracks that put Cunao in a special place. South American, African and North American rock elements join together in a very appealing sort of mix.

This is not their first album, but no matter. This one is very good and you can always look up their earlier efforts if you find Sangra y Arena as compelling as I do.

It has a new village kind of authenticity, yet it is a seamless blend that is all theirs in the end. Give it a listen! Then smile? Yes, definitely.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lou Volpe, Remembering Ol' Blue Eyes (Songs of Sinatra)

Lou Volpe, the consummate jazz and session vet guitarist, comes front and center to do something one might not expect. He has gathered together some very hip sideman to record an album of songs associated with Frank Sinatra. Remembering Ole Blue Eyes (Songs of Sinatra) (Jazz Guitar Records 917) turns Lou and his band, including pianist Onaje Allen Gumbs, loose on 13 chestnuts that Frank phrased and finessed his way through over the years. And then there is a concluding tribute-original.

From "That's Life" to "It Was A Very Good Year," you get some of the most memorable but also some of the most conducive tunes for the patented bluesy-jazz-funk Volpe treatment.

To hear Lou in action here is to hear a man who has created his own way through the guitar maze. He sounds as great as ever. The arrangements give it a sheen that is sometimes referred to as "radio-friendly," and so it will likely have a wide appeal.

But forget all that and LISTEN to Lou. He makes the melody lines his own with the nuance that Frank embodied, not literally so much as parallel, as two artists concerned with owning an interpretation of a song.

Lou certainly does that. All those years, all those sessions, the interactions with some of the best, all culminate in the Lou Volpe of today. He succeeds in making a living, soulful guitar organism out of what otherwise might at times be just another "smooth jazz" bit of glitz. Not here, though, not with Lou carrying on so convincingly. Bopping, bluesing, taking on a song and taking ownership of it authoritatively.

In the end, the songs are great and Lou is too.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Harvey Valdes, Roundabout

We have encountered guitarist Harvey Valdes on the blogs before, but this is his first solo guitar venture (that I know of) and it shows a side of him both surprising and impressive. Roundabout (self released) involves a set of nine standards, Harvey Valdes and his electric guitar, and a lot of imagination and chops.

Valdes channels the note-chordal traditions of the guitar as someone like Joe Pass did so well. Harvey picks his standards carefully and creates a beautiful contemporary original take on that tradition. The harmonic sense of the playing is superb, the inventive results all his own and the music ravishing to hear.

Whether it is a matter of Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way," Miles' "Blue in Green" or the chestnut "Stella By Starlight" one gains a new appreciation of the possibilities of the songs by their thorough and brilliant harmonizations and an unparalleled improvisational insightfulness.

This is guitar artistry at the highest levels, make no mistake. Everything is right there for you to hear. Nothing is overplayed but you most certainly do not feel that is in any way incomplete.

Anyone with an understanding of the guitar and its reluctance to yield blissful results will no doubt wish she or he could play like this. If you actually do, then you will recognize a close kinship with Harvey. For the rest of us, we can only marvel at his abilities and enjoy to the fullest.

Roundabout will wow you. This I vow!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Evan Parker, Joe Morris, Nate Wooley, Ninth Square

When you think of a possible trio of avant all-stars, improv freedom and jazz ahead music, you could do worse than think of Evan Parker, Joe Morris and Nate Wooley. A lot worse. Each is in his own way an outstanding avant stylist. Evan Parker is no doubt the best known, has the legendary reputation of a reed player of undoubted originality, importance, soul and flow. Nate Wooley is fast becoming one of the avant's most significant trumpet men. And Joe Morris is a world unto himself on the acoustic and electric guitar.

So when these three join together you expect some fireworks. And that is exactly what you get on Ninth Square (Clean Feed 335). It's the three getting it very together live at Firehouse 12 in New Haven last year.

There are torrents of notes. Not just any notes. Notes that suggest an overflowing of spirit, an ambiguity of tonal center at times, a timbre-rich confluence of energy. Now that is certainly what Evan Parker is known for and does so well. And he sounds as good as ever here. Nate is in the mode, too. He knows how to respond and counter the stream with one that goes well with the others. And he sounds terrific. Now anyone who has picked up a guitar should know that a torrent of chromatic and otherwise outside notes is no easy matter (not that it is with horns, either). It is not an intuitively given possibility of the guitar. It takes a lot of preparatory shedding and a sense of where you are going.

Joe Morris excels at this kind of playing. He is at the very top of guitarists who can take it out in smart torrents. And he shows us how he is pretty much the perfect guitarist to join with Parker and Wooley in noteful avant expression. And like the horn virtuosi here, he varies the timbre and attack, the manner of note production, the color of the sound.

So that's why this album is posted here on the guitar blog, though of course it would equally be home on the Gapplegate Music Blog as well. It's for Joe to have the ability and imagination to engage in this sort of dialog with two horn masters of the idiom.

It is a beast of a set. It shows the three in excellent form, running on all cylinders, creating overall smears of vibrant expression.

It's not just music for guitar players to hear and marvel at, of course. This is music for three equal partners in sound generation. Fine music. Out music. Open up to this and go places!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Peter Kowald & Damon Smith, Mirrors - Broken But No Dust

Peter Kowald was one of the greatest avant jazz improv bassists alive before his untimely demise. Damon Smith was and is an important bassist on the scene as well, very deserving of our attention. The two recorded an extended album of duets when Peter made a rather triumphant tour of the US in 2000. It has been out of print for a while but happily is now again available as an audio cassette. Mirrors - Broken But No Dust (BPA 001) brings us the music in all its glory.

What is perhaps most striking about the duets is the incredible rapport established between the two. Whether a hornets nest of busy pizzicato, an ethereal thicket of bowed harmonics or a jungle of slapped string tones, the two form a perfect interlocking of duality-in-singularity.

It is music of great energy, manic expression, exuberant simultaneity. It gives you improvisational segments of sonic unity and virtuoso outness.

For a supremely unified two-bass expression, this recording has few rivals. Grab it while you can. Contrabass aficionados take note. A two-bass hit!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rotem Sivan Trio, A New Dance

A new jazz guitarist on the scene? Get in line! No, seriously, there are some great new players out there, new to me anyway, and I try to cover the best of them when their music crosses my path.

One of them surely is Rotem Sivan. He has an album out, the Rotem Sivan Trio's A New Dance (Fresh Sound New Talent 480) and I have been digging into it and digging it. He is a sort of post-Abercrombie player with some prodigious chops, an electric sound that has purity in a spacey way but also can get an edgy distorted sound, too. His version of "Angel Eyes" may startle you with its suspensions, its bass (Haggai Cohen-Milo) carrying of the melody, and its very rockish guitar eloquence. So Haggai very nicely covers the bass realm (and solos in distinguished fashion) and Colin Stranahan does very subtle but very well-turned drum work.

But this is Rotem's moment in the spotlight primarily, and he comes through with some impressively wrought guitar mastery. There are a bunch of originals that stand out and a couple of standards.

What strikes me is his harmonic sense in tandem with a sharply etched ability to weave magical lines. Really, this is a player with a very sophisticated feel for what can be done, but also an immediacy, a sense of expressive fire when needed and a quietly devastating approach when not.

Rotem conceives of his music as a "dance of sounds," which explains the title but also the music as a whole. It does dance. It does dance very extraordinarily well.

Here's a ringer, a guitarist of true merit. Grab this album and enter his very substantial world!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Frank Kohl Quartet, Invisible Man

Frank Kohl has a nice way about him in the mainstream jazz guitar zone. He grew up digging Wes, Pat Martino, George Benson, then John McLaughlin. He went to Berklee and graduated with honors. He put out an album while he was gigging around New York, then moved to Seattle in 1990, where he still holds forth.

There's a new album, Invisible Man (PONY Boy 501783-2) and I've been listening to it. Frank has recruited bassist Steve LaSpina, pianist Tom Kohl and drummer Jon Doty for the album, put together five nicely done compositions and three standards and let loose.

The band swings along well and Frank has a spotlight role on guitar, spelled nicely by Tom Kohl as second soloist, but then we hear from Steve on bass solo, too.

Frank shows his roots with some Wes-&-George-inspired harmonic and melodic touches and furthers his own sort of post-bop/hard-bop take on it all. He is poised, polished and swingingly lined/aligned throughout. It's all good music. It shows Frank off well as a thorough stylist and imaginative improviser. It's a nice listen.

Good show!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ballake Sissoko, Vincent Segal, Musique de Nuit

Any string player of ambition and, for that matter, any serious listener to music as a universal cultural heritage should hear and immerse oneself in some of the great kora (stringed harp) players of Western Africa. So I post something here on the guitar blog for that reason. It's more than the usual too because it pairs the phenomenal kora player Ballake Sissoko with the fine cellist Vincent Segal in a series of duos, Musique de Nuit (Six Degrees 657036-1228-2-6).

What is striking beyond the fine playing to be heard here is the way, via alternating compositions by each, there is a fascinating and moving rapport firmly and creatively established between traditional-modern African approaches and cello-centered European elements, between Mali and Paris.

There is nothing that sounds offhand about this meeting of the ways. Both artists listen carefully to one another and fashion some excellent working two-part dialogs, totalities where the two are one with all kinds of varying possibilities. This is music that has been intelligently arranged, rehearsed and intimately realized. The results are spectacular.

The atmospheric realm this music occupies is poetically explained by Vincent: "The night is a special time in Mali. It's a little less hot, and everyone's asleep apart from the night owls like us. The city's not as noisy, music mixes with rumor, and there's something redeeming about simply sitting outside and playing. That's what we tried to capture here, that freedom the night can bring."

Once described in such terms, the music rings true as that. And that destination is especially made beautiful by the musical freshing out Sissoko and Segal give to it all.

The music is wondrous! Beautiful! More I need not say. An exceptional disk.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Marcelo dos Reis, Angelica V. Salvi, Concentric Rinds

The album up for discussion today is a winner on all counts. What we have are eight improvisatory duets between acoustic guitarist Marcelo dos Reis and harpist Angelica V. Salvi. The music was recorded in a resonant warehouse several years ago. The resulting album is Concentric Rinds (Cipsela 004).

Both Marcelo and Angelica at times "prepare" their instruments, which means they attach various objects to the strings to give the sound an extended set of possibilities, a practice that hearkens back to John Cage and his famous "prepared piano" works.

The duo came out of several larger ensemble gatherings that included them both, back in 2012. Evan Parker who was part of the second ensemble suggested that the two try some music as a duo. The results are not exactly history as yet, but the pairing bears some beautiful fruit on this album.

There are times where the music occupies a space reminding one of classical traditional northern Asian music. Other times there is a new music, post-Feldmanesque kind of quiet thoughtfulness. Still other times there is kinetic motion and dynamics, and times when there are oblique references to jazz lining.

Throughout there is real artistry and smarts on display, born out of the acute sensitivity of the artists toward their instruments and the sound possibilities that can be generated, and a very cohesive mutual openness to what the other is doing at any given point.

It is music of supreme beauty, harp and guitar playing excellence, a realization of some stunning music that is avant without much in the way of cacophony or pronounced dissonance, which means that those who perhaps are not used to new music improv will more easily take to this music than might be the case otherwise.

But no matter your background. This is instrumental interaction on a very high plane. Marcelo dos Reis and Angelica V. Salvi are a perfect fit. These are two excellent players who hit it off beautifully. Get this one.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Les Ambassadeurs, Rebirth

The Mali-based Afrobeat ensemble Les Ambassadeurs were an important force on the African music scene in the '60s and the '70s. They had an irresistable combination of funk and traditional elements, a full band presence and great call and response vocals, not to mention nice guitar work.

They return to us on a recent EP Rebirth (World Village). It is the band in great form once again, filled with the hypnotic grooves, the riffing hipness, great horn lines and vocal soul.

It is 20-minutes of stirring music. I find it very stimulating. Great!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Animation, Machine Language, with Bob Belden

Jazz artist Bob Belden has left us. But before he went he gave us something to contemplate and appreciate, namely Machine Language (rarenoise 34849 2-LP or single CD) by his band Animation.

I suppose the first thing to note is that this is advanced electric jazz-rock in the lineage of Miles Davis in his classic fusionoide phase that ended when he broke up the band with Pete Cosey in the middle '70s. It has that aura but with its own singularity. There is no copying. The band is an excellent one, with Bill Laswell on electric bass doing things that get your ears. Bob is on sax/flute, Pete Clagett plays a post-Milesian trumpet, Matt Young plays elaborate rock-funk drums and Roberto Verastegui plays some very atmospheric, very electronic keys. Joining as narrator (and sounding a little bit Rod Serling-like) is the well-known Kurt Elling.

First a little on the narration. It is the story of humanity, especially a brilliant child, and computers. It is highly interesting, about the encroachment of machine thinking into our world and how that may ultimately change us irrevocably, or...

Now the narrative sets the mood for the music, which is ultra-modern and very much in keeping with the story line. It stands on its own, surely, as something very interesting in a "post?"-fusion mode. Spacey, filled with Belden's worthy compositional ideas and some nice sax soloing now and again, the music is much more than riff and groove. (And Laswell himself has a way with building variations into the riff so that it becomes much more than itself at any rate.)

It is an ideal meld of thought-provoking story with advanced electric jazz. It will remind you of Miles' Directions and Hancock's Mwandishi without being in any way a Xerox copy of any of it.

It makes me quite sad that Bob Belden had to part from us. He was getting into some very good things here. Give it your ears by all means.

Friday, October 9, 2015

J. Asling Roots and Friends, The Stockholm Sessions

Here we are on a much welcome Friday morning. Or here I am anyway. You may be reading this later or in another time zone. The music keeps coming. As long as it does this blog will stay open for business for a while longer. If the submissions get more sporadic it will be integrated into the Gapplegate Music Blog in the coming months.

So today we have a nice surprise in the blues-roots music of J. Asling Roots & Friends, namely The Stockholm Sessions (DO Music Records 028). Music from Northern Europe that has its own way with blues-rock-folk trad...

This is J. Asling, his rootsy tunes, appealing vocals, very crafty mostly electric guitar work, and his friends--Sven Eric Lundeqvist on piano & Hammond, Magnes Edring on banjo and dobro (!), Mick Elofsson on electric bass, and P.A. Tollbom on drums. A few guests join in from time to time, Sven Zetterberg for one, on harmonica and second guitar on a couple of tracks.

It's soulful stuff, with Asling's guitar laying down some fine lines, his vocals having a convincing kind of DIY immediacy. And the band is first-rate, too. Dig Edring's dobro, which makes for an excellent contrast to Asling on electric.

There are enough contemporary elements and a unique tunefulness that this goes beyond a straight revival sort of thing and into original directions.

You hear this a few times and you start getting how it is different, or at least I did. It's good music and lots of fun, too.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

John Schott, Actual Trio

Today we have a fine electric guitarist, John Schott, and his Actual Trio (Tzadik 4011). This is the trio's debut recording, a studio affair with the threesome of long standing very much on it. Joining John is double bassist Dan Seamans and drummer John Hanes.

What hits you is the very nice loping-swinging of the band, the compositions and their sometimes intricate nature, and the way the band resonates with both the roots of jazz and the beyond qualities of avantness adding a little spice and color.

Seamans plays in a great ensemble walking style and can solo with good ideas. Hanes gives us subtle, first-rate time throughout.

And beyond all that is the guitar artistry of John Schott. He has his roots in Seattle, where he studied with Gary Peacock and Julian Priester. He was a founding member with Ben Goldberg with the group Junk Genius, an integral member of T.J. Kirk, leader of the 16-piece ensemble Diglossia, and a part of recordings by John Zorn, Tom Waits and Steven Bernstein. This is his third album.

Schott manages to channel the roots of jazz guitar while adding considerably to it with a vibrant sense of chordal color, line-constructing inventiveness and chops harnessed to the musical objective at hand, and a modal/changes/beyond sense that lays right and satisfyingly at all points.

There is no doubt that John Schott is a guitar master stylist. You can hear it in action from the beginning to the end of this set. I suspect there is much more to come from Maestro Schott. Meanwhile be sure to give this one your ears.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hommage a Eberhard Weber, Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, Gary Burton, Michael Gibbs, SWR Big Band, etc.

Eberhard Weber has been one of the innovative bassists of our era, without a doubt. His many recordings as a leader and sideman on ECM are seminal. He is a bassist with a special sound, a lyrical acuity and a compositional approach to soloing that sets him in the highest echelon of players of our time. And of course his compositions themselves are of a piece with his musical approach and wonderful in themselves. A stroke in 2007 put an end to his playing, very sadly. But he has made several excellent recordings in later years by taking live bass solos that were captured on tape and orchestrating them. (You can type his name in the search box above for more on that.)

For the occasion of his 75th birthday earlier this year a special concert took place at the Stuttgart Theaterhaus with many of his friends and close associates. Hommage a Eberhard Weber (ECM 2463) is the result of that happy gathering.

On it is featured a special 30-minute work written by Pat Metheny especially for the concert, "Hommage," as played by the SWR Big Band and soloists, including Pat. Featured as well is "Resume Variations" composed by Weber, with looped and resituated Weber bass solos and some fine improvisations by Jan Garberek.

Ralph Schmid, Michael Gibbs, Rainer Tempel, and Libor Sima each arrange a Weber composition for the SWR Band and soloists, with fine results.

And what soloists! In addition to the presence of Metheny, Garbarek and SWR Big Band members, joining them on stage are Gary Burton, Scott Colley, Danny Gottlieb, Paul McCandless, Klaus Graf (alto) and Ernst Hutter (euphonium).

The result is some excellent music and fabulous sonarities. It is a most fitting tribute to the master, yes, and some very fine music in its own right. Essential listening.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kid Millions & Sarah Bernstein, Live at Gravesend, Feb. 11, 8 PM

Cassettes are back! I've noticed some cassette-only releases lately. Now I have been sent one! It is in beautifully primitive analogue sound. It features Kid Millions on drums and Sarah Bernstein on very electric violin and ritualistic vocals. It is Volume 5 in the "Gravesend After Hours" series (Gravesend Recordings). So not surprisingly it is entitled Live at Gravesend Feb. 11, 8 PM.

I've always found Sarah's music to be well worth hearing. Kid Millions I do not know by that name, but for this set he really kicks up some torrid overdrive drumming.

Sarah is filled with the energy of quasi-metal violin freedom and when she vocalizes you think New York city is occupied by at least one tribe, which of course it is.

It's totally unpretentious heavy freedom that for me anyway has something about it that sets it apart. It's edgy underground stuff, which the cassette release and the cover art only serve to further underscore.

I suppose I should say that this is not for the timid, nor does it run through standards or swing in some conventional way. All that is cool, too, but that is not THIS.

What it is, it is without a doubt. And the hearing of it initiates you into the tribe and creates some kind of magic. What tribe? You know, THE tribe.

Get it if you want some heavy-duty obscurity that is really very good.