lunes, 20 de octubre de 2014

Alex LoRe Trio - Dream House (2014)

Source: Allaboutjazz
Label: Inner Circle Music

Dream House is the excellent debut release by the Alex LoRe Trio, nearly an hour of beautiful music from LoRe on alto sax, Desmond White on bass, and Colin Stranahan on drums. LoRe hails from Florida, and in addition to formal studies at New England Conservatory of Music and Manhattan School of Music, he's worked with a number of luminous saxophone mentors, including Lee Konitz, James Moody, Steve Wilson, and the venerable Bunky Green. LoRe has been paying his dues in New York City venues big and small, including a seat with Lucas Pino's "No Net" Nonet, which is currently in residency at Smalls Jazz Club.

The other members of the group bring their own unique background to the triangle. White hails from Australia, where he built a successful career in the jazz and rock worlds, eventually making the leap to America to attend Manhattan School of Music and join the New York scene. As for Stranahan, he is one of the finest drummers of his generation, so it's always a good sign when his name appears on the credits: he grew up in the fertile Denver jazz scene and already has numerous releases and accolades under his belt, including graduating from the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. The three musicians are members of the "No Net" Nonet and have also played as a trio for several years; they've worked hard to develop their sound and meld into a musical one-mind, and this first-rate release on Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music is the fruit of their labor thus far.

One of the reasons that Dream House succeeds so well is that it is infused by a personal vision. As LoRe says in his liner notes, everyone has a dream house, a golden plan for their future, but obstacles and difficulties often destroy this imaginary world. Probably nobody knows this better than artists, especially jazz musicians trying to make a living in New York City. But clearly LoRe has embraced the challenges and persevered, even when life turned out otherwise; as he writes, "It is through this transformation that a new path emerges." Thus the music is about dreams and the way they often shatter, but it's also about the surprising beauty that can emerge on the other side.  Read more...

1. Amnesia 07:30
2. Here Comes Tomorrow 06:33
3. December Song 05:32
4. Tonight I Shall Sleep 06:58
5. Dream House 09:06
6. Too Soon 05:56
7. Forward 08:02
8. Buto 08:25
Alex LoRe - alto saxophone
George Garzone - tenor saxophone [tracks 1,7,8]
Desmond White - bass
Colin Stranahan - drums

"The most important thing I look for in a musician,
 is whether he knows how to listen."
  - Duke Ellington - 


Mammal Hands - Animalia (2014)

Source: thejazzmann

Mammal Hands are a young trio from Norwich consisting of brothers Nick Smart (piano) and Jordan Smart (saxophones) plus drummer and percussionist Jesse Barratt. The Smarts were already working as an electronica duo before encountering Barratt in April 2012 at which point their music gravitated in a more obviously jazz orientated direction. The bassless line up might suggest some kind of chamber jazz but instead the music of Mammal Hands is unexpectedly rhythmic, dynamic and exciting and also reflects the trio’s interests in electronic, contemporary classical and world music. These include Barratt’s knowledge of Indian rhythms learned during his studies with tabla master Sirishkumar, Nick Smart’s love of minimalist composers Terry Riley and Steve Reich and Jordan’s immersion in the different sound worlds of DJ culture and the spiritual jazz of Pharaoh Sanders.

Ironically it was a bassist, label mates GoGo Penguin’s Nick Blacka who recommended the trio to Matthew Halsall of the Manchester based Gondwana record label. Blacka had heard the band at the Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival in Birmingham and immediately spotted their potential. “Animalia” was recorded in Manchester in December 2013 with Halsall producing assisted by engineer George Atkins. It’s a hugely impressive début, a worthy addition to the Gondwana catalogue and a release that is likely to have the same kind of impact as GoGo Penguin’s initial offering “Fanfares”. Now also appears to be good time to congratulate GoGo Penguin on the Mercury Music Prize nomination for their second album “v2.0”, while stating that it’s perfectly possible that Mammal Hands might emulate them at some future juncture. “Animalia” is also an album that may attract the attention of adventurous rock fans.   

From the outset it’s immediately apparent that Mammal Hands are a highly democratic ensemble and that the overall group sound is the paramount factor in their music with all the pieces being collectively composed.  There is little in the way of conventional jazz soloing although both saxophone and piano alternate in leading the band. Pianist Nick Smart fulfils an important rhythmic function throughout and his overall contribution is hugely impressive.

As writers Mammal Hands exhibit a strong sense of melody and there are some catchy, instantly memorable tunes on this album beginning with opener “Mansions Of Millions Of Years”, the title derived from Egyptian mythology (perhaps the same legend that inspired Van Der Graaf Generator’s “The Boat Of Millions Of Years”). Beginning with sparse piano chords and brushed drum grooves the piece also features the flowingly melodic soprano sax of Jordan Smart, his tone similar to that of Portico Quartet’s Jack Wyllie. The Portico comparison has been made by numerous reviewers and justifiably so, and it’s interesting to note that both bands started their careers as buskers – Mammal Hands first got together on the streets of Norwich while Portico used to busk outside London’s South Bank Centre . The point is that in such an environment strong, attention grabbing melodies are a must and both bands have these in abundance. However for all their accessibility there is no hint of any compromise with regard to either band’s artistic integrity, they just have the enviable gift of writing good tunes.

Following the hooky opener “Snow Bough” exhibits a gentler, more lyrical side of the band, a beautiful melancholy miniature that suggests the chilly beauty of a still winter’s day. Spacious piano chording combines with a simple, unadorned sax melody and the atmospheric colouring of the drums, a mallet rumble here, a cymbal shimmer there. It’s an appealing palette cleanser before the next hook and groove laden offering “Kandaiki” which deploys melodies inspired by Irish folk music alongside hypnotic piano and drum grooves with Nick Smart’s left hand again fulfilling a vital role, his rhythmic patterns frequently recalling the compelling percolations of Nick Mulvey’s hang drums in Portico’s early days. Subtly shifting time signatures help to ensure that the piece evolves compulsively with the listener swept up in the momentum.

The darker, moodier “Spinning The Wheel” also draws on Irish folk melody but Barratt’s broken beats and grooves owe more to the worlds of electronica and hip hop. The drummer’s contribution adds an edge that contrasts well with the plaintive, keening melodicism of Jordan Smart’s sax.

“Bustle” is aptly titled, driven by Nick Smart’s busy, odd meter piano patterns and featuring Barratt’s ticking, broken beats plus snatches of melodic sax. The piece progresses through several phases and also features Barratt on tabla as the Indian influence becomes more obvious. Israeli born bassist and composer Avishai Cohen has also been cited as another inspiration behind this piece. This is music that revels in its complexity yet never seeks to alienate the listener.

“Inuit Party” is perhaps the most episodic composition thus far, progressing from a sombre opening passage through sections of full on groove featuring Jordan Smart’s soulful tenor to a more abstract ending containing hints of free jazz dissonance.

The orchestral music of Leonard Bernstein is cited as an influence on “Street Sweeper” (maybe there’s just a hint of “America” in there). Here the trio groove even harder and faster than on “Inuit Party” and Barratt shines on a lively percussion break as he and Nick Smart combine to produce a mighty rhythmic drive.

Finally we hear “Tiny Crumb”, the lengthiest item on the record and a piece with a strong narrative arc that takes its inspiration from the music of Alice Coltrane and Joe Henderson. With Jordan Smart on tenor it is perhaps closer to straight ahead jazz in the way that it develops its theme and incorporates an increasingly impassioned sax solo. An insistent, highly rhythmic second section that owes more to contemporary developments features Barratt’s use of tabla. 

“Animalia” is a highly accomplished début from a very capable young band who have already established an enviable reputation for the quality and excitement of their live shows. Immaculately produced by Halsall it’s a compelling snapshot of their abilities with strong tunes, hugely accomplished playing and a distinctive group identity. Collectively Mammal Hands are a lean and effective unit, there’s precious little flab on this arresting and compelling CD.

If there’s a criticism – and I don’t wish to labour the point – it’s that they still sound rather too similar to early Portico Quartet for comfort but I suspect that the resemblance will become less pronounced as the career of Mammal Hands progresses. There’s clearly great potential here and in any case sounding like one of my favourite groups of recent years is no bad thing. Overall I was highly impressed with Mammal Hands who now find themselves on my personal “bands I must see” list for the coming months.  Meanwhile high quality videos of the trio performing “Mansions Of Millions Of Years” and “Kandaiki” can be found at

Jordan Smart: saxophone
Nick Smart: piano
Jesse Barrett: drums and tabla

1. Mansions Of Millions Of Years
2. Snow Bough
3. Kandaiki
4. Spinning The Wheel
5. Bustle
6. Inuit Party
7. Street Sweeper
8. Tiny Crumb


Alister Spence and Myra Melford - Everything Here Is Possible (2014)

Everything Here Is Possible Alister Spence Music: ASM002
Alister Spence (Australia): Steinway D concert grand piano
Myra Melford (United States): Steinway D concert grand piano

This month we take a look at a meeting of two creative pianists from both sides of the Pacific, another stunning debut, this time from a Western Australian trio and finally a meeting of classy musicians from across the ditch. Live, we take a look at a great show from Sylvan Coda.

– Michael Prescott, Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia

This is a genuine meeting of like minds, two free flowing improvisatory pianists creating in real time. This project came to fruition when Melford brought her Trio 3 project to Australia in late 2012.  Spence is responsible for an excellent series of recordings for Rufus Records, including “Flux” (2003) And “Far Flung” (2012), both featuring Necks bassist Lloyd Swanton, whilst Melford needs no introduction. Although they had corresponded by email, they actually met for the first time on the afternoon of the recording and did not discuss what they would record. The resulting music is made up entirely of spontaneous improvisations for 2 pianos over 5 longish tracks. Although this is “free” music, largely devoid of structure, it is not unmelodic or unapproachable. There are many changes in timbre and form, evoking a wide range of emotional responses. It is also not frenetic meaning the whole is accessible and does not descend into a chaotic noise. Both pianists employ prepared piano on two tracks to great effect. The title of this album is very appropriate, when two creative musicians come together to improvise with a clean palette, everything IS possible and here they prove that “free” can be beautiful also.


Alister is recognized as one of Australia’s most original, distinctive pianists/composers. His wide-ranging talents have led him to perform with and compose for some of the world’s most respected artists in the areas of contemporary music, improvisation, film and theatre. 

The Alister Spence Trio features Lloyd Swanton (the Necks) on double bass and Toby Hall (formerly with pianist, Mike Nock) drums and glockenspiel. The trio’s most recent CD, Far Flung (Rufus Records 2012) received a 4 star review in Jazz Journal (June 2013) and was listed in Critics Poll 2013 (January 2014). It was also listed in The WIRE 2013 Rewind - Critics' reflections by Andy Hamilton as his album of the year. fit (2009) was voted in the top 15 jazz/improv releases worldwide for 2009 by The Wire, UK. Both Mercury (2006) and Flux (2003) received ARIA nominations (Australian Record Industry Awards) in 2004, 2007. 

Festival performances for the Trio include: Melbourne International Jazz festival (2014), Vilnius Jazz Festival 2009, Luminous Festival Sydney 2009, curated by Brian Eno, Tokyo Jazz Festival 2008, International Festival de Jazz de Montreal and Vancouver Jazz Festival 2006.

Alister is a founding member of Wanderlust and a long-standing member of The Australian Art Orchestra (AAO). Alister was co-leader/composer with the internationally acclaimed group Clarion Fracture Zone for from 1990 – 2005.

Alister has performed with Satoko Fujii (Japan), Michiyo Yagi (Japan), Barre Phillips (US), Myra Melford (US), Mark Helias (US), Andy Sheppard (UK), Joe Williamson (SWE), Jim O’Rourke (Japan), Raymond MacDonald (Glasgow), Karraikudi Mani (IND), Ed Kuepper and the Laughing Clowns, Bernie McGann, Chris Abrahams (AU).


Raised in the Chicago area, Myra Melford gravitated early in her career to musicians associated with the AACM collective such as violinist Leroy Jenkins and alto saxophonist/composer Henry Threadgill.

She first gained attention with her brawny trio featuring bassist Lindsey Horner and drummer Reggie Nicholson. Known for her high energy, percussive attack, Melford is also a supremely lyrical player with a passion for classical Indian music (the harmonium has become an important textural element in her sound).

An inventive composer and inveterate creator of bands, she has recorded with many ensembles, including The Same River, Twice, with trumpeter Dave Douglas, cellist Erik Friedlander, drummer Michael Sarin and Chris Speed on reeds, and Equal Interest, a cooperative trio with Joseph Jarman and the late Leroy Jenkins.

In addition to the collective Trio M, with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson, her other projects include Be Bread, a sextet with trumpeter Cuong Vu and bassist Stomu Takeishi, guitarist Brandon Ross, Ben Goldberg and Matt Wilson; and a duo with Ben Goldberg. Look for her new project, Snowy Egret, at the Jazz Gallery in February, 2012, presenting recently composed music with dancer Oguri.

Since 1991, she has appeared on more than 30 critically acclaimed recordings, including 20 as a leader or co-leader. Based in Berkeley since 2004, Melford is an Associate Professor of Improvisatory Practices in UC Berkeley’s Music Department.

1. Why Say Dreams Are White?
2. A Bird Translates
3. The Houses Of The Fishes
4. Circular Dispersion of Tones
5. Everything Here Is Possible

Recorded by the ABC in Eugene Goossens Hall, Sydney, 9 November 2012
Engineered and mixed by André Shrimski
Mastered by Paul Bryant at the Chapel of Sound, Sydney, 15th January 2014
Design Cheryl Orsini
Producer Alister Spence
Music copyright Alister Spence (control), Myra Melford (GEMA and BMI)