Celebrated tenor man Ken Fowser delivers an emphatic message of stunning melodicism on his latest release "Now Hear This!" Critical listeners may appreciate these performances as a series of engaged discussions employing the clever repartee of context and contrast between the voices of the horns and the affectionate support and retort from their favorite rhythm section of pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Paul Gill, and drummer Jason Tiemann. Bright moments are dénouement when trumpet phenomenon Josh Bruneau rejoins Fowser as his front line aide-de-cam and Fowser has noticeably shifted into another level.
Together, this dynamic duo unleash a powerful combination of swinging blasts and forays into subtle conversation. If we overly focus on the interplay of elements, then we may miss the point of the dialogue and mistake the medium for the message, because Fowser's unmistakable talent as a songwriter is the real story here. From the opening salvo to the last hurrah, the melodic message of "Now Hear This!" moves effortlessly straightforward, and affirms that Fowser is a rising star to keep an eye on for many years to come.
For his second Delmark release, pianist and composer Paul Giallorenzo does more with less, assembling a classic piano trio backed by masters of jazz minimalism, Joshua Abrams and Mikel Patrick Avery. The writing’s not sparse: there are notes on notes, hummable heads, surprising solos, and a harmonic conception of frequently startling complexity. But it’s always for the purpose of advancing the music. Covering wide terrain, from high energy polytonal swing to abstract blues to free- form invention, this trio is in tune in the truest sense, creating music that’s embedded in the jazz tradition with a sound that’s both singular and forward-thinking.
In 2009 American percussionist and composer Gerry Hemingway relocated in Luzern, Switzerland, and found himself in a thriving community of musicians and artists with whom he has forged new relationships. Chief among those relationships are the guitarist Manuel Troller and saxophonist and bass clarinetist Sebastian Strinning. As a group they began exploring their collective invention in 2013 in Luzern. Now Tree Ear offers the international community an inspired crystallization and synthesis of their musical thinking in the powerful debut CD/LP “Witches Butter”. As the cover and the titles reveal the stakes and the willingness to take risks are high and consequently the results for us to hear are compelling and breathtaking. Hemingway, Troller and Strinning recognize the value and importance of being fluent in non-idiomatic as well as idiomatic musical vocabularies, all of which play a role in the content of what you hear presented in this exciting new release. Hemingway is familiar to many Clean Feed listeners from his prolific manifestations as a composer, percussionist and improvisor. He is restless in his desire to explore new territories of artistic creation and with that continually forging new relations in his expanding artistic community. He as well believes in and maintains long and rich musical relationships over many years such as BassDrumBone which celebrates it’s 40th anniversary in 2017.
“Sinton's Barisax has a lot to say about all this existential jazz stuff: whether the universe is actually devoid of meaning or form, what to do when the glorious monster comes to you hard in your dreams.”Greg Tate Brooklyn-based baritone saxophonist, bass clarinetist and creative musician Josh Sinton has played an integral part in the renaissance of musical activity thriving in Brooklyn’s creative music scene today. He has performed with countless leading figures from NYC and around the world and has been nominated to the Downbeat Critics' and Readers' Polls, the Jazz Times Poll and El Intruso International Critics' Poll every year since 2012. Musicianer (the word used by Sidney Bechet for a fellow musician) are a band that escape the pigeonhole etched by their instrumentation. Their album ‘slow learner’ was born from Sinton’s long yearning to write songs to be played with two of his longest standing musical companions; Chad Taylor (drums and percussion) and Jason Ajemian (acoustic bass), whose deep musical connection traces back to their time living and performing together in Chicago in the 1990s. Reaching into the worlds of Sinton’s vast musical influence - from Sonny Rollins to Stevie Wonder, Charlie Parker to Jimi Hendrix, ‘slow learner’ is an open and trusting conversation between three life-long musicianers, effortlessly traversing subject matter - from whimsical jibe to defiant fits of protest – totally unrestricted by that uncomfortable awkwardness often encountered by the unacquainted. From the infectious groove of ‘pork bueno’, the hypnotic and sweet tempered ‘can’t really say’ through to the aching sentimental breathiness of ‘fail beautiful’, Sinton’s songs are enchantingly approachable and speak with a comforting lyricism assuring you that, despite it all, everything is going to be alright. ‘slow learner’ is, quite truly, an anecdote of our age - an antidote for these times. Aside from musicianer, Josh Sinton leads the innovative Steve Lacy-repertory band Ideal Bread (with Kirk Knuffke, Tomas Fujiwara and Adam Hopkins) and is a long-standing member of the Nate Wooley Quintet and Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra. Drummer Chad Taylor is the founder of the Chicago Underground ensembles. He leads his own band Circle and has played with Jeff Parker, Marc Ribot, Derek Bailey and Peter Brotzmann. Jason Ajemian is one of the Chicago areas most in demand bass players. He leads the groups Folklords and High Life and is Helado Negro’s musical director. He has performed with Jeff Parker, Tony Malaby, Marc Ribot and Matana Roberts. ‘Slow learner’ was recorded in February 2017 at Greenwood Underground, Brooklyn, NY and mixed by the inimitable Eivind Opvisk (leader of Overseas and member of Opsvik & Jennings), whose role as co-producer made a significant contribution to the album’s innate sensibility. The album includes liner notes by famed Village Voice contributor and iconic critic, Greg Tate, providing a unique insight into Sinton’s creative process and the album’s message – informing and enhancing the listening experience.
The fourth volume of the series “Basement Sessions” have again (like the previous “Vol. 3”, with Jørgen Mathisen as special guest) an addition to the trio formed by Jonas Kullhammar, Torbjorn Zetterberg and Espen Aalberg, the name of the drummer showing this time upfront because the compositions have his authorship – the extra element now is the Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, presently living in Stockholm, as the other musicians here. Once again, the “mutated hard bop” concept followed by the band is in full application, but there’s a substantial difference confirming the subtitle “The Bali Tapes”, and not only to confirm that the recording was done in Indonesia: all the musicians play gamelan instruments besides their own, and among Aalberg’s pieces one is a Javanese traditional tune. There’s no contradiction of the new proceedings with the post-Coltranean identity of the project – faithfull to the spiritual explorations put in music by the late saxophonist, what we find here is a group ritual diving deep into the inner soul of jazz and the souls of everybody involved, with a mercurian drive and a lyricism that, in the middle of all the fire going on, keeps astonishingly elegant. The Swedish scene keeps surprising us with unexpected ideas put into old formats with aspects yet to discover, and Santos Silva shows, once again, that there’s no boundaries for creativity. A must listen, must have record of the present day European jazz.
‘Setembro’ is the brilliantly conceived and executed album from three supremely gifted and creative musical minds in Portuguese pianist Mário Laginha, English saxophonist Julian Argüelles and Norwegian percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken. Their combined maturity and vision has produced an album of sublime beauty and personality distinguished by effortless and flowing creativity. With propulsive grooves, complex but ever-lyrical melodies, and open-minded interaction ‘Setembro’ demonstrates the vitality and importance of what is great about contemporary jazz in Europe. Collectively the trio is able to surmount even these individual parts. The warmth of Mário Laginha’s pianism, the percussive energy of Helge Andreas Norbakken and the lyricism and English romanticism of Julian Argüelles bond on an album that is structurally bold, improvisationally audacious, emotionally open and undeniably beautiful. Argüelles has donated two compositions but it’s Mário Laginha who takes the major writing credit with eight songs. The brilliance and inventiveness of his writing illuminates this supremely gifted pianist and composer’s talents and although he’s relatively undiscovered outside Portugal, Setembro will be sure to ignite Mário’s profile throughout Europe and the world. Rooted in the various traditions of its members, but never less than modern, the music on the album pursues its subtle beat. Take Laginha’s Coisas de Terra. Pulsating with melodic and rhythmic intensity from the start the emphasis quickly shifts, opening a more subtle and emotive vista where the lyricism of Arguelles saxophone and an ostinato figure from the piano intertwine while Norbakken spatters expansive colours from his uniquely diverse percussive setup. The music is episodic and full of the delights of exploration viewed through the charisma of these great players. With Mário Laginha taking the majority of compositional credit, the aptly titled, Setembro, is an album that explodes in the warmth and energy of a Portuguese late summer in a celebration of what is great about European jazz today.
The first in the Canadian Composers Series of CDs is a double album of chamber works by Linda Catlin Smith, who was born in New York, but studied in Canada and has lived in Toronto for over 25 years. The album ‘Drifter’ contains ten pieces dating from 1995 to 2015 played by Quatuor Bozzini and Apartment House. In his introductory essay to the booklet accompanying the Canadian Composers CDs, Nick Storring says that “One of the primary tensions in Linda Catlin Smith's music is between its equal and simultaneous drive toward abstraction and lyricism…. Those who gravitate to the alluring melodic contours of Smith’s music and expect it to unfold along familiar lines will struggle when confronted with its lack of dramatic arc or formalised development. Conversely, those who are initially repelled by this same appearance are apt to be won over by its singular lucid-dream atmospherics.” In this extract from her interview in the Canadian series booklet, Smith talks about the music she liked as a student, and how she moved towards composing by ear rather than using a system or formal compositional method: What kind of music were you most interested in, and writing, when you were at University? I was interested in everything, I was always curious about new things. In high school, I was very attracted to Stravinsky, Ives, Bartok and Satie. At SUNY Stony Brook, I had a job ordering recordings for the music library, so I was able to listen to music from all over the world that was completely unknown to me. The library at the University of Victoria was also very good, and students were allowed to take out 6 records (LPs!) per week, so I would browse the stacks, bringing home armloads of recordings. The most influential pieces for me were John Cage's String Quartet in Four Parts from 1950, Anton Webern's Symphony Op. 21 and Morton Feldman's False Relationships and the Extended Ending, the only Feldman recording they had at the time. I listened to them over and over, as well as some early music recordings, particularly the music of Francois Couperin, Josquin des Prez and Guillaume Du Fay. When the composer Jo Kondo came to teach for a year at UVic, I had my ears completely opened by the course he gave on traditional Japanese music, especially Gagaku. Kondo's recording of his piece Standing was a complete inspiration to me. Kondo, Webern, Feldman, early Cage, Gagaku - these were my worlds. The music I was writing was generally exploratory: I toyed with 12-tone pitch methods, and other systems and processes. And then one year I had a key moment: I had written a chamber piece that was filled with complex rhythms and gestures, all derived by rather academic means. I just didn't feel attached to it at all. So I scrapped it entirely, and started over, writing only what I could hear. In the end, writing by ear made me feel more connected to what I was doing. The works became simple, more harmonic, and very much focused on orchestration and colour. In those years, I wrote my first string quartet, my first orchestra piece, and several chamber works including my first piece for Baroque instruments (soprano, Baroque flute and harpsichord), a sound world I love to this day. So do you still compose completely ‘by ear’ with no system at all? I would say that composing by ear is my system. I think of this as speculative composition - that is to say, I don’t plan everything in advance; rather, I respond to the material at hand on a moment-by-moment basis during the course of the creation of the work. This is not improvisation – not just writing whatever comes into my head, it’s not ‘anything goes’. It's a mode of working that calls for intense scrutiny, questioning, experimentation and a kind of ruthlessness in the process. This way of working – this system – is a combination of intuition and reflection, and most of all, listening. Behind it all, I am always wondering: what if…? What if it was longer, what if it was thinner, or higher, or brighter or more fluid? For the longest time with each work, I am unsure of what I am doing. But for me, when I don't know what I'm doing, I feel I am on the right track.“