Saturday, January 21, 2017

George Lewis - The Will to Adorn (NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS 2017)

George Lewis is a modern musical polymath, in the truest sense of the word. As the legendary trombonist and pioneering member of the Chicago based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Lewis was a driving force in one of the most important movements in improvised music in the last decades of the 20th century.

His work with interactive computer software has transformed the fields of electro-acoustic music and virtual instruments. He has had an equally large impact on the academic community, both through his publications and his mentoring of student composers and performers alike. Lewis’s work as a composer fuses the many facets of his musicianship together, and his collaboration with ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) documented here on this recording, gives us an opportunity to see the wide net that he casts. The recording opens with the title track, a boisterous and colorful ensemble work that is inspired by Zora Neale Hurston’s 1934 essay, “Characteristics of Negro Expression.” Hurston’s description of churchgoing folks’ penchant for “decorating a decoration” captivated Lewis, and the piece manifests that exuberance through explosive, embellished lines, glitchy off-kilter grooves, and subtly shaded microtonal chords. Shadowgraph, 5 and Artificial Life 2007 are both examples of Lewis’s open-form scores, in which he strives to facilitate a structured improvisation experience through non-standard notation.

Shadowgraph was written for the AACM big band, comprised of a series of symbol instructions, and is among pieces Lewis wrote for what he calls the “creative orchestra.” Artificial Life 2007 was written for the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, and seeks to “exteriorize the process of decision-making” inherent in improvised playing through more explicit text instructions. Born Obbligato was written for ICE as a companion piece to Beethoven’s Septet op. 20. Lewis borrows structural and textural ideas from Beethoven’s septet, and also adds percussion to the fourth movement, performed here by virtuoso Steven Schick.

The recording closes with Lewis’s performance of T.J. Anderson’s In Memoriam Albert Lee Murray, a writer and colleague of Anderson who often chose the African-American musical tradition as his subject matter and the departure point for inspiration.

01. Will To Adorn 14:20
02. Shadowgraph, 5 05:14
03. Artificial Life, 2007 04:57
04. Born Obbligato I. 06:44
05. Born Obbligato II. 02:59
06. Born Obbligato III. 03:26
07. Born Obbligato IV. 03:55
08. Born Obbligato V. 01:30
09. Born Obbligato VI. 05:47
10. In Memoriam Albert Lee Murray 03:08

Engineers: Silas Brown (track 1), Ross Karre (track 2-3), Jessica Slaven (tracks 4-6, 8-9), George Lewis (track 7), Ryan Streber (track 10) 

Recording locations: 
Track 1 Miller Theatre, Columbia University, NY, NY 
Track 2 Roulette, Brooklyn, NY 
Track 3 Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center 
Track 4-6, 8-9 Abrons Arts Center 
Track 7 Clark Studio Theatre, Lincoln Center, NY 
Track 10 Oktaven Audio, Mt. Vernon, NY

Trish Clowes - My Iris (BASHO RECORDS 2017)

‘My Iris’ is a new project from BASCA award winning composer and saxophonist Trish Clowes. Following collaborations with string quartets and the BBC Concert Orchestra, My Iris shifts Clowes’ perspective to the possibilities of a small ensemble. With Chris Montague on guitar, Ross Stanley on piano and Hammond organ and James Maddren on drums, My Iris explores startling melodies, earthy grooves and gnarly lines, creating a sound world that is both intimate and thrilling. The ensemble has honed these musical concepts in major performances including the Women in (e)Motion Festival for Radio Bremen, the Deal Festival and at the Southbank Centre. The group’s first recording, Clowes’ fourth album for Basho Records, will be released on 13th January 2017 with accompanying tour dates across the country.

The album includes Muted Lines by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian - commissioned by Clowes with support from the PRS for Music Foundation - and Clowes’ sister piece Tap Dance (For Baby Dodds). The works share a theme of migration, in particular forced migration; Muted Lines addresses loss and silence from the perspective of Cevanne’s Armenian heritage and features a 16th Century poem by Nahapet Kuchak. Tap Dance is built upon fragments of a Baby Dodds drum solo, celebrating the birth of the drum set and its central role in the music of the African diaspora. Blue Calm evokes the multifaceted Iris, messenger to the Greek and Roman gods, and One Hour imagines the additional hour of dreaming and brain repair afforded when the clocks go back. In Between The Moss and Ivy is Clowes’ ballad of an English garden, Be A Glow Worm responds to some gnomic advice from a wise musician and A Cat Called Behemoth acts as a sequel to Clowes’ earlier Mikhail Bulgakov-inspired piece ‘The Master and Margarita’. In addition to Clowes’ thoughtful writing, the group also explore dynamics, textures, exciting interaction and fiery improvisation. ‘My Iris’ represents a new chapter in Clowes’ career and is her most assured album to date.


16/01/2017 Jazzwise

a poise and depth that is rewarding

12/01/2017 Irish Times 4 stars ****

the front rank of the new generation of UK jazz

12/01/2017 John Fordham, The Guardian 4 stars****

Clowes’s emphasis on composition, and the reserved evenness of her delivery often get her a “chamber-jazz” label, but the Englishwoman’s quirky songwriter’s ear, subtly sleepy tenor sax sound and bright intensity on soprano are anything but cerebral.

11/01/2017 Matthew Wright, The Arts Desk

'To achieve that range of sounds with a jazz quartet requires rare skill. How much other contemporary music has such adventurous or eclectic intellectual horizons?'

04/01/2017 Fiona Talkington, BBC Radio 3 Late Junction

“ A stunning new album which proves firmly thatTrish Clowes is one of the core artists on the British jazz and contemporary scene”

19/12/2016 Stephen Graham, Marlbank

One Hour  7:20
Blue Calm 6.28
I Can't Find My Other Brush 7.00
A Cat Called Behemoth 7:30
Muted Lines 6:28
Tap Dance (for Baby Dodds) 5:41
In Between The Moss And Ivy 6:26
Be A Glow Worm 4:21

Trish Clowes – saxes
Chris Montague – guitar
Ross Stanley – piano / Hammond organ
James Maddren – drums

Ellery Eskelin / Christian Weber / Michael Griener - Sensations of Tone (INTAKT RECORDS 2017)

The trio with Ellery Eskelin, Christian Weber and Michael Griener presents an extraordinary album: on Sensations Of Tone the New York saxophonist, the Berlin drummer and the Swiss bassist play Free Music as well as Traditional Jazz. 

"We dug more deeply into our improvisations and looked directly at this shared affinity for early jazz", Ellery Eskelin writes in the liner notes.

The Eskelin-Weber-Griener trio does not fuse the individual ways of playing, it alternates and contrasts. Each of the beautiful standards «Shreveport Stomp», «China Boy», «Moten Swing» and «Ain’t Misbehavin’» is followed by free improvisations. Ellery Eskelin writes: "Separating these performances (rather than mixing them) exposed the ways in which the same «tones» can elicit very different «sensations».

And depending upon your own subjective views, despite the obvious differences, there may well be unexpected similarities to be found." A wonderful music, beyond categories.

Soundsamples of this CD

Schweiz: 30 SFr. plus 3 SFr. Porto
Deutschland/Österreich: 18 Euro plus 3.00 Euro Porto/Versand
International: VISA / MASTER: 30 SFr. plus 4 SFr. Postage
Order adress: Intakt Records, Postfach 468, 8024 Zürich, Fax: 0041-1-383 82 33

Yelena Eckemoff Quintet - Blooming Tall Phlox (2017) 2 CD

By: Carol Banks Weber  AXS Contributor

In a way, Yelena Eckemoff has spent her entire life breathing “in the happiness” of her childhood. Originally from the poem, “Scented candles and sparkling wine,” accompanying her latest album, this sentiment emboldens the Russian pianist and composer’s original works of art — of which there are many.

A prolific artist with a million ideas, Eckemoff follows up her May 2016 release, Leaving Everything Behind, with Blooming Tall Phlox. She actually worked on Blooming Tall Phlox earlier, recording the two-disk album in Finland Sept. 4-6, 2013 — two years before Leaving Everything Behind, currently on DownBeat’s “Best Albums of 2016.”

Both albums directly touch on her childhood in Russia, surrounded by a loving, extended family, the source of all her imaginative understanding.

In Blooming Tall Phlox (L&H Production), which comes out Jan. 20 officially, Eckemoff once again uses other media at her disposal and her discretion to bring her childhood to life. True to her classical-jazz impressionism, Eckemoff sees humanity in nature and objects of man-made construction.

Memories are found there, and she knows it. Blooming Tall Phlox features an assortment of memories divided into two distinct categories based on the seasons of summer and winter. She devotes a foreign indie soundtrack to such things as “Apples laid out on the floor,” “Fish fried on open fire,” “Pine Needles warmed by the sun” — Disc 1 “Summer Smells” — and “Grandpa Lera’s bookcase,” “Mommy’s shawl,” and “Aunt Galya’s perfume” — Disc 2 “Winter Smells.”

For this extensive two-disk, 15-track album, Eckemoff plays with a group of musicians from overseas, Finland to be exact. They are Verneri Pohjola (trumpet, flugelhorn), Panu Savolainen (vibes), Antti Lötjönen (double bass), and Olavi Louhivuori (drums, percussion).

If music held the key to the spirits of loved ones, somehow Eckemoff has found a form of two-way communication. As in previous releases, she designed the album, she painted the cover of herself as a child amongst her beloved phlox, and she wrote the poems that glimpse even more of the feeling and thought behind the notes.

The love notes themselves are vastly detailed, yet dreamy, dense yet ethereal, reflective yet enlightening, confident yet full of give and take — traits Eckemoff shares.

This is an album to absorb in its entirety, from start to finish, with frequent browsing of the poetry and the art, a brief rumination of one’s own childhood memories and the possessions left behind.

Individual moments also convey a sense of nostalgia, longing, even a mystical wonder. The fairy dust of Eckemoff’s own piano intro on “Blooming Tall Phlox,” the percussive flap and flutter mimicking “Baba Liza’s Singer” sewing machine, the slick sensation of a horn’s tension and release on “Talks Over Hot Tea”… these things depict a child’s wonder at the everyday things adults take for granted.

To a child, there is still magic in the air, in everything she and those she holds dear touch.

Eckemoff’s modern jazz touches remain impressive, however. This is no atmospheric run, as evidenced strongly in “Apples laid out on the floor.” Everyone on this straight-ahead, post-modern piece exhibits a tactile sensation relevant to jazz’s harmonic building blocks and that sweet exchange of instrumental titles.

Eckemoff herself shows a mastery of both her classical training and later jazz interests in this composition especially. Her inflective, interior piano journey on “Apples laid out…” stands alone, no accompaniment necessary. The accompanying musicians, however, only add to the benefit of the overarching ideas of sensory perception in memories idealized through childhood.

They capture those idealized memories from sense of smell to music entirely. Don’t look for rough-hewn, nihilistic realism here. Eckemoff’s above that.

Yelena Eckemoff is a bandleader who uses every single resource exceptionally. Nothing ever goes to waste in her hands, either.

“I had the idea of writing music about smell for some time before I met with [drummer] Olavi [Louhivuori] in Finland,” Eckemoff explained in a DL Media press release. “The idea came into focus when I saw how much Finland reminded me of Russia; it became obvious to me that it would be the best place to record an album about various aromas.

I brought 15 songs to the session, already named and designed to express certain smells. Writing the poetry came later, even though I nurtured my ideas along with the music. Then I had to select a title for the album, but as I was writing my poems, it became clear that there is one smell that triggers my childhood memories: the smell of the phlox. So I decided to paint a picture of myself in my grandparent's garden, sniffing the phlox, based on a black and white photograph from the time.”

Disc 1
01. Blooming Tall Phlox
02. Apples laid out on the floor
03. Baba Liza's Singer
04. Old - fashioned bread store
05. Wildflower meadows
06. Fish fried on open fire
07. Sleeping in the tent
08. Pine needles warmed by the sun

Disc 2
01. Smoke from the house chimneys in frosty air
02. Talks over hot tea
03. Grandpa Lera's bookcase
04. Clementines and candies on Christmas Tree
05. Mommy's shawl
06. Aunt Galya's perfume
07. Scented candies and sparkling wine

Verneri Pohjola: trumpet, flugelhorn
Panu Savolainen: vibraphone
Antti Lötjönen: double bass
Olavi Louhivuori: drums, percussion

Jim Black - Malamute (INTAKT RECORDS 2017)

Malamute is Jim Black’s latest gathering of like-minded musical souls. The band toured Europe for the first time in May 2015 performing sketches of the music to be, experimenting with different ways songs and structures could be recombined to reflect on each of their musical voices, distilling a band sound from their chemistry.

One year later Malamute went into the studio with new compositions and arrangements recording their debut album. Based upon the idea of mix tapes and playlists, the music changes every few minutes, a sort of “short attention span” approach to improvisation and composition that keeps the listener engaged there it was time to form a band together.”

01. Almost Awake 3:57
02. Toys Everywhere 4:34
03. Dusk Scout 3:27
04. Chase Rabbit 3:57
05. Into The Pool 2:57
06. Stray 5:51
07. Just Turned Two 5:27
08. Sought After 3:46
09. Cool Doze 2:31
10. Eat Everything 4:08
11. Full Dish 5:40
12. Pugged 2:22
13. No Leash 3:44

Óskar Guðjónsson: Tenor Saxophone
Elias Stemeseder: Keyboards
Chris Tordini: Electric Bass
Jim Black: Drums & Sampler

Soundsamples of this CD

Schweiz: 30 SFr. plus 3 SFr. Porto/Versand
Deutschland/Österreich: 18 Euro plus 3 Euro Porto/Versand
International: VISA / MASTER: 30 SFr. plus 4.50 SFr. Postage