Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Kneebody: Anti-Hero (MOTEMA MUSIC 2017)

With a constantly evolving sound that incorporates electronic music, rock and hip-hop, Kneebody has established themselves as one of the most forward-looking groups in jazz. Following their groundbreaking 2015 collaboration with IDM innovator Daedelus, the GRAMMY-nominated quintet bring raw energy, churning backbeats, and unrestrained exploration to their latest offering, Anti-Hero.

01 For the Fallen
02 Uprising
03 Drum Battle
04 Antihero
05 The Balloonist
06 For Mikie Lee
07 Profar
08 Carry On
09 Yes You
10 Austin Peralta

Gael Horellou Quintet - Coup De Vent (FRESH SOUND RECORDS 2017)

01. Melody 9:18
02. The Gale Force 6:42
03. Roy 5:28
04. GK 7:10
05. Spiral Dance 7:51
06. Moral de Fer 9:41
07. Blame It on My Youth 6:39
08. The Gale Force (Alternate take) 6:08

Recorded at Studio des Egreffins, France, July 3 & 4, 2017

Sound engineer: Nicholas Charlier
Mix engineer: Dume Poutet
Photography by Maëlle Truffa

Produced by Gael Horellou
Executive Producer: Jordi Pujol

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Mars Williams Presents: An Ayler Xmas (2017)

Mars Williams presents: An Ayler Xmas 
(The Music of Albert Ayler & Songs of Chrismas) 

For many years Witches & Devils, the long-running Albert Ayler tribute band led by saxophonist Mars Williams, have existed mostly as an excuse to get together and perform an annual Chicago holiday concert. 

For these memorable concerts, Williams merges a variety of Christmas songs with the indelible repertoire of free-jazz titan Ayler, who brought a scalding intensity to tunes rooted in gospel and spirituals. It may sound silly, but the performances are no joke, and they produce a seriously joyful noise. The band tackles warhorses like “O Tannenbaum” and “12 Days of Christmas” in the same smoldering fashion as their take on Ayler: the rhythm section bubbles and generates a kind of levitating intensity during the wonderfully expressive, multilinear theme statements, while the horns state familiar melodies in loose cries and the embellished lines of each player pull apart and coalesce in a naturalistic frenzy. Williams designs clever medleys that appropriate the pulse and feel of particular Ayler tunes as the band rips through a greatest-hits lineup of holiday tracks. - Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

1. Ma'oz Tzur (Hanukkah) - Truth Is Marching In - Jingle Bells 14:21
2. O Tannenbaum - Spirits - 12 Days Of Xmas 08:34
3. Angels We Have Heard On High - Omega Is Alpha 08:34

Josh Berman – Cornet
Fred Lonberg-holm - Cello
Jim Baker – Piano, Arp Synth, Viola
Kent Kessler - Bass
Brian Sandstrom – Bass, Guitar, Trumpet
Steve Hunt – Drums, Percussion

JR3 (Olaf Rupp / Rudi Mahall / Jan Roder) - Happy Jazz (RELATIVE PITCH RECORDS 2017)

By Paul Acquaro /

Ok, let's not judge this one by its cover. These guys do not exactly look like happy jazzers, but crack the CD open and listen, this is intense music, vivacious, vigorous, and full of lively twists and turns. 

Happy Jazz delves into free improvisation with zeal, electric guitar lines snake around expressive bass work while bass clarinet melodies range from sonorous to squelching. The total sound is replete with possibilities and the trio explores them all. JR3 is named after Jan Roder, the bassist in this Berlin-based trio, along with bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall and guitarist Olaf Rupp. All renowned members of the European experimental music scene, it is exciting to hear their restless music on the adventurous Relative Pitch label.

The title track begins with a gentle melody introduced by Mahall and soon accompanied by crisp atonal sweeps and crunchy tonal clusters from Rupp. In his more brittle moments, the guitar work is slightly reminiscent of Derek Bailey, but Rupp has a textural approach that is all his own. Roder, via elongated bowed notes and rapid pizzicato flights, connects the musicians with aplomb.

The group's close listening and lightning fast reactions are exemplified in the track 'Das Bildnes Der Doris Day'. Beginning with quick burst of activity from Rupp and a sizzling stream of notes from Mahall, the musicians seemingly go off in separate directions, yet always remaining tightly connected, finding ways to hook into each other's musical tangents. Another highlight, especially for the guitar fans, is 'Arm durch, Kopfuber', where Rupp can be heard dropping chord shards and spicy counter-melodies to Mahall's zig-zagging bass clarinet lines. His blustery scampers around the fret board is mesmerizing. Roder's solo, as much as it is a solo and not just the song, scratches, stretches, and slides about while Mahall loops around with bubbly melodic lines and hackle-raising squawks.

Happy Jazz is a really great document of contemporary free improvisation coming out of Berlin. It isn't always an easy album, but it is happy: the joy of playing, experimenting, and creating really shines through.

1) Happy Jazz 08:27
2) Dixie 1980 03:08
3) Happy Dogs 07:53
4) Das Bildnis der Doris Day 11:17
5) Arm durch, kopfüber 15:48
6) Rhinbuch Murmutationen 08:25
7) Das Jan aus einem Stück 15:10
8) Märkische Staubteufel 05:59

ADPC (Arszyn / Duda & Paper Cuts) - There Is No Conclusion (PAWLACZ PERSKI 2017)

Once again Krzysztof "Arszyn" Topolski and Tomasz Duda are guests at Pawlacz Perski premises. This time they are accompanied by Wojtek Kurek and Łukasz Kacperczyk, who previously - as Paper Cuts - released two cassettes in a befriended label called Wounded Knife. 'There is no conclusion' is a meeting of two duets improvising with each other on a daily basis, which results in multiplication of different levels of communication. For a demanding listener, it might be one of the great pathways to perceiving this material. Yet the content of the cassette is not only a series of abstract meetings. Thanks to the richness of sonoristic details the music on this album stimulates our imagination, and moreover its warm sound perfectly sticks to the tape record.

Recorded live in concert at Biuro Dźwięku Katowice (BDK) 16.04.2016. Sound engineer and recording by Michał Paduch. 

1. 12 To 16 19:41
2. Pan Radio 12:56
3. Bo Diddley 06:40

Tomasz Duda – saxophone
Łukasz Kacperczyk – modular synth
Wojtek Kurek – drums, percussion
Krzysztof Topolski – drums, percussion, radio

Mix: Krzysztof Topolski
Master: Tomasz Duda
Graphic design: Laura Kudlińska
Release formats: cassette + digital

Vankenhove / Caine / Ballard / Boisseau - Point of Views (CRISTAL RECORDS 2017)

« Point of views est le reflet de nos expériences, une passerelle entre deux continents, deux territoires, deux cultures, le jazz et la culture européenne.» Alain Vankenhove

Le pianiste Uri Caine avait fait appel au trompettiste Alain Vankenhove pour le projet Les Variations Goldberg en 2008 et la création The Othello Syndrome, mise en espace par Jacques Bonnaffé, en 2013. Cette collaboration réussie et l’originalité du parcours d’Uri Caine a suscité chez Alain Vankenhove l’envie de créer un répertoire pour un projet musical qui a pour base la volonté de confronter plusieurs univers.

Celui de la musique classique, que connait bien Uri Caine, celui du jazz afro-américain, et l’univers de la musique improvisée et du jazz européen tel que le joue Alain Vankenhove dans les formations de Bruno Régnier (le X’Tet), d’Alban Darche (Gros Cube) ou de son propre quartet.

Pour cette confrontation Alain Vankenhove a voulu une formule à quatre musiciens. Une formule équilibrée de musiciens habitués de l’éclectisme ; Uri Caine qui a largement exploré l’univers du jazz et du classique, le batteur Jeff Ballard qui accompagne des experts du métissage musical (Brad Meldhau, Pat Metheny, ….) et Sébastien Boisseau un des piliers du jazz européen (Gabor Gado, European Jazz Ensemble avec Joachim Kuhn,…).

Et le résultat de ces échanges de points de vue est à la hauteur des attentes : une musique classique, jazz, américaine, européenne… Universelle.

01 Mini Street de Alain Vankenhove 07:23
02 Délicatesse de Alain Vankenhove 04:26
03 Above Ocean de Alain Vankenhove 07:37
04 Cristal de Alain Vankenhove 06:05
05 Barocco de Alain Vankenhove 06:26
06 Royal Jazz Baby de Alain Vankenhove 02:37
07 Chorale de Alain Vankenhove 05:45
08 Humanity de Alain Vankenhove 05:25
09 Here and Now! de Alain Vankenhove 3:23

Alain Vankenhove, trompette, bugle & compositions
Uri Caine, piano
Jeff Ballard, batterie
Sébastien Boisseau, contrabasse

MSM Schmidt - Life (LAIKA RECORDS 2017)


Four decades have passed since the golden era of fusion, when groups like the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report and Return To Forever ruled the musical landscape. Today only a select few are still waving the flag for fusion. Chick Corea, at age 75, continues to fire up his Elektric Band on occasion while John McLaughlin, who at age 74 has announced that he will retire from touring at the end of 2017, is still killing it with his 4th Dimension Band. Joe Zawinul is gone but the powerhouse Zawinul Legacy Band continues in his spirit of fusing world music, rock and jazz. There’s also Human Element, a co-op group featuring keyboardist and Zawinul disciple Scott Kinsey, electric bass marvel Matthew Garrison, drummer Gary Novak and percussionist Arto Tuncboyaciyan. And bass great Jimmy Haslip, formerly of Yellowjackets, is reuniting with guitar slinger Robben Ford for another upcoming Jing-Chi project and also appears on the new Jeff Lorber Fusion album, Prototype.

Add to that list the name of Michael Schmidt, or as he prefers to be called, MSM Schmidt. The Bremen-born keyboardist-composer has been consistently turning out high quality jazz-rock recordings over the past decade with a Who’s Who in American Fusion as his sidemen. Bassist Haslip, who produced or co-produced Schmidt’s previous two outings — 2015’s Utopia and 2012’s Evolution — is back on board for Life, a staggering collection of funk fusion with some of the biggest names in that genre today, including guitarists Mike Miller and Oz Noy, keyboardists Kinsey and Mitchel Forman, saxophonist Steve Tavaglione, violinist Charlie Bisharat and a phalanx of superb drummers in Dave Weckl, Gary Novak, Virgil Donati and acclaimed German drummer Jost Nickel.

“This is my fifth project working with Michael and my third production for him,” said Haslip. “Over that time, I have found a real connection with Michael, his intellect and his passionate expression. Life is a culmination of his voice as a composer and synthesist. Working with Michael as a producer is always a beautiful challenge and quite rewarding on several levels and this project was a joy to work on. My hopes are that he will reach a larger widespread audience with the release of this new recording.”

Says Schmidt of his working relationship with bassist-producer Haslip: “We met in person for the first time after a ‘Tribute to Tony Williams’ concert with Allan Holdsworth in Berlin and immediately liked each other. With each project his role as a producer and his influence on the music has grown. He knows my favorites and by now has a carte blanche to select and contact the musicians and organize the recording sessions.”

This potent project, Schmidt’s sixth overall, also marks the final recorded performances of the late guitar hero Allan Holdsworth, who lends his astonishing legato lines to two songs on Life, the aptly-titled “Trance” and the posthumously-titled “Vista,” the name of the California town where the guitar great resided until his passing on Easter Sunday at the age of 70. “It has always been one of my dreams to feature Allan on one of my songs,” said Schmidt. “Thanks to Jimmy's initiative, this dream became true. And it came as a surprise, too, because Jimmy only told me after Allan's recording session was finished.”

Added Haslip, who played alongside Holdsworth in the guitarist’s group for the last ten years of his life (appearing on 2010’s 2-CD set, Blues For Tony): “I spent a couple of days with Allan in late January 2017 and watched over some of the final process of him editing and playing, but basically his process was best accomplished with no one around. He was a perfectionist with his own very meticulous method of compiling his music and his solos. He preferred to be alone during those days of preparing, studying the harmony at hand and then building and constructing his soloing on the two tunes he played on. He was brilliant and like no other musician I've ever worked with. His playing will always be ahead of its time, even though he would never cop to that, being such a very humble person. I was extremely appreciative to him for agreeing to play on the music and I will always be in awe of working with him.”

Originally a self-taught drummer, Schmidt transitioned to keyboards during the ‘90s as he began developing a knack for composition. “Over the years I discovered that playing drums did not put me in the position to influence songs,” he explained. “Therefore I started to learn to play keyboards and various music software to compose my own music. Realizing that my drumming skills were too limited, I discovered that it was more satisfying to compose music. And with the help of my friend Helge Mruck, who showed me how to play keyboards and create songs on the computer, I began composing. As time passed, keyboards and software became more and more user friendly, which made composing easier for me. Not knowing how to read and write notes, I searched for sounds that are close to the natural instrument I had in mind, so that musicians who I wanted to play the music got an impression of my idea. However, I always needed the support of professionally educated musicians who were able to put my music into playable charts.”

And once again, Schmidt is supported by the cream of the fusion crop on Life.

The album kicks off with the kinetic groover “Trance,” underscored by Weckl’s authoritative backbeat and featuring some brisk soprano sax lines from Katisse Buckingham, a member of the Zawinul Legacy Band. Kinsey delivers an exhilarating synth solo on this aggressive number and Holdsworth contributes one of his patented mind-blowing legato solos to quickly elevate the proceedings.

Novak paces the melodic “Saudade City,” which features a soaring soprano sax solo from Andy Snitzer and an edgy fusion guitar solo from Mike Miller. “Vista,” dedicated to Allan Holdsworth, rides on Donati’s insistent groove. John Daversa delivers a haunting muted trumpet solo here while Holdsworth extended jaw-dropping solo is followed by a furious flurry on the kit by Donati.

The percolating, African flavored 6/8 jam on “Life” is fueled by Nickel’s muscular drumming and features a buoyant frontline of Tavaglione overdubbing flutes and soprano sax. Schmidt’s chorus of programmed handclaps and Sophia Wackerman’s wordless vocals add to the uplifting vibe of this highly-charged number. Haslip also turns in a resounding fretless bass solo here and is followed by potent solos from guitarist Miller and Tavaglione sailing over the top on soprano sax.

“Red & Gold” is an infectious world music flavored groove powered by Donati’s solid backbeat and the strong piano comping of Ruslan Sirota, a Ukranian pianist-composer who came to Schmidt’s attention as a member of the Stanley Clarke Group at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands. This ebullient number features a bracing violin solo from former Mahavishnu Orchestra member Jerry Goodman along with a heroic wah-wah soaked guitar solo from Oz Noy and a rousing piano solo from Sirota.

The driving “Exodus” is a large ensemble showcase featuring a stellar horn section comprised of saxophonists Bob Mintzer, Brandon Field and Snitzer alongside the Fowler Brothers (Walt on trumpet and Bruce on trombone, both formerly of the Frank Zappa band). Nickel anchors this swaggering bit little big band funk which features killer solos from guitarist Miller, tenor saxophonist Mintzer and soprano saxophonist Snitzer.

“Rush” is a slap bass feature for the incredible MonoNeon (aka Dwayne Thomas, jr.), a YouTube sensation and protege of Prince and Screaming Headless Torsos guitarist David “Fuze” Fiuczynski. Weckl lays down the slamming groove while Sirota comps persuasively on the Rhodes before adding a nimble, Herbie Hancock influenced solo. Larry Koonse contributes a warm-toned flowing guitar solo and MonoNeon adds a fluid fretless bass solo on this invigorating number.
“Medusa” is a menacing bit of slow-grooving funk-fusion paced by the formidable tandem of Donati and Haslip and featuring a potent Rhodes solo from Kinsey. Oz adds a ripping distortion-laced guitar solo that is brimming with urgent speed-picking and audacious fretboard flights while Donati showcases a touch of metric modulation on his drum solo before erupting on the kit with abandon at the tag.

“RE-Start” is a buoyant bit of future funk fueled by the tight tandem of Novak and Haslip along with Schmidt’s kinetic synth sequences. Snitzer carries the melody on soprano sax while Noy showcase his heavy metal bebop chops on a fuzz-inflected guitar solo. Keyboardist Andy Milne also stretches out on a potent Rhodes solo here. The album closes with a short reprise of the title track, which reveals a significant world music influence.

“I would definitely describe my music as fusion,” says Schmidt. “My influences come from bands like Metro, The Yellowjackets, Weather Report and Steps Ahead and also from film scores from the eighties. I am a big fan of the French composer Michel Colombier, who lived in Los Angeles for many years and wrote scores for movies such as Purple Rain and The Golden Child, both synthesizer-heavy scores with drum programming.”

All those myriad influences come together in brilliant fashion on Life, another fully realized project from the pen of MSM. — Bill Milkowski

Bill Milkowski is a regular contributor to Down Beat and Germany’s Jazzthing magazine. He is also the author of “JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius (Backbeat Books)

1. Trance (feat. Dave Weckl, Allan Holdsworth, Scott Kinsey, Jimmy Haslip & Katisse Buckingham) 6:02
2. Saudade City (feat. Gary Novak, Andy Snitzer, Scott Kinsey, Mike Miller, Ruslan Sirota & Jimmy Haslip) 7:32
3. Vista (feat. Virgil Donati, Allan Holdsworth, John Daversa, Andy Milne & Jimmy Haslip) 8:20
4. Life (Long Version) [feat. Jost Nickel, Mike Miller, Steve Tavaglione, Jimmy Haslip & Sophia Wackermann] 8:11
5. Red and Gold (feat. Virgil Donati, Ruslan Sirota, Jerry Goodman, Oz Noy & Jimmy Haslip) 6:19
6. Exodus (feat. Jost Nickel, Mitch Forman, Mike Miller, Brandon Fields, Andy Snitzer, Bob Mintzer, Bruce Fowler, Walt Fowler, Charlie Bisharat & Jimmy Haslip) 6:59
7. Rush (feat. Dave Weckl, MonoNeon, Ruslan Sirota, John Daversa & Larry Koonse) 7:19
8. Medusa (feat. Virgil Donati, Scott Kinsey, Oz Noy & Jimmy Haslip) 7:39
9. Re Start (feat. Gary Novak, Oz Noy, Andy Milne, Andy Snitzer & Jimmy Haslip) 6:45
10. Life (Short Version) [feat. Jost Nickel, Mike Miller, Steve Tavaglione, Sophia Wackerman & Jimmy Haslip] 5:29

Line up:
Charlie Bisharat, Katisse Buckingham, John Daversa, Virgil Donati, Brandon Fields, Mitchel Forman, Bruce Fowler, Walt Fowler, Jerry Goodman, Jimmy Haslip, Allan Holdsworth, Scott Kinsey, Larry Koonse, Mike Miller, Andy Milne, Bob Mintzer, MonoNeon, Jost Nickel, Gary Novak, Oz Noy, Michael Schmidt, Ruslan Sirota, Andy Snitzer, Steve Tavaglione, Sophia Wackerman, Dave Weckl

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Jonas Cambien / Adrian Myhr - Simiskina (CLEAN FEED RECORDS 2017)

The elegance and complex delicacy of contemporary classical music and the drive and energy of jazz-rooted improvisation cross characteristics in the very special duo formed by Belgian-born, but residing in Oslo, pianist Jonas Cambien and the Norwegian double bassist Adrian Myhr. A member of the chamber music ensemble Aksiom, Cambien can develop tachycardic and jumping lines like the ones we heard from Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor with the same naturality he takes us to the intrincate universes of Ligeti and Messiaen. And if his hands seem to melt over the keyboard, the moving preparations he proceeds when dealing directly with the guts of the piano are no less intriguing than the ones proposed by Benoît Delbecq or Denman Maroney. Myhr has a similar relationship with his instrument, using it as a laboratory of investigation, without forgetting its history outside the orchestral format. Listening to their respective performances with the bands Platform and Karokh (Cambien) and with music explorers like Tobias Delius, Axel Dorner and Tony Buck (Myhr) makes us understand – even before clicking in the Play bottom which drops us inside “Simiskina” – the motives for this encounter. Free improvised music few times seemed so focused, so clean of superfluous elements and so exquisite than in these selection of pieces. A must have, must listen.

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Playlist for Tom Ossana – The Thin Edge – December 27, 2017 MST 7:00 to 9:00p.m. ~ Use this link to access the show online.