Monday, June 25, 2018

Jim Hobbs Trio - Babadita (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"Jim Hobbs plays with a sharp and peppery saxophone sound and has a tight trio who take a firm grip on the music, directions are clearly indicated from the outset. Theirs is not a music which suffers from hesitation. The thrust and power is there and so is the skill and knowledge. Vehemence and hot-headedness exist side by side with ritual incantation and rhyme. The childlike aspect is united with the youthful fervor." 
Thomas Millroth, Gränslöst, February 1995

"He's absorbed Ornette's style of playing without copying it. He's really taking harmolodics in a new direction," says Bern Nix (former Coleman Prime Time guitarist) about alto saxist Jim Hobbs of the Fully Celebrated Orchestra, a collective ensemble with bassist Timo Shanko and drummer Django Carranza (appearing on their debut Silkheart CD Babadita).

What initially led Hobbs to listen to Coleman's early trio recordings was his fascination with trumpeter Don Cherry. "I liked the way he would smear a bebop line," said Hobbs. After hearing Cherry on Coleman's landmark This Is Our Music, Hobbs immersed himself in Cherry's efforts, listening to Orient, Where's Brooklyn? and Symphony for the Improvisers. From these recordings, he went on to...  more

1. Off Blue Shirt 05:51
2. A Possé 04:01
3. Balderama-Lama-Ding-Dong 03:42
4. Chandini 04:36
5. B. Now C. 03:12
6. Devil Sews Expensive Clothes 05:06
7. Quit Stallin' 05:19
8. Pulaski Skyway 02:07
9. The Moon, a Star and a Little Red Car 07:11
10. The Ol' Pick and Roll 05:41
11. V 02:09
12. (Up Against a Wall) With a Chicken Wing 04:58
13. Babadita 07:48
14. Travel Song 04:46
15. Bad Medicine 04:30

Jim Hobbs alto saxophone
Timo Shanko bass
Django Carranza drums

Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble - South Side Street Songs (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"Given the strength of South Side Street Songs, it is almost frightening to think that this band probably still has a lot of unrealized potential. Certainly the broad stylistic terrain mapped out here would reward further exploration. In the meantime, we have this noteworthy milestone, which ranks with the best of Silkheart's stellar jazz catalog."
Glenn Good, Cadence, June 1994

HOT JAZZ - bold and brash, music with energy, music that stimulates the nerves and spirit; the term "hot jazz" is irresistibly linked to Chicago jazz. Great Chicago bands such as King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Louis Ammstrong's Hot Five and Seven, Jelly Roll Morton's original Red Hot Peppers are famous examples (remember, those bands never played in New Orleans). More than that, the players in those bands complemented, supported, and inspired one another. Both the heat and the true band spirit were evident in the finest jazz that emerged from Chicago a few generations later by the early Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams groups, Air, and the Art Ensemble.

And now Chicago presents Ernest Dawkins and the New Horizons Ensemble. Like their illustrious predecessors, they play hot band music, and they, too, are among the finest jazz bands of their time, anywhere. It's exciting music to hear - New Horizons' music is enthusiastic, energetic, and perhaps inevitably, Chicago being the kind of city it is, rich with the substance of the blues.

This disc's title is perfect: "I want to call it SOUTH SIDE STREET SONGS," says Ernest Dawkins. the delightfully startling alto saxophonist, composer, and leader of New Horizons. "The compositions came out of the environment that I grew up in as a little boy, hearing the watermelon man, the fire engines, the riots, the first man on the moon, the scenes on the streets - the sweet and sour kinds of sounds, the melodious and atonal things that you see and hear, and some things are bizarre, too - all of that." 

There was music around him, too. Anthony Braxton and Chicago bop tenorman Sonny Seals lived nearby, and Emest heard them practising their saxophones. Since he grew up in the '50s and '60s, his first loves included the likes of Smoky Robinson and the Temptations. On the other hand, his father played Charlie Parker records for him and took him to that grandest of Chicago theaters, the original Regal, to hear Count Basie and Duke Ellington (many years later, Ernest was told that trumpeter Willie Cook was a distant relative). In boyhood he had a chum, Ameen Muhammad, and, "When I was eight I used to play bass and Ameen used to play guitar. After that I started playing drums and he started playing clarinet." About 1973, when Ernest settled on the saxophone, "My father said, 'I'm not buying you anything else, you're going to have to get it yourself'. My first saxophone was an old World War II silver Conn that my friend's father sold to me for $15 it's still a good horn." 

By then, jazz was clearly Ernest's music While practising in Washington Park one day he met bassoonist James Johnson, who encouraged him to attend the AACM School. There, on his first day, Ernest's teachers "tried to have me play 'Hot House', or some other hard Bird tune I was just learning. I was, 'Okay, you got me this time, but I'll be back."' He enrolled at the Vandercook College of Music, "got my thing together, and after 6 or 7 months I came back." His AACM teachers included Joseph Jarman, Chico Freeman, and Douglas Ewart, "It was original, and I was young and inquisitive I went everywhere to see everything "I came through a tradition - there are certain things you're supposed to do, certain people to study with. You're supposed to go to Von Freeman's jam sessions on Monday nights, then you're supposed to play in the AACM Big Band, and I played in Jimmy Ellis's workshop band. Then we had our own jam sessions, that's the only way to learn how to play, hands-on "

By 1979 he'd met Ben Israel and the expansive drummer Reggie Nicholson, and with old friend Muhammad he formed New Horizons; in another year or so Steve Berry joined. From the beginning New Horizons' fire was manifest. They embraced free jazz, modes, and hard bop, for, says Emest, "That's one thing Muhal taught me: Play it all, don't limit yourself. Some guys learn a period and style of jazz and they become that period and style. I was told, you learn it, then even if always you try to throw it away, it's always there. People can't pigeonhole us, because we carry the elements of traditional jazz but we also have the elements of the other side of music " New Horizons grew together. Its foundation was the very best possible kind: the terrific swinging drive of Ben Israel's bass, over which it would surely be impossible to play without fire and swing. The ecstatic abstractions of Muhammad's trumpet grew in time to embrace more lyrical lines, while the lyricism of Berry grew in ingenuity and expressiveness and Dawkins' alto sax art gained potent structural definition.

Throughout the '80s they played plenty of concerts, then added club dates, festival dates, and toured in Europe and America. Late in the decade, when Nicholson moved to New York, Avreeayl Ra was moving back to Chicago after extensive tours with Sun Ra's Arkestra; the master of a world of rhythmic intrigue, he inflamed New Horizons with his excitement. In 1992, then, Dawkins met Jeff Parker: "When I heard him, I said, 'That's the other ingredient, a little spice in this jambalaya.' All the ingredients unto themselves are meals, and when you mix it up, you make this dish." 

Ah, those ingredients. The growly solo that Muhammad molds out of a rude phrase in the first "Maghostut", the heat and mocking humor of his "Whence to Whither" solo, the marvelous interplay of trumpet and drums in "El Hajj". If Muhammad virtually defines 'hot jazz', Berry at least seems more intimate yet even his somber solo at the beginning of "Whence to Whither" is superbly varied in phrasing, and there are his very much alive solos in both "Maghostut"s. In contrast to his mates' rugged extroversion Jeff Parker plays guitar with a sweet sound - note especially his lovely tones and melodies in "Whence to Whither". Dawkins' phrase structures are recurringly call-answer in shape and his solo forms theme-derived, cherish Ameen Muhammad his bite and staccato lyricism "Goldinger", his brief passage of lovely, singing alto that concludes "Half-Step for Granny", his long, dramatically staged "Just Is Me" solo, eventually propelled by Ra into the extreme alto ranges, and the richness of sound and near-bop phrasing of his (for a change) tenor sax in "Maghostut". Ra, whose ever-active interplay inspires so much of this music, makes "Ashes and Dust" his showpiece, while Ben Israel, whose swing and harmonic instincts are crucial to this disc's success, offers a fine solo in "Just Is Me". 

All are lyric improvisers, oriented to swinging. It's the compositions that unite them into a band, and Ernest's writing has grown in color, detail, and authority over the years. Originally, he says, he composed brief tunes; now, "I try to do more extended pieces. The writing is a little more angular now. Most of my harmonies are melodic, but some weren't as atonal as they are now. I think a composition can stretch the group's imaginations and capabilities out into another approach, to another level. I want to go a little further. When I get to the level of Braxtoniancy, then I know I'm there." 

This program is a typically varied selection of inside and outside grooves. "'Ashes and Dust' is one of our old standards - we've been playing it since the group started. Though its inspiration was a meditation on 'the end of life as we know it on this earth - the bodies turn to ashes and dust, but the spirit lives on', the performance proves to be a musical forest fire, Ra pouring gasoline on the flames. And New Horizons has been playing "Just Is Me", with its stunning opening phrase, since the mid- 1980s. The rest of these works were composed in 1992. "Half Step for Granny" is dedicated to Ernest's late grandmother, Linnie Benjamin. "El Hajj" is El Hajj Malik El Shabazz - Malcolm X - and the tempo is medium-up, the harmonic setting earthy. The fast "Goldinger", not to be confused with gilded fingers, was composed for a black artists' group concert at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Two works are, I think, especially formidable settings for New Horizons' mastery. "Whence to Whither" is an abridged version of a long work that Ernest composed for a Meet The Composer grant. New Horizons first played it at Southend Musicworks, which with Hot House, is Chicago's leading new music showcase. It is a succession of moods and tempos, recurringly changing, and arriving at some complex interplay of truly sustained improvising.

The other is "Maghostut" (the 'g' is silent), dedicated to Malachi Favors Maghostut, the master bassist who replaced Ben Israel on New Horizons' first European tour in 1986; it's also dedicated to the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Not only do the two versions here capture the Art Ensemble's subversive humor, with bursts of chatters, growls, collective wailing, and perverse tempos - the theme is one of those get-next-to-you lines that sounds as if it was more discovered than composed-something inherent in jazz's chromosomes, like Monk's "Blue Monk", Morton's "Dead Man Blues", Fred Anderson's "Saxoon", Henry Threadgill's "Bermuda Blues". It's no accident that New Horizons offers an encore version of "Maghostut" on this disc, for the way they play it, with their contrasting sounds and lyricism, their wit and fire, certainly does call for more. Hot jazz, indeed!, from one of the most gifted and stimulating jazz bands of the 1990s.

John Litweiler
Author of Ornette Coleman: A Harmolodic Life

1. Whence to Whither 14:03
2. Maghostut 08:50
3. Goldinger 06:17
4. Half-Step for Granny 03:49
5. Ashes and Dust 05:46
6. El Hajj 04:54
7. Just is Me 13:06
8. Maghostut Two 08:59

Ernest Dawkins alto sax, tenor sax, flute
Steve Berry trombone
Ameen Muhammad trumpet
Jeffery Parker electric guitar
Yosef Ben Israel bass
Avreeayl Ra drums

Joel Futterman Trio - Berlin Images (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

Futterman's restless churning lines are countered by the questing trumpet of former Cecil Taylor associate Raphé Malik, who, along with drummer Robert Adkins makes The World Watched and Ask The Price enticing, thought provoking experiences. The collection's closing title, There Is Peace, provides the listener with a intensely swirling, though decidedly less harrowing, aural imagery." 
Reuben Jackson, Jazz Times, April 1993

Berlin Images 

The trail of the decades we call home is recorded in certain cities as though they were dry lake beds or rock strata. These cities have spoken names whose associative sonorities come from the various ways in which they have marked our century. When the name Berlin is said, the sound is longer than its syllables, and bronze: the name has been heated, cast, tolled, scrapped, re-melted, and poured again. And has yet to be let out of the foundry as finished.

Because so little of the instant mindscan of gyrating, mutable Berlin seems commonplace, one of the residual unspoken charges against the Berlin Wall is that it was ordinary (seen from the West). And in its perversity, bewitchingly humanscale. It also, in the American perspective, came to seem like the last chapter: the sullen change that would forever make an eventful place into something static as well as partitioned.

American Improvised music is of its moment, but not always of its time. The Wall was a big-story barricade, framed as it hardened by a thrust to push those kinds of things aside elsewhere. Improvising composers of the period, continuing a grand general tradition of genteel indifference wanted not much to do with this galvanic political rostrum, not musically, at any rate.

As the Wall settled into its tenure, it also became a powerful icon that confirmed thematic art which had preceded it while inspiring fresh attempts to grapple with what it had come to represent. Here again the appeal of such a focus was largely lost on the improvising community in the U.S. Despite odes to such luminary structures as the Watts Towers or the Williamsburg Bridge, American improvised music has not been routinely based on static, man-made icons, regardless of scale or merit. Musicans in the States have typically been far more directly involved with matters of flux, immediacy, torsion, reactivity - the muscle tone of human living.

In this light, the changing of the border landscape from political experiment to tidal human experience will likely prove to be a subject of equally surging allure to composers and improvisers. As evidence this superbly titled recording, among the initial wave of referential works in the post-wall world, devotes itself entirely to the episode. 

In fact, the lineage of the program here is rather unusual. Its spur came from producer Philip Egert, who wrote the poem which inspired this music during the peripatetic (parapetic) meeting of the Wall and its new owners. Pianist and composer Joel Futterman, having been as equally affected by those events as Egert, took the poem straight to heart and song, creating the three sections which comprise this recording. The poem "Berlin Images", incidentally, is one of series of works by Egert for which Futterman has written music, making this effort more that a casual collaboration. Egert then oversaw the subsequent recording session with this trio, thus able to hear the results of the partnership with all due immediacy.

The business of non-industrial music making is not without its quick rewards. 

With that having been a rather circular experience, the project's creative genesis was also a centrifugal and accumulative process which owes its shape to a fortuitous confluence of time and events. Berlin has always been a notoriously nocturnal city, and typically reserved many of its major open border rave-ups for times of night that were truly after hours by any standards. That timing, however, allowed viewers on the American east coast (such as the principals here) to watch those events as they occurred during regular nightly television broadcast hours, giving the proceedings a binding immediacy that would have otherwise been diluted through editing and sound bite repackaging. 

Over the course of an extraordinary series of days, these broadcasts became laced into a charged continuum, bright with the flicker of discrete images. This improbable long moment will likely remain a popular and convenient U.S. impression of the changed Berlin. However, the vitality of those dominant images nearly belies the breadth of experiences held within the overview. Thankfully, Egert's writing journeys beyond the exuberance of the nightly cathartic meetings as he considers the aggregate value and costs of our having arrived at that Berlineal point in time

Futterman, in turn, describes his music as being a tone poem, and it is audibly related to the printed verse. In fact, this piece was originally scored for voice, which accounts for its closeness to the text. Having had such a previous compositional life gives the music an added dimension: it creates a valuable conceptual tension similar to that which exists between the vocal and instrumental renderings of a jazz standard or show tune. 

Accordingly, the music is built of a variety of moods, alternately sober and inquisitive, then clarion and emphatic as it joins with the verse in a reflection on the Berlin procession from a distant but sensitive vantage. Similarly, both works share an evocative economy of expression, in contrast to the richness of the televised rush to ramparts, as they attempt to include points of reference beyond the immediate glow of the prevailing montage. 

From the composer's standpoint, this economy is to an immediate extent due to the chosen instrumentation. Futterman's past recordings have favored a general quartet format including bass, which makes its absence notable here. While this change has a timbral effect on the ensemble, it hardly has a functional one as listeners familiar with Joel's work would know. He is possessed of a left hand technique and concept that has long been strived for, hard-won, and that is not to be fully described, even with superlatives. Suffice it to say that he finds freedoms in the bassless arrangement here that other free ensemble leaders ironically once found in pianoless settings, and further to say that he uses those freedoms wisely. 

So, too, does drummer Robert Adkins. Like Futterman, his approach to New Music is founded on purposeful discipline. Additionally, he has been listening to and working with Futterman's left handed strengths far more than with any bassist. The two have been rehearsing and performing together for years, with a lot of that time spent as a duet. 

Their mutual development allows both the breadth of expression found in this recording, and the mighty control shown over the vital aspects of dynamics and density. These are of primary interest, as much of the New Music genre may be characterized by a lack of development in this regard, and because the success of this particular work rests to a large degree on the players' mastery of these elements. There are moments here that are thickly layered and note-rapid, yet which nearly whisper; conversely, there are moments taken at full volume that are as clear as a carillon. Regardless of situation, this unit can create musical tension by whatever means it wants, which is, at the very least, a liberating skill.

Futterman and Adkins were fortunate to have been able to rehearse this music in advance of the recording date. Trumpeter Raphé Malik, on the other hand, first saw the material in the studio just before the appointed hour. Great things have continually come from such fresh encounters, as most popularly witnessed by some of the benchmark Miles Davis sessions. Davis, however, would perhaps not have been comfortable with the challenge that Malik rises to answer here, chiefly that of being a following front line voice, one-taking it over the free and extended terrain of these compositions, with no control over the process other than what his musicianship affords. Malik, due to his long associations with Cecil Taylor and the late Jimmy Lyons (the latter an expecially dear one that Futterman and Adkins have likewise enjoyed), is no stranger to such tasks, and might not call them inhospitable. He shows himself to be sensitive and responsive to the various avenues of this music and a thorough listener, as he lays out and rejoins the others at critical junctures, always focused on the business at hand.

Malik's range of concept and delivery are compatible with Futterman and Adkins': crisp, dense, full-toned passages are balanced with long notes that trail out of volume and pitch as the music requires. He brings the kind of care to music that transcends the nature and limits of his instrument, in the context of this setting, his is an added voice in the best possible sense of the word. 

Care is always precious, but in the case of this work, absolutely vital, for the group was recorded under distinctive circumstances. Even before the project was finalised, Egert had decided to schedule the date with engineer Pierre Sprey at Mapleshade Studio. Sprey's recording approach is as uncompromising as it is unorthodox, and in his studio the risks of creation may only be overcome by musicianship.

Sprey records with two microphones fixed in a proprietary array, suspended overhead in a single, open sound room. There are no headphones for the players, no giant control board, nor is there any heavy remedial management of recorded material. The result is as clear and actual an acoustic sound as one might imagine which is fair compensation for the musicians having shared the task of essentially performing live without a sound system or an audience.

The trio is clearly comfortable in this setting, making the studio guidelines as well suited to this project as any of the other challenges involved. Actually, as large as the challenges here might seem, they are also quite compatible. The story at hand is not fragrant, lighthearted or neatly clothed, but it works as a superb dance partner with the parameters of New Music. 

Similarly, the altered Wall has proven to be well paired with its new requirements as a tactile, conductive meeting place and shrine. Along with the American Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Wall suggests that the uses we now have for such structures might finally move beyond barricade and more fully toward remembrance. The day may come where we use them exclusively to help us, as with improvised music, and as with a bent popular image of the tango, stare a glance backward as we dance ahead to something different.

William Tandy Young
December, 1991

1. Part One: The World Watched 31:20
2. Part Two: Ask the Price 09:06
3. Part Three: There is Peace 23:37

Joel Futterman piano 
Raphé Malik trumpet 
Robert Adkins drums

Various Artists - Spirit of New Jazz (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"We'd like to thank you at Silkheart for making the best compilation album of any kind that we've ever heard." 
Rick Petrie, WITR/FM 89.7 Rochester Institute of Technology, N.Y., April 1993

Through the long and rich history of jazz there have been a handful of labels that have defined their own jazz era. In the 1920s it was pioneering labels like Paramount and Vocalion, in the 1930s it was Decca and Bluebird. In the post-War era, with the creative burst of Bop and Progressive jazz, it was labels like Dial and Roost and Prestige and Blue Note that gave the musicians their first place to be heard. Now, in a new jazz era, it's a new label, Silkheart, that's giving us the sound of today's break-through musicians who are defining jazz in their time.

On Silkheart you'll hear artists like Charles Gayle, William Hooker, David Ware, Matt Shipp, Ahmed Abdullah, Charles Brackeen, Rob Brown, Charles Tyler, and Steve Lacy, and this is the only kind of music you'll hear on Silkheart. This is a label that's dedicated to the new music and its creators.

Silkheart is the result of a collaboration between two enthusiasts who have spent years hearing and evaluating what is happening in today's jazz. The studio production is in the hands of Keith Knox, who is well known as a jazz writer and critic and as producer of some of the most adventurous music to be found anywhere. He produced artists like Okay Temiz for the World Jazz catalog of Sonet Records, and he brought Charles Tyler to Storyville Records for two breakthrough albums.

The final decisions on what to record are made with his partner, Swedish jazz lover Lars-Olof Gustavsson, who spent many years in New York soaking up jazz in the era of loft music and free jazz. Lars seems to spend as much time in New York as he does in Sweden, and he is just as involved in the NewYork jazz club scene today. It is this personal involvement in the new jazz that makes Silkheart unique, and gives the music on Silkheart its immediacy in today's jazz world.

Sam Charters

1. Ahmed Abdullah Quartet - Reflections on a Mystic 5:12
2. Michael Bisio Quartet - A.M. 5.28
3. Charles Brackeen Quartet - House of Gold 9:04
4. Booker T. Trio - What a Friend We Have in Jesus 5:38
5. David S. Ware Trio - An Ancient Formula 5:45
6. Dennis Charles Triangle - Afro-Amer. Ind 7:15
7. Charles Gayle Trio - Eternal Now 7:32
8. Ethnic Heritage Ensemble - Ancestral Song 5:43
9. Joel Futterman Quartet - Reality on Edge 7:51
10. Rob Brown Trio - Escape Velocity 6:36
11. Dennis Gonzalez Quartet - Boi Fuba 3:03
12. Other Dimensions in Music - Spirits Rise/Fall 6:13

Matthew Shipp Quartet - Points (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"What extraordinary originality. This delectable recording proves the vivacity and the persistence of free jazz." 
Xavier Daverat, Jazz Magazine, May 1993

"Skeptics who think so-called 'free' music lacks definable theme and variations would do well to listen to titles like Afro Sonic, a gentle yet confident piece of swirling beauty, and Piano Pyramid, in which Shipp's lower register work and Parker's bass, dark as shadows, take a sparsely noted theme through rustling variations. The group is also graced by the tart beauty of Rob Brown's alto, and Whit Dickey's sensitive drumming. Silkheart and Shipp should be proud." 
Reuben Jackson, Jazz Times, April 1993

Points 1 and 2 = Music as thought, language, image, paint. Matthew Shipp, composer, conductor, pianist and leader, cites the following influences in Points 1 and 2: Andrew Hill, Duke Ellington, Nina Simone, Hasaan, Scriabin and Debussy. There is in this piece an underlying sense and distillation of the jazz language and how it works. Its overall concept is to utilize the jazz ensemble to create a structured yet open-ended landscape, which, though impressionistic, uses a language common to jazz, infusing the work with a moody often ominously shifting atmosphere. Thus this piece, while creating events, has those same events dissolve instantaneously like vanishing points. Stability within the instability of the infrastructure is continually maintained.

There is a constant feeling of "tension and release". The events within this ensemble piece deal with obsession (i.e. search). The music reflects upon these events which are in themselves one event that is constantly rearranging itself. Some of these concepts come from the composer's deep involvement with mysticism. 

To achieve the type of quantum-poetic landscape that Shipp was seeking required other influences besides those cited above. One being the most adventurous of Herbie Hancock's electronic endeavors, though Shipp himself does not use electronics in any way.

Another is Coltrane's concept of Cosmic Music, without trying to imitate or duplicate Coltrane's sound. And still another is the Miles Davis Quintet of Shorter – Hancock – Williams – Carter. Specifically, Nefertiti, where the postbop sound is always present but remains conspicuously below the surface and is used as a constant manipulative force upon the top layers of the music.

Does this piece swing? Shipp replies with a definite "YES"... But it swings with a freely improvised manipulation of the language. Did the avant-garde of the sixties influence this music? Again the answer is "YES". But according to Shipp, his music and its structure is light years away. Though it ventures into areas not touched upon by most musicans of that era, it sometimes employs that period as a backdrop to further explore the medium's possibilities. He further states that this is not meant to negate their accomplishments nor to enhance his own, but he feels that overall his music is more multi-dimensional, as one might well gather from this recording.

Two painterly influences upon Shipp's work are: Jackson Pollock for his lyricism, space, organic form and body; and Mark Rothko for his chromatic color fields and religious brightness. Points absorbs the darkness with light, but does not consume it. It never allows one attribute to become so important as to outweigh another. 

Is this music more Intellectual than Emotional? Shipp states that, "It takes a lot of Emotions to be Intellectual", though one must sometimes exhibit what might be interpreted as detachment." 

What is the role of the conductor here?

"TIMING". Shipp goes onto explain that the piece was graphed out according to the language of each individual player (at the very least, distilled aspects of their playing) and then handed back to them on these graphs with each event having a specific numerical value. He conducted from the piano and had worked the conducting out in advance in the form of a kinetic grid which included and indexed the number of events, thus leading to the configuration of instruments coming together to create a musical force.

The piano orchestrally feeds the soloists material as in Ellington and Cecil Taylor, and also sets up moods for each section within the landscape. The overall effect is an intense foray into a dark world of myth and legend that is at once majesterial, decadent, and aboriginal. 

Points 1 and 2 are stories compiled and passed down through time. Distorted, eerie, hauntingly beautiful and brilliant tellings of logic, truth and illogicality. They are a part of, and an examination of, the Legend of LIFE and the LIFEforce itself. We are continually shown glimpses of what lies ahead but are never presented with any conclusive data. We are never told whether we will learn any more than we knew when we began out journey. We are hearing stories filled with lyrical fire, told at night. We are never made to feel safe, never given a moment's ease or a hint of reward, even at the music's most relaxed moments.

The players fill the landscape, but never crowd it or each other. Like all great tales this piece tempts us with reality while weaving a web of fabrication. Each long section is divided into smaller passages. Beginnings with no endings. Rob Brown's alto suddenly and almost imperceptibly announcing its presence, quickly building to short shrill calls, then just as suddenly fading into the thinness of a moon in the morning sky. Endings with no beginnings. Shipp's sudden shifts from bluesy to brooding to classically elegant, all hung like strips of short-circuiting lights.

All the pieces, like the puzzle itself, fade into non-conclusions yet give us an overall feeling of shaky fulfillment. All form a network that, in the end, leaves the listener content to be at home listening while infusing him/her with a deep sense of wanderlust. 

Shipp has incorporated an exoticism into his writing that is a perfect blend of African, African-American and European melody and feeling. His flourishes hint at Chopin. His singular blows to the ivories, particularly in the lower register (one of Shipp's favorite places to be), are like a tribal-drum laying the foundation.

The mood of the piece is the set in an Ellingtonian/Stravinsky-esque manner. Parker and Dickey create an intimate and often grating mixture of spatial swimming. Parker's bowing is magnificent throughout. The musicians turn round each other like hunters before the hunt, locked in the deliberate steps of a ritualistic dance. They rise and fall together and separately, in series upon series of never-ending cliffhangers.

This quartet is a fiercely integrated unit. There is a mutual give and take. The whole is equal to its parts. The soaring upward. The diving downward. The purpose and sincerity toward to the music is shared by all and is unparalleled by most working groups today. It brings to mind the tightness and precision of historic groups led by Coltrane, Ayler, Miles Davis, and Brubeck. The moods swing from the monastery to the madhouse within infinitesimal time-frames. We are led into a fathomless dark field of spectrum and spectres by harsh pleas and seductive whispers. The legend and search, like space and time, continue. The soul of the godhead is pierced. The unattainable goal is to share its secrets. To reach the light within, while remaining insulated by this deep camaraderie.

There is a new drive here. BOP, BLUES, BACH, and BEOWULF. 

Jazz as an art form possesses limitless possibilities. Only too often, however, musicians create artificial boundaries within that limitlessness due to constraining technical facility, lack of musical understanding or awareness, or simply to fit more comfortably into what is considered to be the commercial mainstream. 

Aside from a few notable exceptions, jazz has been trapped within these man-made walls of convention, almost completely devoid of experimentation. This music and the performers of the Matthew Shipp Quartet, have, on the other hand, pushed back another fold within that infinite space.

For Matthew Shipp, age 29, this endeavor denotes a hallmark in music and has been a satisfying extension of his thought. It is now time for you, the listener, to partake in this satisfaction. 

The other pieces on this date are as follows: 

Afro-Sonic: written with the primary purpose of augmenting African rhythm and showcasing the polyrhythmic improvising power of William Parker. It was inspired by Randy Weston and utilizes the repetitive thematic pattern of a talking drum as its backbone. A frenzied tapestry is woven through a fugue-like underpinning. It is the wild awakenings of night as both night and day intertwine and become one for an instant. Of major import to Shipp at this point in his career is the incorporation and extension of the structures of African music within the jazz ensemble.

Piano Pyramid: this piece Shipp indicates is to present the trio in a true tradition as "best exemplified by Bud Powell". It is strong and solid. Each layer is cemented by Dickey's brilliant brushwork and each brick carefully placed by Shipp and Parker.

About the musicians on this date:

Wiliam Parker is the veteran of the group and one of the foremost upright bassists in the world today. He is a fine leader and composer in his own right and has been the bassist in the Cecil Taylor Unit for ten years. Some recent recordings which feature him on this label alone, include Other Dimensions to Music (Silkheart 120), Breath Rhyme (Silkheart 122) which is Rob Brown's masterful trio date, and David S. Ware's trio (Silkheart 113) and quartet (Silkheart 127, 128) sessions. Parker's playing on this recording is exemplary.

Rob Brown has enjoyed a long musical association with Shipp. His playing maintains a lyrical sweetness, despite its overwhelming thrust and intensity. It always exhibits an exhilarating tension along with an unswerving beauty and dryness. At age 28, Brown carries with him a tradition that few dare venture into.

Whit Dickey, age 36. This, Dickey's first recording, proves a major breakthrough. It gives us back the security of knowing that drummers can speak and listen at the same time, never overpowering the other players, but always being heard. He bought his first drum kit in 1976 and later, after hearing Elvin Jones and Sunny Murray vowed to be a modern jazz drummer. Dickey's playing, like his own assessment of this music, is "loose, swinging and alive, yet allusive and full of mind-jolting surprises". He possesses the ability to weave two distinct yet complimentary rhythms together, within a given time signature. Dickey is a major new voice. 

Steve Dalachinsky
NYC/Paris, 1990/91

1. Points Number Two 20:45
2. Afro Sonic 05:40
3. Piano Pyramid 10:09
4. Points Number One 34:24

Matthew Shipp piano / conductor
Rob Brown alto saxophone
William Parker bass
Whit Dickey drums

Tohru Aizawa Quartet - Tachibana (BBE MUSIC July 27, 2018)

The desire to discover and delve into new and unexplored areas of music has turned attention on the Japanese jazz scene of the 1970s, often regarded as its gilded age. The recent ground-breaking sell-out BBE compilation J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984 threw much needed light on this fascinating era and presented a range of artists and music that surprised and delighted all who heard it. A key track on the compilation was one of the rarest and least known: Dead Letter by the Tohru Aizawa Quartet, taken from ‘Tachibana’, an album so elusive that some pondered whether it even existed. 

The album, Tachibana, was recorded in 1975 and, until included on the J Jazz compilation, was unknown except to a small group of obsessive Japanese jazz collectors. The privately pressed record was the only album made by the Quartet, four amateur musicians who were university students at the time. The session was financed by a local businessman, Ikujiroh Tachibana, who pressed up a few hundred copies to use as a business card. In the intervening 40 odd years since its recording, few copies have surfaced, making it an in-demand yet elusive artefact from the golden age of Japanese jazz. BBE Records are honoured to present a fully authorised reissue of this holy grail, licensed directly from the band themselves. 

Tachibana has all the necessary components of a cult album: pressed in small numbers, a few mysterious and vague details about its origins, languishing in obscurity for decades and, above all, superb musical craftsmanship and skill. It can now be enjoyed by a new audience around the world. 

The album opens with the dynamic percussion work-out Philosopher’s Stone written by the then law-student and drummer Tetsuya Morimura. It propels along with the band at full pelt, showcasing Morimura’s well-developed drumming style. For a teenage amateur player to compose and perform such an accomplished and impressive piece is a testament to the talent that the band contained. Philosopher’s Stone is followed by Sacrament, an epic modal composition by saxophonist Kyoichiro Morimura that fans of Wayne Shorter, Pharoah Sanders and late-era John Coltrane will appreciate. After an extended intro the band drop into a heavy, churning groove, Morimura’s saxophone scorching above the volcanic rhythm section. 

Dead Letter, written by Aizawa himself, is an epic piano led symphony of spiritual jazz. Think McCoy Tyner at his imperial finest and you’ll get a flavour: impact, emotion and power all suffuse to create a overwhelming experience. Amazingly, this is still the only Aizawa composition yet to be recorded. 

The Tachibana album also includes two cover versions, both Latin flavoured numbers delivered with élan and brio: La Fiesta by Chick Corea and the classic Samba de Orfeu by Luiz Bonfá. 

So, just five tracks in total, the sole existing evidence of an astonishing band, the Tohru Aizawa Quartet. 

The long-awaited reissue of this mythic album will include new liner notes and photos, plus fully translated notes from the original Japanese text. The album will be presented in an authentic thick card gatefold sleeve in a faithful reproduction of the original sleeve design.

1. Philosopher's Stone
2. Sacrament
3. La Fiesta
4. Dead Letter
5. Samba De Orfeu

Jason Stein's Locksmith Isidore - After Caroline (NORTHERN SPY RECORDS 2018)

Jason Stein is a ubiquitous presence on the world class Chicago improvised music scene and beyond. He’s a staunch force with a monogamous passion for his instrument of choice, the darkly sonorous and notoriously difficult bass clarinet. It’s a testament to Stein’s consummate musicianship and versatility that he plays an indispensable role in a raft of über creative outfits including but not limited to, Mike Reed’s Flesh and Bone, Joshua Abrams’ Natural Information Society, drummer Quin Kirchner’s Group, James Falzone’s Renga Ensemble, The Charles Rumback Quintet, Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack, The Russ Johnson Quartet and an electronics fed collective with drummer Chad Taylor and pianist Paul Giallorenzo, Hearts and Minds. But Stein thrives as a leader also, as witnessed by his critically-acclaimed recent quartet release. However, no other aggregation he works with has quite the road legs, perspective, and intimacy of Locksmith Isidore, his long running trio with bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Mike Pride. Of late, this decade old unit has toured arenas throughout the US opening for comedy star Amy Schumer, who happens to be Stein’s kid sister. Presenting avant jazz in such massive venues as Madison Square Garden and LA’s Forum has cemented Locksmith Isidore’s very special bond, which is more than apparent on their fourth album After Caroline.

Stein’s cohorts in Locksmith Isidore are similarly versatile in their playing and experience. New York based drummer Mike Pride’s sock-it-to-ya beats have pushed countless bands. He’s worked with iconoclasts Anthony Braxton and John Zorn, and formatively, hardcore punks Millions of Dead Cops. He’s key to the drive of the locksmith, as is bass ace Jason Roebke. As one of the Chicago scene’s most versatile and in-demand players, Roebke’s sound is at home in all sorts of improvisational music, from the super abstract to swinging jazz. 

After Caroline displays all this versatility, and then some. The title derives from the fact that Stein’s paternal grandmother Caroline—wife to the locksmith Isidore—passed away the day the album was recorded. The lovely “You Taught Me How To Love”, which features a tensile contrabass solo from Roebke and skippy brushwork from Pride, is a paean to Caroline. This open hearted ballad demonstrates that despite Stein’s hi-energy capabilities elsewhere, he is at base a tempered melodist. With that said, After Caroline opens in a more expressionistic and churning mode on the improv manifesto “As Many Chances As You Need,” during which the three improvisers forcefully negotiate the squirrelly 19/8 time signature. Though he’s no doubler or dilettante—perhaps because of that—Stein comes at you on his clarinet as if it were a tenor saxophone, and in white-hot, paintstripping moments, his sound recalls the exultant fury of Pharaoh Sanders or Albert Ayler.

Walden’s Thing” is written for Detroit saxist/bandleader Donald Walden, with whom Stein studied at the University of Michigan. Stein wryly explains of the tune: “as a strict bebop linguist, Donald would have hated it, but with a smile, which makes me happy.” On another tune, “Eckhardt Park,” Stein pays tribute to his west loop woodshed in Chicago during a time when he could be seen serenading the traffic in front of the Dan Ryan Expressway. He’d hop the fence near his home and strengthen his sound, playing his way AND the highway. Pride’s mallets are particularly pugnacious on “Walden’s Thing” and the abstract tone poem “Ida Like,” which was inspired by Stein’s late great aunt and his four-year-old daughter who share the same name. Roebke’s arco shavings, assorted creaks, strums and pings are a whole other trick bag from his broad willowy swing. The atmospheric concoction conjures Ida, Alice-in-Wonderland-like, picking a lock herself. “Sternum” is further fodder for the textural ingenuity of the trio. Stein lays in back with muted, quizzical longtones, flutter tonguing like a surreptitious rattler, as drum and bass hatch an ominously intriguing soundscape. 

Stein alone is a pioneering force, pushing the vocabulary for his chosen horn way beyond the norm. Yet he’s heard to finest effect in this trio of quicksilver like-minds who know best how to goad, shape and angle his vision.

1. As Many Chances As You Need 04:18
2. Eckart Park 06:20
3. Ida Like 05:08
4. 26-2 04:06
5. Sternum 05:24
6. Walden's Thing 07:03
7. You Taught Me How To Love 06:04
8. We Gone 04:36

All compositions by Jason Stein except "Sternum" by Jason Stein, Jason Roebke, Mike Pride and "26-2" by John Coltrane

Recorded July 15 and 16, 2017 at Electrical Audio, Chicago, IL by Nick Broste
Mixed by Nick Broste
Mastering for digital and vinyl by Scott Hull at Masterdisk
Photograph by Amy Schumer

Peggy Lee - Echo Painting (2018)

The idea, says Lee, was “to bring together some of my longstanding band members with some of the younger players that I had recently begun to collaborate with. I wasn't thinking about specific instruments really, just the players that I was excited about working with. The name to me simply speaks of our efforts to make sense of our world through artistic practice. And of course there are echoes of much of the music that has been meaningful to me over the years.” (She cites Carla Bley and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra as inspirations.) With many colours to draw upon, the music is multi-layered and texturally varied, featuring driving rhythmic vamps, incendiary improvisation and sometimes achingly beautiful melodic compositions.

1. Incantation 05:20
2. Out On A Limb 04:27
3. A Strange Visit 03:45
4. Nice Collection 03:44
5. Snappy 05:12
6. Painting Echoes 05:21
7. Foreground 02:13
8. The Hidden Piece 01:48
9. Hymn 06:06
10. WB Introduction 02:37
11. Weather Building 03:32
12. End Piece 01:42
13. The Unfaithful Servant 04:43

Brad Turner - trumpet & flugelhorn
Jon Bentley - soprano & tenor sax
John Paton - tenor sax
Roderick Murray - trombone
Meredith Bates - violin
Peggy Lee - cello
Cole Schmidt - electric & acoustic guitar
Bradshaw Pack - pedal steel
James Meger - electric & acoustic bass
Dylan van der Schyff - drums, percussion & Yamaha RX-15 drum machine
Robin Holcomb - voice on “The Unfaithful Servant” (bonus track)

Recorded on April 16th & 17th, 2017 at Warehouse Studios, Vancouver, Canada. 
Recorded by Sheldon Zaharko 
Assisted by Dominic Civiero & Annie Kennedy 
Mixed by Chris Gestrin and Dylan van der Schyff 
Mastered by Chris Gestrin

Yialmelic Frequencies - Yililok (LEAVING RECORDS 2018)

Yialmelic Frequencies is a project born from the exploration of alien origins in its producer, Diva Dompé. Receiving visions of another dimension since childhood, and meeting these visions with conflicting feelings of wonder, desire, and fear, Diva started creating Guided Meditations as a safe space to explore this cosmic relationship. Yialmelic Frequencies harvests the collection of instrumentals originally made to accompany these meditations, now to be enjoyed as their own sonic journeys. 

What Diva found from creating these meditations was Yialmel: a place that radiates with Love and Harmony, where Matter, Energy and Consciousness exist along one gradient of manifest form. Where all manifest matter has consciousness and all of these consciousnesses collaborate in interaction. Where desire, attention, and love are valuable units of exchange. This is a place where Diva simultaneously exists while also fulfilling the role of Human on Planet Earth. In her role on Yialmel, she is a guardian of the Infinite Love Source and creator of Resonant Frequency Sculptures, similar to her role of manipulating frequency on earth in the form of sound.

Yililok is the second release from Yialmelic Frequencies, which is forthcoming on Leaving Records alongside a cassette compendium that also includes the first release Zjumk. Each trek into Yialmel can vary wildly, ranging from bucolic and alien nature scenes to cerebral transmissions from the future. Volume 2's "Auric Massage" delivers its title literally, a tactile, evocative meditation that tingles and relaxes while gliding through a string of pulsating, decidedly futuristic washes of whirring synthesizers. Focusing on the tonal, ASMR-tinged groundwork of Yialmel yields a deeply personal journal of peaceful self discovery.

1. Aggregate 15:00
2. Clay 14:54
3. Auric Massage 05:29
4. Vibration Fruits 19:12
5. Angel Garden 12:56

David S. Ware Quartet - Great Bliss Vol​.​2 (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"Along with his potent tenor, Ware's rugged flute work is particularly noteworthy." 
Milo Fine, Cadence, June 1993 

"Despite the major muscles this quartet flexes, I still find my favotite track to be Saxelloscape One, a sassy, acidic virtuoso solo that's got to be the definitive statement on the instrument." 
John Baxter, Option, March-April 1993

The 1980s saw the rise of new ways of structuring unnotated improvisation. Conductor Butch Morris spontaneously orchestrates the music of his players with an extensive and eloquent vocabulary of hand gestures. Anthony Braxton's compositions often contain detailed instructions to a performer, without prescribing actual pitches. John Zorn organizes elaborate game plans for improvisers. A few weeks after David S. Ware's Great Bliss project was recorded, at a performance by his bassist, William Parker's sextet, when one of the four horn players was soloing, the others would confer verbally and via hand-signals to concoct varied hacking figures. (Which is a modern version of the way Kansas City swing bands would set background riffs.) It's been a long time since improvised music – jazz – has been simply a matter of blowing on changes or pure...  more

1. One Two Three 12:28
2. Emptiness 04:20
3. Primary Piece III 08:18
4. Saxelloscape Two 05:30
5. The Child Without - The Child Within 11:28
6. Strichland 12:36
7. Low Strata 06:10
8. Reign of Peace 11:10

David S. Ware flute, tenor sax, saxello, stritch
Matthew Shipp piano
William Parker bass
Marc Edwards drums, tympany, chimes, gongs