Monday, February 15, 2021
Facets is saxophonist/composer Hafez Modirzadeh’s latest radical entreaty against the cultural hegemony of the Western notion of equal temperament and his argument that musicians should be free to explore a variety of tonal possibilities, even on piano. His 2012 release Post-Chromodal Out! was the first documentation of this concept, where the piano was tuned to a variety of temperaments. Performed with pianist Vijay Iyer, The New York Times called that album “Dauntless… There’s heady discipline at work here, along with the stirrings of a hard-fought individualism.” With his new release, Modirzadeh has distilled the idea to a single re-tuning, which is performed in duets with three towering musicians in contemporary improvised music: Kris Davis, Tyshawn Sorey and Craig Taborn, each interrogating the piano’s new possibilities with imagination and ingenuity. Modirzadeh himself utilizes alternate fingerings and embouchure adjustments on his instrument to achieve intervals between major and minor, and the pieces sway with an elasticity reminiscent of Persian poetic meter. With eight keys re-tuned and the remainder left in equal temperament, the music explores the coexistence of familiar with unfamiliar, and in the process, discovers new logic and mysterious beauty within.
Modirzadeh, who the San Jose Mercury News has called “visionary,” described the imperative to re-tune the piano this way: “The standardized temperament for piano, as beautiful as it is, carries an unbalanced weight of influence over players and listeners, leading many to believe that there is no other resonance to work with but this one. This creates a value system that is unjust and ultimately limits the discovery of other, more personal tuning possibilities. By retuning the piano – the one instrument that imposes a dominant influence on the world’s music – the musician is freed to explore all tonal possibilities.” This urge is the culmination of a system he originally called “chromodality,” which he developed to explore the harmonic possibilities of integrating Persian tones with Western equal temperament. The concept has since evolved to allow all intervals to co-exist, which empowers each musician to use their own distinctive voice to explore music from a full palette of tonal possibilities, irrespective of cultural background. The tuning Modirzadeh has chosen for this program was one that spoke to him personally after much testing and tweaking. Vijay Iyer says of Modirzadeh: “The scope of Hafez’s synthesis of concepts across cultures is staggering. There is great detail in his critical engagement with traditional intervallic systems, tuning systems, and modes, and there is also a grand sweep to his vision across disciplines and historical eras. In spite of its technical complications, there is genuine heart to this music and a real spiritual clarity. Modirzadeh is not simply a ‘scholar’ or ‘musicologist,’ but a genuine artist, with a profound, lifelong stake in the unification of research, creative work, and personal inner quest that is expressed in his music.”
Interested in hearing the different approaches that each musician will bring to the concept, Modirzadeh has been inviting pianists from various disciplines to engage with this music. For the recording of Facets, Modirzadeh chose three of the most acclaimed musicians in improvised music: Kris Davis is recognized as one of the foremost pianists in jazz. Her release Diatom Ribbons (2019) topped most year-end lists as best album of the year. For a quarter century, Craig Taborn has been similarly recognized as a master of sheer invention on the piano. Tyshawn Sorey, who is a stalwart with Pi Recordings, has won recent praise for the premiere for his new works with the Seattle Symphony and Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Primarily known as a drummer, he brings the same sensitivity and openness to discovery as the other pianists. They were sent the scores in advance, but their first encounter with the actual re-tuned piano was at their respective recording sessions. Each musician works from the same set of pieces, spending time exploring the novel resonances, before running through the entire book of compositions. Modirzadeh gave minimal instructions, preferring to allow each musician to shape the music as they imagine it. As Modirzadeh said in an interview: “It takes more heart than head, with the intention of something beautiful.” He subsequently chose what he felt to be the most magical of these performances for this release.
Deep spiritual jazz recorded in Germany, performed by Jamaican born saxophone player Fitz Gore and his international group The Talismen, featuring a.o. bassist Gérard Ebbo from Morocco and drummer Philippe Zobda-Quitman from Martinique. This is the first reissue of their second album, released in 1976 by a small private label, including “Delilah” and “Requiem For Julian Cannonball Adderley”. The rare LP comes in a newly mastered version with original cover design and sleeve notes. Fitz Gore`s music is full of tremendous tension and movement between deep seriousness, inwardness and humility; it affects your life, it liberates and heals.
Original sleeve notes from 1976:
„Soundmagnificat“ is the successor to „Soundnitia“ (GorBra Records F 665 532), the first release from the Talismen, an international group with Jamaican Tenor saxophonist Fitz Gore (born1935) as founder, spiritual and musical leader, main soloist. „Soundnitia“ contained concert performances of June, 1975, including compositions by John Coltrane, Horace Silver and one by Gérard „Prof. Dr. Splüm“ Ebbo, bassist of the Talismen.
This second offering from the Talismen is more varied. It has four tracks recorded at four different occasions. It presents Fitz Gore as a singer, a composer, as well as, a tenor saxophonist. The opener, Requiem for Julian „Cannonball“ Adderley, is a moving tribute to a great American artist, the late alto saxophonist „Cannonball“ Adderley. On this track, Hungarian drummer Janos Sudy is heard with the Talismen, for the first time. The playing by the quartet on this slow lament very adequately illustrates the mood of the composition.
For the next piece, a concert performance, Gore selected a gem from the American Negro Song Tradition and he displays a mighty, masculine and soulful voice in Steal Away. An example of a modern artist using an old traditional to express his own inner feelings. Delilah is taken from another concert performance, the same concert as the music on „Soundnitia“. It has extensive playing by Gore, a bass solo by Gérard Ebbo, leading into some exciting conga playing by Lamont Hampton.
The final track, A Sinner Kissed An Angel, was recorded by another tenor player, Wardell Gray, in 1950, but this version is all Gore`s. After the piano introduction, Gore delivers the melody with authority and with an expressive use especially of the high register of his instrument. In his improvisation, Gore`s playing becomes more dissonant. Some of his playing here causes me to think of the way the late Albert Ayler sounded on his first recordings done in Sweden, in the beginning of the 60s. No drums here, but nice accompaniment and solo work of Jochen Paul on vibes.
I met Fitz Gore in Copenhagen in the fall of 1975. We were both listening to the trumpet playing of Harry „Sweets“ Edison at the now defunct Café Montmartre. Prior to that time, I did not know Gore and his music, but listening to his playing on this album and the earlier one, has once more widened my musical horizon. His music has struck some chords within me. „Music is communication“, John Coltrane once said. I feel sure that as you listen to the music of Fitz Gore and his Talismen, you will get the message.
In these notes, I have mentioned a couple of jazz artists and another one ought to be named primarily, because he has meant a lot to Gore: Sonny Rollins. The two met in Paris in 1966. Gore says of Rollins: „He openend my eyes ...big man … phenomenon … my man“. As Sonny Rollins`s artistry, the music of Fitz Gore holds many aspects, some being aggressive and even hysterical, others being those of beauty and peace. As life itself …
(Roland Baggenaes, June 1976)
The music of Fitz Gore, rooted in the blues, is full of tremendous tension and movement between deep seriousness, inwardness, humility and humor, hardness and tenderness; it affects your life, it liberates and heals - a hopeful, a truly groundbreaking, a timeless, a new music - Newsic!
(Gisela Braasch, 1976)
1. Requiem For Julian “Cannonball” Adderley 13:22
2. Steal Away 04:19
3. Delilah 12:10
4. A Sinner Kissed An Angel 08:06
Track 1 recorded 03.06.1976 in Duesseldorf
Fitz Gore (Tenor Sax), Ulrich Kurth (Piano), Gérard Ebbo (Bass),
Janos Sudy (Drums & Gamelan)
Track 2 recorded 18.12.1974 in Bonn
Fitz Gore (Vocals), Ulrich Kurth (Piano), Gérard Ebbo (Bass),
Philippe Zobda-Quitman (Drums)
Track 3 recorded 14.06.1975 in Arnsberg
Fitz Gore (Tenor Sax), Ulrich Kurth (Piano), Gérard Ebbo (Bass), Philippe Zobda-Quitman (Drums), Lamont Hampton (Congas)
Track 4 recorded 27.03.1976 in Bonn
Fitz Gore (Tenor Sax), Ulrich Kurth (Piano), Jochen Paul (Vibraphone), Gérard Ebbo (Bass)
From collectors` archives: Rare or previously unreleased 1958 recordings of “The Hans Koller New Jazz Stars” at the peak of their art, restored from radio tapes and original EPs. Lost work by one of Europe`s leading tenor saxophonists from the Golden Age of cool and modern jazz, feat. A. Mangelsdorff (tb), H. Reinhardt (bars), P. Trunk (b), H. Hammerschmid (p), R. Sehring (dr) - with Zoot Sims (ts) guesting on two tunes (“Zoot Meets Hans”) plus Hans Koller playing in the Orchestra of Eddie Sauter. Comes on vinyl LP and 6-Page-Digipack CD with two unheard bonus tracks.
"Minor Meetings 1958" brings lost or completely unknown recordings by Hans Koller (1921-2003) from the year 1958 back to life. Koller is one of Europe's leading saxophonists of the last century. If one is talking in USA about German jazz musicians, the name of the native Austrian is always present. Already in 1953, the musician and painter from Vienna causes an international sensation, in his quartet or quintet and with an early formation of the "Hans Koller New Jazz Stars". Legendary musicians like pianist Jutta Hipp or trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff belong to the group. They play a European form of cool and modern and the audience is impressed by their high level of playing. For the fans the "New Jazz Stars" become stars in German jazz heaven. In the same year recordings are made for the American Discovery label and the band goes on tour in Germany with the group of Dizzy Gillespie. In 1954/55 Koller can be heard with Stan Kenton, Lee Konitz and Lars Gullin.
He is the first European jazz artist who receives a five-star review from the American jazz magazine DownBeat. In 1957/58 the "New Jazz Stars" are considered to be the most popular modern ensemble from Germany, mostly playing their own compositions and improvisations besides occasional standards. Soundwise, the musicians are based on the work of the “Four Brothers” now and leave the cool jazz of Lee Konitz more and more behind. Inspired by the tenor saxophonist Al Cohn, Hans Koller abandons the cool Lennie Tristano-school and puts the technical brilliance of playing in the background in favor of extravagant melodies. Besides Koller and trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, who performs at the 1958 festival in Newport and starts his own recording career, composer, arranger and energetic pianist Hans Hammerschmid and highly talented bassist Peter Trunk are the pillars of the band.
In the spring of 1958, the “New Jazz Stars” record "Hard Blues", "I` ll Close My Eyes "and" Back In Paradise” in Baden-Baden. The tracks are released on the small German label Manhattan (EP "Hans Koller Cool Jazz"). Zoot Sims and Koller learn to know each other by working in the orchestra of Benny Goodman at the World Exhibition in Brussels. In August 1958 they play together in a Cologne studio. The resulting tracks "Blues Around Joe" and "Minor Meeting" are released as a German vinyl EP by Brunswick, entitled "Zoot Meets Hans". Both tunes show the brilliant interplay between the American guest artist and Hans Koller, on tenor saxophones ("Blues Around Joe") and clarinets ("Minor Meeting"). Originally entitled "Minor Meeting For Two Clarinets" and meant as a reference to the passion of Lester Young for this instrument, such a modern jazz piece on the clarinet can be considered a true rarity.
All other tracks on this album are previously unknown and hail from the German Jazz Festival in Frankfurt. There Hans Koller does not only perform in a quintet with his "New Jazz Stars" but also thrills the audience as the leader of the saxophone section in the SWF Orchestra of New York composer, arranger and bandleader Eddie Sauter. In 1957/58 the saxophonist regularly appears as a soloist with Sauter while Hans Hammerschmid writes some of his finest compositions for the orchestra. Besides the excellent ensemble performances on 24th of May 1958, the great atmosphere in the audience of the sold out Franz Althoff-Bau in Frankfurt must be mentioned. The "New Jazz Stars" perform at the same venue the following night and more recordings are made. Three tracks of that second evening are released on the Brunswick label in an awful sound and pressing quality (EP "The new Hans Koller New Jazz Stars").
After only one year, Sauter terminates his SWF contract and returns to the United States. Koller takes over the leadership of the “NDR Jazz Workshop” and, as early as in autumn 1958, founds a new quartet with Oscar Pettiford, Attila Zoller and Kenny Clarke. Immediately the group becomes one of the best European jazz combos. A little later, Hans Koller and Albert Mangelsdorff are frequently chosen as "Jazz Musicians of the Year". In English-speaking countries, the expression "Jazz in Kollerland" is established as a synonym of the West German jazz scene. Leonard Feather about Hans Koller in the American jazz magazine Down Beat: “It will come as a shock to many jazz fans to learn that modern jazz of this caliber exists in Germany”. Even today, one cannot better express the merits of Hans Koller for the development of a European jazz scene.
1. Hard Blues 02:27
2. Hi-Fi 04:14
3. Blues Around Joe 03:29
4. Saba 04:03
5. Sperie`s Drums 06:23
6. Minor Meeting 03:19
7. Lippi's Tune 04:24
8. I`ll Close My Eyes 05:11
9. Back In Paradise 03:20
10. A Girl To Remember 05:54
11. If I Had You 05:53
12. I`ll Never Be The Same 04:28
Tracks 2/ 4/ 5/ 7/ 10/ 11/ 12 previously unreleased, recorded 24.05.1958 at the German Jazz Festival in Frankfurt (Allthoff-Bau, Frankfurt Zoo)
Tracks 3 & 6 recorded 10.08.1958 in Cologne, originally released as “Zoot Meets Hans” on German Brunswick 10814 EPB (vinyl EP)
Tracks 1/ 8/ 9 recorded 26.-28.03.1958 in Baden-Baden, originally released as “Hans Koller Cool Jazz” on Manhattan 66035C (vinyl EP)
Sound restoration, editing and mastering in 2014 at Audiomoto, Berlin.