Monday, April 12, 2021

Sarah Vaughan - Live At The Berlin Philharmonie 1969 (April 2021 Challenge Records)

This two-fold recital, recorded on 9 November 1969 at the Berlin Philharmonie as part of what was then known as the Berliner Jazztage, took place at a particular phase of Sarah Vaughan’s career. For the first time ever, this double album brings us these moments of enchantment in their entirety, just as they were performed. In line with the practice of the festival at the time, Vaughan gave two public performances that same day. 

These emotionally intense concerts are all the more remarkable because of the artist’s high wire act, a balance constantly maintained throughout between her professional savoir faire (a vocal technique at the apex of her art and her interpretive skills) and her emotional abandonment to the moment as she gives her all. The entire performance, with Vaughan pouring out her heart, seems in hindsight at once perfectly timeless in terms of its formal classicism yet thoroughly in the fleeting moment.

At the end of the day, these recordings are invaluable. As Vaughan explores the most lyrical, emotional aspects of her art, she overwhelms her listeners as she bares her soul. Her virtuosity in using her imagination to deploy all her technical skills and the extraordinary range of her tessitura are restrained rather than ostentatious. It is as if she has rid herself of the affectations that detracted from some of her earlier recordings, when the desire to appeal was too obvious. During the magical moments that make up these concerts, Vaughan treads a delicate line, maintaining a balance between naturalness and sophistication, simplicity and refinement. She literally reaches the stars and gives us a unique lesson in music as a form of the art of living.

CD 1
1. A Lot of Livin' to Do 02:48
2. And I Love Him 03:44
3. Alfie 05:38
4. On a Clear Day 02:28
5. Passing Strangers 05:01
6. Misty 06:07
7. I Cried for You 02:06
8. My Funny Valentine 06:00
9. All of Me 02:49
10. Tenderly 04:49

CD 2
1. Fly Me to the Moon 05:44
2. Time After Time 04:08
3. The Trolley Song 02:34
4. By the Time I Get to Phoenix 05:10
5. The Sweetest Sounds 03:48
6. Polka Dots and Moonbeams 05:00
7. Day In, Day Out 02:38
8. What Now, My Love 05:32
9. I Had a Ball 02:07
10. Didn’t We? 06:13

© 2021 - NewArts International / Challenge Records Int.

Slowfox - Freedom (April 16, 2021)

A double bass line, eloquent, elastic, not far from “So What” from Miles Davis' album of the century Kind Of Blue. Elegant. Some Jarrett drizzles from the wing. The saxophone body breathes. Then, as if of free will, the melody materializes, and “I” is in the room, the opener of the new Slowfox album. After barely half a minute the song grew together, unexpectedly and in no hurry. As if it had never been there before.

Freedom, the third album by the Cologne trio, stands for freedom and radiates it. Bandleader Sebastian Gramss calls the music of the collective “Melodic Avantgarde”, always able and willing to perforate borders in whatever direction. Just because. Or - also not. It's not loud. But uncompromising.

The name of the album goes back to an iconic sentence with which the great Nina Simone replied to an interviewer in 1968 when he asked about her definition of freedom: “I will tell you what freedom is to me: No fear. I mean really no fear. ” Detached from the syntax, the words now serve as titles for the tracks on the Slowfox album. The essence of the content remains untouched in its original artistic reference, not charged with new meaning by the band.
Slowfox have been trying to find song titles by quotation since their debut album The Woods (2014). Then it came from US poet Robert Frost. With ECHO award winner Gentle Giants (2017) it is a US proverb that is often attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche.

Brought together in 2013 by Sebastian Gramss, the instrumental trio plays chamber music-like composition jazz in pop song format: short pieces, none longer than five minutes, which quickly get to the point with a high level of complexity.

Freedom shows a very tidy synthesis of modern sound aesthetics and our own conception of contemporary melodies with no artistic limitations. Meticulously thought out and arranged, put together and set in motion with intuition and know-how, this complex stuff is nevertheless easy to grasp.

1. I 04:13
2. WILL 04:26
3. TELL 03:29
4. YOU 03:05
5. WHAT 03:36
6. FREEDOM 03:45
7. IS 02:18
8. TO ME 04:01
9. NO FEAR ! 03:54
10. I MEAN 02:21
11. REALLY 04:03
12. NO 05:06
13. FEAR ! 03:04
14. NINA 02:54
15. SIMONE 03:58

Hayden Chisholm – Saxophone, Flute
Philip Zoubek – Piano, Prepared Piano, Moog
Sebastian Gramss – Double Bass, Spacebass*

* Spacebass – modified double bass with 12 additional sympathetic strings

Music composed by Sebastian Gramss
except Track 10 – traditional Korean song

Label: Rent A Dog
Produced by: Sebastian Gramss & Ana Lakčević
A production of Sebastian Gramss & SLOWFOX
Recorded by Christian Heck at the Loft Studios, Cologne
Recording Assistant: Lukas Lohner
Mixed and Mastered by Reinhard Kobialka - Topaz Studio, Cologne

Portico Quartet - Terrain (May 28, 2021 Gondwana Records)

Portico Quartet announce Terrain, a three-part suite drawing on American minimalism and ambient music alongside their own rich heritage as they explore new musical vistas

When Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie – the driving force behind Portico Quartet got together in their East London studio in May 2020 and started work on the music that would become their new album, the world, or most of it, was in the midst of the first lockdown. The unique impact of the events of 2020 became the backdrop to their time composing and recording; causing them to take stock, re-think, and plot a new musical path.

Indian novelist Arundhati Roy expressed the sense of grief and rupture from the pandemic as "a portal, a gateway between one world and the next", and as they created the music that would become Terrain they were drawn towards longer, slowly unfolding pieces, which are perhaps the most artistically free and also the most beautiful they have ever made.

These are compositions more in the lineage of Line and Shed Song (Isla/2009), Rubidium (Portico Quartet/2012) and Immediately Visible (Memory Streams/2019). Wyllie expands: "We've always had this side of the band in some form. The core of it is having a repeated pattern, around which other parts move in and out, and start to form a narrative. We used to do longer improvisations not dissimilar to this around the time of our second record Isla.
On Terrain we've really dug into it and explored that form. I suppose there are obvious influences such as American minimalism, but I was particularly inspired by the work of Japanese composer Midori Takada. Her approach, particularly on 'Through the Looking Glass', where she moves through different worlds incorporating elements of minimalism with non-Western instruments and melodies were at the front of my mind when writing this music".

Terrain I, II & III are all subtly different, but a short rhythmic motif that repeats is the starting point in all three movements. There is a sense of a shared journey to all these pieces, they move through different worlds, with a sense of horizontal movement that lends the music real momentum. Terrain I was the first piece they worked on and it started with a hang drum pattern, improvised by Bellamy, who added cymbals and synthesiser. From there on it grew, Wyllie adding saxophone, another synthesiser section, strings. For Bellamy "It felt more like filmmaking than music making, a bricolage of conflicting, shifting signs, subtle tension and multiple narratives.

Andrei Tarkovsky's 'Mirror' and British artist John Akomfrah's incredible 'Handsworth Songs' were pivotal points of reference for me." Wyllie expands the point. "There is a sense of conversation between us both, in that someone presents a musical idea, the other person responds to it with something else, which would then be responded to again... until it feels finished. These responses are often consonant with each other but there is also a dissonance to some of this work. The music slowly evolves through these shared conversations."

It is this sense of dialogue, both between the composers, and between tranquillity and a subtly unsettling melancholy, that makes Terrain such a powerful statement. One that speaks to both our interior and exterior worlds, to our own personal landscape, to our Terrain. 



Composed, performed and produced by Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie. Strings composed and arranged by Jack Wyllie. Recorded at PQHQ, London and Fish Factory, London in 2020 by Greg Freeman. Mixed by Greg Freeman, Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie in Berlin, 2020. Mastering and vinyl cut by John Davis at Metropolis, London. Design and photography by Veil Projects.

Strings by FRANCESCA TER-BERG Cello (I, II)  SIMMY SINGH Violin (I)  PETE BENNIE Double Bass (I)

Evan Parker's Electroacoustic Ensemble with Sainkho Namtchylak - Fixing the Fluctuating Ideas (Victo Records 2021)

The FIMAV performance is an extraordinary recording, an aural opportunity to hear the Ensemble exploring at length, stretching the contemporaneous studio documentation, but even with the Ensemble’s brilliant and transformative history, Sainkho Namtchylak’s spontaneous addition to Fixing is unique. Namtchylak’s intensity transcends the metaphoric. This performance is not folkloric. It is folklore. It is not shamanic. It is shamanism.

The ElectroAcoustic Ensemble is one of the most significant events in the humanization of electronic music, in making it mobile and spontaneously responsive. Fluctuating, by the Ensemble itself, is more than a valuable document, it’s a major revelatory work. Stuart Broomer

1. Fixing 39'40"
2. Fluctuating 32'33"

Sainkho Namtchylak - voice
Barry Guy - bass
Paul Lytton - percussion, electronics
Philipp Wachsmann - violon, alto saxophone, electronics
Marco Vecchi - diffusion sonore, live electronics
Walter Prati - live electronics
Evan Parker - soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone

Andreas Toftemark Quartet - A New York Flight (June 11, 2021 April Records)

Andreas Toftemark is a young and talented Danish saxophonist and composer, who has spent the last 8 years of his life making a career for himself abroad; with 1 year in Sweden, 3 years in Amsterdam and 4 years in New York. In New York he made a living as a professional jazz saxophonist, for all of the time that he was living there, and he has been very inspired and influenced by the capital of jazz. Toftemark has studied with prominent names, such as Joel Frahm, Ben Wendel, Sam Yahel and Eric Alexander. He has performed around the world and he has played with many internationally acclaimed jazz musicians, like Peter Bernstein, Rodney Green, Ethan Iverson and Paul Sikivie.

The six tracks on 'A New York Flight' are melodic and well played and they are all driven by the rhythmic open-mindedness that jazz is moving towards today. This is something that can be heard on both the two tracks that Andreas Toftemark has composed himself and on the four jazz standards which the quartet also play. It is swinging and at the same time open to the individual interpretations of both the listeners and of the musicians.

The overall subject of the songs are love and passion, whether it's the love for New York - or perhaps the regained love for Denmark...? - or the love expressed on the track, which was the first single from the album, and which also has the most mysterious title of all of the tracks on the album, '2223', which is a row of numbers that seem to follow Toftemark in love and in friendships.

The sound on these recordings is clear and warm and it reveals the many details in acoustic music, thanks to producer Hans Henrik Holst, who is a man with excellent ears and an amazing ability to make music blossom.

Andreas Toftemark Quartet consists of some of the absolutely finest young musicians on the contemporary Danish jazz scene; Felix Moseholm on bass, Andreas Svendsen on drums, Calle Brickman on piano and, of course, Andreas Toftemark himself on sax. Each one of them is an overwhelming joy to listen to, and brought together in a band, they bring music to a both sincere and playful level, which we only rarely have the luck to hear.

1. A New York Flight 07:32
2. Blue and Sentimental 05:33
3. Love Me or Leave Me 07:19
4. 2223 07:14
5. Autumn in New York 08:56
6. I’m a Fool to Want You 05:56

Recorded at August/September, 2020 at The Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen

Andreas Toftemark - Sax
Felix Moseholm - Bass
Calle Brickman – Piano
Andreas Svendsen - Drums

Produced by Henrik Holst Hansen & Andreas Toftemark
Mastered by Henrik Holst Hansen

Moppa Elliott - Pinpoint (20th Anniversary Remaster) Hot Cup Records

Recorded on March 11, 2001 in the TIMARA recording studio at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, this is the first studio recording by Moppa Elliott, Peter Evans, and Charles Evans.
Peter Evans (trumpet), Charles Evans (baritone saxophone), Kelly Roberge (tenor and alto saxophone), Allan Baker (piano), Moppa Elliott (bass), James Kittleman (drums).
Recorded and mixed by Nicholas Party.
Original album artwork by Becky Fellows.
Remastered by Seth Foster.

1. Talked Down 07:05
2. Pinpoint 05:45
3. Past Disappointment 07:43
4. Blues for Hawes 04:58
5. Fuzzy 05:01
6. Peace 09:21
7. Penalty Box 04:17
8. Pinpoint (reprise) 05:49

QOW TRIO - The Album (2021 Ubuntu Music)

Tradition ain’t what it used to be.

QOW TRIO’s debut release is not so much an album of standards as an infectiously joyful compendium of vintage tunes bursting from the heart of the music, like so many blood-red silk handkerchiefs gushing from the chest of a mime at the firing squad. Given that all of creation exists as a simultaneous roar of perfection, think of this sax-bass-drums trio not as old-fashioned but timeless: Sonny Rollins is still perched on the bridge, blowing long, cold lines into the wind and always will be, after all. Hear how Riley’s loquacious sax quips a nonchalant quote from Bird’s ‘Cool Blues’ about 90 seconds from the end of the hip, dancing ‘Cheryl.’ Dig Spike’s crisp snare ‘n’ cowbell funk and Eddie’s hump-backed bass drone opening up a power swing on their namesake tune, a crashing dive through Dewey Redman’s ‘Qow,’ with Riley growling up a real out moan.

Catch yourself sighing in beautiful melancholy for ‘God Bless The Child,’ with bells and cymbals shimmering like Frank O’Hara’s lost cigarette end in the great, black night. Right now, it’s about eight months since I last really heard any live music, the world shudders and groans. But these sounds are the real virus: always alive, always mutating, indestructible. Daniel Spicer

1. Slow Boat To China (F.Loesser) 06:06
2. Qow (D.Redman) 05:54
3. Serenity (J.Henderson) 05:06
4. Cheryl (C.Parker) 04:54
5. Qowfirmation (R. Stone-Lonergan) 04:54
6. God Bless The Child (B.Holliday/A.Herzog) 05:40
7. It's Alright With Me (C.Porter) 04:04
8. Pound For Prez (R.Stone-Lonergan) 07:15
9. You Do Something To Me (C.Porter) 06:07
10. Qow 05:54

Riley Stone-Lonergan - tenor sax
Eddie Myer - bass
Spike Wells - drums

Recorded by Ben Lamdin at Fish Market Studio
Produced by Ben Lamdin and Qow Trio
Executive Producer - Martin Hummel

Pedro Moreira Sax Ensemble - Two Maybe More (2021)

Two Maybe More was commissioned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for a contemporary dance performance by Sofia Dias, Vítor Roriz and Marco Martins, at the Teatro Maria Matos (2014). It was originally written for the Gulbenkian Choir. For the present version the piece was revised and expanded.

1. Lado 06:42
2. Dois, Talvez 13:22
3. Giggly Giggling 05:52
4. Binário 03:54
5. Sonho 05:52
6. Improv 1 02:16
7. Brancas 03:11
8. Improv 4 02:57
9. Como a Poesia 07:39
10. Stairway to the Stars 03:02
11. Giggly 04:23
12. In-Verso 03:00
13. Oh Cat 09:04
14. T3 02:33
15. Improv 3 03:41
16. Cinco 09:37
17. Improv 2 03:24
18. Brancas Dois 01:24

Soprano sax: Bernardo Tinoco, Tomás Marques
Alto sax: Daniel Sousa, Ricardo Toscano
Tenor sax: Mateja Dolsak, Pedro Moreira
Bari sax: Francisco Andrade, João Capinha
Bass: Mário Franco
Drums: Luis Candeias

All music by Pedro Moreira © SPA 2020

Recorded at Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa on 18th, 19th and 20th April 2019

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Luis Candeias

Charley Rose Trio - Charley Rose Trio (September 4, 2021)

Charley Rose Trio né à Paris, créateur de jazz foncièrement expressionniste. Un saxophone polymorphe qui déconstruit son son de la voix lyrique au crépitement d'élytre, une batterie presque immanente comme un feu de vie en toute chose et un piano d'une verticalité vertigineuse s'approprient les musiques d'aujourd'hui et en expriment le jazz par le prisme d'une subjectivité galopante.

1. Arrêtes le temps 05:05
2. Porky 04:36
3. If I should loose you 03:19
4. Pig's mess 06:34
5. Polish Poem 05:35
6. Hommage à la fonction OH 06:55
7. Blues Vache 03:39
8. No sé como te llama 07:11
9. Pit's belly before the great "Yes" 02:25
10. U.M.M.G. 03:34

Enzo Carniel: piano, MS20
Ariel Tessier: drums
Charley Rose: Alto saxophone