Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ember with Orrin Evans - No One Is Any One (October 29, 2021 Sunnyside Records)

Music making is enhanced when the music is made with friends. The ability to involve peers who are experiencing life in a similar way makes communication and organization more natural. The Ember band is composed of three Brooklyn based jazz musicians and comrades. The group’s new recording, No One Is Any One, shows that the bond and aesthetic that the members have built is solid yet expandable, with the addition of pianist Orrin Evans for a handful of tracks.

Ember came together in 2017 when saxophonist Caleb Curtis, bassist Noah Garabedian, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza began to assemble at rehearsals that would become as much conversations on music and values as actual playing. The members realized quickly that their openness and stylistic breadth led them quickly to a place of comfort in performance, their deep relationships leading to their understanding of musical needs and inspiring hopes of further development.

Garabedian and Sperrazza came from backgrounds in grooving, instrumental R&B music, while Curtis was more devoutly in the jazz world. The Brooklyn jazz scene provides a hospitable, if maybe under-recognized, scene of musicians who can reach across genre boundaries to make creative music.

Ember’s initial recording, New Year, came out under the names of the three members in 2018. The group’s first thought for recording was to approach the process casually, perhaps recording an album of standards. Instead, the members decided to write their own music, music that felt like standards rather than the overly complicated exercises that many in their community focus on. Ember wanted their music to be approachable in their everyday, musical life. Tunes that they could return to as part of their own canon.

A South Arts Grant in 2019 allowed Ember to tour and be clinicians for two weeks. The musicians developed a new set of music for the tour and committed it to memory, so that they would be naked on stage. Just the music and the possibilities within. Ember had intentions of recording the new material in March 2020 when the pandemic struck.

After months of isolation, Curtis, Garabedian, and Sperrazza began to meet in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in impromptu rehearsals as performances. The organic nature of the meetings and the group’s desire to move forward led them to set up a recording at the Samurai Hotel studio at the end of July.

Curtis invited his friend and frequent collaborator Orrin Evans to join the group on the recording session. The involvement of Evans could be seen as an intermingling of two musical scenes, as the Philly based pianist has become well known for his post-bop inflected original music and for becoming the Bad Plus’s second pianist. But, in reality, it was a mutually beneficial arrangement that solidified Ember’s aesthetic and accessibility.

The recording begins with Curtis’s “Reanimation (Zombie Tune),” a tongue in cheek piece with a humble but rocking bassline from Garabedian, the ear taught tune establishing Ember’s sound identity immediately. Garabedian’s solo bass introduces his “Josephine and Daphne,” a piece inspired by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis’s characters from Some Like It Hot, who find meaning in their lives when they adopt female personas to be in an all-woman jazz band. The blues-forward sound of Sperrazza’s “No One Is Any One” finds its essence in simplicity; its title is derived from the writer’s discourse on, and eschewal of, the cult of personality. “Pilot Light” shows another element of Ember’s identity, composing in real time through collective improvisation.

Curtis’s sharp and snappy “Glass House” is inspired by woodwind legend Thomas Chapin’s groundbreaking trio, the song approximating the group’s ability to balance chaos and fragility. Curtis’s mesmerizing “Peace of Deoxygenated Sleep” comes from his hour-long piece, Bottom Feeders, and is meant to mirror the quiet at the bottom of the ocean. Orrin Evans’s gorgeous sound adds additional resonance to the weight of the piece. Evans returns on Curtis’s “Thomas,” another unsettled, attention grabbing piece that once again channels Thomas Chapin’s fearlessness.

Written in a sudden burst of inspiration in a 15-minute span, Sperrazza’s “Graceful Without Grace” is a thoughtful piece that reflects on the Protestant idea of God’s grace being inherent. Garabedian’s “Chia-Sized Standing Desk” is evocative of something never heard before, an experimental composition that shows Ember’s appreciation for the AACM’s meditative sound worlds. The recording concludes with Sperrazza’s “Harvey Pekar” from his suite called One Day, the composition taking its name from the well-known jazz critic who had a talent of finding beauty where there usually wasn’t any.

The depth of the band Ember’s collaborative energy and understanding are eye and ear opening. Caleb Curtis, Noah Garabedian, and Vinnie Sperrazza create music that is inspirational and meaningful on their new recording, No One Is Any One. 

1. Reanimation (Zombie Tune)
2. Josephine and Daphne
3. No One Is Any One
4. Pilot Light
5. Glass House
6. Peace of Deoxygenated Sleep
7. Thomas
8. Graceful Without Grace
9. Chia-Sized Standing Desk
10. Harvey Pekar

Caleb Wheeler Curtis - alto saxophone
Noah Garabedian - bass
Vinnie Sperrazza - drums
Orrin Evans - piano (6-9)

Jacqueline Kerrod '17 Days in December' (December 3 on Orenda Records)

Harpist Jacqueline Kerrod delves boldly into new territory
on her debut solo release
Kerrod’s diverse credits include work with Anthony Braxton, serving as principal harpist with NY City Opera, and performances with Anohni, Rufus Wainwright and Kanye West
"Kerrod is a fearless improviser and experimentalist, using extended techniques in a fashion that would sound like mistakes in less sure hands."
– Mike Eisenberg, Avant Music News
“[The] exceptionally virtuosic and sensitive harpist Jacqueline Kerrod… drew many different tonal colors from her instrument. ”
– Timothy Hutto, Classical Source
“I sometimes think I should have picked a different instrument,” jokes South African-born harpist Jacqueline Kerrod
Classically trained from the age of 9, Kerrod has had a vibrant and varied career as a freelancer in New York City. She has played principal harp with top orchestras and performed with elite chamber groups, contemporary music ensembles, and pop superstars like Anohni, Rufus Wainwright and Kanye West. But although she consistently worked at a very high level, these opportunities failed to provide an outlet for her own creative voice.
“Although I had dabbled in improvisation and writing my own music, it took a back seat as I continued my studies in the US and began my professional career in NYC. Even so, that little voice in my head was there, reminding me of the music I was really drawn to and my desire to make it myself.”
Kerrod’s journey of personal sonic discovery has now yielded her debut solo album, 17 Days in December, due out December 3, 2021 via Los Angeles-based Orenda Records. The album results from a month-long series of daily improvisations on acoustic and electric harp that Kerrod undertook in the basement of her home in Princeton at the height of the Covid-19 quarantine. But its origins date back long before the pandemic, to a six-year journey in a pop duo and the inspiration of working with master composer/improviser Anthony Braxton.
Kerrod was initially enlisted to play with the ensemble for Braxton’s opera “Trillium J.” That led to an invitation to join the saxophone innovator on the latest iteration of his musical system, ZIM Music – the results of which can be heard on his new 11-hour recording 12 Comp (ZIM) 2017. She later joined Braxton in duo performances in Europe and the US. Their performance from Bologna was released on the Italian label I dischi di Angelica in 2020. These opportunities became a plunge into the deep end of the improvised music realm for the harpist.
“I found it exciting and terrifying to be inside of those performances,” Kerrod recalls. “As a classical musician the process is so much about learning things perfectly and meticulously preparing so that you lessen the odds of messing up. I rarely felt free from needing to control the outcome. Playing with Braxton was such a shift because you have to be in the moment. That feeling of being able to move through unfamiliar territory and discover new things is such an adventure. I truly rediscovered my joy for music and my instrument.”
Prior to crossing paths with Braxton, Kerrod was immersed in the realm of new music with the likes of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Argento Chamber Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, Wet Ink, Alarm Will Sound and Metropolis Chamber Ensemble; and she championed South African composers with more than a dozen works written for her. She also branched away from the classical world as half of the pop duo Addi & Jacq (with vocalist Addi McDaniel), where she developed her skills on the electric harp using guitar pedals and a looper, and with songwriting.
“Having all of these experiences with different genres and approaches opened up a whole new world of music to me,” Kerrod says. “Through them I started my listening journey into the world of free improvised music, free jazz, country blues, you name it! I realized that there are no boxes that one needs to climb into. You can and should always be yourself.”
Kerrod set up a basic studio at home to continue her evolution, but the lockdown accelerated the process and led to the experiments that comprise 17 Days in December. The harpist set out each day with no fixed agenda or any intention of releasing the results formally. She simply set a timer for 40 minutes, started recording, and let her ideas flow. There is no overdubbing or looping on the album, and no preparations on the harp. She used a screwdriver-like harp tool on one track (“December 5: Screwed”) a small glass bowl on another (“December 28: Glassy Fingers”) and a viola bow (December 29: Rust On Bow) and used delay, whammy and distortion/overdrive pedals on her electric harp. Two acoustic tracks (December 7: Gentle Jangle and December 2: Fluttering Alberti) use software effects in Ableton. Otherwise, the improvisations make use of the natural sounds possible with the unaltered harp..
The shimmering opening track, “December 1: Trill to Begin,” draws directly from one of Braxton’s twelve Language Musics. The trill was Kerrod’s solution to Braxton’s Long Sounds language, sustaining a drone despite the harp’s natural tendency for sonic decay. The warped menace of “December 21: Chatterbox” introduces the unusual sounds of her electric harp. Each day’s improv wrings rich discoveries from a different notion, from abstract memory of jazz on “December 9: An Impression” to agitated frenzy on “December 8: Sugar Up” to repurposed classical technique on “December 2: Fluttering Alberti.”
“In retrospect, these seventeen improvisations feel like a personal celebration,” Kerrod concludes. “At the time I felt like the top blew off and the music came tumbling out. I felt an incredible amount of joy, truth, warmth, clarity, and reverence for all the sounds – including those I was taught not to make! I want to continue reveling in that feeling, alone and with others, in whatever forms that may take.”

1. December 1: Trill to Begin
2. December 21: Chatterbox
3. December 7: Gentle Jangle
4. December 9: An Impression
5. December 8: Sugar Up
6. December 16: Glare
7. December 17: Strummed I
8. December 28: Glassy Fingers
9. December 14: Broken: In 3
10. December 2: Fluttering Alberti
11. December 4: Can-Can
12. December 29: Rust on Bow
13. December 30: Strummed II
14. December 5: Screwed
15. December 13: Sunday
16. December 22: Blips ‘n’ Blops
17. December 20: Sweet Dreams

Jacqueline Kerrod - Acoustic and Electric Harp

Recorded & produced by Jacqueline Kerrod
Mixed & additional sound production (tracks 2, 3, 7,12, 17) by Weston Olencki
Mastered by Ryan Streber

Cover Art by Eron Rauch
Design by Dan Rosenboom
Photo by Claudia Paul

Jacqueline Kerrod 17 Days in December
Orenda Records – Orenda 0093 – Recorded Dec. 1-30, 2020
Release date December  3, 2021

Friends & Neighbors - The Earth is # (October 2021 Clean Feed Records)

No, Roligheten, Johansson, Grönberg, Strøm and Østvang aren’t newcomers in the Flat Earth Society. They’re stating something much more exciting than a pizza-like world: that the Earth is music, with all its flats and sustains. That music as they love it is the Sixties and Seventies free jazz sound, the one invented by the likes of Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and John Carter. Energetic and melodic free jazz, to be more specific, with simple and suggestive tunes you can sing, as pop or folk songs, but with complex, multi-layered, improvised developments that can go to the extremes of rage and joy. Friends & Neighbors are, as you know by now, a Scandinavian band, but they’re as authentic and hot driven as the real thing, and we only can distinguish them from the music played 50 years ago because they stretch those ideas from the past to the limit and go deeper with the embraced expressionism, in a sort of hyper-realistic approach. Can the metaphor of something be more than that something? Check it for yourself.

1. Halifax 09:02
2. Untitled 06:34
3. Salad Days 02:51
4. The Earth Is # 09:26
5. Father´s Birthday 08:36
6. Sidelinja 03:58
7. Joseph 10:15

André Roligheten - tenor saxophone, flute, bass clarinet and bass saxophone
Thomas Johansson - Trumpet, flugelhorn and percussion
Oscar Grönberg - piano
Jon Rune Strøm - double bass
Tollef Østvang - drums and percussion

Tracks 1 and 6 by Tollef Østvang (TONO/NCB) | Tracks 2 and 4 by Oscar Grönberg (TONO/NCB) | Track 3 by André Roligheten (TONO/NCB) | Tracks 5 and 7 by Jon Rune Strøm (TONO/NCB)

Recorded April 9th, 10th and 111h, 2021 by Dag Erik Johansen at Athletic Sound, Halden, Norway | Mixed by Ingar Hunskaar | Mastered by Fridtjof Lindeman
Produced by Friends & Neighbors | Executive production by Trem Azul | Design by Travassos | Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Pedro Carneiro | Carlos "Zingaro" - Elogio das Sombras (October 2021 Clean Feed Records)

The return of the master violinist Carlos “Zingaro” to the Clean Feed catalogue is something to applaude, as it is the continuation of the label’s attention to the improvising side of the also Portuguese percussionist Pedro Carneiro, one of the top marimba players of contemporary classical music worldwide (performing on a custom made marimba with a damper pedal on this recording!), after the release of his duo with Pedro Melo Alves. The recording of “Elogio das Sombras” dates back from 2012 and such marvel of sounds and musical ideas risked to remain forever inside a drawer. The combination of a marimba and a violin is rare in any context, but we can state with little margin of error that this is the first time ever it happens in the creative jazz/free improvised music field.

Of course, there’s classical resonances all along, because that’s where these incredible musicians come from, but the inventiveness of the improvisations reunited in this opus (with its title translatable as “Eulogy of the Shadows”) have the cutting edge of the most “off-off” free jazz ever played (and what to expect differently from “Zingaro”?). It would be a crime, not to have this at the reach of public ear.

1. ar 03:01
2. inicio 02:07
3. fulgor 02:23
4. clarão 08:56
5. vestígio 02:59
6. traço 04:31
7. luminescência 05:51
8. luz 06:27
9. penumbra 05:20
10. treva 02:38
11. obscuridade 06:48

Carlos “Zingaro” - violin
Pedro Carneiro - marimba with damper pedal

All music by Pedro Carneiro and Carlos Zíngaro

Recorded by Emídio Buchinho at Auditório Vianna da Motta, Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa (ESML), September 11 and 12, 2012 | Curated and edited by Pedro Melo Alves in July 2021 | Mixed by Gérard de Haro | Mastered by Nicolas Baillard at Studio La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines, France
Produced by Pedro Carneiro | Executive Production by Pedro Costa for Trem Azul | Photo by Emídio Buchinho | Design by Travassos

The Rite of Trio - Free Development of Delirium (October 2021 Clean Feed Records)

"Six years after the internationally acclaimed GETTING ALL THE EVIL OF THE PISTON COLLAR!, the uncontested masters of jambacore - André B. Silva, Pedro Melo Alves and Filipe Louro - strike again with a powerful new album in which they give full throttle to their nonsensical, humoristic, ironic, cynical, in-your-face and yes, crazy, musical post-post modernist concept. The music is made of the debris of past avant-gardes, coming from jazz, contemporary classical music, metal, punk and some other frontlines of counter-cultural expression. The result is a delirium of sounds and forms, as the title promises.

It provokes us, as in “You Don’t Mind if We Laugh” and “Ego.Death”; confuses us in “C2H3Cl3O2”, and it makes you believe that there’s still space for something different, uncompromised, committed and new. The Rite of Trio may be playing us around, but the music is damn serious and it will, for sure, affect you in pleasant, though somewhat strange ways. Are you prepared for this sonic assault?"

1. Captive Stagnation of Equilibrium 03:13
2. Open Letters 02:53
3. Mind & Matter 05:47
4. Tear Down Your Dwellings 03:18
5. You Won’t Mind If We Laugh 02:13
6. Images of Control 03:37
7. Ego.Death 06:26
8. Bagel.Death 04:50
9. Put Up New Dwellings 02:17
10. DELKRUM 02:38
11. Closed Letters 03:33
12. C2H3Cl3O2 04:40
13. Free Development of Delirium 04:06

André B. Silva - electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Filipe Louro - doublebass, electric bass, acoustic guitar
Pedro Melo Alves - drums, electronics

All compositions by The Rite of Trio

Recorded and mixed by João Brandão at Arda Recorders, Porto, Portugal on June and July 2021 | Mastered by Miguel Pinheiro Marques at Arda Recorders, Porto, Portugal
Production by The Rite of Trio | Executive production by Pedro Costa | Design by Travassos

Pedro Melo Alves' Omniae Large Ensemble - Lumina (October 2021 Clean Feed Records)

“We sure are alive”, writes Pedro Melo Alves in the liner notes of “Lumina”. It’s true, the music inside is a survival chant: we made it, after two years of a science fiction-like nightmare. And suddenly, there’s some light. The Portuguese composer and drummer was the winner in 2016 of the Bernardo Sassetti Award with the first version of his Omniae Ensemble concept. At the invitation of the Guimarães Jazz Festival in 2020, during a brief interval between lockdowns, he transformed the original septet to a 23-elements large ensemble, adding electronics, tuba, clarinet, flutes, bassoon, cello, classical guitar, three singers and a maestro (Pedro Carneiro, also known as a percussionist in both the contemporary classical and improvised music fields) to the original mix and writing new, defying and more inclusive, in terms of vocabularies and grammars, scores for it. “How do we even start to look for all that ungraspable light?”, Melo Alves asks. Well, this is how. 

1. Ubi 30:57
2. Phelia 21:00
3. Onírea 22:59

Pedro Carneiro - maestro
Pedro Melo Alves - drums and percussion
José Diogo Martins - piano
Mané Fernandes - electric guitar
Pablo p. Moledo - doublebass
Clara Saleiro - flutes
João Pedro Brandão - flute and alto saxophone
José Soares - alto saxophone
Albert Cirera - tenor and soprano saxophone
Frederic Cardoso - alto and bass clarinet
Álvaro Machado - bassoon
Gileno Santana - trumpet
Xavi Sousa - trombone
Ricardo Pereira - trombone
Fábio Rodrigues - tuba
Luís José Martins - classical guitar
Luís André Ferreira - cello
Alvaro Rosso - doublebass
Mariana Dionísio - voice
Nazaré da Silva - voice
Diogo Ferreira - voice
João Miguel Braga Simões - percussion
João Carlos Pinto - eletronics
All compositions and arrangements by Pedro Melo Alves

Recorded live by João Bessa at Centro Cultural de Vila Flor, Guimarães, on the 22nd of November 2020, Part of Guimarães Jazz 2020, by invitation of Ivo Martins | Edited by Pedro Melo Alves | Mixed and mastered by João Bessa
Produced by António Fernandes | Executive production by Pedro Costa for Trem Azul | Design by Travassos | Photo by Matilde Cunha, art direction and post-production by ELLEONOR

Sten Sandell | Lisa Ullén - Double Music (October 2021 Clean Feed Records)

This one is for all the piano lovers overthere. If you’re a fan of the Scandinavian scene, you already know that Sten Sandell is one of the main representatives of that rich cauldron of creative jazz in Europe. And if you’re attentive to what’s new and fresh and creative in the jazzosphere, you already heard about the Korean-born, but living in Stockholm, Lisa Ullén, also a pianist. Yes, this is a piano duo, playing “Double Music” as the title states. And that means you have piano sounds coming from everywhere, as if you were in the middle of the ocean and there’s nothing but water around you and sun above.

That’s why the liner notes of the album are… a poem about music as a ship “traveling at the speed of sound through a sea of chords and discord”, on the lookout for “ways of harboring all the harmonics”. Sandell and Ullén sew a fishnet of pure pleasure, letting themselves follow the music where it takes them wave after wave, “finding paths navigable”. And we go with them, unware of the liquid travel, seated at our homes, in Summer bliss.

1. Double Music I 07:50
2. Area with Twenty Fingers 10:09
3. Twenty Fingers 07:57
4. Crossing 06:52
5. All or Nothing 07:31
6. Onyx I 07:27
7. Onyx II 07:23
8. Double Music II 05:07

Sten Sandell piano
Lisa Ullén piano

All music by Sten Sandell and Lisa Ullén | All rights reserved STIM/NCB

Recorded at Musikaliska February 2021 by by Mats Äleklint | Mixed and mastered by Mats Äleklint
Inside photo by Mats Äleklint | Liner notes by Emil Strandberg | Produced by Sten Sandell and Lisa Ullén | Executive production by Pedro Costa for Trem Azul | Design by Travassos

Ritual Habitual - Pagan Chant (October 2021 Clean Feed Records)

Portuguese bassist Gonçalo Almeida made Rotterdam as the basis of a busy activity with musicians from different geographic origins and his trio with Riccardo Marogna and Philipp Ernsting is one of the most prolific. The name Ritual Habitual (alliterations included, we can translate it as Usual Ritual) says it all about the purposes at play: to create ritualistic music with the repetition of motives as a method, rooted in the free jazz tradition and updated with electronic manipulations. “Pagan Chant” is presented as a tribute to the masters John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Don Cherry and Charlie Haden, even if it doesn’t sound as any of them. 

In other words, the band imagine a new kind of pagan, tribal, music with the freedom aesthetics of the “black power” period of jazz history and the 21st century colors of electro-acoustic music, in a kind of retro-futuristic approach which reminds that the present is only a construction, the result of the confluence of what comes from the past and what is beginning to happen.

1. The Womb 15:43
2. Rite of Passage 09:41
3. Psilocybe Cubensis 03:50
4. Pagan Chant 05:05
5. Dionysus Carnival 07:11
6. The Eulogy 07:17

Riccardo Marogna tenor saxophone, bass clarinet & synthesizers
Gonçalo Almeida double bass
Philipp Ernsting drums

All music by Ritual Habitual

Recorded by Edwin Willemen at Sante Boutique Studio, Rotterdam | Mixed by Ritual Habitual at iii Sound Studio, The Hague | Mastered by Giovanni di Domenico, Brussels
Produced by Ritual Habitual | Executive production by Pedro Costa for Trem Azul | Design by Travassos

L.U.M.E. (Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble) - Las Californias (October 2021 Clean Feed Records)

Marco Barroso’s LUME (“fire” in English, but in truth the acronym of Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble) comes back with a reformulated alignment of musicians and a new collection of compositions challenging the jazz big band format with a chamber ensemble feeling and lots of funk-rock grooves. The coordinates are the same as before in this third opus, but they come in “Las Californias” both refreshed and matured. It seems a paradox, but as the most Anarchist of proverbs declare: paradoxes are liberating. Time and experience solidify an idea and it’s simultaneously the condition to make something new with old ingredients.

Barroso renews the jazz orchestral patterns introducing classical materials and urban popular flavors on it: that’s what LUME made a difference at the start. Now he also renews his own formulas, taking the resulting music to other destinies, opening its paths from where they seemed to end. Doing that, he manages to create mind puzzling pieces that also invite you to dance, which is an achievement in itself. 

1. Isto 00:06
2. Las Californias 04:50
3. Shroomdinger 06:35
4. AM phantasies I 01:16
5. AM phantasies II 01:22
6. AM phantasies III 02:51
7. AM phantasies IV 02:14
8. AM phantasies V 02:37
9. AM phantasies VI 00:29
10. Dr. Tulp 04:31
11. Bugalu 07:38
12. Cleptofonie Fantastique 08:15

Marco Barroso​ composition, direction, piano
Manuel Luís Cochofel​ flute
Paulo Gaspar​ soprano clarinet
João Pedro Silva​ soprano saxophone
Tomás Marques alto saxophone
Mateja Dolsak tenor saxophone
Elmano Coelho​ baritone saxophone
Sérgio Charrinho, Jéssica Pina, Ricardo Carvalho​ trumpets
Rúben da Luz, Eduardo Lála, Mário Vicente​ trombones
Miguel Amado​ eletric bass
Vicky Marques​ drums

All pieces composed by Marco Barroso

Recording and production: Joaquim Monte, Bernardo Centeno e Francisca River, at Namouche Studios, Lisbon, Portugal | Mixed by Joaquim Monte at Namouche Studios
Mastered Simon Wadsworth at Namouche Studios | Post-production assistance: Fernando Matias | Executive production by Pedro Costa for Trem Azul | Design by Travassos