Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Wadada Leo Smith / Henry Kaiser / Alex Varty - Pacifica Koral Reef (December 15, 2021 577 Records)

"I’m supposed to be writing about Pacifica Koral Reef, this record that I’ve made with my friend Henry Kaiser and his friend Wadada Leo Smith. And while the music it contains is, for me, a miraculous late-career achievement after 50 years of mostly playing in alternative rock bands, writing about it is a downright odd thing to have to do. In my parallel life as an arts journalist, I’ve interviewed everyone from Ornette Coleman to John Cage to Robert Plant but I’ve rarely had to write about myself, and I much prefer it that way. Fighting against my natural tendency towards self-effacement is the fact that Pacifica Koral Reef is more than just a record. Yes, everybody says this about their latest slab of black plastic or their shiny new optical disc, but this time it’s true.

Everybody says this, too, but wait.

The multidimensional experience that is Pacifica Koral Reef began life in trumpet player and composer Smith’s prodigious imagination, and then found a home on a single sheet of paper, inscribed with sinuous lines, bright blocks of spring green and earthy ochre, radiant pools of blue, circuit-board computations, and ancient glyphs.

You could call it a painting. The University of Chicago’s Renaissance Society, which hosted an exhibition of Smith’s graphic scores in 2015, probably would.

It’s also a portal, as Kaiser and I found when we began, with Smith’s inspiration and help, to translate it into sound. Over the course of several recording sessions, made next door to a sumptuous collection of vintage ukuleles and utilizing an array of microphones made of purest Soviet unobtanium, we were transported to locales as dramatically different as a steamy Chicago nightclub, a Third Stream concert hall, the crystalline world under the Antarctic ice, and a lonely Scottish moor (with hints of a lost tanpura droning in the distance).

Tracking the Pacifica Koral Reef score took us out of familiar habits and into new terrain. It sparked music that will never be duplicated, because if we tried we’d of necessity be expressing a different moment, a different feeling. And it strengthened preexisting bonds of friendship and respect. I met Kaiser in 1978, after seeing a poster advertising a concert of “weird guitar music”, and Smith perhaps a year after that, when he led a workshop for improvisers in Vancouver. Meanwhile, Henry has collaborated with Leo on a number of projects, most notably three 2-CD sets and two single album releases with their Yo Miles! band. Henry, who has known Leo since 1976, tells me that he thinks of Wadada as the favorite and wise uncle that he never had in his own family.

All of these visions, connections, and relationships are realized through the score. The music is improvised and ephemeral; the effect is intentional, replicable, and lasting.

That’s the beauty of Smith’s Ankhrasmation system, which combination of visual stimulation, musical notation, and social philosophy that prompts intuition, imagination, and cooperation.

“Ankhrasmation is a musical language, as opposed to a musical notation system,” Leo told music journalist Frank J. Oteri in 2011. “The first part, Ankh, comes from the Egyptian cross. Ras comes from the Ethiopian ‘head’, meaning the leader. And Ma comes from ‘mother’….It could be referenced scientifically, according to nature or biology, or it can be referenced according to fantasy, imagination. The only requirement is that the artists that are performing it maintain a high level of sincerity. That’s all it requires.”
I might argue that Ankhrasmation scores also ask their interpreters to be conscious of the values of “colour, velocity, [and] rhythm”. And when, more recently, I asked Leo if he envisioned Ankhrasmation as a way of integrating the eyes, the ears, and the hands of an improviser, or a group of improvisers, he agreed—but gently reminded me that I’d left out another important dimension: “the heart”.

I can’t speak to the heart that Henry brought to this project, although it’s plainly audible here, and he deserves full production credit for guiding Pacifica Koral Reef from improbable notion to elegant product. I won’t say much about my own heart, beyond noting that when we entered the studio I’d just had it broken, and you can probably hear this in the bagpipe-raga lament that I play on open-tuned acoustic guitar to kick off the record. But Wadada likes to speak about how his heart, his system, and his music are all connected to the need to not only survive, but thrive under injustice.

Obviously he’s talking about the African American experience in the United States—and more. With “African-American culture, the First People in North and Central and South America, the Jewish culture coming out of Asia,” he says, “all these things set in motion to wipe us out, they created something inside of us, all of us, that would not allow that to happen….So inside of that collective consciousness is this will to survive and to prosper. That’s the word I like to use. And when we look at African Americans, having people in business and in politics and in writing and literature and all these other dynamics of artistic and cultural activity achieve the highest level is just magnificent.”

Having been a diver much longer than he has been a musician, Henry is especially aware of the destructive effect of climate change on the coral reef systems that are an essential part of Gaea, the living earth. His many deployments to Antarctica as a working scientific diver for the past 20 years have made him an expert witness to the heartbreaking changes that are happening and accelerating right now. His guitar here reaches with from under-the-polar-ice inspired rhythms and narratives to intertwine with our collective concern for the earth and its elaborately interconnected web of inhabitants.

Snorkelling in the Pacific Northwest’s Salish Sea is a daily part of my own summertime routine. Like participating in collective improvisation, it gives me a sense of being part of a larger whole and an awareness that strange beauties await us just below every surface—along with the presence of risk, and evidence of life’s fragility.

Wadada brings the magnificent courage of his ancestors to this music. Henry is darting and provocative and deep into the practice of listening. Me, I’m just glad to be a part of the team, and I hope Pacifica Koral Reef brings light, warmth, and otherworldly pleasure to all those who hear it.”

- Alexander Varty 

1. Pacifica Koral Reef

Wadada Leo Smith:  Trumpet
Henry Kaiser:  Guitar
Alex Varty: Guitar

Recorded January 2018 by Sandor Nagyszalanczy, Jesse Nichols, Henry Kaiser
at Wise Acres Studio, Santa Cruz, California & Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California
Production, mixed and mastered by Henry Kaiser

Cover painting by Brandy Gale
Graphic design by Sergio Vezzali

Pacifica Koral Reef is realized from an Ankhrasmation score by Wadada Leo Smith

Pol Omedes - ¡Pura Vida! (December 2021 The Changes Music)

Solid ‘Tradition’ with splashes of freshness, fun, and fire are what you’ll hear from the compositions and playing of trumpeter Pol Omedes on his wonderful new recording ¡Pura Vida!

The mostly original composition set and two classic Jazz Standards showcase his writing, arranging skills, and the bands finesse and solid communication. Omedes is also a vocalist on the opening track with another vocal feature from Helena Camps bringing even more variety to this recording!

Listen, listen, and listen some more as for sure you’ll enjoy this uplifting, groovin’, and deep music.

Dena DeRose

1. ¡Pura Vida! 05:03
2. My First Time in New York 05:13
3. Desconfination 04:03
4. Abrazos 05:37
5. Feu-me Cas! (Dedicada al Gran Doctor Rai Camps) 03:54
6. Stablemates 06:53
7. After George Floyd 04:30
8. Impro 4A (Hasta Siempre) 04:00
9. Naima 05:11
10. High Fly 05:00

Pol Omedes - trumpet, vocals
Pau Vidal - flute, tenor sax
Xavi Torres - piano
Giuseppe Campisi - bass
Xoan Sánchez - percussion
Joan Casares - drums

Special Guests:
Lluc Casares - tenor sax on ¡Pura Vida!
Helena Camps - vocals on Abrazos

Recorded at Vertigo Studios (Barcelona) on 7 and 8 September 2021

Mixed by Big Daddy Pein
Mastered by Aniol Bestit

Photo and artwork by Francesc Marty

Francesco Baiguera - Post Jazz Chamber Music (December 2021)

A completely new quartet with a chamber dimension, which is located in an ill-defined place between classical music and jazz. The writing may recall authors such as Bartok, Ravel, and Debussy, finding within itself moments of free improvisation and compositional methods derived from the contemporary jazz dimension.

The music moves between an undefined chiaroscuro, where the alternation of sections and the variety of timbres accompany us on an elaborate sound journey made up of choral moments, multi-voice canons, solo episodes, and structures derived from the blues, with a choice of voicing that somehow thins the boundary between consonance and a certain degree of dissonance through the use of clusters (clusters of voices extremely close together) and spread clusters (a derivation of which has already been experimented by composers such as Olivier Messiaen).

The project is enriched by the presence of important musicians from the Italian music scene, top interpreters of their respective instruments, and strong in their personal aesthetic-musical vision, which enriches the initial idea of a real suite written in Italy during the first lockdown.
1. Heavy Blue 05:58
2. Beauty Through Clouds 05:38
3. Never So Close 07:51
4. Intermezzo 06:18
5. Abstract Thoughts 03:30
6. Istantanea 05:57
7. Postlude 02:45

Francesco Baiguera: composition and el.guitar
Massimiliano Milesi: tenor and soprano sax
Daniele Richiedei: violin
Giulio Corini: double bass

Massimiliano Milesi / Francesco Baiguera / Giulio Corini / Filippo Sala - REITHIA (December 2021)

"During the path of life, suffering represents a moment capable of nourishing the spirit of solidarity and collaboration between people which often evolves into Beauty, which has an infinite duration" Reithia takes its name from the pre-Roman Deity, symbol of rebirth and healing. Even if it had Venetian origins, its cult also developed in the municipalities of the western Alps between the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia, the hometowns of the four musicians of the group. These two cities have recently become sadly famous because of the serious and huge losses suffered during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The project, created in collaboration with the Jazz on the road Association, is a way to create and convey a message of hope and rebirth through the most ancient and universal language: Music.

The album was entirely recorded during the first concert of the group held in Brescia as part of the XVII edition of the Jazz on The Road Festival (one of the few Italian jazz events held in July 2020). The record features 8 songs which were specially composed by the four musicians during the tragic lockdown period of March and April 2020 as well as an original arrangement of the famous Cole Porter song “Easy to Love”, used as the official Festival soundtrack.

With all that said we wish you good listening and ... good rebirth to everyone.

1. Le Cose Semplici 06:00
2. Hula Hope 04:42
3. For Every Change 06:32
4. Ex Motu 08:16
5. Girovago d'estate 08:56
6. Nonnoncredereinme 04:04
7. Astrotheo 07:59
8. Easy To Love 02:10

Massimiliano Milesi: tenor sax
Francesco Baiguera: guitar
Giulio Corini: double bass
Filippo Sala: drums

The Project - Midpoint (December 2021)

The Project is a collaboration of musicians ruminating the dark side streets of Jazz.

1. Mad Max 05:35
2. Carthago delenda est 07:03
3. A glass of colorfull feathers 07:34
4. The merchant of Venice 04:23

Joe Boyes - Keyboards
Joshua Smout - Drums, Percussion
Panos Kotsiopoulos - Bass guitar
Samuel Ward - Trumpet, Flugelhorn

Alex Fisher - Saxophone on tracks 1 and 4

Compositions - Panos Kotsiopoulos
Album Art - Panos Kotsiopoulos
Recorded at 'Green door studios' - Leeds
Mastered at 'The Nave' - Leeds
Produced by Panos Kotsiopoulos

Frederic Borey - BUTTERFLIES Trio (FEATURING Lionel Loueke) 2021 Fresh Sound Records


With this brand new CD on Fresh Sound Records, the 8th under his name, Frédéric Borey joins ambition, musicality and friendship.

Following the first album (©2019), and almost 80 concerts since 2018, BUTTERFLIES Trio has built, together and with the public, a strong relation.

Based on this human and musical complicity, he dreams big and decides on this second album, to invite world-class musician Lionel Loueke (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, Esperanda Spalding, Robert Glasper, Sting, Gretchen Parlato…) and faithful friend met 26 years ago.

« This idea comes from a collective desire, to keep renewing ourselves. The trio is the foundation, around which we think interesting (for ourselves and for the public) to permanently create, innove, have fun and take some risks. It also correspond to a certain form of spontaneity, improvisation and surprise that makes the essence of Jazz music.
The idea of inviting Lionel has been revealed as an evidence. The three of us having the highest respect for his career, it was also, beyond his musical personality, about keeping human’s relation on the center of our group »

In this new record of 11 songs, including 8 in quartet and 3 in trio, we find Frédéric’s compositions, of course, but also pieces from his partners, who have all composed for this project.

Each songs has it own strong identity. We can easily recognize Frédéric’s writing on 'Don’t Give Up', 'Lou' (duo between Frédéric & Lionel) or 'Insomnia' (with two drums and two guitars recorded at the time) that brings a new sound to his repertoire. 'Do Hwe Wutu' (« Thanks to you » in Beninese) expresses Frédéric’s gratitude and friendship towards Lionel. We can also recognize Loueke’s unique touch with « Camille » that he wrote and sings here.

It results a beautiful diversified recording, balanced, in which we clearly feel their humanity and complicity

The Butterflies invites Lionel Loueke and spreads their wings together. « That’s all we are trying to be, 4 butterflies that meet and fly together during a dance »
01. Don' Give Up (Frédéric Borey)
02. Camille (Lionel Loueke)
03. Wish (Frédéric Borey)
04. Commencement (Stéphane Adsuar)
05. Insomnia (Frédéric Borey)
06. Gentlemen's Agreement (Damien Varaillon)
07. Cube (Damien Varaillon)
08. Do Hwe Wutu (Frédéric Borey)
09. Lou (Frédéric Borey)
10. Clews (Frédéric Borey)
11. Snowscape (Damien Varaillon)

The Line up :
Frédéric Borey (tenor saxophone)
Damien Varaillon (doublebass)
Stéphane Adsuar (drums)
Lionel Loueke (guitars, vocals)
All songs, except 03, 07, 11

Recorded by Julien Reyboz
Ohm Sweet Ohm Studio, Paris
Mixed and Mastered by Dave Darlington
Bass Hit Recording, New York City

Album Artwork ©Maria Jarnyza

Johannes Fosse Solvang & Camilla Hole (feat. OJKOS) - Miniatyrland (December 15, 2021 Taragot)

In MINIATYRLAND you get to experience the chamber musical side of OJKOS, where wind instruments, cello and vocals play an exciting and supporting role, in addition to the regular accompanist group. One gets close to the various colors and nuances the different instruments offer, in a playful universe where whimsical melodies and abstract improvisations walk hand in hand. Song titles such as “Katten er løs” (The cat is loose), “Isbjørnmarsj” (Polar bear march) and “Fenghette” (Explosives) invite us to dream further into the music.

Johannes and Camilla have both played and worked together on several projects in the last 10 years. They have made three records together with the septet BenReddik. Therefore, it was natural for them to collaborate with the music on this album, and bring inspiration from the universe and musicians in BenReddik (some of the musicians can be found in this edition of OJKOS).

1. Katten er løs
2. Dromedardans
3. Hundene i San Francisco
4. Isbjørnmarsj
5. Pusletid
6. Lillefingermelodier
7. Ojkostimen
8. Fenghette
9. Miniatyrland I
10. Miniatyrland II
11. Fjomsedyret
12. Isbjørnparadis

Camilla Hole - soprano saxophone
Johannes Fosse Solvang - trombone

Siril Malmedal Hauge - voice
Henrietten Hvidsten Eilertsen - flute
Marie Rotevatn - clarinet and bass clarinet
Ellen-Martine Gismervik - cello
Richard Köster - trumpet
Lyder Øvreås Røed - trumpet
Tancred Heyerdahl Husø - trumpet
Andreas Rotevatn - trombone
Kristoffer Håvik - piano
Arne Martin Nybo - guitar
Mike McCormick - guitar
Alexander Hoholm - bass
Knut Kvifte Nesheim - drums

Recorded by Aksel Jensen
Conducted by Magnus Murphy Joelson
Produced by Camilla Hole & Johannes Solvang
Mixed and Mastered by Christina Obermayer at Strype Audio
Cover by Kristine Knapstad
Supported by Creos vederlagsfond & norsk jazzforum
Taragot 37

Carn Davidson 9 - The History of Us (Three Pines Records)

The Carn Davidson 9 (CD9) was formed in early 2010 as a collaborative project between JUNO Award-winning artists, trombonist William Carn and saxophonist Tara Davidson. CD9 is a 9-piece chordless ensemble that utilizes its seven horns as melodic, harmonic and rhythmic devices, anchored by bass and drums. This coled ensemble presents an opportunity for both artists to craft compositions for a unique chamber jazz instrumentation, and for a formidable collection of guest arrangers to shine new light on existing repertoire by Carn and Davidson.

The Carn Davidson 9’s unique sound is made stronger by an all-star lineup of prominent Canadian artists, all of whom are exceptional ensemble players in addition to being outstanding soloists. CD9 has produced two previous recordings: their debut album “Nine” was released in 2012, and was followed by “Murphy” in 2017. Both recordings garnered JUNO nominations for Jazz Album of the Year.

The History of Us is the Carn Davidson 9’s third studio recording, and is their most personal project to date. Comprised of two three-movement suites, The History of Us is a powerful, moving meditation on the universal themes of family, migration, and loss.
Finding Home Suite (W. Carn)
1. I. A New Life (solo: K. Turcotte) 8:14
2. II. A Mother’s Life (solo: W. Carn) 8:08
3. III. Home (solo: S. Beddage) 8:44
4. Goodbye Old Friend (W. Carn) 2:37

Suite 1985 (T. Davidson)
5. I. The Epitaph - For Mom (solo: K. Turcotte) 8:23
6. II. Swept Out To Sea - For Dad
(solo: A. Downing/K. Jefferson) 9:25
7. III. Wisely If Sincerely (solo: T. Davidson) 7:14

Tara Davidson - Alto & Soprano Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Piccolo
Kelly Jefferson - Tenor & Soprano Sax, Clarinet
Shirantha Beddage - Baritione Sax & Bass Clarinet
Jason Logue - Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Kevin Turcotte - Trumpet & Flugelhorn
William Carn - Trombone & Bass Trombone
Christian Overton -Bass Trombone
Andrew Downing - Acoustic Bass
Ernesto Cervini - Drums & Percussion

Recorded by Jeff Elliott at Revolution Studio, July, 20th & 21st, 2021
Edited and Mixed by Jeff Elliott
Mastered by Jeff Elliott at Fedge Mastering, September 2021
Artwork and Design by Lillian Chan
Produced by William Carn and Tara Davidson