Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kaja Draksler, The Lives of Many Others

The Ljubljana Jazz Festival in Slovenia appears to be an important event for avant jazz, judging by recordings that have been coming out from the festival of late. There apparently is so much of worth that the festival and Clean Feed records have set up a joint venture, the Ljubljana Jazz Series, a label devoted to the jazz festival performances recorded there.

Number four in the series is a solo piano recital by Kaja Draksler, The Lives of Others (Clean Feed/Ljubljana Jazz 004). She is something unusual, an avant jazz pianist-stylist in her own right.

She can create balladic quasi-stride with harmonically rich modern overtones, as she does in the beginning of this set. She can drum on the piano in ways drummers will feel at home listening to, since there are patterns of left and right hands they may well know and use themselves. And she has a feel for intervalic relations, harmonic and melodic patterning that also put her in her own special category of improvisers.

This is free improvisation with occasional references to Slovenian folk strains and a composition by Thanasis Deligiannis.

It shows an original pianistic mind at work. I expect we will be hearing much more from Kaja (I do hope so) but in the meanwhile this is a disk you'll want to check out if you find the free improv scene vital (as I do). Kudos to Ms. Draksler!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Daniel Szabo, A Song from There, with Peter Erskine, Edwin Livingston

Of course one cannot do this literally, but when listening to new music it is a proper rule-of-thumb to throw away everything you know and listen as if you were from another planet. It can't happen because the listening mind-soul is always interjecting thoughts, like, "he sounds like x" or "what kind of music is this exactly?" Nonetheless it is the ideal state to hear improvised music, to be in the moment of it. I find myself distracted with thoughts like "do I want to review this?" but at some point I try to let the music just wash over me.

Daniel Szabo's piano trio album A Song from There (DSZABOMUSIC 1001) has the immediacy of modern jazz. If you let it, wash over you it does, in the best way. This is a pianist with his own story to tell, through originals and an excellent trio in bandmates Peter Erskine (drums) and Edwin Livingston (bass).

He doesn't quite sound like anybody, which is saying something. And he has a very well developed sense of time and rhythmic attack as well as melodic-harmonic acuity. That stands out on this, his third album.

Erskine and Livingston are with him all the way with a commitment to each composition and its demands, with distinctive motivic development, solo and accompaniment chops, and just a very large dose of "thereness".

Each number has its own qualities. Put them together and you have a major pianist with an ideal trio to give you state-of-right-now beauty and bite.

Daniel Szabo should be somebody that the future will embrace. Especially if he grows from here--an already substantially accomplished pianist. An original.

So whether you've heard this said before or not, Daniel Szabo has it! Very recommended.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tesla Coils, Blaise Siwula, Harvey Valdes, Gian Luigi Diana

The world of improvised music continues to evolve. There are those ensembles that favor an acoustic "purity" and there are those that incorporate electronics. Today we have a great example of the latter, Tesla Coils (Setola di Maiale).

It is a potent threesome of Blaise Siwula on soprano-alto-tenor sax, Harvey Valdes on electric guitar, and Gian Luigi Diana on laptop doing real-time sampling and sound manipulation. The advantage to this set up is that the electronics are integral and part of the live performance/improvisation.

Blaise and Harvey lay down a carpet of vivid improvisations and Gian transforms the sounds in various ways, adding a third instrument which is a direct consequence of the other two sound generations.

Anybody who reads this column knows I cover Blaise Siwula and his smart yet torching reedwork. He sounds excellent as ever here. Harvey Valdes plays in an out, fragmented and sometimes psychedelically inspired guitar style that works well in the ensemble. Gian Luigi Diana adds varied textures and densities that form an organic part of the proceedings.

In short, it all comes together. This is first-tier experimental music that once again shows the way to Brooklyn, a world hotbed for new music.

If you like well-executed, fertile-free soundmaking, this one is for you. Now if they used me on drums/, just kidding. This is the dope.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Joe Sullivan, Whiskey Jack Waltz

It's not like the world is a new place everyday when we wake up. But, five days a week, give or take, I find three new recordings of music that's worth hearing, that makes the world new, at least for me. So I wake up each day and talk about them a little so that you might have new things to check out.

Here's one that perhaps is easy to miss. It's trumpetissimo and jazz composer-tunesmith Joe Sullivan, with his quintet album Whiskey Jack Waltz (Perry Lake Records 003). This is changes-oriented, evolved mainstream jazz of a good sort. Joe has a trumpet sound closer to Diz than Miles, if you had to choose, or Fats and Freddie more that Joe Smith, but really it is his sound: pinched in a pleasing sort of way, expressive and bell-on.

He is joined by a game quintet of Lorne Lofsky, electric guitar, Andre White, piano, Alec Walkington, bass, and Dave Laing, drums. They all have drive and finesse; White and Lofsky have good solo presence along with Sullivan.

Nine tunes Sullivan penned set the table for a nice musical meal, so to speak. And Joe Sullivan's trumpet speaks to us lucidly, sparklingly.

If you get excited by good trumpet players, now's the time. Joe Sullivan has a brass proudness that his tunes and the band forward with grace and grits. Well-done!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Jason Ajemian, Tony Malaby, Rob Mazurek, Chad Taylor, A Way A Land of Life

You take a lineup of Jason Ajemian, bass, Tony Malaby, saxes, Rob Mazurek, trumpet, and Chad Taylor, drums, and if you know these players your expectations are high. And they make a limited edition LP vinyl album, 400 copies. They call it A Way A Land of Life (Nobusiness LP74).

And not surprisingly, the album comes through. Nobody on these sides is playing tiddlywinks. They are serious and inspired. There are good compositional elements, by Jason, and the playing is first-rate free jazz.

The front line includes bass at times, there is some good solo bass work too, and when the drums are going at it Chad has front-line presence. It's a four-way conversation broken up in segments but always absorbing your attention.

Each player has a personality that puts him in a zone--but you know that if you know the players. I guess this is Jason Ajemian's date officially. And more power to him for it, because the four dedicate themselves with no reservations to the music and it all reflects well on Ajemian's leadership and musicianship.

This is good, hard-hitting freedom music! Recommended.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Brian Groder Trio, with Michael Bisio and Jay Rosen

I have been appreciating Brian Groder for a while now. He plays trumpet very architectonically. What? Architectonic...having a clearly defined structure. There is form in his improvising which is related to his composing. We get Brian's architectonics laid bare, so to speak, on his new trio album, with the self-explanatory title Brian Groder Trio (Latham 5901).

There's one piece by Joanne Brackeen; the rest are by Groder. He choose well in including bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Jay Rosen. Both respond with brilliance to free architectonics. Michael is one of the very foremost inventive bassists on the scene today and Jay a great drummer who does not always get the recognition he should, though as part of Trio X he gets exposure, surely. He sounds better and better these days.

So Jay responds beautifully and contributes his special time and color to this trio. Brian and Michael interact with exceptional grace and inventiveness. Both play out of the compositional implications of each number in interactive bliss and on their own.

The performances are not to be missed. The compositions hit you in the ears and the trio through-improvises on them with a musical logic that is outstanding.

Do not wait! Get this one because it rings out as one of the best this year!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bill O'Connell, The Latin Jazz All-Stars

Better late than never. I was happily pummeled with music over the regular season and since there is only one of me I could not get to all of the good ones fast enough. So I am catching up today with one I wanted to cover earlier, pianist Bill O'Connell and The Latin Jazz All-Stars (Savant 2129).

It achieves a rather big sound with a sextet, thanks in part to the arrangements but also to the clout of the individual players. Connell does those arrangements and they toggle nicely between hard bop/post bop and a Latin groove. He also plays exemplary piano that covers well the expectations of the percussive block Latin piano style and then comes through with some very hard-charging solos that channel a Tyneresque left hand with some fleet and hip right-hand runs.

With him are Steve Slagle on soprano and alto, Conrad Herwig on trombone, with a potent rhythm section of Richie Flores on conga, Luques Curtis on bass and Adam Cruz on the drums. They are joined with bata drumming by Roman Diaz and Diego Lopez and vocals by Diaz and Jadele MacPherson for a very hip Latin arrangement of Victor Feldman's classic "Joshua". Bill O'Connell's nicely appropriate originals form the bulk of the music otherwise, with a couple more standards for good measure.

O'Connell, Slagle and Herwig give us some advanced modern soloing and the rhythm section cooks and churns out the Latin grooves with all the power you'd hope for.

In the end this is a very nifty Latin jazz album for both its Latin and its jazz. The balance is there and apparently they took down the "no smoking" signs in the studio, for they all smoke! Get into this one and you'll be smiling pretty rapidly.