This is a well performed modern jazz album, which is led by Francois Carrier on alto saxophone and Chinese oboe, with Michael Lambert on drums and Alexey Lapin on piano. This is their sixth album as a trio (with number seven on the way!) and the empathy between the musicians is palpable in their interactions and support for one another. The music is entirely improvised and was recorded live at the Experimental Sound Gallery in St. Petersburg in 2014. Their sound is open and spacious with the improvisations developing slowly and then blooming into wide ranging music. Carrier has a full bodied saxophone tone and leads some bracing improvisations that are taken at an exhilarating pace. He moves the saxophone through a number of filigrees and structures that coalesce into a free and unencumbered flight. The group develops a crystalline sound which builds in abstraction, akin to the ambiance of a lonely night in a big city, but still remains accessible with the musicians in full support of one another. When the musicians move dynamically through a number of textures and tempos they keep the music interesting, performing exploratory jazz that continuously evolves as it proceeds, developing layer upon layer in the process. The lack of bass allows the music to float freely and not be pinned down, giving space for the improvisations to develop organically. Carrier's oboe adds an interesting tinge to the music, allowing an Eastern feel to add to the overall texture of the music. This was a fine album, of interest not only to for free jazz fans, but modern jazz fans in general. It goes beyond strict musical boundaries into a form all of its own. Using a blend of modern jazz and free improvisation, the group is able to create space for spontaneous and soaring interactive playing. Freedom is Space for the Spirit - francoiscarrier.com.
Tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman releases another excellent album in this ambitious series of trio recordings with this very exciting encounter between himself and the incomparable William Parker on bass and Perelman's go-to drummer, Gerald Cleaver. This is a great recording, a three section collective improvisation that allows the trio an expansive arena in which to express themselves. "Part One" begins the movement in a patient and thoughtful manner, gradually developing the improvisation in a rich fashion. The main event is "Part Two" which is a very impressive forty minute performance that moves forward at a very nice pace. Cleaver is the perfect drummer for this type of free jazz, and he guides the music into developing episodically, moving waves of percussive sound that ebbs and flows, adding color and shading to the music. Parker's bass playing is on a grand scale with a huge tone and the dexterity to move all around the sound landscape, supporting and accenting the music. Perelman is particularly inspired in this section, reaching deep within himself for some of his most lyrical, yet unfettered playing to date. The masterful support of Parker and Cleaver allow Perelman to to manipulate the time and space of the music, moving in three spacial dimensions plus time to create music that moves from raw and unfettered to abstract and spacious. "Part Three" wraps up the music nicely, providing a logical and thoughtful conclusion to a well played and recorded performance. This is vibrant and exciting jazz that is made up of the sound of surprise and collaboration between like minded souls. The Art Of The Improv Trio Volume 4 - amazon.com
Keith Jarrett has been releasing archival sets of his work for quite a while now. This is one of his most ambitious projects, a four-disc set of recordings from a series of solo concerts recorded in Italy in October 1996, which documented four nights of performances from Modena, Ferrara, Turin, and Genoa. These were the last concerts he played having no breaks within each set and after these concerts were recorded, Jarrett fell quite ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, and retired from concert performance. Thankfully, his health has recovered and he is actively recording and performing again. The music stands as some of the best solo performing he has released, at times as populist and approachable as the Koln concert or as exploratory as the Bremen/Lausanne performances. Jazz improvisation is at the forefront here alongside touches of classical music. These performances are mostly spontaneous improvisations, and the music is free flowing with a sense of wonder to it, as if he is delighted at the potential paths that are revealed to him as the music develops. Jarrett tosses of a couple of standards, "Danny Boy" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as encores, showing wit and humor along with the more serious music, which in itself can range from a meditative state of grace to a percussive groove. The main performances vary in length from twenty to forty-five minutes and it is very impressive that Jarrett is able to reel the listener in and invite them into what is a very personal sound world. He has been quoted as saying that he just lets the music flow as a river would and this is an apt analogy. The concerts on this album, were recorded by Jarrett himself on a DAT machine, and the sound is very good and immediate, however it does capture quite clearly Jarrett's vocalizing along with his improvisations and this could be a potential turnoff for some. But if you can compartmentalize that and focus on the music, the improvisations are very impressive and rewarding, worthy of the investment spent listening to them. A Multitude Of Angels - amazon.com
This is a very exciting small band free jazz album with Paul Dunmall and Howard Cottle on tenor saxophones, Olie Brice on bass and Tony Bianco on drums. Dunmall and Bianco have created a series of stellar John Coltrane tributes over the past few years and this album expands on that idea as this time the music is composed by Dunmall, though inspired by Coltrane, specifically his posthumously released Sunship LP. “Underground Underground” opens the album with storming full throttle music, with deep throaty saxophones in full gear rolling over torrential bass and drums. Two saxophones raise the intensity to hair raising levels with squalls of bass and drumming keeping pace. Swirls of noise and bursts of drums, move to a thrilling over the top conclusion that is stunning its power. They come out of the gate storming at full throttle on “The Inner Silence Was Too Loud” with deep guttural saxophones in full gear roaring over torrential drumming which blooms into a full rich sound. Raw peals of sound with a diamond hard tone, and a foundation of bass and drums all working in consort, developing shadows and light. Soloists shift from one saxophone to another, each with unique tones feeding a dark reverie and pushing forth. “Sunup” keeps the pressure on, with the two saxophones plus bass and drums developing a sound that belies the quartet format. The bass and drums ripple in a muscular fashion, supporting the saxophones which stalk the music like predators at the top of the food chain. There is a collective blowout with all instruments at maximum and then making way for a rattling drum solo. After the epic drum solo, the group displays amazing stamina which builds to a massive brawl of noise and excitement and collective caterwauling. The epic performance “Timberwolf” begins with a taut bass solo, which is eventually met by blasts of scalding saxophone roaring across the musical landscape. There are sharp needles of sound pushing forth waves of energy. The saxophones become intertwined above the roiling drums. The music is very exciting but nearly excausting in its unrelenting power. This was a very successful album which takes the lessons that John Coltrane taught in the min-1960’s and brings them into the present moment with great vigor. Fans of dynamic free jazz will be very satisfied with this album. Underground Underground - amazon.com
Saxophonist Ivo Perelman saves one of the best albums of this series of trio recordings for last with this very exciting encounter with Joe Morris on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. This is a live recording which adds to the listener's anticipation, recorded at the Manhattan Inn in New York City. The music consists of an expansive forty-two minute collective improvisation and then a shorter encore. Although Morris may be best known as a guitarist, he has been recording on bass for several years and has developed an admirable approach to the instrument, bowing and plucking with aplomb, and he is at the center of the music that is created on this album. Cleaver has a unique conception his instrument as well, developing swathes of percussive sound that seem to shift and sway like desert sands, adding color and shading to the music. The leader sounds particularly inspired by their company and he is very comfortable in the live setting and with the sympathetic audience which allows him to stretch out with great gales of sound, encouraged and challenged by his colleagues. The music is light and lithe despite its power, which is considerable. The three musicians are truly in the moment working together collectively in real time to produce music that waxes and wanes, from torrential bursts of sound to abstract and quieter tones that frame the overall soundscape of the music. They work together in consort, laying the building blocks for their music and then setting the catalyst free that gives them the spark of life and the energy needed to improvise at such a high and courageous level. The musicians are in the act of creation live, not only are the members of the trio dependent on each other for the success of the endeavor, but a crowd of onlookers is also hanging on every note. This is jazz in it's purest sense, shorn of artifice and laid bare for all to see. The Art Of The Improv Trio Volume 6 - amazon.com
Momentum is a Norwegian collective jazz group featuring Jørgen Mathisen on soprano and tenor saxophone, Christian Meaas Svendsen on bass and Andreas Wildhagen on drums. This album was recorded in Oslo on October 1st 2015, Mathisen composed the first two tracks and the final two were collective improvisations. “Gaining” opens the album with raw smears of sound, using scrapes of drums, fluttering saxophone and ominous bass. The music moves slowly forward as the musicians engage one another, moving massive blocks of sound and building with them. This evolves into “Maintaining” which develops the excitement with a choppy sound, building the suspense as the tempo rises. Short bursts of sound are carefully piled upon one another connoting forward motion as the urgency of the playing becomes frantic. The interaction between the musicians is very impressive and they hold fast to the theme that they have developed as it becomes nearly overwhelming. “Momentum” is the longest performance on the album and it opens with an exciting free jazz squall of torrid music. Raw, scouring saxophone in league with sawing bowed bass and thunderous drumming makes for a potent package and gives the group a raw and gutsy sound. The develop a very exciting and delightfully loud group improvisation of harrowing intensity as if all of the kinetic energy that had built up previously was being released. They throttle back the intensity to an open and abstract section for bowed bass and scattered drumming, with skittering saxophone commenting. The dynamics of this epic performance begin to rise again as they gain in volume and forward motion, and they are able to develop a big and brawny sound which is immediate and hard hitting with scalding saxophone atop thrashing bass and drums, nerve wracking yet thrilling. Fast trills of saxophone in space open the concluding track, “Snake Ballad” and the saxophonist develops a very nice sound somewhat similar to Peter Brotzman’s exotic tárogató calling out piercing tones over deep emotional wells of bass and drums. The music evolves episodically with open space for thick bass and subtle percussion. Mathisen’s saxophone renters as the group moves to a majestic conclusion. This was a very well done and unpredictable album that fans of modern jazz will enjoy. Momentum - amazon.com
Reed player and composer Ken Vandermark is a relentless and courageous musical explorer, and this album may be one of his most experimental albums yet. It is a duet performance, playing one forty minute improvisation, “Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami)”, and he is performing with Lasse Marhaug on electronics, recorded live in Oslo in May of 2016. Abbas Kiarostami was an Iranian filmmaker, and his work deeply influenced Vandermark who is both a cinephile and film scholar. The music is a torrid free improvisation, with Vandermark using saxophones and clarinet and Marhaug using a battery electronics to challenge and explore. Vandermark’s playing is appropriately raw and powerful, bursting peals of wounded sound that engages and embraces the electronics, taking the music in unexpected directions. The music weaves dynamically through sections of ominous abstractions and epic blowouts. Both musicians show a great deal of stamina, while improvising and creating the music in real time, reacting to one another and pushing the boundaries of their respective instruments. Their creation goes beyond the bounds of music and develops the ideas of painting or sculpting with sound or in this case perhaps trying to present an aural cinematic experience, an improvised film of their soundworld at this time and place which creates a powerful emotional response. Blocks of electronics and sheer sound met by the reed instruments sound like the transmission of an alien civilization, calling out into the void. There is a strong sense of motion in their collaborative improvisation, bursts of pure noise and lines of music that intertwine at an almost molecular level. The electronics have a gritty distortion which aggressively grates on the music and using the electronics in very different ways, laying down a sonic foundation for Vandermark in improvise over or moving in the opposite direction. This music is tremendously exciting and almost overpowering, fans of adventurous music would do well to check it out. Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami) - Bandcamp.