Moment's Notice

Recent CDs Briefly Reviewed
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Myra Melford + Be Bread
The Image of Your Body
Cryptogramophone CG131

Myra Melford Many musicians talk about their work in terms of a larger spiritual endeavor, but few have walked the walk like Myra Melford. In addition to serious commitments to spiritual communities, the pianist undertook an arduous Indian sojourn a few years ago ostensibly to study Hindustani music, though she would probably be quick to say that her musical education proved to be a secondary benefit. Though her spiritual regimen – and her teaching schedule at UC Berkeley – may have lengthen the gaps between recordings, Melford’s increasing fluency on harmonium and the continued deepening of her compositional voice are clearly upsides. These developments take a big step forward with The Image of Your Body. The double helix-like augmentation of her Be Bread trio with trumpeter Coung Vu on four tracks and guitarist Brandon Ross on the remaining six gives Melford wide latitude in building the album upon contrasting palettes and materials. This approach is buttressed by Stomu Takeishi’s use of both acoustic and electric basses and Elliot Humberto Kavee’s resourceful drumming. Though Melford herself only plays acoustic instruments, electronics are more prominent than on her previous albums, hovering about her more delicately etched themes, and spiking intense passages. This development, however, has not prevented Melford from including bright, bounding themes that would have fit snugly into a set by earlier ensembles like The Same River, Twice. Nor has it prevented her from solo flights that are as bluesy and hard-hitting as anything she recorded with her initial trio in the early ‘90s. Still, Melford is on the move; her music is increasingly Indocentric in terms of inspiration, if not materials (which are most readily located in the scales she employs, particularly when playing harmonium). Hopefully, Cryptogramophone can provide her with the opportunity to document her path in greater detail than has been available to her during the past several years.

 

Michele Rosewoman + Quintessence
The In Side Out
Advance Dance Disques ADO353-2

Rosewoman/Quintessence In her booklet notes for The In Side Out, Michele Rosewoman makes the incisive point that rhythmic ambiguity is the key to the creation of intrigue and mystery in jazz and Afro-Cuban music. The obscuring of the “one,” the pianist-composer observes, is the starting point from which an artist can go anywhere. Rosewoman supports the claim throughout this album, applying this principle in sundry stylistic settings that suggest a bi-coastal sensibility. There are ample portions of Rosewoman’s New Yoruba tip, pieces driven by incessant rhythms, jabbing themes and hard-boiled solos. The album also documents a sunnier aspect of Rosewoman’s music that reflects her roots in the Bay Area scene of the ‘70s, a time when West Coast artists like Bobby Hutcherson nudged advanced jazz contours towards fusion. Compositionally, Rosewoman’s compositions in this vein are similar to Woody Shaw’s in that brightly lyrical phrases leaven angular lines. Additionally, the album includes solidly post-bop compositions that undercut misconceptions about Rosewoman being an outcat. The various demands of Rosewoman’s music are ably handled by her current edition of Quintessence, which includes saxophonists Mark Shim and Miguel Zenon, bassist Brad Jones and drummer Derrek Phillips. Only one of four guest artists – guitarist David Fiuczynski – appears on more than two tracks; he and trombonist Josh Roseman are brash foils for Quintessence, while vocalist Olu Femi Mitchell and percussionist Pedro Pablo Martinez’s encapsulate the Afro-Cuban folkloric tradition that has consistently inspired Rosewoman for the last 20 years. It is a tradition that has permeated into the attack of Rosewoman’s music, regardless of the material at hand. It is how she turns the in side out.

 

Alan Skidmore + Mike Osborne + John Surman
SOS
Ogun OGCD 019

Skidmore/Osborne/Surman Through SOS, Alan Skidmore, Mike Osborne and John Surman created a veritable phalange of British vanguard saxophonists of the mid 1970s. The irony of this coalition is that, through their use of keyboards, synthesizers and percussion, they created a palette that extended far beyond the saxophone. If one takes the collective composition credits literally, SOS was also a force in the contemporary British practice of referencing folk music, prog rock and early minimalism. Already established as preeminent stylists of their generation, they concentrated instead on creating an ensemble presence far larger than ordinarily realized by a mere trio. Even on the more lyrical compositions that just feature horns, the combined force of Skidmore’s tenor, Osborne’s alto, and Surman’s soprano, baritone and bass clarinet is formidable. Despite their emphasis on formal elements, the trio still allotted themselves enough blowing space to reinforce their bona fides. SOS tackled an impressive agenda on this album, the breadth of which is unexpectedly reinforced by the absence of previously unissued tracks. Though it may be tempting for some reviewers to construct a historical context that places SOS ahead of the curve of the mostly American saxophone quartets that hit the scene just a few years later, it would really short-change the legacy of this unique group.

 

Jorma Tapio + Terje Isungset
Aihki
Ektro 039

Tapio/Isungset Jorma Tapio has established a lengthy record as one of Finland’s most powerful saxophonists through his work Edward Vesala’s Sound & Fury and Rolling Thunder. In a profoundly counter intuitive move, he plays only indigenous flutes and percussion in this album of duos with Norwegian percussionist Terje Isungset. On Aihki, Tapio and Isungset vent a pagan impulse that most Nordic improvisers sublimate. As Tapio describes his relationship to Isungset in this setting, the percussionist is the mountain and Tapio is the forest. There’s an ambient quality to their improvisations in the sense that they approximate the howl of the wind, the rustling of branches and the continuous rush of the river. Punctuated by birdcall-like flutes and spectral vocalizations, and underlined by the grating drone of Jew’s harp and the rumble of drums, the improvisations have a drama that far exceed the expectations of such simple instrumentation. What’s ultimately engaging about the music, albeit with somewhat harrowing results, is that there is no sunny melody or redeeming hymn to morph these exchanges into a middlebrow conceit. The sounds just end, and then there’s silence.

Drip Audio

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