Moment's Notice

Recent CDs Briefly Reviewed
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William Parker + Raining On The Moon
Corn Meal Dance
Aum Fidelity AUM042

Parker + Raining on the Moon - Corn Meal Dance It’s not like William Parker didn’t already have a great band that gave full voice to the elemental themes and deep grooves that distinguish his writing. His Quartet with trumpeter Lewis Barnes, alto saxophonist Rob Brown and drummer Hamid Drake had already recorded an indispensable album in McNeil’s Porch, originally released in 2001 on the bassist’s Centering imprint. Then he recorded Raining On The Moon for Thirsty Ear in 2002; the addition of Leena Conquest on a few tracks was pure inspiration. Whether softly intoning Parker’s simple melodies or shouting out such memorable lines as “James Baldwin to the Rescue,” she projected an earthy radiance that, despite its open, welcoming tone, was startlingly revelatory, much in the same way Jean Carn was on her Black Jazz LPs with Doug Carn. Perhaps, this impact was a measure of the complete, organic sound Parker’s Quartet had already achieved. Still, because Conquest was deployed sparingly, and the quartet subsequently resumed making excellent albums on its own, Raining On The Moon seemed destined to become a cherished anomaly in Parker’s discography.

Now, not only is Conquest back on Corn Meal Dance, but she’s the focus of a new sextet that bears the name of the earlier album, singing on all of the album’s nine tracks. Again, her ability to convey the urgency of spirituals and work songs and then the sanguinity of jazz and soul music within a few measures is uncanny and compelling. Parker;s choice to use only piano to accompany Conquest on the poignant hymn/torch ballad hybrid “Poem for June Jordan” and the gospel-drenched “Prayer” is another indicator of Conquest’s expanding role in Parker’s music. But, these tracks are only two of the reasons why the addition of pianist Eri Yamamoto is also crucial to the music. Yamamoto’s ensemble work combines buoyancy and brawn, and her solos pivot effortlessly between blues-infused grittiness and lyrical brightness. There’s a fullness to her comping, but it is never a distraction from Barnes and Brown, who maintain their ability to blend thoroughly in the ensembles, then peel off with respective asides, and solo persuasively. And, Yamamoto’s finely calibrated attack and strong time facilitates Parker and Drake’s penchant for shifting the rhythmic feel throughout a performance as well as any pianist.

This album is so good that it doesn’t matter if they don’t record another for five years. It will keep you well until whenever.
-Bill Shoemaker

 

Tyshawn Sorey
that / not
Firehouse 12 FH12-04-02-205

Tyshawn Sorey - that / not Many of the concepts underlying the music on Tyshawn Sorey’s 2-CD debut as a leader have been in circulation for up to a half-century. “Permutations for Solo Piano” is over 40 minutes of profusely decaying chords – and the occasional arpeggio – with molasses-like harmonic movement, a marathon of Feldmanesque scale. There are many passages throughout the album where regard for space, use of collage and the lacerating, if passing use of notated idiomatic materials have an AACM-inspired rigor. And, the drummer-composer’s ensembles occasionally employ fragmentary phrases and open-ended form to produce a floating, unresolved pensiveness similar to that pioneered by Paul Bley in the mid to late ‘60s.

Yet, when heard together, these ingredients are nothing less than startling. This is simply not the type of album that jazz drummers make as a rule. Though he is known primarily for his work with erudite composers like Vijay Iyer who do not write conventional big beat charts for drummers, Sorey nevertheless makes his presence as a drummer strongly felt in short order on albums like Iyer’s Blood Sutra (Artists House). On that / not, Sorey emphasizes composition and ensemble-oriented improvisational strategies, limiting his opportunities to air out his considerable chops. One has to reach way back to Anthony Williams Life Time to find a comparable album; just as easily as Williams, Sorey could have played it much safer, and still be perceived as being ahead of the curve.

There is a striking empathy among Sorey and his cohorts, who meet the various demands of Sorey’s wide-ranging compositions while sustaining an intriguing, pensive tone. Ben Gerstein has a piquant trombone sound that is almost dour on occasion. Pianist Cory Smythe has a deft touch in limning the translucence of Sorey’s more spacious passages, while whisking tumult elsewhere. Sorey’s section-mate in overtly thermal venues like Steve Coleman’s Mystic Rhythm Society, Thomas Morgan is totally in sync with Sorey throughout the two-disc album.

that / not requires a solid two hours of focused attention. Its brilliance will not be fully appreciated if heard on the fly. This is a major statement by an emerging artist poised to do great things.
-Bill Shoemaker

 

Territory Band - 6 with Fred Anderson
Collide
okkadisk OD 12090

Territory Band with Fred Anderson - CollideFounded in 2000, the Territory Band was originally intended to bridge geographical and stylistic gaps — primarily, in Ken Vandermark’s words, that between “American Jazz and European Improvised Music” — and to provide him with a forum for “long form” composing. The personnel, assembling the usual Chicago, European, and Scandinavian subjects, has remained remarkably stable despite the band’s sporadic history, and its five previous recordings reflect Vandermark’s enthusiastic affirmation of the large improvising ensemble tradition, especially Sun Ra’s fluid, spontaneous arrangements, Coltrane’s Ascension, Globe Unity, Barry Guy’s London Jazz Composers Orchestra, and Butch Morris’ conductions. Collide, recorded live at Chicago's Jay Pritzker Pavillion in 2006, is a controlled collision of attitudes from various perspectives — tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson’s featured contribution, the improvised details and duos of the band members, and the integrated environment devised by Vandermark. The single, extended composition is episodic, sculpted in a manner reminiscent of Stockhausen’s “in the moment” form, a sequence of arching crescendos that allow distinct moods, colors, and textures — including potent swing riffs, timbral atmospherics, and animated discourse — to instigate momentum and direction. Anderson’s usual mode of operation is to construct epic, unencumbered narratives and works best accompanied by just bass and drums, but he adapts well to the warp and woof of the large ensemble, and is the inspirational focus of the concluding all-tenor blowout with Vandermark, Dave Rempis, and Frederik Ljungkvist. Having been in the audience the night this was recorded, I remember how dramatically the music filled the Frank Gehry-designed pavilion — from the bristling subtleties of Fred Lonberg-Holm’s cello and David Stackenäs’ guitar to the ambient roar of Lasse Marhaug’s electronics. Though the listening experience isn’t quite the same, it’s good to have this music on disc.
-Art Lange

 

Trio M
Big Picture
Cryptogramophone 134

Trio M - Big Picture Pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson are big picture artists in their own right, even if their current agendas only overlap to a degree. Melford’s recent music has been profoundly shaped by her Indian sojourn of several years ago, which has nudged the bluesy gumption of her early trio music somewhat aside. Dresser has always placed ear-twisting structures in the foreground of his music, which largely frees it from jazz’s gravitational pull. Unsurprisingly, they draw upon some of their more overtly idiomatic, previously recorded compositions for this trio with Wilson, who regularly explores new inroads to well-trekked jazz styles, often with pungent wit. Though it contains tricky rhythmic modulations, Dresser’s “Modern Pine,” a tribute to Ed Thigpen, is a blues whose John Lewis-like elegance gets scuffed up, but it still out-greased by Wilson’s “Naïve Art.” Melford’s ostinato-driven “brainFire and bugLight” eventually veers into open improvisation, but not before the three Ms flex power trio muscle. Wilson also uses a jabbing, repeated line for the spine of “FreeKonomics,” employing an off-center groove in juxtaposition to Dresser and Melford’s respective flight paths. Dresser and Melford also contributed compositions with more fleeting use of stylistic references and standard form; Dresser’s “To Bradford” (as in Bobby) makes unusually impressionistic use of Colemanesque phrases, while “Secrets To Tell You” has a poignant balladic sweep. At every turn, each musician is adding color to the palette; the interplay intensifies; and, the impact of the album is compounded by every note and rest.
-Bill Shoemaker

 

McCoy Tyner
Quartet
McCoy Tyner Music 4533

McCoy Tyner - Quartet Rashied Ali asserts that during his tenure in John Coltrane’s quartet, Coltrane was playing the newer music articulated by the drummer and his contemporaries, as much as Ali was playing Coltrane’s. It bolsters the notion that the music’s titans eventually turn to a younger phalange or generation of players to recharge and recontextualize their music, with some of the newer sensibilities rubbing off on the repertoire. Something of the same is happening on Quartet, which finds McCoy Tyner playing with Joe Lovano, Christian McBride and Jeff “Tain” Watts.

Except for a short concluding solo reading of “For All We Know,” the album is comprised of Tyner-penned chestnuts. While “Passion Dance” and “Blues on the Corner” are close in feel to The Real McCoys, the quartet’s bead on Milestone era pieces are noticeably more rhythmically pliant than the originals. This version of “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit” replaces the hurricane-force attack of the ’73 Montreux festival performance issued as Enlightenment with a simmering groove that allows Tyner to slip in tangy harmonic details that would have blown asunder in the earlier version, and to deliberately build a solo from sinewy unison lines to a thunderclap. It’s also plays to Lovano’s strength in mixing up timbres and phrases from different aspects of the tenor tradition. Still, the groove’s the thing here; it’s what locates the performance in an early 21st Century mainstream.

The quartet’s take on “Sama Layuca,” the title track of the ’74 nonet album, yields similar results. Shorn of its brawny ensembles, the piece has a more streamlined rhythmic feel, which is reinforced by McBride and Watts’ teamwork. Perhaps even more than with “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit,” the assimilation of Tyner’s vernacular by his cohorts is very intriguing. The jocularity of McBride’s solo in particular supports the idea that the monumental aspect of Tyner’s vernacular dominant in the ‘70s has been chipped away to reveal a more relaxed energy. Nowhere is this new bead on Tyner’s music more obvious than on the aptly named “Mellow Minor;” an initially flowing line that intensifies with jabbing phrases, a combination especially well-suited for Lovano’s burly tenor.

In addition to being Tyner’s most satisfying album in years, if not decades, Quartet also makes the important distinction between an artist who is comfortable in his own skin and one that merely rests on his laurels. This album conclusively proves Tyner to be the former. This is particularly important for an artist like Tyner, who planted his flag on Everest’s summit as a young man, and is neither keen on further conquests nor the nostalgia racket. It is at the core of his continuing relevance.
-Bill Shoemaker

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