Moment's Notice

Recent CDs Briefly Reviewed

Nils Henrik Asheim + Paal Nilssen- Love
Late Play
PNL 002

Lasse Marhaug + Paul Nilssen Love
PNL Records 001

Nils Henrik Asheim + Paal Nilssen- Love Norwegian drummer Nilssen-Love is a broad-based improviser, as adept at subtly interacting with Sten Sandell or John Butcher as propelling the more aggressive ensembles of Mats Gustafsson and Ken Vandermark. The recent launch of his PNL label focuses on the breadth of his work with other Scandinavian improvisers.

The duet with organist Nils Henrik Asheim, Late Play, was recorded in an Oslo church — so it’s a real organ, pipes and all — and it often invokes the somber reflection that one might expect from both the setting and its traditions. The organ’s capacity for continuous sound, conjoined with Nilssen-Love’s bowed, scraped and battered cymbals, can suggest the deep listening reveries of AMM. What’s most engaging here is the richly allusive sonic tapestry that suggests the fairground (the carousel), the parade (the military press roll of snare) and even the circus, all images that seem to emerge by chance in this continuously engaging dialogue.

Stalk, Nilssen-Love’s duo with noise artist Lasse Marhaug, is a mixture of electronic sound, industrial noise, percussion and drums. As with Late Play, it emphasizes a sonic field, almost a landscape in which event and background are continuous. After an introductory wall of noise, it settles into varied, often arresting work. It’s a kind of backdrop, a cinema of the imagination. Its track titles come from cinema and television—and the films referenced emphasize stalking or pursuit, which may function as a metaphor for the “following” employed in the improvisation process. The titles range from Japanese anime (Paranoia Agent and The Last Exile) to classic horror (The Lodger) to a provocative area of surreal cinema that combines religion and horror (Tenebrae and I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse). The best of the lot, in this regard, is Satanico Pandemonium, a 1973 Mexican film that has been described as nun-exploitation, the heroine stalked by the devil and in turn stalking others, both sexually and homicidally. It’s always a relief when new music lets us know what to think about while we listen to it.
–Stuart Broomer 


Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode
reg erg
Red Toucan 9332

Achim Kaufmann/Frank Gratkowski/Wilbert de Joode
Leo 504

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode The common factor between these two recordings is Dutch bassist de Joode, whose woody tone, throbbing pulse, and unflappable demeanor is a throwback to classic bass attitudes from Wellman Braud to Wilbur Ware, Charlie Haden, and Malachi Favors Maghostut. On Palaë, the trio’s conception is built on layers of activity, given focus by Kaufmann’s and Gratkowski’s shared chamber music impulses. This accounts for the broad harmonic spectrum surveyed in the seven individual pieces, as the group explores atonal regions as in “a destination farther” and near-blues cadences in the pointed “the heart of all.” But their main thrust is textural; sonorities blend amid growls and groans, rustling friction and brittle timbres. Gratkowski’s gruff contrabass-clarinet avoids the Braxtonisms his alto sax sometimes falls heir to (I’m thinking of his quartet with Wolter Wierbos, Dieter Manderscheid, and Gerry Hemingway), while Bb clarinet services his most lyrical ideas, as in “on the cold, terrified,” where he and Kaufmann, who always seems to find interesting motifs, frisk atop de Joode’s aggressive and/or supportive gestures. There are some rough patches in the music’s densest moments, but the shifting colors and varied attacks ultimately cohere.

In his duo with Italian pianist Braida, coherence is not the issue; de Joode’s alternately determined and demure approach invokes a give-and-take, or occasionally a wait-and-see, of abstract design. The longest of these ten pieces, “wadi,” makes the process audible, beginning with tentative, undifferentiated chunks of material that float and clash until a connection is made and the tension is resolved in rhythmic agreement. In smaller doses they jostle and bump in loose, if restrained, maneuvering. Braida’s fondness for fragmented phrases is everywhere apparent, underlined by an acute sense of dynamics and touch — at times he seems to be barely dusting the keys, at others he sustains swirls and eddies of notes or grabs at chords brusquely. But his attention to color also reminds us that the piano is a sound box, as he draws from it accents of wood, metal, and chimes — muted and ringing.
–Art Lange


Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet
Chicago Tentet at Molde 2007
Okkadisk OK 12072

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet “Compared to music all communication by words is vulgar:” This Nietsche quotation, reprinted on the inner cover of this CD, is nothing less than daunting, or even damning, for the reviewer putting hands on the keyboard, especially if he happens to share the sentiment, as I do. At the same time, criticism, journalism and history seem essential to an healthy scene; the disappearance or reduction of these forms of documentation would not be good for the the music. So, I'll just strive not to “dilute and dull” with my words.

Though the Peter Brötzmann–led Chicago Tentet was formed for a concert at the Chicago festival, it's not that geographically based anymore, being in fact something of a contemporary version of Globe Unity Orchestra. The Tentet confirms that large group improvisation is in excellent health, as it is made up of players from different backgrounds and generations (now in their ‘60s, Brötzmann and multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee are decades older than the youngest members like drummer Paal Nilssen-Love) who embrace the project with hearty passion. The Tentet makes a tremendous impact in concert; but even though this performance was recorded at the Molde festival in 2007, the medium itself and the domestic listening experience is distant from the concert experience, especially when the whole horn-heavy group blows hard.

Not that the record is all scorched earth; on the contrary, there are loosely structured pieces that move organically through episodes of almost bucolic peace and folkish rhythms, the throaty sound of saxes and trombones occasionally sounding like the shawn and sackbuts of early European music. Within the thick textures. players unite in temporary aggregations – spontaneous sections, as it were – answering each other in a primal mode, then dividing or choosing silence, disappearing from the sonic landscape, leaving room for new sub-groups to interact. The quartet – or quintet? – that closes “Ten by Tne,” the first and longest track stop on a dime with an astonishing demonstration of quasi-telepathic communication. The second and shortest, “Little by Little,” is a dramatic, slowly swelling wave of sound ending in a glorious fortissimo, while the last piece, “Step by Step,” starts in a New Orleans march mood, replete with swirling clarinet and drums' tattoo; but the reeds soon become a choir of angry birds, and all through the piece soft, singing sections alternate with rumbling statements, carrying the listener through a see-saw of emotions. Singling out individal contributions would be not only problematic but indeed not true to the spirit of the music, but I feel that the easily overlooked cello of Fred Lonberg-Holm, raging like an electric guitar and then immeditaly ready to pick up and carry any available scrap of melody, might make the difference between this and similar groups.
-Francesco Martinelli


David Buchbinder
Tzadik TZ 8121

Omar Sosa
Otå 1019

David BuchbinderOne of the thornier issues inherent to critics’ polls – many of which were discussed in Art Lange’s A Fickle Sonance column in Issue 15 – is the ghettoizing of sub-genres and, implicitly, Latinos and women. Any poll that separates Latin Jazz and Vocal categories from a general Top Ten tally is arguably predicated on the pollmakers’ belief that Latinos and women won’t be otherwise represented, albeit one so deep-seeded and reinforced by jazz media that the pollsters have plausible deniability. These categories particularly harden the conventional wisdom about what Latin jazz is and is not. Both Canadian trumpeter David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana and Cuban pianist Omar Sosa’s Afreecanos challenge those stereotypes in respectively profound ways. By creating multi-cultural mixes – Buchbinder taps Jewish music while Sosa uses an enormous palette of West African, Arabic and Brazilian colors – both Buchbinder and Sosa do something that is counter intuitive. They do not dilute the Cuban core of their music – Buchbinder’s partner in all but name is pianist Hilario Durån, who either wrote or co-wrote half of the compositions. Instead, they perform different litmus tests that confirm Cuban music’s tensile strength.

Even though Buchbinder’s compositions are built upon pungent Jewish scales and turns of phrase, reinforced by violinist Aleksander Gajic, saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff’s use of clarinets, and percussionist Rick Shadrach Lazar’s dumbek, this is not a Klezmer-goes-Latin affair. Abundantly supplied by drummer Dafnis Prieto and percussionist Jorge Luis “Papiosoc” Torres, Cuban rhythms and, to a slightly lesser degree, the assimilation of American jazz into Cuban music, are the prevailing tone-setting elements for most of the album. This is buttressed even by Buchbinder’s own playing, which has a robust tone and attack that quickly brings Freddie Hubbard to mind. It is not surprising then that pieces like Durån’s “Impresionés,” a vamp-driven theme ripe with tricky phrases and a contrasting rhythmic feel embedded in the turnaround, and Buchbinder and Durån’s co-penned “Colaboración,” which tugs at the tension between an off-center funk and an angular theme, have a ‘60s Blue Note tinge. Even more overtly Jewish compositions like Buchbinder’s “Cadiz” entail essences from other cultures; in this case, the Iberian-Arabic tip of Buchbinder’s melody is fleshed out by John Gzowski’s oud. Intriguingly, it is Durån’s album-closing “Freylekhs Tumbao” that most directly conveys the exuberance of Jewish music. Here and throughout the album, Durån proves to be as much a visionary as Buchbinder; though he is among the very best pianists of his generation, regardless of nationality, this is perhaps the first recording that Durån has stretched this much, conceptually.

Although Sosa is no stranger to testing the elasticity of Cuban music, Afreecanos is still a giant step compared to his previous recordings. It is noteworthy that the album was recorded in Paris, an important crossroads for African and Latin American musicians, and that the elaborate weave of materials was produced by drummer Steve Argüelles, whose own work has incorporated various non-Western traditions. Given that Sosa’s concept relies on the seamless, often quick transitions between earthy Malian and Senegalese riffs, sultry Brazilian cadences and simmering Cuban ensembles, post production is more crucial than usual. The trick to this is not ending up with a sanitized sound. While the horns and electric instruments are precisely mixed into the midground, it is in the service of the singers and Sosa, with the ancillary benefit being that there’s space for Ali Boulo Santo’s kora, Mohamed Soulimane’s violin and Ai Wague’s Guinean flute to create bright moments. Singers provide the glue to Sosa’s patchwork of tradition – Sosa’s fine complement of singers includes Mamani Keita, flame-keeper of a great family legacy, Cuban Lázaro Galarraga and Brazilian Graca Onasile. Still, the vocals do not predominate; rather, they are just another soft-edged color in the mix. Though Sosa’s roiling piano surfaces from time to time, his palette is more reliant on more pastel colors than is the norm in Latin music. Therein is the potential of Sosa’s approach.
–Bill Shoemaker


Greg Burk Quartet
Berlin Bright
Black Saint 121403-2

Greg Burk Quartet Greg Burk is one of those relatively rare younger musicians still creatively mining the formal components of “modern” jazz (regularly recurring choruses of triadic harmonic patterns; a particular set of timbres and instrumental relations; etc.). Like fellow pianists Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer, he does so by working in a densely harmonic and highly improvisatory tradition that includes figures as otherwise dissimilar as Monk, Tristano, Nichols, Hill and Bley. It’s distinguished by elements such as dissonance and counterpoint employed to foster group dialogue and oddly compound moods. Now residing in Italy, Burk is joined here by three other European-based musicians – saxophonist Ignaz Dinne', bassist Jonathan Robinson (a regular associate) and drummer Andrea Marcelli. Every member of the group contributes compositions and there’s a well-developed collective interest in using the tradition in personal ways, from the slightly acidic effect that Dinne' achieves with varied intonation to Marcelli’s unpredictable accents. The best moment may be the first, Burk’s up-tempo “Fancy Pants.” Clocking in at a mere 2’40”, it develops a densely distinctive identity with the contrapuntal improvisation (or simultaneous soloing) of Burk and Dinne', achieving the compressed energy that modern jazz possessed in the 78 rpm era. Burk’s “Zoo for Two” is fine as well, a kind of Monkish blues, while Robinson’s “Without Annette” inspires some beautifully coiling, modal alto from Dinne'. The bassist also contribute the concluding “Auslanderlied,” a lyrical effusion that’s at times almost Spanish baroque and which draws thoughtful, lyrically expansive work all around. The group is best when stimulated by compositions with contrasting parts like Marcelli’s “The Invisible Child,” which seem to demand resolution in the improvisation. The music is consistently well-played and generally well-conceived, without the deathly polish that marks much “modern” jazz.
–Stuart Broomer

Rova Special Sextet/OrkestRova - The Mirror World

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