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Reviews of Recent Recordings


Diatribes+ Barry Guy
Cave 12

Diatribes + Abdul Moimême
Complaintes de Marée Basse
Insubordinations netlabel insubcd02

Diatribes + Phonotopy
Partielle d’averse
Insubordinations netlabel insubcdr10

Diatribes is the Geneva-based duo of d’incise, who plays laptop, objects, and percussion, and Cyril Bondi, playing drums and percussion. First coming together in 2004, the duo’s subtle distinguishing mark develops out of Bondi’s relationship to free jazz and d’incise’s relationship to ambient electronica and free improvisation. As environmentally diffused as the sounds may become, Bondi is often knitting at pulse, creating polyrhythms and a momentum that animates the whole, keeping it moving while d’incise pulls sounds from the ether or the street. The spontaneous character of the music is insistently maintained by working constantly with other players, as if Diatribes is only complete when it’s Bondi, d’incise and someone else, as if Diatribes is a principle that always includes the other. The duo has recently released three works, each with a third musician; as different as the guests are, Diatribes manages to create a distinct identity.

Multitude, with bassist Barry Guy, is inevitably influenced by Guy’s own spectacular virtuosity, but it’s also fascinating listening to hear Guy working so intently with improvisers whose fundamental approaches are generally less linear than his own. There is a very close rhythmic connection between Guy and Bondi, evident in the percussive mix of rapid pizzicato bass and drums on “le poids des humeurs.”  D’incise’s sounds arise amongst the other two and it is frequently difficult here to demarcate the three. When Guy plays arco, as on “corrosion du possible,” this blurring of identity is even more pronounced, the bassist creating a forest of harmonics and scrapes, sputtering rhythmic figures and sudden movements between registers that seem to spring from and include all the sounds around him (including here the added clarinet of Benoît Moreau). Diatribes, for their part, build up broken fields of percussion and electronic sound, sounding as if their instruments are literally intertwined in the strings of Guy’s bass. Together the three create a world of micro-rhythms and intervals, new patterns interspersing themselves in gaps in time and register.

On Complaintes de Marée Basse with the Lisbon-based guitarist  Abdul  Moimême, the three musicians seem to be much more aligned in their approach.  Moimême plays two prepared table-top guitars, metal objects and small instruments, and both he and d’incise have cymbals in their list of instruments. The playful sound sources extend to Moimême playing metronome and d’incise gramophone. At times the sound is almost industrial—the scraping of metal, the sound of large objects falling—at others it has the most remarkable delicacy, fragile glissandi and barely audible string scrapings. Identity and perspective are constantly changing here. Little noises arise and are gradually subsumed into louder ones or else disappear like unknown but evidently endangered insects in a distant ecosystem.  A snare drum rhythm beats against the scratch of a gramophone needle on an exit groove. The sounds are at times so intimate you feel that you are ear-next to a bowed cymbal or a mallet-struck string; at other times the sonic vocabulary of random echoing metal suggests a freight yard, industrial noise in which sound is only a side effect of another process. It is this shifting perspective, this fluctuating succession of different scales—from closet to airplane hangar—that makes this the remarkable dreamscape that it is.

The third Diatribes performance, Partielle d’averse (available as a limited edition mini-CD with a hand-made cover or as a download), was made with Phonotopy, also known as Yann Leguay who’s playing tennis cythar and electric racket. Just over 23-minutes long, it’s a beautifully sustained single piece, Leguay’s transformed sports equipment a perfect complement to Bondi and d’incise. The work is the kind of transforming soundscape that one associates with AMM, a gradual loss and development of identity through audition.  

Invisibility, anonymity, and pseudonymity are clearly important here (another Diatribes performance with HKM+ and other German musicians was “recorded in an abandoned building in Leipzig”), for this is music shaped by the acuity of consciousness and the porous frontier of identity, whether of the sound, the instrument or the maker. Watching this music being made might diminish its sonic appeal; living here only in the ear, it elaborates on mysteries of identity which are matters of both cognition and psychology. It’s fitting that some of the works themselves inhabit an area both grey and plural, as limited edition works of art or downloads.   
–Stuart Broomer


Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky
Pieces for String Trio and Trumpet
Leo CD LR 587

There’s a small body of compositions and transcriptions for these forces, but it’s hardly a canonical ensemble. It hardly matters, because Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky treats the three string players almost like a flexible rhythm section, sometimes looking for a bed of chords or drones, sometimes for percussive ostinati, sometimes for something that sounds remarkably like a regular piano, bass, and drums combo.
Leo Feigin has been bringing Russian jazz and improvisation to our attention since 1979. One might say his role is less crucial since the Wall came down and someone kicked away the dialectical stick of the Soviet gerontocracy. But Feigin continues to explore new sounds from the constituent republics and continues to unveil musicians like Guyvoronsky who require some adjustment of sensibility and no little sense of humor for full appreciation of what they do. I particularly liked the trumpeter’s strange In Search of a Standard, recorded in St Petersburg last year and packed full of absurdist contrefacts like “Don’t Take the “B” Train”, “Miles’s Exercises”, “Caravanserai” and, most enigmatic of all “Standard”, which maintained an Elgarian reticence about its source material.
The new record, to cut straight to the chase, is better still, though I miss the Evans-tinged piano of Andrei Kondakov and Vladimir Volkov’s lyrical bass playing. Hiring a trio this time might have been the greatest possible compliment to Volkov; he’s a hard man to replace, but violinist Vladislav Pesin, violist Dmitry Yakubovsky and cellist Mikhail Degtyarev manage not to sound like classical players suddenly landed with a jazz gig. Their parts range from the folkish bounce of “Pastoral Fugue”, which starts with solo trumpet before moving into a Bartokian dance, to the metrical complexity of “Sol Fa in Tibetan Style” (I guess the title is a joke, since it sounds more rebetiko than Buddhist). By the same token, “Chopin’s Mazurk” isn’t strictly a mazurka at all, though it does have the triple-time feel and might actually hark back to the earlier folk forms, especially the faster oberek, which yielded the form.
Guyvoronsky’s playfulness extends to leaving himself out altogether on “Puzzles”, though you consistently expect to encounter him, a bit like a string trio doing Purcell’s “Trumpet Tune” where the horn phrases are mimicked; I’d love to hear Guyvoronsky’s angle on that piece. There’s a “Ballad”, another “Fugue with a lost theme” and a delightful closing “Saraband”, but the alienation effects are so well established by this point that you’re scarcely prepared for something that seems to do exactly what it says on the tin.

It’s also worth tracking down Guyvoronsky’s earlier Caprichos, which puts him in front of a much larger string group, but with a darker and more sardonic tonality than on this delightful project. I’m a firm convert.
–Brian Morton


Rich Halley Quartet
Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival
Pine Eagle 001

Rich Halley has made almost a dozen albums since the early ‘80s, a substantial body of work; however, he remains very little known outside the Pacific Northwest. Despite its ample merits, Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival most probably will do little to change that. Yet, this album is not only a representative snapshot of the Portland-based tenor saxophonist’s playing and writing at the helm of a quartet featuring legendary cornetist Bobby Bradford: it makes, if unintentionally, an intriguing case for regional flavors. The rise of the Portland Jazz Festival notwithstanding, Oregon remains something of a green space between San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver, three cities that increasingly promulgate border-jumping, gene-splicing music over the jazz-moored creative music Halley favors. While the lexicons Halley cut his teeth on and continues to sharpen are now over 50 years old and deemed conservative next to the beyond-jazz-beyond-jazz long on the rise in the three cities (which may account for why Halley’s longtime bassist Clyde Reed is the most curiously underexposed veteran of the frequently heralded Vancouver scene), there’s a feel to Halley’s music that is provincial in the best sense of the word.

Halley is fully at ease with his music, which is promoted on this occasion by the vibe of the Penofin Jazz Festival, held each May in a barn 130 miles north of San Francisco.  This is a crowd that hears Halley at least on an annual basis; probably some of them recognize the themes, as most included in this set have been recorded on previous studio albums. Halley triangulates the sprawling tenor tradition and the compositional trajectory begun by Ornette Coleman, a heady proposition; yet he creates sociable music, his grooves and swing feels buoy asymmetric and angular phrases in the compositions, and outward explorations in the solos.  Intriguingly, the key to the more convivial aspects of the set is the work of drummer Carson Halley, the leader’s son, despite occasionally sounding a bit green, can deftly shift from the rock beats of the only new piece “The Street Below” – something of a funky AEC workout – to ageless swing.

As suggested by his long-term collaboration with Bradford, Halley’s music has an appreciable debt to Ornette Coleman’s, which, at this point, is a bit like saying we owe our ability to walk across the street without floating off into the stratosphere to Isaac Newton. Still, themes like “The Blue Rims” have lives of their own, particularly when Halley includes a bit of misdirection, as is the case with the lead-off tune’s opening, a series of two-note phrases that would blare Mingus had enough drama been pumped into them. As it stands, the introduction doesn’t have Coleman’s plaintiveness, and the body of the piece skews from OC’s off-center insouciance; instead, there’s a conversational tone that is both animated and reflective. This mark of maturity is also abundantly clear on his solos on “Gray Stones/Shards of Sky” and “The River’s Edge is Ice,” where he effortlessly blends tinges of Hawk and Newk with avantish exhortations.

There isn’t a strained conceit or gratuitous flourish to be found in Halley’s playing, undoubtedly a big reason why Bradford can so elegantly dovetail Halley in the improvisations. Now on the north side of 75, Bradford’s playing remains teeming with well-turned phrases and precisely focused shots of power. Especially in the open spaces of each piece, Bradford’s playing also retains a palpable sense that his materials are being generated in the moment. To a less potentially dangerous degree than his contemporary Don Cherry, who made a virtue of sliding into a desired note or distinctively smearing an otherwise well-articulated phrase, Bradford has the penchant to get out on a limb and move away from a tonal center or a rhythm to create off-centered lines, only to snap them taut with energy-producing effect. His repeated success at this is one of the collection’s real pleasures.

Still, the main attraction of the album is Halley’s confidence in himself, his cohorts, and his community of listeners. Is his music as edgy, as urbane, or as polemical as other work being produced on the Left Coast. Not even close. But, what Halley offers with Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival instead – a glimpse of how jazz can thrive under the radar – is perhaps one of the more profound statements that can be made in these times.
-Bill Shoemaker


Kidd Jordan + Joel Futterman

Tenor saxophonist Edward "Kidd" Jordan, of New Orleans, and pianist Joel Futterman, of Virginia Beach, first played together in 1994 and have been reuniting annually ever since. They're aggressive, high-energy musicians who improvise freely in harmonic, rhythmic, and sonic extremes and who respond quickly to each other. A casual listen to Interaction might recall the Cecil Taylor-Sam Rivers partnership, since Futterman likes fast lines, tone clusters, and crashing, full-keyboard climaxes and Jordan has obviously absorbed all sorts of modern saxophone from Bird and blues wailers to Coleman and Coltrane.

Really, though, these two veterans are personal players, not eclectic. Taylor's high sense of form is irrelevant to Futterman, who follows his fancy instead. His moods are ever changing, rubato to slow to fast; from ballad to ecstasy; from tones that decay into space to zipping single-note lines. His intense mode is his favorite, the more mellow moods seldom last long. Partly this is because Jordan is more nervous, even vulnerable, he prefers the ecstasy of intense playing. His sax lines are busy, full of notes, and he seldom gets into split tones or overtones. These two are close. A flurry of notes or a fragment from one will inspire a response from the other, they'll move separately as they extend the feelings, yet the mutual support is ongoing.

Interaction is exhilarating music, in two long parts. The first four minutes of "Part Two" are a spacy ballad and "Part One" has plenty of slow passages that Jordan and Futterman share. None lasts longer than half a minute. There are other albums in which their lyricism is more overt, like the solo piano "Epilogue" in Futterman's Journey in the Now ( and the trio "Plato's Reverie" in the Futterman-Jordan-Alvin Fielder (drums) Southern Extreme (Drimala). In fact, they usually have worked as a trio and the dynamic Fielder often brings out the most sustained and varied playing by the other two. But the intimate revelations and good feelings of Interaction make it worthy. Bless Kidd Jordan and Joel Futterman for keeping the faith. BTW this album is only sold on
–John Litweiler


Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra
Ashcan Rantings
Clean Feed CF203CD

Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra has undergone considerable personnel changes since their 2007 debut, New Magical Kingdom (Clean Feed). For Ashcan Rantings, Lane’s original electro-acoustic septet has been replaced by a horn-heavy nonet (saxophonists David Bindman, Avram Fefer and Matt Bauder, trumpet players Nate Wooley and Taylor Ho Bynum, trombonists Reut Regev and Tim Vaughn, and drummer Igal Foni), with the leader’s occasionally amplified contrabass now the sole electronic instrument in the mix. Inspired by his studies with composer Earle Brown (renown for his improvised conduction method), Lane encourages his band members to create spontaneous orchestrations from predetermined melodic and rhythmic cells during thematic development sections, lending a vivacious unpredictability to his traditionally notated charts.

Expounding on his lavish themes and throbbing bass lines with ebullient verve, the band follows Lane’s mantra, espoused in the liner notes: “Regardless of its sonic character, it is music that is meant to be joyful to the ear and uplifting to the soul.” Channeling avant-blues fervor into spirited statements, Lane’s crew uses a variety of mutes and extended techniques in service of raw, soulful expressionism, updating past innovations with a modernistic flair. Lane deftly deploys the musicians, staging numerous cadenzas, duos and trios for soloists to convey their statements in more intimate settings, such as Wooley and Bynum’s coruscating trumpet exchange on “Desperate Incantations” and the expansive title track’s blustery trombone dialogue between Regev and Vaughn.

Clocking in at just over an hour and a half on two discs, the date contains a wealth of sonic diversions, from the austere lament introducing the otherwise jovial opener “Imaginary Portrait” to the jubilant collective coda of the euphonious closer “Bright Star Calyspo.” Although the hypnotic Middle-Eastern modality of “Marshall” contrasts with the regal Ellingtonian voicings that dominate the session, the brooding futuristic title track ranges even further afield, pitting Lane’s squalling, feedback-laced bass against Bauder’s bellowing baritone. Embracing numerous stylistic precedents, the schizophrenic “House of Elegant” juxtaposes avant-garde abstraction and streetwise funk, while the luxurious ballad “Lucia” exudes a different ambience entirely.

Carrying on the big band tradition with genuine conviction and steadfast leadership, Lane establishes himself as part of a continuum that includes such revered bandleaders as Charles Mingus, Muhal Richard Abrams and David Murray. An endlessly revealing set, Ashcan Rantings is easily one of the best records of the year.
–Troy Collins

Toon DIST - Dutch Creative and Improvised Music Promotion

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