Jazz Music Reviews from snobb

HERBIE HANCOCK Dedication

Live album · 1974 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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First Hancock Japan-recorded album and true obscurity, "Dedication" in some sense is a real sensation. At the time of his funk-jazz glory (recorded in July 1974, it is closest to Hancock's "Thrust" and "Man-Child" excellent studio works with band), Hancock recorded four tracks in Tokyo in one day during his Japanese tour.

"Dedication" is not only very first Hancock solo piano album (one among a very few recorded later), it contains quite unusual music for the time. Of four Hancock album's originals, side A contains two acoustic piano songs,"Maiden Voyage" and "Dolphin Dance", both played in unusual for Hancock romantic/sentimental manner, slow-tempo,almost ballads,with complex airy arrangements.Can't remember him ever playing like that before or after. Closest example is probably another Hancock's acoustic solo piano album "The Piano"(another Japanese release, from 1979), but there he already sounds much more pop-jazz influenced.

Side B brings even more surprises - two his other songs here are both "electric", but surprisingly sounds a bit different from his regular music, recorded with band of the same time period. "Nobu" is masterpiece of sort sounding far ahead of its time. Hancock plays electric keyboards over sample-and-hold feature of an ARP 2600 synthesizer, producing techno-rhythm. Very spacey and futuristic, this composition sounds more modern and futuristic than his regular funk-jazz of the time, but without commercial trickery so usual for Hancock later electronic albums.It's interesting that in modern techno-circles this track is often mentioned as first ever recorded techno-song.

Album closes with renown "Cantaloupe Island" played by Herbie on analog keyboards over pre-recorded synth bass-line. In all, eclectic (and even eccentric) choice of music for one album, but surprisingly it works and is a perfect illustration of creative atmosphere of the time.

"Dedication" survived at least seven re-releases in Japan but was almost unknown outside of the country. First ever non-Japanese edition has been released in US in 2014 only (on Wounded Bird) and makes this music a bit more available for obscure great music from the past seekers.

CHICK COREA Jazzman (aka Chick Corea aka Waltz For Bill Evans)

Boxset / Compilation · 1979 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 3 ratings
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Pianist Chick Corea's Return To Forever(RTF) project made him a superstar of sort at the late 70s, when RTF themselves were already inactive jazz fusion popularity in general experienced significant decline. Corea himself tried to find a new ground as solo artist playing everything from pop jazz to Latin to third stream, with only partial success.

At the same time music industry still worked hard trying to explore "Chick Corea"'s brand till the end. It was a time when numerous labels have released plenty of all possible re-issues,compilations and archival materials, related with Corea's name, often in quite odd form."Jazzman" is one of such releases (which can be find under dozen of different titles on the market as well).

This compilation contains four Corea's early pieces, most probably coming from three-days session, recorded in 1969. Chick collaborators are all future stars,including bassist Dave Holland,drummer Jack DeJohnette,flutist Hubert Laws,trumpeter Woody Shaw,tenor Bennie Maupin and lesser known percussionist Horacee Arnold. The music has been recorded at the same time as Corea's first avant-garde jazz work "Is", and contains stylistically very similar music. Even being less free and more tuneful, "Jazzman" for sure must to disappoint RTF fans, expecting something similar in "new" Corea's releases. At the same time, it can really attract those not so numerous fans of Corea's most creative experimental period of late 60s - early 70s. More accessible than "Is" or "A.R.C." (not mention his complex masterpieces,released with Circle), "Jazzman" contains a bit direct-less mix of avant-garde jazz, early fusion and post-bop and that way illustrates quite well where from Corea's later music is coming.

The odd thing about this album is one could already be familiar with same (or very similar material) even without knowing about it. No info is provided about original sources, and to make the situation even more dreadful, it looks some titles of previously released songs are changed as well. As a result, we know that most probably "Jazzman" contains same, or very similar material with that already released in 1972 on obscure Corea's "Sundance" album. Again, it looks that all compositions were recorded during same sessions as "Sundance", and very possible "Jazzman" combines some material, already released on "Sundance" with one or more outtakes. At the same time there are plenty of albums released under different titles,which contain same or very similar material (quite often different songs titles doesn't mean that songs are really different), plus some of alternative releases mention containing "alternate versions" of same tracks. It's almost impossible to realize now where the truth is, probably better solution is Corea's "Early Works" album, possibly containing full session's material in one place.

Anyway, released most probably as one more try to explore "hot" Corea's name of the moment, this album contains some interesting material from possibly most creative Chick's period and today can offer some attractive moments for pianist's fans.

GEORGE ADAMS Sound Suggestions

Album · 1979 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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American tenor George Adams is best known from his long-lasting collaboration with pianist Don Pullen (they co-founded and ran successful band for years). Still he has released some albums under own name, many of them are of same great quality.

Jumped on forefront of jazz scene in early 70s playing in Charles Mingus band, Adams debuted as leader with two obscure avant-garde jazz albums on tiny and short-lived Italian Horo label. "Sound Suggestions", his third album as leader, comes as surprise - it's released on respectable German ECM label, and the band is all-stars. Sextet, containing bassist Dave Holland and drummer John DeJohnette among others,plays five members' originals - tightly composed memorable songs stylistically fluctuating between post-bop and European avant-garde jazz.

"Baba', album's opener,its longest track and is written by Anglo-Canadian trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and from very first seconds sounds like the melody you know for years. "Imani's Dance", Adams composition, continues "Baba" in natural way almost imperceptibly transfers to more muscular and groovy but still very soulful song. Adams, in ECM fashion, on this album plays less explosively than on many his previously and later works. Still, as for label's standard, album's music is very groovy, warm and ... American sounding. Perfectly recorded and mixed, "Sound Suggestions" are quite different from sterile groove-less and often emotionless ECM sound which has been already formed at the time of album's release.

Side B contains three shorter compositions. German musician Heinz Sauer (band's second tenor) composition "Stay Informed" is freer and more knotty than first two (completing side A), Adams even gets a chance for some harsher solos. Adams' "Got Somethin' Good For You" is up-tempo blues-based song with his own vocals on it.

"A Spire", Kenny Wheeler album's closer is the only ballad here and it radiates light melancholy. A great tasteful collection of beautiful music of miscellaneous origin, accessible but enough progressive for being attractive for listeners who avoid too conservative mainstream jazz. Not really typical ECM-style release (ok, they were more adventurous back in 70s), "Sound Suggestions" stays Adams only album on this label. Reissued on CD in 1994 it is quite accessible to find and can be really recommended as excellent evidence of creative jazz era. This music sounds modern even today.

CRAIG TABORN Craig Taborn And Ikue Mori : Highsmith

Album · 2017 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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After the release of probably his best album ever, "Daylight Ghosts", earlier this year, pianist Craig Taborn comes with a radically different work - a free improvisation collection recorded by a duo of himself and downtown laptop artist Ikue Mori.

Mori started her musical career as a self-taught percussionist in the New York no-wave scene, but soon switched to drum machines and electronics. During the last decade, she played and recorded regularly with many avant-garde jazz renown artists, including pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, violinist Mark Feldman, harpist Zeena Parkins, vocalist-electronicist Maja Ratkje, guitarist Fred Frith and cellist Okkyung Lee among many others.

A jazz duo of pianist and electronics/lap top artist probably doesn't sound like a great idea, at least on paper. Surprisingly, "Highsmith" contains more accessible and better organized music than one could expect. It is a collection of free improvisations, recorded in studio soon after the duo played live at the Village Vanguard in 2016, and even if the music sounds like free improvs for sure, it doesn't remind one of a bulky mix of accidental piano sounds and spacey loops, that's for sure.

Taborn plays quite explosive piano passages radiating dark chamber avant-garde beauty successfully combining them with silence without loosing the music's dynamic. Mori improvises using electronic sounds and noises around Craig's more solid sound, filling the space with every-second-changing electronic wizardry. All album long, the listener can't stop marveling hearing this unbelievable masterful use of percussive, in moments abrasive sounds, as equal part of complex (if ascetic) jazzy improvisation.

Lots of things happen every single moment here and after the album's last sounds, there is not even a trace of feeling that the album was too dread, repetitive or just openly boring. Successfully avoiding both formal electronics monotony, and cheap spacey looping tricks, "Highsmith" represents one really rare example of electro-acoustic improvisational music symbiosis which isn't too formal, and contains a lot of life in it, and being really experimental can attract more than a few dedicated listeners.

Interesting new side illustration for Taborn, one of the better recordings for Mori for sure.

GERALD CLAYTON Tributary Tales

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 3.95 | 2 ratings
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I never heard about Holland-born American pianist Gerald Clayton till one autumn night in 2010 when I saw him playing on his first European tour soon after the release of his debut album as leader. Leading muscular all-acoustic groovy trio,Clayton sounded as another "cat" playing quite mainstream jazz with rare freshness and without even a touch of sentimentality or nostalgia (both often destroy great artists music turning it to archival self-parody).

Only after I listened to his both debut and soon released second album, but saying true has been a bit disappointed. Somehow recorded music obviously missed that freshness and modernity which I found such attractive on Clayton live gig.

Now, after some years to come,I gave Clayton another chance and was really pleasantly surprised. Same acoustic trio has been improved with strong 3-piece reeds section (incl. Logan Richardson and Dayna Stephens on saxes and Ben Wendel on bassoon), two percussionists, two poets/spoken word artists and singer Sachal Vasandani. What is even more important - rooted in same neo post-bop,music here is tightly composed by Clayton himself, and he demonstrates non-nonsense composition abilities.

Leading quite a big combo, Clayton never overuse arrangements and as a result tuneful and complex music sounds tasteful if not minimalist. Spoken word pieces are as always an acquired taste, but at least here them don't destroy impression from album's music in whole. Band sounds best on instrumental compositions where post bop rhythmic structures organically interweave with modern composition without becoming too lifeless or frozen-formal as on some third steam recordings. Japanese edition contains Count Basie's "Blues For Stephanie" as bonus.

Serious step ahead and one great modern jazz album containing music attractive for listeners of different tastes.

JAMIE SAFT Loneliness Road (with Iggy Pop)

Album · 2017 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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Some months before the release of this album there were first info/samples presented - it was snippets of ballads, played by such unorthodox avant garde jazz artists as New York downtown keyboardist Jamie Saft and drummer Bobby Previte, plus Carla Bley's regular bassist Steve Swallow, but what was even more shocking - there was vocal on these tracks, and the voice was no one else but punk-rock veteran Iggy Pop's.

RareNoise Records, founded almost a decade ago in London by two Italians, has always been oriented towards listeners with rock background searching for something new in avant-garde jazz, free improvs and similar scenes. Then, releasing the album recorded by the aforementioned jazz trio (even if quite an unorthodox one) adding three Iggy's vocal songs doesn't sound as freaky step. It would hardly attract any mainstream jazz fan, but RareNoise are obviously interested in different followers.

The bigger surprise with the album after it was already released, is that that music here is generally modern mainstream jazz (taking away the three vocal numbers). Since Iggy was planned as release's main star, lets start from him first.

All three songs with Pop's singing are ballads, not sentimental bluesy ones, but more of popular sort of modern urban balladry, characteristic for singing poets. Placed as fourth, ninth and twelfth songs among the instrumental jazz pieces, these songs work on a manner of raisins in a cake, some likes cake with raisins, others like just raisins, and there are some who like both. One things for sure, the addition of such different songs made whole album less monotonous.

As everyone familiar with who Iggy Pop is can expect, he doesn't sing any jazz here. First ballad ("Don't Loose Yourself")is a tuneful one, slightly recalling Jack Bruce's (or late Bowie's) songs of similar genre. Jazz trio play mostly in a manner of rock band here, Iggy sounds convincing and even demonstrates some fire. I can imagine a whole Iggy Pop album of such quality, and it possibly wouldn't be any wrong. Two other ballads unfortunately are more sentimental, and I wouldn't say Iggy's voice is the best choice for such kind of music. For me those left a mixed feeling of sadness and/or sorrow (I really like Leonard Cohen's songs, but he's been doing it much, much better).

Now, the rest of the album is ten more songs, and they are mostly great, if not excellent. Jamie Saft plays piano and organ here, mostly straight but demonstrates enough virtuosity and muscular energy to stay attractive all album long. In a combination with his "rock-like" manner, well crafted melodic compositions have all chances to attract far wider audience than just regular jazz fans.

Biggest album surprise are rhythm section. Pairing of original jazz bassist Swallow with far not so conformist drummer Previte was probably a risky business (ok, they already played together on previous Saft trio album), but here it works well and ... unexpectedly. If Swallow's deep physical groovy bass is's such unusual, I can hardly remember Previte playing with such delicacy and almost tender.

At the end of the day, what sounded at the very beginning as possible bad joke turned out to be a really great album. It just confirms once again how unpredictable true jazz is and - we love it for that.

PHRONESIS The Behemoth

Album · 2017 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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During a decade of their activities, Nordic-British trio Phronesis built a strong reputation as leading UK-based jazz band of new generation. Led by charismatic Danish bassist Jasper Høiby, trio successfully combined renown Swedes EST-influenced contemporary chamber jazz with their own well-composed themes and energetic live performances. After some years of fame, trio members try to find out new destinations where their music could be developed. On "Parallax", their studio album released in 2016, Phronesis for the first time leave safe waters of comfortable and successful music of their early albums and switch to more muscular (and less tuneful/memorable) fusion sound - with mixed success. Seeing them playing live last autumn with program which contained both old (contemporary chamber jazz) and new (fusion) songs, was quite a controversial experience. Older compositions were all much more polished,tuneful and often just beautiful, new muscular songs radiated energy and groove but as rule were quite faceless and unmemorable.

Anyway, this spring Phronesis made another unexpected step - trio released album of their well-known songs recorded with German big band. This time it works without doubts - excellent Julian Arguelles arrangements with lots of horns soloing and perfect muscular big band sound help to show Phronesis compositions' potential in full. There are no tricks or gimmicks in orchestra's music at all - all album sounds as best Gil Evans or Charles Mingus big orchestra recordings. Music is full-bodied, well balanced, tasteful and played with lot of positive energy and enthusiasm.

Excellent generalization of Phronesis first decade of activities - with lot of optimism and looking ahead, not in a past. One of the best big orchestra release I heard for years.

EVAN PARKER Evan Parker & RGG : Live​@​Alchemia

Live album · 2017 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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In a world of modern technologies one need just to have a wish and make few easy steps to establish a new jazz label. Music market is overloaded with releases, many of them are just a memorabilia for artists friends and families, but some contain really great music.

Polish young and ambitious label Fundacja Słuchaj! for some time releases (mostly) live recordings of Polish and world known advanced jazz musicians, many albums contain really impressive music. One of their very fresh releases presents quite unorthodox quartet, formed for one-night concert in probably Polish most renown jazz club Krakow's Alchemia.

British sax player Evan Parker needs no introduction. Being one of the living legend UK's free jazz, he plays and record really a lot, but mostly with avant-garde musicians. Polish contemporary jazz trio RGG are known and really popular collective in Poland playing music influenced by their great compatriot Tomasz Stanko and ECM-style European chamber jazz in general. Here on "[email protected]" Parker and RGG play four free improvised compositions and its works surprisingly well.

First of all, Evan Parker doesn't steal the show but plays as equal collaborator with trio and it saves the gig from being just another "Evan Parker plus supporting local band" night. From other hand, RGG staying melancholic tuneful typical Polish piano trio play freer and groovier than on their regular recordings. In fact, RGG build melodic and rhythmic basis for tasteful and surprisingly lyrical, but always energetic Parker's sax solo improvisations.

Album's music is perfectly recorded and well edited - one can find here that rare balance between accessibility and adventuress which saves any jazz release from being both far too "out" and boringly predictable. True label's success, bravo!

STEVE LACY The Beat Suite

Album · 2003 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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One of the greatest soprano sax avant garde jazz musician Steve Lacy recorded "The Beat Suite" almost at the ned of his long-lasting and extremely prolific career. Fortunately, it is no way master's melancholic look to his past. Oppositely, "Beat Suite" is ambitious project brewing beat poetry with Lacy's improved trio's music.

Beside of Steve regulars acoustic bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch, there are two very important collaborators participated. First is trombonist George Lewis, and the other - operatic voice singer (and Lacy's wife) Irene Aebi. Irene participated previously on some Lacy's recordings and everyone familiar with their tandem knows that her singing is an acquired taste: use of operatic voice in avant-garde jazz compositions are appreciated by ones and hated by others. Anyway, "The Suite..." is mostly based on Aebi's singing so chose properly.

Quite unusually for Lacy's music, each of ten compositions contains lyrics, including such renown material as William Burroughs "Naked Lunch", Kerouac "Wave Lover" or Alien Ginsberg "Song". Irene's singing isn't easy acceptable source of songs' lyrics so it's great that liner notes contain all the texts.

Music is quite different from Lacy's regular as well - more relaxed, with lot of free trombone soloing, it combines more 50s "beat" atmosphere (or even cool jazz) than usual Lacy's late 60s free jazz-influenced works with minimalist early 20th century/ Weimar era influenced operatic songs.

Steve Lacy recorded "The Beat Suite" at his late sixties, just a few years prior to passing away. It's really impressive evidence how creative great sax player stayed till the end of his life.

CHRISTIAN SCOTT (CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH) Ruler Rebel

Album · 2017 · DJ/Electronica Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott made his name during the last few years on the wave of jazz crossovers oriented to young rock, RnB or techno fans, during an explosive growth of popularity (Kamasi Washington with his triple CD is another great example).

I happened to see Scott playing live two years ago during his European tour - he demonstrated his showman and leadership abilities leading his young musician's band, and being much more than a virtuoso trumpeter. He spoke a lot (really more than he played trumpet), mostly about racial problems in his hometown of New Orleans.

Two years later, in 2017, Christian Scott announced releasing a trilogy dedicated to "re-evaluation of the social political realities of the world through sound... slavery in America via the prison industrial complex, food insecurity, xenophobia, immigration, climate change, gender inequality, fascism and the return of the demagogue". Not surprisingly, the trilogy's first album "Ruler Rebel" goes deeper into electronics/hip-hop culture and demonstrates sounds that are more usual for London clubs than for New Orleans streets.

Christian Scott leads basically almost the same band as on his previous album, with flutist Elena Pinderhughes on board. The music on here is a quite beautiful mix of African rhythms, heavily adapted to modern urban culture's ears with wide use of samplers and rhythm machines. There are lot of Scott's trumpet soloing on this album, mostly all straight-ahead clear tones flying over electronic rhythms/samples somewhat similar to smooth jazz trumpeter Chris Botti's manner. Probably the main attraction in this album's music is a quite successful mix of New Orleans positive energy and modern urban electronic sound. Not strange is that Scott is even more popular in London clubs than in native America - what may sound as exotic in New Orleans is very close to most modern London youth club's sound standards, with conspicuous difference since similar British bands are usually rooted in Caribbean rhythms.

Not so much a jazz record, this new album's great mission is first of all to introduce young communities, often associated with different musical traditions, to jazz culture and its modern possibilities.

CHARLES TYLER Charles Tyler/Ensemble : Voyage From Jericho

Album · 1975 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Bari sax player Charles Tyler, one unsung hero of early free jazz generation,met Albert Ayler when them both were just a teens. Tyler moved to New York after Ayler and soon find himself playing in Ayler's band. Tyler recorded "Bells" and "Spirits Rejoice" with Ayler and recorded two albums as leader for legendary ESP (in 1967-68). Than moved to LA for few years where played with Arthur Blythe and David Murray among others. In mid 70s Tyler returned back to New York where he played and occasionally recorded some more albums. Being one of most significant baritonist of his generation (besides of more known Hamiet Bluiett) Tyler never received serious fame or following. In early 80s he toured Europe with Sun Ra Archestra and stayed in Denmark, than relocated to France where passed away in 1992.

"Voyage From Jericho" is Tyler's first in line of albums, released in mid 70's. Excellent quintet,containing Arthur Blythe on alto, acoustic bassist Ronnie Boykins, trumpeter Earl Cross and drummer Steve Reid plays five free-bop originals, warm, groovy and tuneful. As on some other albums, Tyler successfully mixes Ayler's early jazz roots and free reading with Eric Dolphy's free-bop and Pharoah Sanders spiritual jazz. Quite simple,not overloaded music radiates original beauty and naturalism, both were often missed by later generations of free jazz musicians.

Great place to start for fans of Ayler more accessible recordings or Dolphy's free bop. The album has been reissued in France in 1993 (by Bleu Regard) but still stays real obscurity though.

CRAIG TABORN Daylight Ghosts

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.48 | 4 ratings
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American pianist Craig Taborn is at the forefront of modern creative jazz.He played with saxophonists James Carter and AEOC's Roscoe Mitchell (Taborn's first presence on ECM label),collaborated with techno producer Carl Craig among others.

As leader, Taborn debuted in 1994 on Japanese DIW label. Since that he released five more solo albums covering such wide areas as nu jazz,avant-garde jazz and even jazz-electronics. Craig very often plays piano and electric keyboards combining them on the same album and freely adapting different techniques even on the same composition.Once I saw Taborn playing live as Michael Formanek band member with all-star line-up including saxophonist Tim Berne and drummer Gerald Cleaver and Craig really stole the show!

On Taborn more current releases for German ECM label (including this just released Daylight Ghosts) Craig demonstrates newest trend in modern jazz - improvisational musicianship based on tightly composed songs. His quartet contains one of the most influential representative of this stream reeds player Chris Speed (well known by his work in cult Claudia Quintet and solo works for ECM), popular American nu jazz bassist Chris Lightcup and The Bad Plus drummer Dave King.

Of nine compositions eight are Taborn originals ("Jamaican Farewell" is written by Roscoe Mitchell). Mixing rock, electronica,chamber and jazz traditions, album represents a very modern form of jazz, with big attention to composition but staying playful and lively because of continuing jazzy improvisational musicianship. This music can sound attractive for listener of very different background,incl. fans of ambient/rock/electronics, rock-jazz progressive, avant-garde jazz and third stream as well. Based more on atmospheric moods than concentration on technical perfection, this new Taborn release is one among great examples of new jazz, one of this better music making fame to respectful ECM label.

CHICK COREA Origin: Live At The Blue Note

Live album · 1998 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.48 | 4 ratings
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Renown pianist Chick Corea started his career in jazz highest league playing in Miles Davis band in 60s. After few mainstream solo albums as leader he co-founded technically superior (if short-lived) all-star avant-garde jazz quartet Circle (with bassist Dave Holland, sax player Anthony Braxton and drummer Barry Altschul) and then moved to stardom with his fusion band Return To Forever.

Still from mid 70s, when his successful fusion formula experienced dramatic decline under pressure of myriad of clones and and army fuzak players, Corea lost direction for decades unsuccessfully trying to find new inspiration (or another formula of success).Recorded few quite interesting fusion albums as leader,he started series of repeating changes of bands and genres with only very limited success trying everything from pop-jazz to chamber jazz,revitalizing electric fusion formula and returning back to mainstream jazz.

The only thing is obvious with no doubt - starting from late 70s Corea's best bands/albums all are post-bop. His acoustic sextet with young Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen (which opened to Cohen doors to best jazz scenes),drummer and reeds section is probably his Chick's best band for two decades. There are two releases only documenting Origin music, "Live at the Blue Note" debut (later released as box set incl. hours of unreleased material) and studio album "Change", released year later with different drummer (Jeff Ballard replacing Adam Cruz).

"Live at the Blue Note" contains material,selected from a week-long gig in December 1997,recorded in New York club. Sextet plays Corea's new originals with one exception (album's closer "It Could Happen To You"). Musically the album contains quite conservative post-bop with lot of brass/reeds, often sounding as bigger orchestra. Rhythm section is groovy and warm/physical recalling recordings from 60s, Corea plays his trademark tuneful moody piano,often with Latin touch and his old fans can easily hear some citations recalling early Return of Forever Latin scented music. He smartly adds few more complex and freer moments which work as tasteful spices making Origin music more delicious.

For sure, nothing is new here. Starting from mid 70s Corea's music is usually more or less of good quality, but always safe. Still great musicians' interplay and technical excellence makes his best albums (incl. Origin recordings) a pleasant listening. A few years later Corea will establish another short-lived project with bassist Avishai Cohen - the New Trio (with drummer Jeff Ballard). In new Millennium Chick will continue playing with acoustic post-bop trios releasing his better recordings and enjoying moderate success (partially in Japan)

TOMASZ STAŃKO Purple Sun

Album · 1973 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko is most probably country's best known jazz musician for some decades and prestigious ECM label in-house artist. Better known (especially outside of his homeland) from his ECM-sound recordings, in his early ears Stanko played quite different music. Started his career still at late 60s, Tomasz played with in Polish legend Komeda band, starting his career as leader in early 70s.

"Purple Sun" is Stanko quintet third album recorded live in empty hall of Music School in Munich,Germany. All-Polish quartet is completed with German bassist Hans Hartmann here. Album contains four originals (twolong and two shorter pieces). Confusingly enough, "Purple Sun" is often classified in music media (partially Polish) as early example of Polish avant-garde jazz which it isn't.

In reality bass-drums-trumpet-sax quartet with violinist Zbigniew Seifert on board plays high energy fusion strongly influenced by Davis' "Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew". Representing contrast difference from popular Stanko ECM albums of contemporary (chamber) jazz, "Purple Sun" with its raw energy and quite free structure possibly sounds as avant-garde piece for traditional Stanko listeners but everyone familiar with early Miles fusion will confirm their musical similarity.

Stanko's fusion is more European comparing with Miles - there are less American jazz roots (no groove) but lot of German krautrock influence in a form of straight power flow and rock-psychedelia. And yeh - the level of musicians virtuosity is far not as in Davis fusion bands.

Still music sounds really fresh and inspired and common "rockish" aesthetics could be attractive for fans of jazz-rock. In all cases, this album (reissued in Poland on CD at least twice so quite accessible) is not for numerous fans of ECM-period Stanko. Lovers of early Miles fusion will probably find here a nice example of similar music recorded by one of the best Polish jazz musician ever.

PETER EVANS Lifeblood

Live album · 2016 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Starting from late 60s solo saxophone recordings aren't rare thing, Chicagoan Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and soprano genius Steve Lacy introduced world to that kind of highly creative and usually very free-form kind of jazz. Solo trumpeter albums are much more obscure though.

American trumpeter Peter Evans (better known to wide auditory as Mostly Other People Do The Killing band member) has already released some, but his newest "Lifeblood" is his first solo trumpet album in five years. It contains recordings from different shows recorded in 2015-16 and lasts almost two hour long. To make things even more twisted,"Lifeblood" is released in digital form only - usual download files and ... USB memory stick (or being more correct - USB credit card memory stick). Since the size of content doesn't exceed the space of casual double CD-set, it's obvious that physical recording's form has been chosen not only because of technical needs.

So - what do we have inside? Solo reeds albums are always hit or miss, at their best such music radiate artist's creativity and technical perfection but sometimes we just evidence never-ending demonstration of musician's ego drilling your ears and twitching your nerves. Than 109 minutes long "Lifeblood" can sound as really risky business.

Fortunately it isn't. Evans plays solo trumpet concerts regularly for years so what one can hear on this album isn't just exotic demonstration of technical abilities on request. "Lifeblood" contains two longer pieces ("suites") - twenty-seven minutes long opener of the same title and three-parts forty-minutes long closer "The Prophets". All music is highly improvised but contains never ending mosaic of tunes and rhythms snippets changind each other very dynamically so such a long free-form album doesn't sound boring at all.

Evans plays trumpet with rare virtuosity using his own techniques besides of more traditional, he uses breathing and his mouse as source for percussion added and generally minimalist music is surprisingly dense and dynamic. Quite unusually for music of such kind all concert sound is warm,even intimate at moments. Peter successfully finds the right balance between passionate playing and relaxed atmosphere, music isn't explosive nor meditative.

Surprisingly, almost two hours of solo trumpet music of free form don't require special concentration from listener. It is not elevator music for sure, but it works pretty well sounding at home when I was doing some home works or reading news in internet. I listened to the album three or four times during last some weeks - it says a lot!

USB stick isn't most popular form of physical jazz album maybe, than go for more usual download and don't miss this probably best reeds player solo album of last decade or so.

ORNETTE COLEMAN Body Meta

Album · 1978 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 5 ratings
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Ornette Coleman was the one among a few jazzmen who started playing what later has been titled "a new thing" still in late 50s. His album "Free Jazz" gave the tag for all new jazz direction which dramatically changed genre's scene for decades to come. Still at the late 60s-early 70s it looked Ornette got stuck in his music(his excellent "Science Fiction" from 1972 is an exception only confirming the sentence).

Fortunately for us jazz lovers he did it again - in late 70s Ornette returned back with new jazz revolution again. His new quintet came all-electric this time - two(!) guitarists, bassist and unorthodox drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson beside of Coleman himself. The music,if still rooted in early free jazz, was seriously different and at the moment sounded extremely modern and non-conventional at the same time. Influenced by some time's dominated trends, Ornette's new music was closer to jazz fusion, or better to say - free funk still staying within jazz idiom.

First ever recorded example of Ornette's new music has been released on their "Dancing in Your Head"(1977) - 31 minute-short LP which contained only one true new band's composition "Theme From A Symphony" (which initially has been planned as EP release) and completed with four-and-half minute "Midnight Sunrise" world fusion piece,recorded with Master Musicians of Jajouka. Then in 1978 same band releases "Body Meta" - true first full album of "harmolodic" jazz. Five compositions, almost forty minutes of excellent energetic and free mix of groovy pulsation, drummers acrobatics and extremely inspired and focused Coleman sax soloing, one among best in his career.

Comparing with many recordings,released by Coleman and his followers later, "Body Meta" has one big advantage - because of permanent changes of tunes and rhythmical structures whole album doesn't sound all that much repetitive and initial fresh and positive impression doesn't change to boredom after first fifteen-twenty minutes of listening.

Coltrane (and his collaborators/followers) will develop and explore this new for the time sound for decades to come but "Body Meta" still will stay one of style cornerstone album in jazz history.

ARCHIE SHEPP Archie Shepp / Michel Marre Quintet ‎: You're My Thrill (aka Passion)

Album · 1986 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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In mid 80s one of free jazz cult figures American tenor Archie Shepp returns to his early r'n'b roots again and again. Usually combined with vocals and bluesy hard-bop numbers, Shepp's albums from that period are often a mixed bag, but for followers contain lot of interesting moments.

One of better known albums of such kind is his "Down Home New York", recorded in States and released on renown Italian Soul Note label in 1984. "You're My Thrill"(reissued later on CD as "Passion" with two bonus tracks) was recorded in France and released on tiny domestic Vent Du Sud label. Both vinyl and CD (reissued in 1990)versions are real obscurities.

From very first album sounds it becomes obvious that Shepp (or label) obviously tries to re-vitalize "Down Home NY.."'s successful formula. At the very same way, "You're My Thrill" opens with 10+ minute long catchy r'n'b number of the same way (actually, it is same song as "Dow Home.."'s opener, just titled here as "Passion" and completed with slightly different lyrics)

Then (strictly according to previous album formula again) we have series of hard hard bop ballads with a few freer reeds solos and some of vocals.In contrast to Soul Note release where Shepp plays with team of renown Americans (incl. Kenny Werner on piano and Saheb Sarbib on bass among others), on "You're My Thrill" we hear mostly domestic European band. Weirdest collaborator is German keyboardist Siegfred Kessler using solely analog synths with extremely non-jazzy plasticky effervescent sound.

Supporting band's leader trumpeter/tuba player Michel Marre demonstrates few solos, not on the level of Shepp's better collaborators' though.CD version's two bonuses are more lively compositions, contain more inspired (and a bit freer) playing but can hardly save all album.

Obscure and hardly attractive for casual listener, this album still contains its two or three attractive moments for Shepp's fan or collector.

NATE WOOLEY Argonautica

Album · 2016 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Oregon-born, Brooklyn-based trumpeter Nate Wooley is one (together with cornetist Kirk Knuffke) on the forefront of today's New York adventurous jazz scene. Prolifically documented, Wooley is known by series of very experimental recordings,where he plays using different parts of his disassembled horn,adds vocalization,noise,drones,amplification,etc. At the same time, he released some really accessible music, as "(Dance To) The Early Music",where he plays compositions of Wynton Marsalis.

Nate's new release "Argonautica" is of that category which modern jazz market really needed. For younger generation's numerous jazz fans, who's main listening is different forms of jazz fusion, and who is bored by predictability and limitations of that genre,"Argonautica" builds a bridge to more adventurous but still accessible areas of modern jazz.

The album contains one long composition, but there is no reason to afraid of continued noodling or free form abstract constructions. On "Argonautica" Wooley starts where early Miles Davis'(or very first Weather Report albums') creative fusion has been finished and carefully moves towards freer improvisation and more modern sound never loosing fusion ground under his legs.

Wooley's band is actually a double-trio here: two trumpeters, two pianists and two drummers.One trio is led by Wooley himself and the other - by veteran cornetist Ron Miles. Other band's members are Tyshawn Sorey trio's pianist Cory Smythe with Bureau Of Atomic Tourism's keyboardist Jozef Dumoulin on Rhodes plus drummers Devin Grey and Rudy Royston.

Differently from Miles early fusion, reeds don't fly over the band's sound, instead one can hear lot of fragmented snippets,short solos and variable sounds/noises, sometimes spiced with Dumoulin electronics. Drums and piano generate busy environment and Rhodes goes even funky.

"Argonautica", one almost forty-three minute long composition, is actually a kaleidoscope of all the time changing movements inside of the selected formula's frame. Balancing precisely between fusion and free, it represents fresh and never-boring accessible side of modern avant-garde jazz (or creative adventurous fusion - depending on listener's starting point).

MASAHIKO TOGASHI Masahiko Togashi + Masabumi Kikuchi : Concerto

Album · 1991 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Two Japanese jazz greats pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and percussionist Masahiko Togashi recorded “Concerto” in 1991 – quite prolific period for both (especially for Kikuchi who founded one of his most successful project Tethered Moon with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian right at that time). Released soon after, this duo album hasn't been noticed and became an obscurity. Many Kikuchi fans even don't know such release exists.

In 2016 it has been re-issued in Japan so it is much more accessible now. Being mostly known as an object of discussions between collectors (as rule no-one of them ever heard its content) – is this album really all that good?

Almost two-hour long collection of improvisations is obviously dominated by Kikuchi's piano work. It is probably most lyrical work of everything what Kikuchi has been ever recorded. Bigger part of this double-CD set is filled with down tempo piano pseudo-classical balladry, similar to Russian romantic classics coming from 19 century. Togashi's percussion doesn't produce the beat or rhythm of any kind and is used mostly for ascetic licks over sentimental piano recital.

Inexperienced listener can be fooled by tuneful accessibility of Kikuchi's piano and easily imagine he's listening to slightly modernized chamber romanticism piano pieces. Only after some time one can cath up that music generally starts nowhere and goes to eternity. Familiar with Kikuchi's later recordings knows that he introduced very own avant-garde improvisational techniques, playing accessible liquid tunes' snippets in never-ending cyclic way. In fact, such kind of music can be started at any place of CD and can be finished same way – the resulted piece will be almost as representative as any other taken from the double set.

On some pieces (like “Passing Breeze”) Togashi's percussion takes more initiative and adds more blood to previously almost meditative piano-dominated music. “Unbalance” (longest album's composition lasting 16+ minute) particularly destroys chamber lullabies for characteristic Togashi's percussive air temples and quite refined piano-percussion duels.

Still in all whole album obviously missing dynamics and too often occurs dangerously close to monotonous sound-wallpaper. Few atonal and more percussive pieces demonstrate better balance between tuneful melancholic atmosphere and dramatic tension, but there are not enough of them to save the album from "lullaby" effect.

So - it's great that one more "secret album" of Japanese avant-garde jazz became accessible for public, but it could be mostly recommended for listeners,familiar with Togashi and Kikuchi (avant-garde period) music. Newbies can be seriously disappointed.

RED TRIO Empire (with John Butcher)

Album · 2011 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Portuguese adventurous jazz scene during last decade demonstrated possibly biggest number of young and or new/newly discovered interesting musicians of all Europe. I can mention reedists Sei Miguel and Rodrigo Amado, or young generation sax player Susana Santos Silva among some others. But speaking about collectives,not individual artists, with no doubt first what comes to mind are Red Trio.

Debuted in 2010 with their self-titled album, the trio of double bassist Hernani Faustino,drummer/percussionist Gabriel Ferrandini and pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro are excellent example of true collective musicianship. There are no leader in a band, and not because of formal statement - their music is a result of equal participation when each member is right in place and it is impossible to imagine final music without his part.

Based more on Bill Dixon legacy,when the textures are not less important than structures and sounds, than on widely popular but obviously over-exploited way of noisy exalted free improvs or pseudo -intellectual structure-less noodling, Portuguese trio plays very modern post-jazz when elements of acoustic ambient, jazzy industrial/noise and more traditional acoustic jazz trio all are equal parts of aesthetically attractive musical picture.

On "Empire", band's second album (and first international release), trio collaborates with unorthodox British sax player John Butcher. Three compositions of vinyl-only release sounds fresh and demonstrates rare form of exploratory in modern jazz when searching of new forms doesn't separate music from listener. All album long open ears listener feels like he is participating in artists collaboration carefully and with high level of professionalism stepping ahead and even more - it looks like he goes with them this fragile and beauty way they are laying behind.

One great example of new millenium adventurous jazz, unfortunately out of press vinyl release only.

MOSTLY OTHER PEOPLE DO THE KILLING (Live)

Live album · 2016 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Russian inventor of French descent Léon Theremin (who invented one of a very early electro-acoustic musical device known as Termenvox, beloved instrument of French electronic music artist Jean-Michel Jarre till now) once said on Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin: "Stalin wasn't bad. . . . It was mostly other people did all the killing."

American band which chose this citation as their name must have a lot of (risky) humor, and yes - they have. Quartet of skilled musicians did their name playing tributes-parodies on known jazz albums from the past, incl. Art Blakey's A Night in Tunisia (Blue Note, 1960); Ornette Coleman's This Is Our Music (Atlantic, 1960); Roy Haynes' Out of the Afternoon (Impulse!, 1962); Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert (ECM, 1975).Their "Blue" is a note-for-note reproduction of the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue.

With growth of members' solo activities, band themselves don't release a lot, "(live)" is their the only album released this year. More important, containing material comes from as far as autumn of 2012,when the concert has been recorded in Poland during Jazz & Beyond Improvised Music Festival in Katowice.It's a bit strange that it is released just now - during all these years band enjoyed high popularity and they have released only two live albums till now ("live" is band's third).

Anyway, new album contains well recorded music based mostly on band's four first (and as many will agree most raw and funny) albums, "President Polk" comes from upcoming in 2013 their album "Slippery Rock!" though. Musicians are in great form, they obviously enjoy playing to dedicated public, so band music's fans get MOPDTK at their best - almost burlesque-like high energy tuneful jazz-punk circus. 75-minutes long it doesn't last like such what is always a sign of non-boring and truly entertaining show.

HENRY THREADGILL Old Locks and Irregular Verbs

Album · 2016 · Third Stream
Cover art 3.95 | 2 ratings
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Henry Threadgill's "Old Locks And Irregular Verbs" is an exceptional album, one among few released this year. Living AACM legend, Threadgill is high respected not only among avant-garde jazz fans. His music is almost always tuneful, well structured and being adventurous as rule is quite easy accessible.

"Old Locks..." are different beast though. It's a tribute to "improvisation conduction" pioneer Butch Morris, and it represents Threadgill as a composer (he doesn't play here at all). Four parts suite is played by a bit unusual (but probably expected from Threadgill) band - two star-pianists(Jason Moran and David Virelles), two alto saxophonists,cellist,tuba player and drummer. Music itself is closer to Threadgill's AACM colleague Wadada Leo Smith's more current monumental works, but perfectly avoiding later's often bombastic monumentalism.

In fact, "Old Locks..." are one of quite rare successful examples of brewing (modern) classics and jazz - being pre-composed, all album sounds extremely fresh and dynamic, full of jazz swings and freer soloing.Strictly looking, it is not jazz mixed with classics anymore, it is the new music rooted in both but distanced far enough from both to be accepted as independent genre.

Quite different from more regular Threadgill recordings,this music has his signature with no doubt - in tunes, light and optimistic atmosphere surprisingly successfully combined with New Orleans funeral marches echoing. It's not like such work is exclusive for Threadgill - everyone familiar with his obscure Zoid's debut album remembers for sure how strange it sounded offering two amorphous percussive pieces closer to minimalism than to usual Threadgill's full-blood pulsating jazz (tuba player Jose Davila plays on both above mentioned albums). But for listeners waiting for "another Threadgill" who's expectation are based on his more regular music, this album brings a surprise.

One can hardly mention bad or even average album, released by Threadgill, "Old Locks And Irregular Verbs" is not only good, it opens some new horizons. Not often such thing happens on modern jazz scenes.

KOSUKE MINE Mine

Album · 1970 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kosuke Mine is a Japanese reeds player better known by his collaboration on sound early Japanese advanced jazz albums, partially playing in pianist Masabumi Kikuchi late-60s sextet and percussionist Masahiko Togashi more straight band few decades later.

Mine released some albums as leader as well, some earliest releases are high-rated obscurities between Japanese jazz collectors. "Mine" LP is important not only as early Kohsuke advanced release,but even more as very first album released on just established Japanese legendary label Three Blind Mice,known by his audiophile quality and accessible but advanced repertoire (especially during first years of existence).

Full-Japanese quintet play quite characteristic for the time hard/post bop hybrid with anchoring mainstream rhythm section and freer soloists, especially Kohsuke on alto/soprano sax and keyboardist Hideo Ichikawa. Three sextet originals plus Joe Henderson "Isotope" all sound pretty nice, with delicate and restrained rhythm,melodic but freer Kosuke solos and tasteful Rhodes licks. Well-balanced mix and uncompressed sound are both pros too on this not too original but professional and well-played album.

Not on the level of adventuress of Japanese avant-garde jazz of the time, "Mine" is nice work for those searching on advanced mainstream jazz of 60s or 70s,rooted in Dolphy's free-bop.

TETHERED MOON Tethered Moon

Album · 1992 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Tethered Moon was Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi (who passed away last summer)probably most successful project in Western market. Tokyo-born, Kikuchi lived in New York for decades but never won a real popularity in States (similarly in Japan,where he played and recorded extensively as well).

Tethered Moon were a all-star trio founded as secret Japanese King/Paddle Wheel label's weapon searching for success on European market. Two trio's other members were both established stars in Europe, Kikuchi played with them both already for some time as well. So - pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian debut album "Tethered Moon", released originally in Germany by Japanese label King/Paddle Wheel.

Before recording of the album's music, Kikuchi for some years played with different fusion projects almost using electric keyboards, so "Tethered Moon" is kind of his return to acoustic piano (mostly for good). Peacock and Motian are extra-class rhythm section which on this album play surprisingly straight if groovy. Album opens with three standards,continues with three Peacock original and finishes with long (over 14 minute)Kikuchi's "Tethered Moon".

Music is mid-tempo,tuneful,warm,even dreamy in moments. Kikuchi plays in characteristic for that period slightly chamber manner with touch of humor what makes all music more alive and playful. Being accessible listening,this album was hardly an event of the year, but aptly hitting the fashion of the day (presenting high-class hybrid of Paul Bley progressive chamber piano post-bop and European contemporary jazz ECM sound)it helped a lot establishing the band name in European (and later - US market). Next year after European release,the album has been released in US by Evidence, upcoming decade bring five more Tethered Moon albums (all - on German labels).

Not Kikuchi's (or any of other two trio's member) most innovative,original or just interesting music, Tethered Moon were good choice for those searching for accessible but intelligent and quality jazz during 90s. Very possible this project opened to Kikuchi doors to German ECM Records some years later (on this label Masabumi released some his most mature music ever)

AKIRA SAKATA Sakata Orchestra ‎: 4 O'Clock

Album · 1981 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Japanese reeds player Akira Sakata (born in Hiroshima in 1945) for last decade is on the top of most requested internationally country's jazz artist,playing and recording in States,Europe and Japan. He started his career in early 70s as highly respected Yosuke Yamashita Trio's member,but switched to solo career in early 80s. In mid-80s he played with short-lived but significant Peter Brotzmann's Last Exit (noisy supergroup with Sonny Sharrock,Ronald Shannon Jackson and Bill Laswell on board), and he met new Millenium playing with most radical experimenters around.

Still in early 80s Akira was more anchored to composed music, his short-lived but great Sakata Orchestra are a great example. "4 O'Clock" is the only band's studio album, released in 1981.

Massive reeds section (incl. future star Kazutoki Umezu),two drummers,two bassists,percussionist and two piano/keyboards players (plus uncredited operatic vocals on side B) build true orchestral feel on four pre-composed musical pieces. Differently from Sakata's current dominance of very free forms and often chaotic soloing, Sakata Orchestra were perfectly organised progressive big band with well-framed rhythm structures and arrangements. Main attraction were constantly changing soloists demonstrating truly free improvisational abilities.

Trying to use all most advanced trends of the time (incl. some cosmic electronic sounds and operatic vocals),Akira doesn't lose jazz orchestra's ground even for a second. It makes all music sound accessible,but very fresh and modern.

Well recorded (I missed more lows in mix though), this album sounds really attractive even today - great place to start one's journey researching rich legacy of living Japanese adventurous jazz legend.

MAL WALDRON Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy : Live At Dreher Paris 1981, The Peak Vol. 2

Boxset / Compilation · 1996 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Second double-CD set, released right after the first one and containing live material,recorded during two last nights of soprano Steve Lacy and pianist Mal Waldron duo gigs at Paris' Dreher. First set is based more on first of three nights recordings and has been released under Steve Lacy name as leader (what is more a marketing trick since first set,released under Lacy's name, contains predominantly Waldron compositions, and second - predominantly Lacy's, in both cases completed with Monk standards)

Bigger part of presented music has been already released on earlier vinyl albums, but them all are real rarities so "The Peak" is with no doubt most accessible possibility to listen duo's legendary concert.

First set's CD contains four well-known Lacy's originals plus three Monk standards (incl. "Epistrophy" - the composition which made Lacy famous at early stage of his career). Second set opens with two Lacy compositions, switches to Waldron's "Hooray For Herby" and closes with three Monk standards.

The year is 1981, and Paris listeners are still enthusiastic listening to tuneful but quite quirky music. Both Lacy and Waldron are known by their love to clear melodies and minimalist touch in combination with deep bluesy roots. So no surprises here - Lacy's vibrato-less soprano sax dominates in most of the time quite often reminding his famous solo soprano concerts. Waldron piano can be heard mostly on the background (in big part because of untoward sound mix) with only better moments when Waldron soloing. Compositions are mostly well-known from other recordings, still here them sound inspired and perfectly played.

Generally often described as best duo release, this set is probably a bit overrated. Obvious Lacy domination (in sound mix and in music generally) too often makes "The Peak" just another Lacy's album, there are more interesting Lacy's solo soprano recordings and better releases as leader with band. Waldron is too often overshadowed here and sounds more as accompanist than a co-leader. Still great evidence coming from early 80s Paris jazz scene and one accessible way to listen two among most significant American expatriate jazz musicians who's career for decades has been related with Europe.

AKIRA SAKATA Arashi : Semikujira

Album · 2016 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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70 years old veteran of Japanese avant-garde jazz reedist Akira Sakata leads furious acoustic trio with two young Scandinavians - Swedish bassist Johan Berthling and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. The name of the trio is Arashi("Storm"), and their second album,released two years after their self-tittled debut,recorded in Swedish studio and released on Austrian label, is titled "Semikujira"("North Pacific Whale").

Paal Nilssen-Love is extremely prolific artist and producer pushing all Nordic adventurous noisy jazz ahead, bassist Berthling is known as Swedish super bands Angles and Fire!/Fire! Orchestra member, so one can expect really muscular and quirky rhythm section work here - they fulfill expectations in full. Still main star of the show is Akira himself,who not only plays alto sax and clarinet, but adds lot of vocalize (which hardly can be called "singing").

Differently from many other Akira's more abstract works, Arashi is power trio which plays well framed muscular free jazz in New York of 80s tradition, but on very Japanese manner. Over the tight rhythm basis Akira blows some attacking if quite soulful sax soloing, but much more impressive is his absolutely shamanic vocalizes in Japanese,repetitive,hypnotizing and very organic.

From songs titles it's obvious that Japanese folklore, or better to say - ritualistic songs were taken as source of inspiration, and the result is not less than fascinating. Without loosing trad songs structure and some melodious component,power trio reworks them right to free jazz shamanic compositions which surprisingly enough don't lose their relation with shamanic nature of originals.For sure Sakata's voice is not for everyone taste, but those familiar with Japanese brutal avant-rock or experimental radical free jazz (which was a main source of inspiration for John Zorn series of early releases),or fans of Diamanda Gallas' singing will accept Akira's vocal pyrotechnics without big problems.

Arashi's debut two years ago received lot of positive critics, their second work is even better.

GARY PEACOCK Eastward

Album · 1970 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.33 | 2 ratings
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One of most respectable among living jazz bass legends,Gary Peacock quite surprisingly released his debut as leader in Japan, in 1970. After almost decade of playing in US as session musician and seven years after his recording debut (with trumpeter Don Ellis quartet), Peacock recorded "Eastward" in Japan,where in 1969 he stayed for two years for (non-musical) studies and investigation of Zen Buddhism.

Two other trio's members are still almost unknown local musicians pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and drummer Hiroshi Murakami. After very few month Kikuchi will rich his probably most successful point of musical career releasing series of Miles Davis-influenced fusion albums, but for the day of recording "Eastward" he was just rising young pianist with a few recordings behind.

Seven album's compositions are all rooted in post-bop (mostly because of quite straight drummer Murakami beat),but Kikuchi advanced piano playing and Peacock deep physical and quite free bass both push the music towards more modern sound than just ordinary mainstream jazz of the time.

Initially released in Japan only as vinyl LP, this album was true obscurity,but re-issued on CD in 2015 (in Japan only as well)now it is easier available for both Peacock and Kikuchi fans. Reissue sound quality and mix are excellent (as almost any Japanese jazz recording coming from 70s)and it's really a pleasure to hear how well this music sounds now, after 45 years.

Starting from his very first Japanese recordings and up to current time Peacock developed his signature Zen jazz sound - that unique atmosphere of calmness,well controlled passion and melodic meditativeness. He will play with Kikuchi and other Japanese jazz musicians quite often during his long career, and will co-found some successful projects with Paul Motian who's music fits perfectly under same aesthetic umbrella.

On his debut Peacock (and all trio) shows still very first,but already significant signs of musical style he will become famous for. Excellent example of creative modern jazz of early 70s, comparing with Peacock later more matured works for ECM music here is less chamber,less polished and more lively.

VIJAY IYER Vijay Iyer / Wadada Leo Smith : A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.45 | 3 ratings
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Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and pianist Vijay Iyer are both brightest representatives of two different jazz generations and ambiences. Smith is one of AACM founders,who played with Anthony Braxton and in late 90's - first decades of new century became one of the leaders (together with Henry Threadgill) of re-vitalized crossover avantgarde jazz releasing series of large-format albums.

Vijay Iyer came to jazz scene in 90s and during next two decades built the reputation of one of leading pianist playing world fusion,avant-garde jazz even mixing both with contemporary classics.

"A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke" is first duo's album. Released on German ECM label,it sounds according to label's standard - sound is crystal clear and emotionally quite cool.

Iyer plays piano, Fender Rhodes and uses some (lap top?) electronics which often sounds like early analogue Moog.

On a mid-tempo compositions Smith's trumpet flies over Iyer's almost chamber piano or,alternatively, electronics bass pulsation weaving unique aerial and meditative in moments aural sculptures where European and Indian classic roots are mixed with American minimalism and avant-garde jazz aesthetics.

If Iyer's few previous works for ECM already prepared listener for such sound, for often massive and even bombastic Smith's music of last decades it's quite unusual turn. Fortunately, all sound perfectly showing more intimate side of Smith's musicianship.

Structurally album contains opener, seven-part suite and the closer, and requires repeated listening. Not a jazz in a traditional sense, but no-one expects too traditional music from such duet. Excellent work, setting up new standards for jazz in contemporary world.

WADADA LEO SMITH Wadada Leo Smith & John Lindberg : Celestial Weather

Album · 2015 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Finnish TUM label is a home for US giant trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith most significant European recordings,mostly all monumental by form and size (incl. some double-CD studio releases). Smith's most current music isn't easy accessible,but is uniquely deep and represents one of the best modern creative genres borders crossing jazz around.

Wadada's newest TUM release isn't another monumental work as we could expect though. "Celestial Weather" is a collection of bare-naked minimalist duets with Smith' regular acoustic bassist John Lindberg, all duo's originals.

Divided to three parts, "Celestial Weather" demonstrates another side of Wadada - with same bassist he plays for decades Wadada feels very comfortable on almost chamber pre-composed pieces and very free-improvisational songs.

Recorded just by trumpeter and double bassist duo,this album is surprisingly filled with music. Sounds are clear and often quite ascetic,but it is not an album where nothing happens or where silence is a big part of recorded sound. It is quite different from Smith more bombastic works and probably not every fan of Great Lakes Suites or Ten Freedom Summers will like "Celestial Weather", but in on its own way this new release is a really important example of Wadada's creative legacy.

CHIHIRO YAMANAKA The Spheres: Live In Osaka!!

Live album · 2015 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Everyone in the world knows who Hiromi is - Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara was played with Chick Corea in Tokyo when she was 17 and after graduation in Berklee College in Boston (under Ahmad Jamal) she took the world by storm playing high energy technical fusion influenced by Return To Forever legacy. Hiromi is most probably most popular internationally Japanese jazz artist of today.

Much less people outside of her homeland Japan know who is Chihiro Yamanaka, and it's a shame. She is Beklee graduated pianist who leads her own bands (usually trios as Hiromi does) from early 00's. Chihiro released her first album in 2001, two years prior to Hiromi, and in 2015 came with her first ever live release (and her 18th album at all). Being celebrity of sort in home country, she is relatively unknown in Western world. During last decade some her albums have been reissued in US and Europe though.

The main difference between two is Hiromi is a piano power trio leader,playing technical high energy fusion, oriented first of all on neo jazz-rock fans. She started with playing tuneful contemporary chamber jazz, but it was fusion that made her a true star. Each success has its price - trying to continue once reached success Hiromi for some years changes nothing in her music,which with every her new album becomes moreand more repetitive and predictable.

Chihiro Yamanaka played contemporary jazz for years - not polished anemic European chamber jazz,but groovy American one, closer to good pop-jazz.Her roots are all in bop, and there are no album where this influence isn't obvious. During last some years Chihiro turns more and more towards modern post bop, adding all her pop and rock legacy to it as well.

The Sphere is are electro-acoustic trio with electric bassist Dana Roth and drummer Karen Teperberg. Chihiro herself plays piano and some analog keyboards, their music varies from pop-ballads to chamber tuneful songs to groovy post bop and fusion with analog keyboards passages.

Played live in club in Osaka, all music is playful, shining, tuneful and full of joy.There are no really new things here, but the way how it is played will make you smiling. Nothing is repetitive or boring and that feeling recalls times when jazz was not a demonstration of techniques or ambitions,but the source of fan.

JEAN-LUC PONTY Ponty & Sato: Astrorama (with Masahiko Sato)

Album · 1970 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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With full respect to French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty for his work as sideman in Mashavishnu Orchestra and partially with Frank Zappa, I have never been a big fan of his solo albums. Ponty's transformation of Gipsy swing to violin shred for middle-class sofa rockers didn't sound attractive,what for sure is a question of taste.

This Ponty early collaborative work attracted me first of all because of Japanese pianist Masahiko Sato,who is stated as co-leader. Sato in late 60s-early 70s was a true free jazz idol on Japanese scene,so I was curious what can he do in a company like this.

Recorded (and released) in 1970, "Astrorama" contains four originals,three -Ponty's and one Sato's. With no doubt it is Ponty's album first of all - his violin fusion shredding absolutely dominates here even if experienced ear can hear some interesting Sato soloing in few places. In accordance with a long lasting Japanese jazz tradition local musicians tried to collaborate with renowned Western jazz stars, such gigs or recordings were tickets of sort to domestic Jazz hall of fame.

Sato, who at the moment of "Astrorama" recording already built up the reputation of most innovative and revolutionary of Japanese "new jazz" pianist,plays electric piano here trying to adapt his very different techniques to Ponty quite conservative jazz fusion's requirements. As a result he sounds more as Corea (or Hancock) on their very early fusion recordings. Rest of the band don't help much as well - drummer Motohiko Hino (brother of renown trumpeter Terumasa Hino) is well known by his heavyweight drumming manners,fitting better to fusion or rock jazz than to more subtle genres. Unknown to me guitarist Yoshiaki Masuo doesn't shine much, and the last quintet member is a European mainstream jazz legend Dane Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen. His presence in band for sure increased the quintet status a lot, but physical and quite conservative groovy acoustic bass lines adds even more eclectics to far not very organic band.

As one can expect from such line-up,resulting music is quite a mixed bag. Ponty feels a true leader and obviously dominates with quite enthusiastic support from electric guitarist and drummer. Sato balances with different success between electric piano fusion passages and more complex,free and partially psychedelic pieces which not always fit well.

Still the year is 1970 and creativity is in the air so in whole "Astrorama" is quite rewarding listening,representing one of deviations of classic fusion on the early stage of the genre.

TERUMASA HINO Hino=Kikuchi Quintet

Album · 1969 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Hino-Kikuchi Quintet was a short-lived project founded by two future leading artists of Japanese jazz pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and trumpeter Terumasa Hino. Current all-Japanese line up recorded and released only one album ("Hino=Kikuchi Quintet" is stated on cover as a confirmation of co-leading). In mid 90's the band will be reunited for live gig with Greg Osby on sax and different rhythm section, in 2007 Hino and Kikuchi will release two more collaborative albums as co-leaders, but generally speaking "Hino=Kikuchi Quintet" will always mean this only released recording in such important for development of jazz year of 1968.

Both Terumasa Hino and Masabumi Kikuchi were Miles-influenced musicians introducing his kind of jazz to Japanese listeners. Trumpeter Hino already released some hard bop albums,but this work became to him the transition to more complex modal jazz.

Four Kikuchi originals sound exactly as if they are recorded under fresh impression of Miles band with Hancock,or better to say - close to Hancock's own albums, recorded in late 60s (before Mwandishi). Rhythm section is still conservative and anchors advanced Hino & Kikuchi's mainstream jazz building strict repetitive hard bop rhythm basis. Quite well played, tunes aren't memorable at all and main interest is exactly how both Kikuchi and Hino are leaving hard bop searching their new identities in more modern sound of upcoming era.

It's interesting that right after this release Kikuchi will switch to even more new Miles Davis influence - much more revolutionary fusion (and will become this genre leading pianist in Japan), Terumasa Hino future music will split between fusion and mainstream jazz. He will become leading Japanese jazz trumpeter very soon as well.

"Hino=Kikuchi Quintet" stays an important evidence where both them are started, and quite nice listening itself till nowadays.

NATE WOOLEY Nate Wooley / C. Spencer Yeh / Audrey Chen / Todd Carter : NCAT

Album · 2013 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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New York-based trumpeter Nate Wooley is one of the fastest rising new name in advanced jazz scene not only in US, but around the world as well. During last few years he built a strong reputation as extremely innovative artist in avant-garde jazz and even successfully stepped on mainstream ground with his last year's "(Dance To) The Early Music" (where "early music" is obviously a bop-based mainstream jazz).

Not many fans of Wooley's jazz side know that he has a long lasting experience experimenting with pure improvisation, sound textures,noise,etc,etc. "NCAT" (for (N)ate + (C). + (A)udrey + (T)odd) are one of Wooley collaborative work,demonstrating his interest in electro-acoustic music.

Recorded in Amsterdam's STEIM during Nate Wooley, violinist / vocalist C.Spenser and cellist/vocalist Audrey Chen residence, partially composed and mostly improvised material has been sent to fourth NCAT member Todd Carter (who is credited as pianist as well so possibly he added some own music in the mix as well)for mixing. In real life "the mixing" became serious deconstruction and reconstruction and final mix is as much a product of studio processing as initial live recording.

Sound of all instruments participated is difficult to recognize even if in moments there are obvious strings and processed trumpet traces. Added noises, analog modulators loops and clouds of electronic sounds are very organic, voices (from meditative to screaming) are almost unprocessed what gives to the music an unique balance between synthetic and organic.Some electronic noises even imitates birds voices (not those sleepy ones from esoteric ambient but scratchy crows screams over the city park in winter early evenings),police sirens somewhere on the background make music very realistic and urban. Human voices varies from wordless whispers to shaman moaning and all this changes fast never repeating.

In no way true jazz recording,NCAT is an interesting alternative listening for fans of electro-acoustic experimentation, noise improvs but can be recommended for brave searchers of new horizons, only symbolically related with jazz tradition.

SADAO WATANABE Paysages

Album · 1971 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Japanese reeds player Sadao Watanabe is a living country's jazz legend. Started playing in early 60s, he introduced bossa nova to his homeland's listeners and built strong hard bop following there.Starting from late 60s Sadao Watanabe became most internationally popular Japanese jazz musician as well. His early fusion albums are briliant, unfortunately under pressure of time fashion starting from mid 70s Sadao switched to more safe and commercially secure pop jazz which he continues playing till now.

Sadao recorded only few fusion albums but almost all of them are true gems. "Paysages", recorded in 1971 with bassist Gary Peacock and three Japanese musicians, is great example.

Heavily based on another rising Japanese fusion star Masabumi Kikuchi electric piano sound, "Paysages" contains five originals(three Watanabe's, one - Kikuchi's and one Peacock's), all perfectly executed memorable tunes, with solid groove,the music which will make Weather Report or Return To Forever famous very soon.

Not really a Watanabe's album (obviously released under Watanabe's as leader name because of marketing reasons since Sadao for the time of release was way much more known and popular comparing with other members) but solid collective work, "Paysages" is one of the best Japanese fusion albums released ever. Watanabe will leave such music very soon for the favor of more commercial sound, Masabumi Kikuchi will continue releasing albums in similar key and become one of the great star of Japanese fusion.

Classic album of Japanese fusion, must have for everyone interested in genre.

HARRIS EISENSTADT Old Growth Forest

Album · 2016 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Harris Eisenstadt is probably most popular Canadian jazz drummer of younger generation. With no doubt for many listeners his name associates with "Canada Day" series of nu jazz albums first of all, but he has released some avant-garde and third stream music as leader as well.

On Harris' newest album as leader, released on Portuguese Clean Feed label, he plays original compositions with tree renown American advanced jazz artists. With two of them - trombonist Jeb Bishop and bassist Jason Roebke - Eisenstadt already played in same trio (led by Bishop) and even released one album on Polish Not Two label eight years ago.Harris current quartet includes one new member - tenor Tony Malaby, one of brightest contemporary advanced jazz sax player around.

Album's material has been recorded spontaneously in a studio right after two gigs in New York's The Stone. All musicians are true professionals and mostly had some experience playing together, but lot of time has gone from these dates. The material (even if Eisenstadt is stated as composer) is obviously mostly free-improvised, and it's obvious that the quartet isn't a working band.

Despite of all members' professionalism, recorded music contains only a few attractive moments. Most of the time the listener gets quite bulky and not too much inspired jam session,demonstrating how great musicians constantly are loosing their ways. Started from nowhere, the flow of short snippets tries to get the direction or at least to be transformed in better interplay,but generally it never happens. The final impression is that four great musicians must to play the jam they don't have inspiration for.

With no doubt this album's line-up will attract many fans of modern creative jazz, but I afraid only hottest fans will probably find it at least enjoyable.

PAUL MOTIAN Paul Motian Trio: It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago

Album · 1985 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.49 | 4 ratings
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American Paul Motian who passed away five years ago, was one among most original drummer of some last decades. Started still in late 50s as Bill Evans trio member, he played with such significant musicians as pianist Paul Bley(early 60s) and Keith Jarrett(late 60s-mid 70s). More important,his work with early avant-garde jazz artists, experimenting with freeing cool jazz, as pianist Lennie Tristano,influenced Paul Motian musical priorities for decades to come.

Motian career as leader started from collaboration with pianist Keith Jarrett,recorded for then newly founded German ECM label. Later Paul usually tried to avoid collaborations with pianists for the favor to have a guitarist in a band.His tuneful impressionistic compositions,rooted in cool jazz tradition,become one of so called "ECM sound" (or chamber jazz) important component.

After few first bands and some released albums, Motian formed the trio with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, which is most probably his best band ever. "It Should've Happened A Long Time Ago" is not a first this trio's release, but it is one of their most significant work and one among best jazz albums coming from mid 80s.

On earlier recordings released by Motian as leader he often combined quite continued improvisational techniques,coming from 60s free jazz tradition,and it not always worked well in late 70s. For mid'80s "It Should've Happened..." Motian finally formed his own freer chamber jazz style, strongly based on composition,demonstrating a great melodies(album's opener is probably best known Motian song ever, kind of his own "Ida Lupino"),but avoiding polished and extremely safe sound,so characteristic for many chamber jazz trios of 80s and later periods.

Motian both trio's partners fits extremely well in musical concept with guitarist Bill Frisell adding some warm and chamber sounds but always ready for playing on the border with dissonance and Joe Lovano dark tenor,still lively even if not as unpredictable free as on his earlier works.

All album sounds as one long soundtrack to a bit sad art-movie (and as any great soundtrack doesn't requires a visual line to be completed, it sounds pretty great itself). As on any his album, Motian doesn't beat a rhythm, he plays impressionistic sounds as if he paints pictures with sticks and brushes.

Not as raw and energetic as some early Motian trio's works, "It Should've Happened A Long Time Ago" is one great example of the best advanced chamber jazz coming from 80s.

CHES SMITH Ches Smith with Craig Taborn and Mat Maneri: The Bell

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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From the first dozen of albums released in 2016,there is one stand alone release. US drummer Ches Smith,better known as Xiu Xiu and Mr.Bungle member (or John Zorn collaborator, depending on one's background), in the very first days of 2016 released his debut on German ECM label. It is not his first album as leader, he already has released series of solo drums albums in US and few more - with collaborators in Europe (on Portuguese Clean Feed and Polish For Tune labels), but his appearance on ECM is still quite surprising.

Respected chamber jazz (and sterile European ambient/world fusion in a past) label doesn't look like proper home for ex-Mr.Bungle guy. Still things are changing though.

On "The Bell" Smith leads acoustic trio with pianist Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneri, both are far not a newbies for the label. Besides of playing drums,vibraphone and bells Ches Smith is composer of all album's material (part of it is obviously improvised, but generally the line between composed and improvised is extremely thin on this album).

So, surprisingly for Ches Smith but expect-ably for ECM release,music on "The Bell" is kind of chamber jazz,spiced with improvisational elements, but strongly influenced by modern classical composition. Both pianist and violist feel very comfortable with slow,often dark and calm atmosphere and, more surprisingly, Smith himself finds right place in this quite unusual for him environment.

First half (bigger) of "The Bell" represents similar by its tempo and atmosphere dark chamber jazz, the last third (starting from Wacken Open Air) is faster,sharper and moves towards contemporary jazz avant-garde.

A bit risky release,since its target is hardly Mr.Bungle fans nor ECM chamber safer chamber jazz lovers, it opens new interesting page in Ches Smith musical biography. "The Bell" contains interesting music,but I am even more curious what can come next from same or similar concept Ches Smith' projects.

THE ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO Fundamental Destiny

Live album · 2007 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.57 | 2 ratings
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Art Ensemble of Chicago were probably more cultural than purely musical act. Their jazz-circus was a part of revolution - both in jazz and on Paris streets in late 60s where they resided for few years. Having equal number of hot fans and haters,band's music always was free and catchy at the same time,traditional (pre-bop) jazz rooted and often placing entertaining/relaxation element above virtuosity.

Ensemble's phenomena till now is there are much more people knowing about them than those who really listened to their music.One of the reasons is there are only few really strong albums among their legacy. As rule, regular Art Ensemble Of Chicago's album is a bulky collection of few catchy tunes, marching dixieland,lot of directionless improvs ("different noises" are probably better tag), their trade mark "small instruments" sounds plus gospel singing,funny at their best moments and almost kind of self-parody at their worst.

"Fundamental Destiny" is one of the last band's released albums,recorded live in Germany still in 1991 though.Self-released by band in 2007 only it contains their usual relaxed eclectic mix. Main album's attraction is it represents one of unique for the band moments when they have piano player on board. And her it is not just a piano player, but renown Don Pullen, who adds some new colors to generally quite expect-able band's sound.

Just four long compositions with their signature "People In Sorrow" coming from their debut album,released in 1969. Same whistles and "small instruments" noises, which don't sound as avant-garde (as it was in late 60s) or as cheap traveling circus (as it sounded in 80s or 90s) anymore. Their attributes after more than half of the century looks like a part of historical event titled "Art Ensemble Of Chicago". Fans will like it, haters will find here another reason for their jokes, in all cases this is already history, nothing else.

On positive side,"Fundamental Destiny" is quite essential as for band's standards, album demonstrating band in a good form. Band followers will like it, but most probably this release wouldn't recruit them new fans.

HIDETO KANAI Hideto Kanai Group : "Q"

Album · 1971 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Japanese jazz veteran bassist Hideto Kanai started playing jazz in US Army bases after WWII. Later during 60s he switched from mainstream to free and together with other celebrity guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi founded the Jazz Academy in 1960. Surprisingly during his half of a century-long career on scene Hideto recorded only four(!) albums as leader, all on legendary Three Blind Mice label.

"Q" is his debut release, and the album which made him famous around the world. Actually, four quite free compositions aren't all that different from that what Japanese advanced jazz of the time has been offering. Just time was great for innovative artists and almost every album, released by best country's musicians during early 70s is at least good, often really great.

Ten-pieces Hideo Kanai Group, formed for the recording, contained some leading artists of the time(incl.Masayuki Takayanagi on guitar,Mototeru Hino on drums and Kosuke Mine on alto sax among others). Album's opener and closer(two longest album's compositions)are pre-composed by two contemporary Japanese classical composers Shuko Mizuno and Hiroshi Nanatsuya specially for this release. Both sounds still quite free though, even if one can hear some classical structure and elements here.Two other short songs are just free improvs.

Kanai-led combo doesn't sound as orchestra - all music is build on Eric Dolphy's tradition of hard-bop backup with different artists free soloing over it,changing one another. Revolutionary for the time of release, this music dated well and today sounds as free jazz classics(and as a result has been reissued on CD few years ago).

MAL WALDRON Mal Waldron Quintet ‎: The Seagulls Of Kristiansund - Live At The Village Vanguard

Live album · 1989 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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One among most significant American ex-patriots on European jazz scene pianist Mal Waldron has recorded quite a lot of live material (mostly in Sweet Basil and Village Vanguard) which has been used for Waldron albums series for years ahead.

Leading a truly strong band (usually - quintet) Waldron played longish version of some his better tunes (usually between ten and twenty minutes long jam-like compositions,still with well controlled structure and generally easy accessible),which on vinyl albums of the era often were placed one per side. Quintet recordings (with Woody Shaw on trumpet,Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone and flute,Reggie Workman on bass and drummer Ed Blackwell) came as two Italian Soul Note label albums - "The Git-Go: Live At The Village Vanguard" and "The Seagulls Of Kristiansund". Former contains just two compositions, and the later - three, with title song lasting longer than 26 minutes and filling all side B.

Mid'80s generally is quite a successful period for Waldron who recorded lot of strong material at that time. Blues and bop-rooted progressive post bop became his signature sound, with drone-like left hand playing which often gave rock-like aesthetics to genuinely very jazzy music.

All three album's compositions(Waldron originals) come from earlier times, where album's title song has been released for the first time as far as in 1977 (on "One-Upmanship" album with Steve Lacy and Manfred Schoof,among others). Waldron was a master of strong tunes so all three long compositions sound almost as easy as popular rock/pop songs of the time. Repetitive structure and piano droning don't destroy their integrity and when the music stops playing there is a feeling that it would be good to start same listening once again.

"The Seagulls Of Kristiansund" is with no doubt album's true peak - slightly melancholic beautiful tune doesn't requires any visual addition - listener easily founds himself on north sea shore with sax very realistic bird-like screams and common matured dreaming atmosphere. This music surprisingly has meditative qualities on a manner of Indian ragas - when repetitive saturated music incorporates listener to specific atmosphere where he wants to stay for a longer.

As good as some other live Mal Waldron recordings from same few years, "The Seagulls Of Kristiansund" is good listening for fans of original tuneful post bop and excellent entry for those interested in Waldron more current works.

YOSUKE YAMASHITA Frozen Days

Album · 1975 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.52 | 2 ratings
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After success of kind and underground following of his early releases,one among best Japanese advanced jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita released series of very strong albums,which never received true fame. Mid-70s in Japan (and even more that - in Western world) were years of fusion fever and yesterday's free jazz stars were almost forgotten in one day.

"Frozen Days" released in 1975 is one of such Yamashita's album, and it's very special on its own manner.Cover photo is a piece of art itself - all three trio members are pictured in a rural ambiance,most probably a barn, in a very last autumn's day when sun is a rare guest,it's still no snow outside, but dry grass with first traces of freeze on it shows that another short warm season is finished. Every time I look on this cover it recalls me Haruki Murokami's "A Wild Sheep Chase", excellent Japanese existentialism book about fragility and meaningless of life,released seven years after "Frozen Days" has been released.

Yosuke,originally heavily influenced by Cecil Taylor, here plays lighter, less percussive and more expressionistic. Saxophonist Akira Sakata, regular Yamashita's trio member and future Japanese scene star, is not so screamy and noisy as often. He is still full of explosive energy, but it's better controlled and his liquid soloing is touched by lite sadness. As very often in Japanese jazz, here is enough space for silence, but somehow all music is extremely well framed on a manner of artistic miniature.

All three musicians still play as on any other of trio's album of that time - as if their lives depend on it, but it's a rare album where attentive listener can hear that they as well play as if there is no tomorrow. And quite surprisingly, there almost feels no drama, just understanding, accepting it as higher power and Buddhist reconciliation.

Being of the same highest technical level as some other Yamashita's works of that time, "Frozen Days" is different by that very unique not only for Yamashita's music, but for Japanese jazz in whole,emotional coloring.It is not "Samurai jazz" anymore, it's "Haruki Murakami jazz",find this album and probably you will be seriously surprised.

JULIAN JULIEN Terre II

Album · 2015 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 3.63 | 4 ratings
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French composer/saxophonist Julian Julien third album's title "Terre II" means more time's mark than continuity with his debut "Terra" released 15 years ago. Originally a soundtrack to series of works of different photographers from all around the world,it obviously has strong cinematographic feel.

Surprisingly,Julian doesn't play sax but percussion here (programming is credited to him as well; there is guest sax player Michaël Havard participated in recording). All music is very liquid,combining white and dark ambient with chamber pop, some elements of electronics rock and jazz.

All elements are connected/mixed quite organically and in clever proportions - nothing dominates here and the music in whole flows free and quite logically.

As with any good soundtrack, music builds atmosphere that almost doesn't require visual line, sound itself is expressive enough to stimulate imagination. At the same time, as with many soundtracks internal development isn't all that clear without visual line, so generally the music starts nowhere and goes same way. Differently from myriads more ambient-based works around, presence of live musicians on recording adds enough lifelines to save it from boredom.

An interesting work for fans of soundtracks and possibly, exotica.

JOHN BUTCHER John Butcher and Andy Moor: Experiments with a Leaf

Live album · 2015 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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English saxophonist John Butcher and Scottish guitarist Andy Moor(better known as Dutch avant-rock band The Ex member) play live in Bern Cathedral, the building of excellent acoustics. Albums title "Experiments With A Leaf" is misleading - there is nothing about leaves or any other nature's ambient sounds on their music.

Five fully improvised pieces contains strong duets between distorted and sometimes scratchy guitar's sound and variable sax free improvisations - from circular breathing to whistles,grunts and some melodic wrecks.

Expected of being extremely chaotic (which it generally is)this music surprises listener with it's own internal beauty. Moor works hard on his guitar producing all gamma of what could be identified as birds sounds imitations,Butcher sax is tuneful and soulful in chaotic micro mosaic of random sounds. Together with Cathedral reverberation all these researches on sound textures over structure or tune sounds quite sympathetic, at least far not harsh or destructive.

There are few pure free jazz episodes with sax soloing against scratchy guitars acrobatics(as on "Joy Is The Headlight")and some extended loose playing with sounds, but since all concert recording lasts less than half an hour,it doesn't become boring even at the end.

MYRA MELFORD Trio M : Big Picture

Album · 2007 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Virtuosic pianist Myra Melford's music represents a significant link between more traditional advanced jazz of AACM and modern adventurous eclectic jazz of New York and Chicago. Studied composition with Henry Threadgill,she plays melodic and accessible music,which is far from simple or straightforward.

Among many of her different projects,Trio M (with acoustic bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson) is probably the brightest example demonstrating her ability to connect old and new. On Trio M debut album "Big Picture" one can find members originals,mostly already played and recorded before with different line-ups, but here them all sounds different.

Myra herself plays strongly Cecil Taylor-influenced percussive piano,which doesn't sound aggressive at all though. Her playing is more tuneful and less rhythmic comparing with Taylor, and all compositions have strong melodic line as well. Free jazz bassist Mark Dresser in pair with tradition-rooted drummer Matt Wilson(who played with Dewey Redman,Cecil McBee and Lee Konitz among many others)surprisingly build well-tuned groovy rhythm section which leaves lot of internal freedom for well-framed songs.

Probably the main effect from albums music comes from that HOW this trio of equal musical partners play their music.Each separate song and the album in whole sounds as if it would be played by guitar power trio,just the music have been adapted for free jazz piano trio. In other words, groovy muscular rhythm section pushes music ahead still having it under control every moment, freer solos and rhythm changes are hidden vitriolically and resulting music sounds simple and quirky at the same time. Depending on listener's experience and preparing to accept it, one can hear here something what recalls The Bad Plus nu jazz (as mentioned one of album's listener on Amazon)or Henry Threadgill kind of avant-garde jazz.

In both cases listener usually enjoys a lot of what he's hearing.Perfect entry album for those coming from rock-jazz background and interested to dig freer jazz deeper as well.

RED TRIO Stem (with Nate Wooley)

Album · 2012 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.05 | 2 ratings
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Modern days piano jazz trios fortunately are not only Swedish EST-influenced chamber bands,which saturated all possible European scenes. Portuguese Red Trio is a great example how adventurous young musicians can be when they are not searching for easy popularity.

Debuted on emerging Portugal jazz scene in 2010 with their self titled debut album (on Clean Feed label), trio consisting of Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano, Hernâni Faustino on bass and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums in few years became one major player in adventurous European jazz. Their second album (and first international release - on Lithuanian NoBusiness Records)was recorded in quartet format with John Butcher as guest.But it was "Stem" - their third studio album, that made them famous. Here the trio play with another guest musician - known American trumpeter Nate Wooley.

Red Trio and Nate Wooley started their collaboration some month before recording of "Stem" in playing some gigs together and they have excellent communication on this recording. Wooley isn't traditional trumpeter, his sound is rooted more in Bill Dixon music than in Miles Davis'. Nate works with sound as much as with harmony and tunes, as a result his music contains bluesy bop and mouthpiece whistles as equal parts.

Red Trio themselves are fantastic piano trio combining chamber piano elements with quirky rhythm section and never playing straight. Generally, they don't use more traditional jazz repetitive structures or straight melodies at all, but operates with collages of all possible styles at the same time. Still their success lays in their ability to produce quite accessible and attractive music from such a risky brew. Probably, the only moments slightly destroying great whole impression from this album are slow minimalist and very free-form improvs,embed here and there. Not them all sound right in place and even a few moments when happens near nothing can raise lost of attention to far not simple album's music listening.

PIERRE DØRGE Blui

Album · 2015 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.48 | 2 ratings
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I really enjoy the return of guitars jazz popularity during some last years. Being one of important instruments in 60s, it lost its attraction with fusion revolution,which first stole it and then shamelessly destroyed it with myriads of unimaginably shredders and three-chord copycats.

With coming of a new century guitar timidly returned to jazz scenes backstage, and the second decade evidences true guitar jazz renaissance.

Danish guitarist Pierre Dorge in his late 60 is far not a newbie, he played with John Tchicai and led New Jungle Orchestra for decades. But it's probably the fashion of the day is what pushed him to record guitar quartet album - really rare case in his prolific discography."Blui", recorded in New York last December with international quartet,is released on SteepleChase label, what is another quite unusual event. Danish SteepleChase is most probably European leading mainstream jazz label for decades. Searching for quality hard bop or conservative post bop album one can literally chose any SteepleChase release even if artist's name say him nothing - one will hardly make a mistake here.

"Blui" isn't mainstream jazz album at all. Those not familiar with Pierre Dorge music most probably know at least two of three his collaborators - Americans veteran drummer Hamid Drake and younger generation's New York-based clarinetist Kirk Knuffke are both well known to adventurous jazz fans.

"Blui" contains perfectly played by four equal excellent musicians well-framed free form tuneful jazz, mostly mid-tempo or even slow in moments, relaxed but no way lazy. Quartet mixes hard-bop with klezmer,North African and Middle Eastern rhythms producing rarely beautiful and quite accessible music,full of internal harmony and radiating positive energy. Oppositely to domination of scratchy and angry noisy destructive guitar bands around on both European and American scenes, Dorge quartet's aesthetics are closer to 50s beatniks or 60s hippies without sliding to noodling or esoteric meditative.

At the same time, album's music generally sounds quite modern, not without help of New York downtown-influenced Kirk Knuffke clarinet soloing.

Very good album melting best elements from past and current,different cultures' influences but what is even more important - rare high quality modern jazz album, radiating so big amount of positive energy.

YOSUKE YAMASHITA New York Trio : Kurdish Dance

Album · 1992 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Two decades away from his short-lived stardom of "Mina's Second Day" or "Clay",Japanese pianist Yosuke Yamashita is one of rare country's musician who didn't disappear from big jazz scenes after free jazz revolution in Japan just fade away in late 70s.

With newly formed (in 1988) so-called New York trio (with Americans bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Pheeroan akLaff),Yosuke returned back on European festivals scenes (incl. Montreux in 1993)and appeared regularly at Sweet Basil in New York becoming most popular Japanese jazz pianist in States at that time.

"Kurdish Dance", released in Japan in 1992 and re-released by Antilles in US the year after,is New York trio's best known and in whole best ever work. Differently from his earlier works, Yosuke's material for this trio is mostly pre-written,not fully improvised, and evidences him as great composer(all songs are Yosuke's originals here). Album's opener "Kurdish Dance" is excellent song, true jazz standard.Trio's line-up for this album is improved with addition of tenor Joe Lovano, who steals the show on many compositions.

Big part of album's songs have strong tunes, sometimes based on Oriental or Mediterranean folklore. More important, all compositions are deeply based on post-bop roots,what in combination with catchy melodies and strong control on improvisation builds quite accessible music. Still one doesn't need to be afraid that Yosuke went commercial - known for decades as "Japanese Cecil Taylor" for his techniques,Yamashita demonstrates free and impressive piano soloing almost on every composition.

The main difference from Yamashita's earlier music is here he isn't uncontrolled leader/dictator any more: quartet's main target is collective musicianship producing complex and well-executed compositions with strong improvisational element but totally framed and generally sounding as attractive and easy accessible listening. All four musicians really succeeded in it - the album has been received positively not only by freer jazz fans (and won Jazz Prize of The Year in Japan),same line-up recorded "Dazzling Days" next year(more relaxed and somehow better polished work).

Being quite easy accessible for purchase,"Kurdish Dance" is one great example of best Japanese jazz coming from 90s - time period far not all that well known in Western world.

MASAHIKO SATOH Randooga: Select Live Under The Sky '90

Live album · 1990 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Pianist Masahiko Satoh,one of cornerstone figure of modern Japanese jazz, founded Randooga group in 1990.The project's concept was very simple: each member improvise based on knowledge of folk melodies from different cultures and doesn't try to arrange his musicianship according to common musical harmonies. More than thirty years ago bassist Alan Silva recorded the album ("Luna Surface"),based on similar concept,which sounded almost as cacophony. In Masahiko Satoh version, it sounds much more accessible and tuneful though.

For the first Randooga's release Satoh formed the all-stars big band including leading Japanese and Western jazz artists: sax players Wayne Shorter,Kazutoki Umezu and Kohsuke Mine,trombonist Ray Anderson,drummer Alex Acuna,percussionists Midori Takada and Nana Vasconcellos, guitarist Takayuki Hijikata and Akira Okazawa on bass.Recorded during live gig, this album contains quite eclectic mix of Japanese traditional tunes,jazz-rock,Latin percussion,contemporary classical composition,tuneful saxes soloing,big band's arrangements and pop-songs attractiveness.

Oppositely to above mentioned "Luna Surface" or many other similar Western recordings,music here isn't hot, attacking or just high energetic at all. Never too slow or lifeless to become boring, it still contains lot of Japanese Zen tradition and flows quite relaxing enjoying ever-changing tunes and rhythms. Interesting mix of spontaneous but well-controlled folk-tunes based orchestral improvisations, this formula doesn't work well all the time. Some part of 73-minutes long recording sounds as orchestra playing out of tune or just missing the direction. It always returns back on track,but the feeling of regular losing of direction stays with listener all album long.

Satoh continued his Randooga project for years ahead,releasing some albums and even founded in 1993 Randooga Dojo - a school of free improvisation for children and adults, the only such kind of professional education available in Japan(knowing jazz popularity in Japan it's a big surprise that young Japaneses,dreaming about jazz musician career,need to study in Berklee,US). Satoh Randooga's "Live Under The Sky'90" is a representative example of decades-long Satoh's (as well as some other sound Japanese jazz artists)search of "Japanese way in jazz", the experiments he never abandoned to continue.

WILLIAM PARKER For Those Who Are, Still

Live album · 2015 · Third Stream
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Bassist William Parker is a living legend who started his musical career in early 70s playing with Don Cherry and Cecil Taylor among many others. During last five years he released series of collection of previously unissued recordings, coming from different time periods, but "For Those Who Are ,Still" is most probably most unusual of them all. In fact this 3CD-set contains most unorthodox music recorded by Parker in new Millennium and it doesn't look all that strange none of it has been released before.

Opener "For Fannie Lou Hamer" is 28-minutes long composition,recorded live in 2000 (all other albums music has been recorded between 2011 and 2013). Ten-piece combo with strings plays chamber composition with Leena Conquest soprano vocals and some recitatives,which represents William Parker as composer (he doesn't play here at all). Rest of the CD 1 contains studio recordings of same vocalist but in support of Parker-led acoustic drumless trio (and recorded eleven years later). It still sound a bit chamber, but much freer and minimalist comparing with earlier orchestrated version.Leena's vocals recalls Swiss vocalist Irene Aebi singing,known from some Steve Lacy albums.

Second set's CD "Red Giraffe With Dreadlocks" is world music ecstatic mix containing two traditional Indian singers singing against avant-garde jazz sextet,playing drones and ritual chants seriously reworked in modern creative jazz manner. Even with such heavyweights as pianist Cooper-Moore and percussionist Hamid Drake (besides of Parker on bass)second CD often sounds more as contemporary experiments with Indian traditional music than as jazz.

Third and last CD contains "Ceremonies For Those Who Are Still" - ten-piece suite recorded live in Poland by Parker-led trio (with sax player Charles Gayle and drummer Mike Reed)with local symphonic orchestra and choir. This part sounds quite a lot as chamber music spiced by jazz trio's inserts here and there. As set's opener,all other compositions till this place are all Parkers's originals.

Set closes with 25-minutes long free jazz trio's improvisation (actually recorded by above mentioned Parker-Gayle-Reed trio right before above suite during same concert in Poland). In fact,"Escapade For Sonny"(set's closer title)is the only true jazz song on all release, and it sounds great but too predictable comparing with all what sounded right before.

"For Those Who Are, Still" is a long album, and music presented here is very different and as rule quite unorthodox even for William Parker fans. Still for those interested in modern searches rooted in advanced jazz and all open ears listeners this is a perfect release, one of the best among jazz and jazz related music albums,released this year.

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