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8 reviews/ratings
BILL DIXON - Envoi Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
ARAM SHELTON - There Was... Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
MOSTLY OTHER PEOPLE DO THE KILLING - The Coimbra Concert Eclectic Fusion | review permalink
MASAHIKO TOGASHI - Togashi Masahiko Quartet ‎: We Now Create - Music For Strings, Winds And Percussion Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
KEN VANDERMARK - Strade d'Acqua / Roads of Water Jazz Related Soundtracks | review permalink
DONNY MCCASLIN - Perpetual Motion Fusion | review permalink
ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.) - 301 Nu Jazz | review permalink
DAVE BURRELL - Echo Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Avant-Garde Jazz 4 3.00
2 Eclectic Fusion 1 3.50
3 Fusion 1 3.00
4 Jazz Related Soundtracks 1 3.00
5 Nu Jazz 1 3.00

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Album · 2012 · Nu Jazz
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This won't be written in much of a good mood. How unlikely it is, given the work and especially the band, I can say so myself. All this rather makes me most low-spirited among fans. I'm dizzied and aroused by emotions and I can't detach either so to see more than one side of things. Still, much like many were thrilled to hear a new E.S.T. album's been made or felt blessed they get to hear more of their music, I think a kindred passion has been fueling my belief that such an addenda to E.S.T.'s already unique story was rather not worth it.

The news certainly didn't thrill me either. Really now, four years having passed, both Berglund and Östrom well pursuing something else, and I was to believe this isn't more than the usual posthumous mishap of ransacking through unreleased material and bidding it off? A sentiment then well dismissed, of course, by the great excuse that it all stems from the same 2007 session as Leucocyte, plus that it's supposedly the rest of a double album Esbjörn himself contemplated. Alas, my faith in it lasted right until the tapes started playing the first time, as it really sounds less precious.

Neither bad, nor out of style, I do however think that 301 is marred by the circumstances. And it's hardly the first questionable such release. The other was titled Leucocyte, released just three months after Esbjörn's death, thus a token and a tribute weighing heavily on. Difference is, its stroke was well overwhelming, with its blaze, gravitas and great pathos, its extravagant, experimental angles and its extent of a requiem. Ain't its mesmerism therefore slightly tarnished now?

Surely 301 can't match up. And I've seen plenty attempts to push it skyward, from critics and fans alike calling it "the best", "the ultimate", "the definitive", which frankly I can't fathom for one second. There are more noble intentions into its making, as it is indeed some sort of closure compared to Leucocyte - peaceful, beautiful tunes; clean trio music, often ridded of any electronic distorsions and depressed tones; refulgent and fulfilling. But it's still a "B-side" to that session, placid in its style, frail in its inner sanctum. And to not sense its vital link, its resolve in the E.S.T. suite probably troubles me the most.

That being said, two compliments, mainly for the album's finest - indeed regrettable had we ended up never hearing them - two epics. Neither being "Inner City / Inner Lights", with a quality slow-ticking clockwork, but which never takes off, as it naturally should; besides, the piano keys buzz cold and twang. Thus moreover "The Left Lane", that follows right after, with its dandy simple tune, from which the rest is pure, blissful fantasy. And then "Three Falling Free Part II", which is simply breathtaking. Östrom is supreme, almost as much as with his ominous thundering on Leucocyte's "Premonition - Earth", definiting another tāla of his own, on which the others build on euphorically. To what, on Leucocyte, was ending almost in misery, disheartening, noisy suspension and evanescence, here "The Childhood Dream" fulfills a more natural, tranquil and echoing consolation.

Still, to have such mixed feelings, almost for the first time, about an E.S.T. album, is almost a terrible feeling in itself. This is the first time I dare reviewing one of their works and I can't even call it a victory.

DONNY MCCASLIN Perpetual Motion

Album · 2011 · Fusion
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Recorded last year, but released this January, Perpetual Motion was for me the first sign that 2011 could be a remarkable year for jazz (long fulfilled prediction since). Right now, it's slipping a bit from my top, shrouded by more excentric albums, but I feel this could otherwise be a dandy listen for many. Anyone familiar with who's played alongside Dave Douglas, Gil Evans, Uri Caine or David Binney (the last two with "cameos" hereon) in the past decade should know about McCaslin. Besides, the dominant fervor on this album sound akin to Mike Stern's electric hits.

It may be hasty to insinuate after all (as I did earlier) that this album would be conventional; it's as lively and exciting as (a) nu-jazz can be these days. Patched furthermore: funk caprices, high or heated pitches that smooth into soul, ambient or electri-electro charges (the first track's kick, much in the vein of Elephant9) and a dangerous small dose of elevator jazz.

A first great half becomes even greater when McCaslin (or the whole bunch!) expresses itself more picaresque, with only bits of melody or with themes that can't be caught from the start ("Claire", "Energy Generation"). Likewise, I like it when Adam Benjamin comes only with light vapors of fusion - although, in the end, he goes for the harsh, wobbly Fender calibre, too. On "Firefly", the sax takes over the guitar's reflections (learned from Abercrombie) with matching sensibility, followed up by an equally insoluble and slightly caustic electronic infuse. When Caine ends with a solo ballad (slight imitiations of Corea or Hancock in it), something unrelated to anything before, you suddenly get the chill that all of the pieces were actually of a momentary nature, whether zealous or, though not as often, engulfing..


Live album · 2011 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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I'm now discovering, with the feeling that he could soon become one of my favourites in free-jazz, someone no longer among us. There's no real guilty feeling in that, it might simply be the new affinity driving me crazy. I do actually remember a collaboration of his with Exploding Star Orchestra, back in 2008. Let's also not forget he was one of Cecil's conquistadors. But aside from that, there's nothing left for me to do but take a turn at all his own works, maybe even d'al fine a capo.

Envoi is the recording of Dixon's very last concert, played less than a month before passing away, at the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, Canada. There's an epilogue at the end of the two musical sets - which I mistrust for its intentional posthumous character - final thoughts adressed to the folks, spoken wearily and with heavy pausing: ”It is not so easy trying to attempt doing what you wanted to do ... in front of people who know what they would like for you to do ... so ... one does one's best, always .... and one hopes for the best ... always. I thank you”.

This sort of resolve with one's self and his art is not quite what I sense in the music as well. Not to be misunderstood, I don't think this is a tragic bop or a portent requiem, instead just incredibly affecting. Both opposite dimensions of this music are heartbreaking: either sore seething, in search of the tuned sound or the lively melody, either high, eclatant bursts. There's an extraordinary moment somewhere in the first section, where the brass would almost attempt Strauss' iconic hymn from Zarathustra, but tire after the first two notes of the grand arpeggio and then regress, break the wave into dissonances. Second section is even darker, beginning quite "barbaro", but shattering and diminishing bit by bit.

The band is the same from the less passionate and explorative Tapestries (Rob Mazurek, Taylor Ho Bynum, Warren Smith, among others), so Envoi also remains a genuine free-jazz concert, with powerful blasts and subtle rumbling.

KEN VANDERMARK Strade d'Acqua / Roads of Water

Album · 2011 · Jazz Related Soundtracks
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Knowing him so fervent and prodigal (probably more than any among us), I find Vandermark to be surprisingly tempered on this album. None of the other new releases (the new Resonance tenure, Reed Trio) would showcase something strikingly offbeat - and since this was recorded back in 2008, there's even more bitter music it stands apart from (the volumes with Nilssen-Love, Lean Left, Sonore etc.) - but Strade d'Acqua, his very first OST, is indeed of a different vibe and eloquence, in mild, rustic or (in comes the obvious pun) sticking to the script ways.

The Predella Group features Jeb Bishop, Tim Daisy or Fred Lonberg-Holm, to name but the familiar faces from Vandermark's entourage. The jazz is - I must be using this word for the third time already - surprisingly traditional, almost composition-based, not quite under old free-form beliefs, but more about essences, with drops of sounds and sequences. Group coordination has here a totally different meaning: voices that are doubled, parallelisms, one instrument taking on another, strings of dialogues.

There is an often cardinal ambiance, developing much later: tribal tinges with fine, crawling dissonances ("Further") or straightforward experimental sounds and noises ("Signals"); clean harmonics and brass moaning on a single brake drum beat ("Sieve of the Soul"); superimposing light, mysterious tones, dozingly hummed by the bass, grainly fretted at the chimes, pensively whistled at the clarinet ("Austral Cartography").


Live album · 2011 · Eclectic Fusion
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Very funny, guys! I mean, for me to grab this one, as soon as I spot it on the shelves, thinking it's The Köln Concert, when in fact ...! Son of a ... ! The irony is that there isn't even anyone playing the piano here and just by matching these albums' somptuous improvisations, the whole scene is already superficial: Köln is solemn, Coimbra is scrambled jazz. So keep an eye out for these forgers, because they've been doing this for a while now. Thing is, they don't even bother to counterfeit to the tiniest detail; it's almost like that pun: "We've replaced a jazz classic with our own wacky product, let's see if anybody notices". Being quite mad on their antics re:Köln, I was determined to viciously nickpick the hell out of this album; problem is, it's terrific stuff.

Ironies persist. The Coimbra Concert n'est pas un concert. The concert took place back then; more exactly, with a feeble impression that they would pick it up from the start on day two ("Pen Argyl", track #1 off the second CD, browsing ALL the themes that were profiled the previous hour). TCC is an intense, provocative double album, but I do not doubt that, just as well, it can be a hard venture. The guys play awesome, but their ramblings can also take their toll: never finishing the melodies they start, locked in a "catch me if you can" jest with the audience or between themselves, each adding notes or sliding semitones as they feel like etc. I'm surprised Moppa Elliott wrote the songs (or at least their basics), because he's not in charge; Peter Evans (inerrable this year, with at least seven different albums released) and Jon Irabagon feud and duel, while Kevin Shea can really be a pain in the ass, changing pulses in perpetuum, getting bored in the heat of the moment or rattling others' peaceful chants.

Yet, as most free-jazz concerts take pleasure in chaos, seek to model a new sonic sphere or to idealize the bond between different personalities, surely The Coimbra Concert is more fun. Filtering all the distinguishable or purely fanciful quotations, disputing all the rules that don't even exist, we can point out, beyond music, the act itself (and its energy): exulted, versed, canny, pretentious.

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