December 2005

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Harris Eisenstadt
The Soul and Gone

482 Music

2005

With succinct unison arrangements by trombonist Jeb Bishop, saxophonist Jason Mears and the other soloists, this ensemble abides by rhythmic underpinnings. Drummer/composer Harris Eisenstadt is certainly one to watch! And while these motifs are entrenched within intimately devised multipart dialogues and free-form exchanges, the drummer closely adheres to structure and form. Featuring complex horn parts and avant classical movements, Eisenstadt and his sextet generate an extensive array of genre- crossing ideas from start to finish. The artists' creative juices are set to motion during this gripping production, spiced up with disproportionate movements that somehow coalesce and make good sense.

Tod Dockstader & David Lee Myers
Bijou

ReR Megacorp

2005

Electronics-based, avant-garde denizens David Lee Myers and Tod Dockstader convey themselves as strangers in a strange land throughout these brief vignettes that intersect and converge. They pursue eerie and, at times, cavernous voids amid moments of sullen madness and harrowing effects. During selected spots, the duo create mechanical-like motifs that conjure up notions of slowly moving parts to coincide with quaintly generated synth lines. The breadth and scope of these nocturnally sounding musical vistas also summon the mind's eye to think of newly founded celestial entities. And then toss in some humor and twisted interpretations of nature to include barking dogs, bird calls and faint footsteps to round out this pleasantly bizarre outing. The CD cover art, depicting an old house at sunset, provides a foundation for the odd niceties and unusual manipulations that encompass the majority of this wickedly tasteful endeavor.

Max Nagl Ensemble
Quartier Du Faisan

Hatology

2005

It would be a crying shame if the great musical mind of Austrian saxophonist/bandleader Max Nagl's wide-ranging creative musical persona fails to garner more exposure here in the USA. With his large ensemble, the artist often surfaces as a modern day Gershwin coupled with elements of Mingus to complement his distinct persona. On this session, recorded live at the "Porgy & Bess jazz venue in Vienna, the ensemble executes deceptively complex arrangements designed upon cheery motifs and an overriding sense of buoyancy. Nagl's compositions span areas that bespeak lushly arranged motifs, to conjure up notions of spiritual bliss, along with mainstream swing and ballsy, blues vamps. Many of these depth-laden works maintain an airy vibe, and then on the flip side, the soloists occasionally render off-kilter phrasings along with hearty funk vibes and brassy horns. But Nagl's disparate viewpoints largely make sense! In sum, it's a gorgeously envisioned affair that transmits just one or two sides of Nagl's high-echelon degree of artistic finesse. (A top ten pick for 2005.)

Rara Ensemble

Ora!

Zrec

2005

Giancarlo Locatelli (woodwinds) and Alberto Braida (piano) are two of Italy's more prominent improvisers. Along with a bass-drums rhythm section, the lead soloists delve into microtonal-based concepts where terse outbursts, align with fractured movements and linear developments. And while the free-form activity is entrenched within the jazz avant-garde, the musicians deliver a stylistic game-plan by sustaining a mode of attack that remains consistent. Thus, freedom of expression is transformed into a tangible scheme during the preponderance of this curiously interesting studio session.

Dave Fox
Dedication Suite

Umbrella Recordings

2005

Dave Fox goes it alone during this solo piano exposition. The album comprises nine pieces that are engineered upon intersecting improvisations, shocking dynamics and slanted rhythmic effects. He alternates between prepared piano type implementations, free-jazz workouts and flurrying crescendos. In some instances, Fox gets into grooves where he seems to be having conversations with himself via left-hand, right-hand contrasts and probing thought-processes. It's a rather heady sequence of events and demands the listeners' utmost concentration.

Tim Crowther / Steve Franklin / Tony Marsh
Amherst Dislodged

Slam Productions

2005

The latest effort by this British acoustic-electric trio is balanced with spurious improvisation, pulsating rhythms and staggered choruses. Tim Crowther's synth guitar lines cast a hallowed edge to these climactically oriented grooves, as keyboardist Steve Franklin comps and provides textural components. But the unit also delves into classic British free-jazz stylizations featuring Franklin's wily acoustic piano work and drummer Tony Marsh's serrated beats. Nonetheless, the musicians navigate through surreal musings to balance out an overall sound and style, that they clearly own.

Jacob Garchik
Abstracts

Yestereve

2005

New York City-based trombonist Jacob Garchik works within a piano-drums rhythms section arrangement throughout these eight abstracts. It's a commingling of solid chops and open-ended dialogues, yet the artists also inject sentiment and a good-timey disposition. Unlike many of these explorative, compact and improvisation-heavy jazz outings, this group mixes it up rather effectively. At times, they turn up the heat by focusing on simple thematic forays or wind matters down with sullen interludes. Regardless, the trio aims to convey a bit of entertainment to coincide with its edgy formulations and free-spirited rendezvous.

Chaos Butterfly + Biggi Vinkeloe
Live at Studio Fabriken

ELD Records

2005

This album was recorded live in a Swedish recording studio by the twosome known as "Chaos Butterfly. Dina Emerson sings lyric-less verse while using her laptop computer to generate strange effects. Camper Van Beethoven violinist/guitarist and computer practitioner Jonathan Segel employs split tones and acoustic-electric voicings. But it's guest artist Biggi Vinkeloe's sax work that offers a multidimensional fabric of sound during this avant-garde, electronics performance capped off with improvisational flurries. The trio's spacey and ethereal sound modeling techniques are to be commended. And it's a fairly seamless melding of acoustic and electronic frameworks that can appear to be either maddening or subdued. Ultimately, the artists provide a scenario that could spur notions of an uncivilized planet. It's fascinating and miles ahead of similar endeavors of this ilk.




Short Takes

Dave Stryker
Big City

Mel Bay Records

2005

Guitarist Dave Stryker has been a mainstay in the jazz arena for several years, but only recently has been gaining the recognition he deserves. A thinking-man's guitarist with extraordinary chops, Stryker's medium-toned licks are lyrically penetrating, whether he's engaged in hard-bop motifs or sublime balladry. In effect, his craftsmanship is rooted within plot type developments, where storylines unfold in rapid progressions.

Eyal Maoz

Edom

Tzadik

2005

Israeli guitarist Eyal Maoz pursues radical Jewish culture with a vengeance! Along with John Medeski's chunky B3 organ grooves, this quartet shreds traditional stylizations into tiny pieces. They go for the jugular with a broad-ranging palate of ideas. Loads of fun...

P.J. Perry
Time Flies (Tempus Fugit)

Justin Time

2005

Newly issued project from legendary Canadian alto saxophonist P.J. Perry showcases the art of swing. Recorded live at a Canadian venue, the septet includes fabled trumpeter Bobby Shew, for a thoroughly impacting mainstream jazz setting. The band covers jazz standards with vigor and aplomb. No tricks or gimmicks here, but a forthright and irrefutably entertaining sequence of musical events.

The Claudia Quintet

Semi-Formal

Cuneiform

2005

The quintet's second date for Cuneiform Records offers additional credence to the band's distinctive game-plan. Clarinetist Chris Speed's lilting lines over-the-top provide flotation-like elements amid the ensemble's quaintly organized themes. The musicians delve into minimalist environs toward the second half of this program, which is an element that offers an alternating perspective.

Robert Fripp

Love Cannot Bear—Soundscapes: Live in the USA

Discipline Global Mobile

2005

Guitar hero Robert Fripp's new Soundscapes effort is perhaps one of his strongest to date. He uses a vocoder in spots, and generates a bit of edginess in certain areas where he turns up his ax, while employing piercing, sustain and legato lines. But, as with his previous efforts, Fripp uses his pedals and gizmos to produce music that sparks existential environs via layered effects, loops and celestial insinuations.

Derek Bailey / Mick Beck / Paul Hession
Meanwhile, back in Sheffield

Discus Music

2005

This live recording by master guitar improviser Derek Bailey with Mick Beck (bassoon) and Paul Hession (drums) is loaded with contrasts and rhythmically diverse articulations. It's available solely through mail order from Discus Music. Essential listening for Bailey's legion of admirers.

Wayne Peet Quartet

Live at Al's Bar

pfMentum

2005

Recently issued live set recorded in 1997 at a Los Angeles music club is manned by organist Wayne Peet to coincide with guitarists Nels Cline and G.E. Stinson's wailing exchanges. Comparisons to the late drummer Tony Williams' groundbreaking Lifetime band are in order here. It's a balls-to-the-walls jamboree, despite the less than sterling audio qualities.

John Stevens Quartet

New Cool

Emanem

2005

Many folks remember the late drummer John Stevens, primarily for his leadership of the pioneering British free improvising unit Spontaneous Music Ensemble. But with this live quartet date, culled from a 1992 jazz festival, Stevens and lesser-known jazz men turn in a sweltering, modern-bop set, awash with trumpeter/flugelhornist Byron Wallen and saxophonist Ed Jones' passionate exchanges. Stevens sets the foundation with snappy fills and rapidly swinging pulses. To that end, the excitement seldom dwindles during this upbeat exposition.

Michael Attias

Renku

Playscape Recordings

2005

Multi-reedman Michael Attias benefits from an ace rhythm section. And while Attias' smooth tone and fluid lines generate an airy vibe, there's no shortage of power and determination here. Drummer Satoshi Takeishi rounds out the big picture with offbeat fills and pumping beats. Attias and bassist John Hebert harmonize the primary themes while the former improvises with a given melody line as he often blasts out razor sharp progressions. Complete with knotty arrangements, and upward movements, the trio makes it all seem so effortless.


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