Glenn Astarita joined All About Jazz in 1997
Longtime contributor to AAJ and Downbeat, Jazz Review, EjazzNews, Radio DirectX.
This shrewd ensemble from Colorado fuses tidbits of Native American music with ambient-electronic soundscapes, funky horn charts, and driving backbeats. And the poetry uttered here is hip to the bone: think of Ginsberg or Kerouac reciting tales about hitchhiking on Route 66, amid underlying sounds of the Wild West combined with evocative harmonic developments. At times the group ventures into techno/house music, and it's all sharply produced. Hence, the artists' frontier spirit casts a modern edge within familiar musical terrain.
West Coast acoustic guitarist Jim McCauley delves into intangibles and fractured themes on this newly released effort that showcases his improvising expertise. Complete with odd tunings and string stretching methodologies, McCauley's work should appeal to fans of British avant guitar hero Derek Bailey, among others. He's a nimble-fingered technician indeed. The guitarist renders close-handed chord voicings and animated single note runs. Overall, McCauley's mind-bending improvisations are rooted within an existential state of mind.
Rich Woodson's Ellipsis
The Nail that Stands Up gets Pounded
With his second release as a leader, guitarist Rich Woodson makes a point of noting that there is no improvisation whatsoever on this session. Featuring New York City downtown artists such as drummer John Hollenbeck and saxophonist Aaron Stewart, the music delivered here resides within a uncanny blend of chamber-jazz and avant-classical. Then toss in some complex Frank Zappa-like time signatures. Overall, Woodson's autonomous approach to jazz dwells within a world of its own. With rigorously structured bump and grind motifs, many of these pieces are linearly designed, to coincide with fragmented sub-motifs that generally spawn unconventional thematic forays. Woodson is certainly one to watch!
This European rock band extracts early Pink Floyd type psychedelia amid rudiments exploited by early '70s space-rock bands. And along with blissful vocals, coupled with somber melodic intervals and memorable choruses, the unit has dished out a winner here. They fuse the old with the new in an unassuming manner. Other nicely articulated ditties reside within the musicians' darkly enacted waves of sound and sweeping mid-tempo rock grooves. It's sort of like delving into a timeless musical void.
Nels Cline/Wally Shoup/Chris Corsano
Strange A ttractors
Saxophonist Wally Shoup enjoys these wham, bam, thank you ma'am improv-centric trios. This time out, he goes a few rounds with guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Chris Corsano. Generally speaking, it's a seek and destroy mission built upon Nels Cline's free-jazz/rock electric guitar licks, Shoup's gritty sax lines, and Corsano's asymmetrical percussion escapades. It's somewhat angst-ridden and loud, but strangely entertaining: Play at your own risk.
Michael Blake Trio
Right Before Your Very Ears
Pivotal members of the Jazz Composers Collective toggle with the outside realm of modern jazz. On this studio session, saxophonist Michael Blake, bassist Ben Allison, and drummer Jeff Ballard delve into an up-tempo, highly energized melange of hardcore, free bop, and more. Blake incorporates some grit into his beefy sax choruses, as the rhythm section's delightfully, in-your-face razzle-dazzle serves as an accelerator. It's nice to hear these folks mix it up with such exuberance, while taking a few minor risks along the way.
Each newly released CD by Djam Karet, one of the finest bands in the progressive rock business, divulges variable shades of consistency. Known for its use of synths, blistering guitars, and ambient-electronic exercises, the band seldom fails to delight. The approach taken here is segmented into two parts (stylizations): melodic rock, with climactically oriented movements; and ambient acoustic/electronic tone poems. Spanning a few decades, this well-studied unit has absorbed the finer elements of the '70s progressive scene, while progressively carving out a niche of its own. It's not as thrusting and fiery as the outfit's previous two releases, but it's just another glimpse of how the musicians artfully navigate a potpourri of rock-related genres.
Nick Stephens Septet
Live at the Plough Stockwell
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