You say you're beat? You don't know Jack
Recorded in 2010, this tribute to Swedish saxophonist Bengt Nordström by the current saxophone champion Mats Gustafsson is a radical departure from his sound. Or, is it? Gustafsson, who plays that machine gun blasting baritone in the rocked-out jazz band The Thing, the muscle behind the punk band The Ex, or the improvising spark in so many other ensembles with players such as Peter Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark and Barry Guy, recorded these two lengthy improvisations utilizing a Grafton plastic alto saxophone. The type favored by Bengt, his mentor.
Certainly the plastic saxophone presented limitation (and possibilities) to Gustafsson. He opens "Side ABengt A" of this white vinyl LP (with accompanying CD) prodding and testing the horn. He blows shortish notes, casually extending his sound with vocalizations, his flutter tongue, and key manipulations. Gustafsson eschews his signature strongman sound for a breathy improvisation. By the second track, he settles into a minimalist pop-and-tongue approach that unrolls into soft melodies and multi-phonic overblowing. The frailty of the plastic horn favored by Bengt, but also used for a while by both Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman, is exploited to some very ingenious ends here.
Centering And Displacement
When is a solo drummer's recording not a drum recording? That question is not a zen koan but a hint as to what you can expect from Frank Rosaly's unchaperoned 45rpm LP (with accompanying CD), >Centering And Displacement. Rosaly is a band leader and member of Fast Citizens, Scorch Trio, and multiple new Chicago bands bands that include musicians Jason Adasiewicz, Jason Stein, and Keefe Jackson. Unlike his previous solo drum LP Millwork (Molk Records, 2009), that utilized limited electronics, this baby takes sliced and diced improvised source material collected by Rosaly, organized and arranged into a strict compositional manner before getting processed and divided into six channels and transferred to one master. Phew. Yes, the concept is dense, but the results are actually quite elegant. The LP begins with heavily distorted sounds that give way to scattered drums and electronic belches. This sensation of being inside of a whale, leads to a quite section of exploration before finishing out with multiple bells and a percussion dance. Side 2 is a brooding cauldron of metallic scrapes and electric fuzz that drops out for some introspective percussion and flute played over thrumming electronics. Rosaly who can swing as hard as any modern Chicago drummer gives us a peek into his darker more experimental side here.
Zs Score The Complete Sextet Works: 2002-2007
Norhtern Spy Records
If you are not familiar with the band known as Zs, then picture Anthony Braxton as a member of Black Flag, or perhaps better yet the punk band Black Flag if they had been schooled as musicians. The Zs has created a sort of cult following, playing opposite ends of the attention deficit disorder spectrum. The music can agitate with precise mathematics and speed or turn wispy as minimalist improvisation. This 4-CD box collects the bands output from their six early releases (various LPs, EPs, 7"s and CDs) until 2007, plus an hour of unreleased music, live recordings, and remixes.
Songs like "Fall And Climb" and "I Can't Concentrate" are modern takes on the Carl Stalling Warner Brothers cartoon chase scenes where manic climbs are followed with descents and surrealist landscapes. Like Stalling or Raymond Scott for that matter the group is concerned with precision playing, yet it maintains the DIY punk attitude throughout. The music can recall Philip Glass' repetitive scores, such as on the vocals on "Nobody Wants To be Had" or the minimalist improvisation of John Butcher. The relentless and seemingly merciless attack is the magnet and marquee here, but get past the signature "in your face" sound, and the genius of the compositions, improvisations and interactions stands out. Sometimes bad kids write great poetry.
Ben Holmes Quartet
Anvil Of The Lord
Sometimes discovering a new voice in jazz involves word of mouth. Other times a new release falls into your lap. Both instances are true for trumpeter Ben Holmes. He co-leads the Yiddish-influenced Tarras band, the Ben Holmes/Patrick Farrell Duo, Trio Blastphemy, and is a sideman in half a dozen other projects. His first national release as a leader Anvil Of The Lord follows the very well received self-produced Ben Holmes Trio (2009). In any case: Hello Ben, nice to meet you.