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Chris Kelsey & What I Say: The Electric Miles Project

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Trumpeter Miles Davis' post-Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970), pre-hiatus (1975-1981) electric music--dense, loud, dark, funky, vast--has posed problems for musicians. The Yo Miles! collective, led by trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Henry Kaiser, gamely approached it as a repertoire: these are songs, they seemed to say; let's just play them (and so they did, on albums like Upriver, Cuneiform, 2005). Bassist/impresario Bill Laswell, meanwhile, approached the releases of the period as post-performance collage, woven together from miles of Ampex tape; thus he remixed the original recordings rather than re-performing the tunes (on Panthalassa: The Music of Miles Davis, 1969-74, Columbia, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Kelsey & What I Say: The Electric Miles Project

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Chris Kelsey and What I Say say it all. The Electric Miles Project is definitely well thought-out, projected, masterfully arranged, and meticulously performed. Contrary to Miles Davis' school of thought, improvisation on this project seems not to have been part of the agenda. Kelsey clearly knows exactly how to pay tribute to the late legend and, to this purpose, avoids messing with the master: no trumpeter is featured on the album. To play in Miles Davis' shadow or to do without is a question quickly resolved for Kelsey: keep the heart of Davis' music but without his pseudo presence.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Kelsey & What I Say: The Electric Miles Project

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It takes no shortage of fortitude for contemporary artists to take on the electric Miles Davis. Banking off of his seminal Bitches' Brew (Columbia, 1970), the trumpeter headed for looser, louder and funkier fare, culminating in the twin two-disc releases, Agartha (Columbia, 1975) and Pangea (Columbia, 1976), two shows performed in the afternoon and evening of February 1, 1975 at Japan's Osaka Festival Hall. Laden with electric guitar, seditious percussion and an assortment of effects, Davis spins noisy magic off a single chord, a magic saxophonist Chris Kelsey captures on his The Electric Miles Project. Kelsey chooses ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Chris Kelsey 4: Not Cool {. . .As In, "The Opposite of Paul Desmond"}

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Growing up as the son of a jazz saxophonist, saxophonist Chris Kelsey was influenced by his father's tastes in jazz. Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins were among those favorite artists, but Paul Desmond was not. Kelsey first heard Desmond on Bridge Over Troubled Water (A&M, 1969), his ode to Simon and Garfunkel, which was played just once in the Kelsey household. Desmond did not stir any emotions, though Kelsey admits that Desmond was “a fine player in his way." That is an indication of how the title of this CD, Not Cool {. . .As In, “The Opposite ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Kelsey Quartet: Renewal

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Sometimes a hiatus is the best answer to impending burnout. Soprano saxophonist Chris Kelsey recognized such signs and decided to shelve his horn in response to the stressors that were closing in. Also a writer, he seems to have hung up his quill for a spell as well. Time away from the rigors of creative improvised music allowed for the sort of perspective and focus that's encapsulated in his new album's single word title.

Kelsey's no neophyte to the CIMP Spirit Room. His debut date was actually the eighth session for a label that now has over twenty-five ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Kelsey's Ingenious Gentlemen Quartet: Situational Music

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From a purely financial perspective choosing improvised music as a profession has to rank among the most foolhardy and frustrating. Along with other artistic gigs like acting and writing improvised music is not widely regarded as a viable means of making ends meet. To take the argument further and generalize it a little, in the logical scheme of things, being an artist in America simply doesn’t pay. This is a sad certainty of life that saxophonist Chris Kelsey is intimately familiar with. After years of pounding both the figurative and factual pavement promoting his music he finally did what a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Kelsey's Unacknowledged Ensemble: Hear With Your Ear

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As Kelsey’s third offering in a threesome of inaugural titles on his own Saxophonis label Hear With Your Ears is arguably the most demanding both in terms of density and duration. Modeled loosely after Cecil Taylor’s now legendary unit with Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray the ensemble moves across the broad girth and breadth of two long-form improvisations that unfurl from atonal single-line melodies. Like other ensembles inspired by Taylor’s seminal aggregate (the Schlippenbach Trio comes to mind) the influence is only skin-deep and Kelsey’s music remains distinctly and decisively his own.

The width and depth of both pieces precludes ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Kelsey: In Search Of Emmett Hardy

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Chris Kelsey is an original. The soprano saxophonist and composer hailing from New York by way of Oklahoma, has a distinct sound that doesn't seem to be coming from any external influences, but rather from within. As a composer, Kelsey writes music that is influenced by the jazz avant-garde, but also has clearly been influenced by impressionist and serialist composers such as Anton Webern and John Cage. His use of 12-tone clusters interspersed with modulating minor-thirds bears this out. In his arranging of the pieces, Kelsey many times adds to the level of aural intensity and dissonance by placing the ...



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