Guitarist John Russell has always devoted himself to the cause of free improvisation as a vocation and the music he and his cohorts make here is arguably the best-realized example of his art on record to date.
The more time passes the more obvious it becomes that Russell just might be one of the most committed group players working in this relatively rarefied field. This is especially true of "The Bite," played as a duo in the company of tenor saxophonist Garry Todd, whose appearance here amounts to something not unlike the return of the prodigal, given how infrequent his public performances have been over the years. The two men first recorded as a duo back in 1975 and it's clear from their performance, they they've developed a paradoxically tight, yet loose understanding. Their work rewards close listening.
Trumpeter Henry Lowther is another case in point with regards to musicians who are coming back to this strand of the music. It's clear from the off that "Blart," played by a duo of Lowther and Russell, is the work of a pair of musical sensibilities both sensitive and open-minded. Their musicianship is consummate and so far in the moment that there's no chance of them producing the same performance again, which is just as it should be in truly exploratory music. There is furthermore a lyrical strain in their work which is really uncommon, and so pronounced is it that when Lowther switches from muted to open horn the difference in terms of sonic impact is extraordinary.
"Chamarileros" is a duo with soprano saxophonist and percussionist Chefa Alonso, and there are passages where Alonso evokes the spirit of John Stevens in the way she puts out the most negligible filigrees of percussive sound as a means for both complementing and shading Russell's lines. When she switches to soprano sax the effect is transformative, the change having the practical impact of energizing Russell's work. What's equally noteworthy is the fact that as the performance develops; the distinct personalities of the two musicians emerge. The effect is one of the tried and tested being constructively disregarded in face of profoundly in the moment creativity.
An eight-piece group that sounds like anything but plays on "So It Goes and the way they abide by the detail of the music is extraordinary. The sonic results are that they sound like an ensemble half the size. At all times a feeling of clarity pervades the music and the development of the piece is quintessentially marked by the input of individual sensibilities.
When it comes down to it, this is not music likely to win over anyone not already converted to the methodology and results of musicians improvising freely together. On a less mundane level it is however a body of amply rewarding music.
Track Listing: The Bite; Blart; Chamarileros; So It Goes.
Personnel: John Russell: guitar, with Garry Todd: tenor sax; Henry Lowther: trumpet; Chefa Alonso: soprano sax, percussion; Nicole Legros: voice; Jean-Michel Van Schouwberg: voice; Stefan Keune: alto sax; Phillipp Wachsmann: violin, electronics; Ashley Wales: piano; Ivor Kallin: double bass, preparations; Javier Carmona: percussion; Steve Beresford: electronics, objects.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.