December 2005

Glenn Astarita By

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Harris Eisenstadt
The Soul and Gone

482 Music


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

ReR Megacorp


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



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




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


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


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



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


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


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




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