Here's to avant-garde jazz. Unruly and ill-behaved, the seeds planted by saxophonists Ornette Coleman
and John Coltrane
, and carried forward by reed multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton
and melded with trumpeter Miles Davis
' post bop, gave rise to a brand of jazz that, while not the complete chaos of free jazz, nevertheless possessed such an inventive spirit that begged the listener to hear "what comes next." Layer this spirit with a cogent theme and an entirely new dimension to the music is revealed. Common collaborators, alto saxophonist John O'Gallagher and drummer Jeff Williams
demonstrate what Whirlwind Recordings, the label run by bassist Michael Janisch
, is all about.
John O'GallagherThe Anton Webern ProjectWhirlwind Recordings
The only possible place that Austrian composer/conductor Anton Webern (1883-1945) could find in the jazz tent would be with the avant-garde, smoking cigarettes in the French style while drinking cognac. Webern was a principle in the Second Viennese of School of composers who promoted the use of a totally chromatic musical expressionism without firm tonal centeror, atonality. This was morphed into the serial twelve-tone technique most famously by Webern teacher Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), influencing such composers as Alban Berg (1885-1935) and Hans Eisler (1898-1962).
O'Gallagher has long been associated with 12-tone music and takes the bull by the horns by adapting eight Webern pieces for his sextet plus voice. O'Gallagher is both mathematical and creative with his approach, staying close to Webern's melodic intention while trying to pull out the music's internal essence. The saxophonist states that the solos sections are either based on harmonies/trichord structures extracted from the twelve-tone rows each piece uses. The result is a musical extension of Miles Davis' 1970 augmented quintet featuring pianist Chick Corea
, bassist Dave Holland
, drummer Jack DeJohnette
and saxophonist Wayne Shorter
Using the Webern material tempers the wildness of the music without attenuating it. Using the score as direction, O'Gallagher deftly composes for Margret Grebowicz's voice on "Three Songs" and "Seventh Ring." The opener, "Schnell," and "Five Pieces" grandly uses Russ Lossing
's Hammond organ to great and almost greasy advantage. Guitarist Pete McCann
channels Dom Minasi
on "Quartet." Hardly music for the faint of heart, The Anton Webern Project
contains a wealth of riches that pays off with multiple listens, bolstering the value of the often misunderstood jazz genre.
Jeff WilliamsThe ListenerWhirlwind Recordings
It may be a poor-man's explanation, but here it goes: bebop begat hard bop begat the freer post-bop. Free jazz emerged among them. What next? Jeff Williams' The Listener
. The greater freedom of post bop compared to its predecessor is given more freedom, but not so much that the music descends into the ravenous particles of John Coltrane In Japan
So, where does that leave us? Williams often programs solos against the bass alone or the bass and drums. The effect is like Ornette Coleman, circa early '60s, when Tomorrow Is The Question!
(Atlantic, 1959) and The Shape of Jazz to Come
(Atlantic, 1959) were brand new and smoking. The Listener
is not merely a throwback to Coleman in the way that the Black Crowes is to the Faces and Rolling Stones; rather it is the acknowledgement and development of an idea after the white-heat of its creation has cooled. This music is a reconsideration employing a similar Coleman piano-less quartet, investigating the music fifty years later. Recorded May 7, 2012 at London's Vortex Jazz Club, The Listener
surveys seven originals (strangely, none composed by alto saxophonist John O'Gallagher) and a single, transformed standard, captured before an appreciative audience. The songs are live performance length, allowing plenty of solo space, even for bassist John Hebért
, who gives a yeoman's effort in support. His playing is both exciting and splendid.
O'Gallagher and trumpeter Duane Eubanks
give their level Ornette Coleman/Don Cherry
best, often over Williams' cacophony of skins and cymbals. Given the exceptional sonics and the creative camaraderie, The Listener
turns into an intellectually muscular listen with predictably positive results.
Tracks and PersonnelThe Anton Webern Project
Tracks: Schnell; Three Songs; Five Pieces; Quartet; Seventh Ring; The Secret Code; Ways Going Over; All This World.
Personnel: John O'Gallagher: alto saxophone; Matt Moran: vibraphone; Pete McCann: guitar; Russ Lossing: Hammond organ, Rhodes; piano; Johannes Weidenmuller: bass; TYshawn Sorey: drums; Margret Grebowicz: voice.
Tracks: Beer and Water; Borderline; She Can't Be A Spy; Fez; Lament; Scrunge/Search Me; Slew Footed; Dedicated to You.
Personnel: Jeff Williams: drums; Duane Eubanks: trumpet; John O'Gallagher: alto saxophone; John Hebert: bass.