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Articles | Featured | Future

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: Time Like This

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In the olden days of jazz, an album consisting of trailblazing instrumentalists akin to these performers may have been billed as Michael Formanek and his All-Stars instead of a band moniker. Nonetheless, the Elusion Quartet lives up to preconceived or implicit expectations. Consequently, the heavyweight lineup imparts an abundance of mood-eliciting and symmetrical works, along with other components for our psyche's to nibble on. As a premise for this session, Michael Formanek says he sought “a more ...

BEST OF / YEAR END

Mark Sullivan's Best Releases of 2016

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So many reviews this year, in so many genres, that I've split them into two categories--"Jazz" and “Latin, World & Experimental"--in response to the feeling that I was trying to compare apples to oranges. They're presented in more or less chronological order, and the guiding principle was whether I had a clear memory of the recording even before I went back to listen to it again. A few of these were drawn from Multiple Review articles, and I cheated a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Formanek - Tomas Fujiwara - Mary Halvorson: Convallaria

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Three hyper-progressive improvisational jazz and cross-genre artists push the envelope again on their 2nd album for Cuneiform Records. The musicians' busy schedules via numerous and largely prolific solo and group-based projects have rocketed their respective artistries into the limelight, especially ECM recording artist Michael Formanek (bass) who for the past several decades has become a household name within these circles. Nonetheless, it's an adventurous exploration, led by guitarist Mary Halvorson's signature phraseology, comprised of extended lines that vaporize into the ...

LIVE FROM NEW YORK

Barry Adamson, Michael Formanek, Elliott Sharp & Rokia Traoré

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Barry Adamson Rough Trade March 21, 2016 Hot on the heels of SXSW in Austin, Barry Adamson turned up for a lower-key solo show at NYC's Rough Trade store. His reputation was made as a bassist with Magazine and Nick Cave, but in the three decades since then he's had ample time to build up a persona as composer of movie soundtracks to imaginary flicks. Not that this is his only mission, but ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Formanek’s Ensemble Kolossus: The Distance

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Here's a surprise. Bassist Michael Formanek is probably best known for his two recent ECM Records dates, Rub and Spare Change (2010) and Small Places, a couple of modernistic quartet sessions featuring saxophonist Tim Berne, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver. These are tight and intense sets, architecturally solid, free-like outings that may have helped bring Taborn and Berne into the ECM fold for their own leader slots on the label. With a modest--in terms of numbers--discography as a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Formanek’s Ensemble Kolossus: The Distance

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Jazz composers writing for large ensembles have often avoided the label “big band," going back to the Jazz Composer's Orchestra in the '60s, not to mention Sun Ra's Arkestra and the many Swing Era bands that called themselves orchestras. It's an understandable choice, given the unavoidable--and potentially limiting--stylistic associations that come with the big band name. Bassist/composer Michael Formanek playfully calls this 18-piece group Ensemble Kolossus: it represents a bold creative leap forward from his previous quartet recordings Small Places ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Winter Jazzfest 2016: ECM Records Stage

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Winter Jazzfest--ECM Records Stage The New School Tishman Auditorium New York, NY January 15 & 16, 2016 There's a very modern feel at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School University Center, the site for a two-night showcase for ECM Records at the 2016 Winter Jazzfest--with the Escher-esque stairs that you pass on the way in, the broad, open space of the stage, its huge screen backdrop, and the light blonde bamboo walls. You ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Halvorson - Michael Formanek - Tomas Fujiwara: Thumbscrew

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Kindred musical spirits unite on this composers' cooperative, featuring three musicians who have been forerunners and antagonists of new-fangled directions in the avant-garde jazz spectrum, other than ripping into customary modern jazz fare with a vengeance. The artists' divergent discographies offer a worldly testament to these aspects, besides their work as first-call session aces. With Michael Formanek's pronounced bass lines, guitarist Mary Halvorson's fascinating permutations, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara laying down a host of perky grooves, the group executes within ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Michael Formanek: Small Places

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Double bassist/composer Michael Formanek releases Small Places, his follow-up to his ECM debut as a leader, The Rub and Spare Change. The new album features the same band of long- time musicians consisting of: Formanek on bass, saxophonist Tim Berne, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleavor's complex rhythm cycles. Small Places is a continuation of the creative direction the quartet's first release established with a seamless blending of composed material and improvisations through creative forms and pulses.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Formanek: Small Places

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Bassist Michael Formanek's second release on ECM, Small Places, is an impassioned and gratifying album. Working with the same quartet as his first, The Rub and Spare Change (ECM, 2010), the music here has crystallized and matured further as the familiarity and camaraderie among the artists has grown. Although The Rub was freer and hence more challenging, Small Places is a bit more accessible without losing its edge. The centerpiece of the disc, “Parting Ways," is a ...