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Articles by John Sharpe

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Jones Jones: A Jones In Time Saves Nine

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Over a decade in existence and the free jazz trio Jones Jones has just dropped its third album. That's not exactly prolific, but may well be an accurate reflection of the challenge implicit in bringing together colleagues separated by the 5795 miles between reedman Larry Ochs and bassist Mark Dresser in California, and percussionist Vladimir Tarasov in Lithuania. But the wait has been worth it with A Jones In Time Saves Nine ranking as their finest work so far, surpassing ...

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Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: Time Like This

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Bassist Michael Formanek has become a major presence on the NYC scene over the last decade, both as a forward-looking bandleader and a sideman. His two small-group offerings, The Rub And Spare Change (2010) and Small Places (2012), both on ECM, were justly feted and lead to the acclaimed big-band set The Distance (2016) by his Ensemble Kolossos which cemented his reputation. On Time Like This he rings the changes on the cast as he debuts his new ...

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Marion Brown / Dave Burrell: Live at the Black Musicians' Conference, 1981

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Once again the Lithuanian NoBusiness team has unearthed a jewel from the archives, this time an unissued live recording by two masters of the 1960s New Thing who thrived thereafter. Alto saxophonist Marion Brown, a participant on John Coltrane's legendary Ascension (Impulse, 1965), and pianist Dave Burrell, a stalwart of Archie Shepp's outfits, combined on a number of releases under Brown's name, such as Juba-Lee (Fontana, 1967) and Three For Shepp (Impulse, 1967), but after that time had only collaborated ...

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Riverloam Trio: Live At The Alchemia

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Recorded at Krakow's legendary jazz club, Live At The Alchemia constitutes the third outing from what has become a perfectly-balanced unit, following the eponymous Riverloam Trio (NoBusiness, 2012) and Inem Gortn (FMR, 2014). Although, traditionally, Polish reedman Mikolaj Trzaska might be seen as the apex of a musical pyramid, supported by the solid foundation provided by the British pairing of bassist Olie Brice and drummer Mark Sanders, in actuality this is more of an equilateral triangle in which each of ...

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Paul Rogers / Olaf Rupp / Frank Paul Schubert: Three Stories About Rain Sunlight And The Soil

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It's always a pleasure to hear expat English bassist Paul Rogers, perhaps best known for his collaboration with reedman Paul Dunmall and the Mujician co-operative. This meeting with two stalwarts of the German improvised music scene in a Berlin studio imparts a particular delight. Guitarist Olaf Rupp boasts a healthy discography including performances with drummer Paul Lovens, reedman Peter Brötzmann and the conductions of Butch Morris, while saxophonist Frank Paul Schubert maintains a roster of forward looking outfits, among them ...

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Ken Vandermark / Nate Wooley / Sylvie Courvoisier / Tom Rainey: Noise Of Our Time

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This summit of talent actually delivers what the title promises. The quartet creates an all-encompassing portrait of the state of the art, in which what might be thought noise is adroitly recontextualized in a musical situation. In a way that's what the members have been doing throughout their illustrious careers. Given their daunting skills as improvisers, perhaps the surprise here is that they do so through the medium of composition. While Chicago reedman Ken Vandermark has forged ...

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Dave Rempis: Icoci

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In avant jazz, as in other artistic endeavors, talent alone isn't enough. Success requires a large slice of luck too. Chicago-based reedman Dave Rempis knows that as well as anyone. As a consequence he works hard at making his own luck: he concentrates on running a string of regular outfits; assembles a network of supportive venues; makes connections between players across the States and abroad; and documents the resulting outcomes. Icoci represents the scorching debut of a ...

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Fish-scale Sunrise: No Queen Rises

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Dutch reedman Ab Baars goes out of his way to avoid sentiment in his playing. He plots courses that veer willfully from melodic to shrill, but always remains in control. The most striking aspect of Fish-scale Sunrise, named after a poem by Wallace Stevens, is how much this approach to improvising is reflected in his composing too. Inspired by AACM reedman Roscoe Mitchell, with who he performed in 1986, and by his association with the enfant terrible of the Dutch ...

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Bobby Naughton / Leo Smith / Perry Robinson: The Haunt

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The Lithuanian NoBusiness imprint continues its forensic examination of American 1970s free jazz with the welcome reissue of vibraphonist Bobby Naughton's The Haunt. It's one of his few leadership dates, and originally released on his own Otic label. At the time Naughton was a fixture with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's outfits, gracing albums such as Divine Love (ECM, 1979) and Go In Numbers (Black Saint, 1982), as well as performances with Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton. But he grew so ...

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Peter Evans / Barry Guy: Syllogistic Moments

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From the first few seconds of the opening “Red Green" onwards, this live recording from trumpeter Peter Evans and bassist Barry Guy is a feat of death defying bravura. The two are among the most utterly distinctive practitioners on their instruments and they create a fast evolving kaleidoscope of preposterous sounds. Evans named his record label More Is More and that credo is amply reflected in the density of ideas which scroll past in swift succession. Both go way beyond ...

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Benoit Delbecq 4: Spots On Stripes

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In the animal kingdom both spots and stripes contribute to the camouflage which keeps the wearer hidden from either potential predators or prey. There's something similarly disorientating about this enigmatic album from French pianist Benoit Delbecq. Renowned as someone who has taken John Cage's idea of prepared piano into the jazz sphere, Delbecq has studied with sources as varied as free jazz bassist Alan Silva, legendary post bop pianist Mal Waldron and composer Solange Ancona, a former student of Olivier ...

YEAR IN REVIEW

John Sharpe's Best Releases Of 2018

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Here are 12 new releases which stood out among the 200 or so discs that I heard this year, in no particular order. It's worth noting that Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii set herself the challenge to release a CD every month during 2018, to mark the milestone of her 60th birthday. Her output has been so remarkably consistent that a whole Year End list could be given over to her alone. I've reluctantly restricted myself to just two.