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The Dude Abides

Mark Corroto By

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Then there is the other side of Stevens' career. Where SME favored so-called 'insect improv' or quiet listening and atonal group interaction, his explorations into jazz-rock in the groups the Splinters, John Stevens Dance Orchestra, Away, Free-bop, Folkus, Fast Colour, PRS, and his Quintet and Quartets pushed electric and rock envelope. At The Plough Stockwell is a cassette recording (and very high quality at that) of Stevens' band Away playing a gig at The Plough in 1978. The music is plugged-in, amped up and could easily be mistaken for an electric Miles Davis concert. Two guitars, Nigel Moyse and Martin Holder compete for space with Robert Calvert (saxophone) and John Corbett (trumpet). Stevens and Nick Stephens, who thumps a powerful electric bass, are collaborators in maintaining a thunderous pulse throughout and competing for decibel dominance. The music, bookended by lengthy jazz-rock explorations finds a gem with the New Orleans inspired version of "Whoops A Daisy." Otherwise, the music delivers all the energy of jazz-rock before the failures of jazz-rock-fusion.

Dennis González Yells At Eels
Colorado At Clinton
Ayler Records

The Dennis Gonzalez family records, aka his Yells At Eels trio, is a fine working trio led by father, Dennis, a recognized leader in avant-garde trumpet since the 1970s. His 1980s records for the Swedish Silkheart label are valued gems (and worth the treasure hunt). His sons, Stefan González (drums) and Aaron González (bass) have performed and recorded in multiple settings. Their inclusion of guest stars add an additional layer to each release. Prior discs have found them collaborating with Louis Moholo-MoholoCape Of Storms (Ayler Records, 2010), Alvin FielderResurrection Of Life (Ayler Records, 2011), Rodrigo AmadoThe Great Bydgoszcz Concert (Ayler Records, 2009), and the unofficial Yells At Eels disc Renegade Spirits (Furthermore, 2008) with Aakash Mittal, a gifted Indian-American saxophonist, who like Rudresh Mahanthappa has incorporated South Indian into his jazz lexicon.

The attractive sounds here are the interplay of the Eels open rhythmic orientation and Mittal's Eastern accent. He penned two tracks, "Shadows" and "Shades Of India." Both meditative pieces, the latter an epic, heroic composition that quotes John Coltrane's "India." The family González is an empathetic partner to all, capable of absorbing varying styles and approaches to deliver inspirational music. Gonzalez' "Dokonori Shīīto" is presented as a high energy speed workout that Mittal is game for. He is chased, then chases the melody and the trio into a boiling cauldron of sound.

Paul Stapleton / Simon Rose

Extended saxophone technique is just another term for deep space exploration and indeed, saxophonist Simon Rose is a musical cosmonaut. As a space traveler, he has released a couple of solitary saxophone expeditions on alto Procession (FMR, 2007) and a stunning baritone recording Schmetterling (Not Two, 2011). He provides a diverse and intriguing menu of tone manipulation, multiphonics and circular breathing.

With Fauna he shares the voyage with sound artist Paul Stapleton and his bonsai sound sculpture. Described as a portable modular musical instrument that combines a repurposed turntable, electronics, amplified metallic percussion and strings, the BoSS is part Blade Runner and part Plan 9 From Outer Space. Like Rose's serpentine routs, Stapleton's BoSS is a spluttering, droning, pitch-altering generator that is as otherworldly as a Simon's baritone. The pairs' improvisations could be the migratory songs of android whales or the piezoelectric abrasions that develop inside an old timepiece. Without the visuals, the sounds constructed are chimeric fantasies.

Albey Balgochian / Jane Grenier B.
Tragically Hip

The CD (and accompanying book) titled Tragically Hip is not as much an oxymoron as it is a curse. As long as the world has had poets (meaning language) there have been those who have a transparent vision of our existence. Some of those poets have collaborated with musicians to illuminate our times. It may have started with Kenneth Patchen, whose pacifist poetry fought imperialism, then Jack Kerouac and his beat immersion into bebop, that hipped kids to jazz. The collaboration is a natural one, like the roots of hip-hop, words unsung are great liberators.


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