zondag 26 september 2010

Paul Bley pleasures

"The artists alone decide what you will hear on their ESP-disk." A label with such a motto should be cherished.  And I do, as all hardcore jazz fanatics should. But I guess Paul Bley didn't decide on the sound of this recording. Like all ESP-recordings I know, it sounds as if it was recorded under water or in a refrigerator or something.
But even then ESP (which started in the sixties when free jazz was invented and seems to have regained life in recent years) produced wonderful records. Closer is beyond doubt my favourite, since it got me to know Paul Bley, a wonderful pianoplayer, whose impact on jazz and improvisatory music cannot be over-appreciated.
Oh my god, I still remember hiring this record from the local discotheque when I was 17 years or something. I was completely stunned by the opening track, Ida Lupino (named after an actress, which I didn't realise until decades later). The track was penned by Carla Bley, then Paul's wife, although as far as I know their marriage didn't last too long. Carla wrote seven of the ten (short to very short) tracks here, and they are all terrific. Although none of the others are as melodic as Ida Lupino, I consider tracks like Start, Batterie and Closer as little gems, small pieces of art that deserve respectful accolades of all true music lovers. They are all classics to my ears.
Paul wrote one piece, and the remaining two were penned by Annette Peacock (if I'm not mistaken, Bley's partner after his marriage with Carla broke up) and Ornette Coleman, the man who changed the sound of jazz once he became member of the Paul Bley group in '58 (or was it '59?).
Bley's trio consists of Steve Swallow (then still on ACOUSTIC bass, although he's so badly recorded you can hardly hear him) and the wonderful Barry Altschul, an excellent drummer who was one of the key figures of free jazz, then disappeared for too many years, but now seems to have re-emerged on the scene.
My cd collection contains about 45 cd's by Paul Bley (and then another ten or so on vinyl), but I guess this one is still my favourite. Especially since the master himself decorated it with his autograph after a concert last year in Ghent, Belgium....
Thank you for reading this

zaterdag 18 september 2010

Tony Malaby

Last year I spent a week in New York. I not only had the pleasure of visiting the Village Vanguard (David Sanchez), the Blue Note (Odean Pope, James Carter, even Stanley Clarke) and the tiny Barbès in Brooklyn (Tom Rainey, Ingrid Laubrock, Mary Halvorson). But the very best concert I saw during that week was in the beautiful Cornelia Street Café in the heart of the Village.
The band playing there was a quartet led by Tony Malaby (with John Hébert, Ralph Alessi and Billy Drummond). Beyond doubt Malaby's one of the most interesting saxophonists on the present jazz scene. On the same trip, I bought loads of cd's in the Downtown Music Gallery (go there when you're in NY!), and Adobe is definitely the one I listened to the most.
It's a "classic" sax trio, recorded in 2003, with the rock solid Drew Grass on bass and on drums Paul Motian, still incredible after all these years. Malaby, who wrote four of the nine tunes, shines on tenor and on soprano. His reading of Ornette Coleman's Humpty Dumpty , the excellent opener, sounds very fresh. His tone on sax sounds very modern, firm, full of vision, with an open mind and an avantgarde edge, though he never loses himself in extensive squeaking or growling.
As excellent as Drew Gress sounds, it's Paul Motian who makes this cd a special success. His sound is so recognizable, and he propels the music to a higher level.
I know there's been plenty of beautiful saxtrio-cd's recently (the ones by Donny McCaslin and J.D. Allen come to mind), but this one will neither disappoint the avid fan of real present-day jazz.

vrijdag 17 september 2010

Jeremy Pelt

How to play hardbop and still sound fresh and modern? Listen to this cd and Jeremy Pelt gives you the answer. The trumpeter had already published some very strong cd's, some with an electric feel, like the well received Shock Value: Live at Smoke on MaxJazz.
But this all acoustic quintet is his band of choice since the excellent previous cd, November (MaxJazz). This quintet consists of Dwayne Burno (bass), Danny Grissett (piano), J.D. Allen (tenorsax) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). With the exception of Burno, they are all leaders in their own right. But this not an 'all stars' affair. This is really a group effort, and the sound is that of a quintet full of interaction, with musicians listening to each other, with an almost telepathic feeling of how their colleagues will react.
 Like Dave Holland, Jeremy Pelt gives each member of his group the opportunity to bring along a composition, and this works fine. The sound is definitely reminiscent of the second great Miles Davis Quintet, although Pelt has a sound that differs from the Great Master of the Understatement.
Pelt is beyond doubt a virtuoso, and he is very lucky to have next to him in the frontline J.D. Allen, who is a rising star on saxophone. Listen to J.D.'s trio-cd's, and you will agree.
Men of Honor (this time on the HighNote label) should be the breakthrough of a major jazz band. Hope you like it!

zondag 12 september 2010

Steve Lehman

For those of you who are tempted to think that in jazz everything has been done before, please keep your ears open, and you will definitely come across the sound of the unexpected. Like the sound of the Steve Lehman Octet, which is definitely something you have never heard before.
Surely Lehman's sound on alto sax has traces of Steve Coleman or Greg Osby. But the music he writes for this exceptional instrumentation (two saxes, trumpet, trombone, tuba, vibes, bas and drums) is something really modern, with elements of all kinds of jazz (inlcluding the hard avantgarde stuff) and modern classical music nicely intertwined. The rhythm is very complex (which brings us to... Tyshawn Sorey, who is again shining on drums), the five piece frontline plays strong melody lines, with the tuba intervening as an extra bass, and the soloing is real intense. Mark Shim on tenorsax, Joathan Finlayson on trumpet, Tim Albright on trombone: they are all impressive.
Like his mentor Anthony Braxton, Steve Lehman doesn't limit himself to jazz alone. He also writes for large orchestras and chamber ensembles. Well, this octet sounds like a very contemporary jazz chamber ensemble.
This cd (with an enigmatic title...) is out on the very interesting Pi Recordings. An excellent label, which documents the present day innovative jazz scene as the Italian Black Saint-label used to do in the eighties and nineties. Much to my liking.

Robin Verheyen Starbound

The Belgian jazz scene is blooming and booming, with many young players pushing the envelope. Pianist Jef Neve is realising an international breakthrough thanks to his intimate cd with the excellent singer José James. Jef has a new cd out this september with his pianotrio, and it will certainly please those who are fond of EST or Brad Mehldau.
But perhaps the most talented Belgian guy is saxophone player Robin Verheyen. He has been living in New York for a couple of years now, where he plays with avantgarde musicians like Ralph Alessi, Jeff Davis or Tom Rainey. His most recent cd, Starbound on the German Pirouet-label, may be the best 'Belgian' jazz cd I ever heard.
It features Robins quartet, with Bill Carrothers on piano, Nicolas Thys (who lived in NY for seven years but returned to Brussels) on bass and Dré Pallemaerts (very active on the French jazz scene) on drums. They play nine originals by Robin, one by Nicolas, and the standard I Wish I Knew. The result is very satisfying. Robin has a mature tone on his sax, especially on soprano. I'm not the only one who says so: Branford Marsalis invited Robin several times on stage to sit in with his band and praised his soprano sound in particular.  And a Brazilian website (http://jazzstation-oblogdearnaldodesouteiros.blogspot.com/2009/12/best-jazz-of-2009.html) ranked him as best soprano player of 2009, before Dave Liebman and Jan Garbarek.
Robins compositions are very entertaining, opener On the House being my favorite. This is modern jazz I really like. It certainly has an avantgarde flavour to it, but it is still very accessible. And the band is terrific.
Robin has a new cd out his autumn, with another band. I'm definitely looking forward to it.

zondag 5 september 2010

Jeff Beck Emotion&Commotion

Time for some assorted candy, isn't it? Well, here it is: Jeff Beck. 'Oh my god, you don't really like this, do you?' Well, I do, and Downbeat gave this cd four and a half stars, so I'm definitely not the only jazz freak who digs this.
I admit: some of this stuff is on the verge of sentimentalism. But this is candy, as I told you. The opener, Corpus Christ Carol by Benjamin Britten (!), Over the Rainbow (yes, that one!) and Elegy for Dunkirk (from the film Atonement) are the musical equivalent of sweet pies with loads of cream on top of it. My god, I like it! But the most sugared piece of candy is beyond doubt track number 8, Nessun Dorma, yes indeed, the aria by good old Giacomo Puccini. But this is not Luciano Pavarotti singing, this is Jeff Beck on electric guitar! And believe me, this track makes me laugh and brings me to tears at the same time. Now how much music is there that makes your flesh creep? Bravo for Jeff Beck!
The guy invented instrumental rock, remember? Mostly with covers. I've only recently discovered that Cause we've Ended as Lovers, his signature track on his most famous record Blow by Blow, is actually a Stevie Wonder piece.
Beck wrote only two of the ten tracks here, and they are both excellent. His keyboard man Jason Rebello wrote some stuff, with the powerful There's no other me standing out. This track reminds me of Massive Attack, and is sung by Joss Stone, who sounds like a young Tina Turner here. Stone also sings on I Put a Spell on You, another cover of an oldie brought to life by this British gentleman of 66 years.
Need I say that Beck's guitar is a constant joy from beginning to end? Emotion&Commotion? Only 41 mintues, but never a dull moment.

By the way: the answer to the question in the previous post is yes. They are engaged to be married...

donderdag 2 september 2010

Reut Regev This is R*time

Women in jazz: it used to be a topic, because there weren't any, except for vocalists. But now we have dozens of excellent female jazz muzisicans: Matana Roberts, Ingrid Laubrock, Tineke Postma, Lotte Anker, Mary Halvorson, Sylvie Courvoisier, Regina Carter, Marilyn Crispell, Esperanza Spalding, Teri Lynn Carrington, Cindy Blackman (by the way: is she really Carlos Santana's girlfriend?)... They play saxophone, guitar, piano, violin, bass or drums and most of them are definitely part of the avant-garde jazzscene. But a female trombone player?
Yes, way back when there was Melba Liston, who did some nice work (also as arranger) for Randy Weston until she died in '99. But on the present jazz scene?
Well, be prepared for a nice suprise, because here comes Reut Regev! Don't be misled by the cover of her debut cd, that looks like a Christmas album (I've noticed that on amazon.com the cover is slighty different...), because this is going to blow your mind. Regev is Israelian but has been living in New York for more than a decade now. That the likes Anthony Braxton, Butch Morris and Dave Douglas have employed her for tours or recordings, gives you an idea of what to expect.
But don't be afraid: this music is not the kind of hardboiled avant-garde some of these guys are famous for. This is R*time is very listenable indeed, with the music (all originals, some cowritten with drummer (and husband) Igal Foni) shifting between jazz, heavy rock (due to the excellent electric guitar of David Phelps), and both Eastern and African world music. This cd is really a joy from beginning till end.
The sound of Regev is very modern, a bit like Ray Anderson, but then more dry. She has definitely listened to a lot of trombonists. And she has a great band, with David Phelps on electric guitar, Brad Jones on acoustic and electric bass, and Igal Foni on drums. Percussionist Eddie Bobé guests on two tracks.