Reviews that mention Augustí Fernández

November 11, 2018

Snekkestad/Fernández/Guy

Louisiana Variations
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 01/2018

Accomplished free improvisations in six sections affirm once again how, this approach has permeated the consciousness of three generations of musicians. Plus the sound’s universality is also communicated. To explain: doubler bassist Barry Guy 70, is British; pianist Agustí Fernández, 64, is Catalan; while trumpet/tenor saxophonist Torben Snekkestad 46, is Norwegian. Expanding the geography, Louisiana Variations, may or may not be named for the American state in which Jazz was purported to be born. Meanwhile the session was recorded in Copenhagen and is available on a Polish label. MORE

September 6, 2018

Agustí Fernández & Johannes Nästesjö

Like Listening with your Fingertips
Konvoj Records KOR 013

William Parker

Lake of Light –Compositions for AquaSonics

Gotta Let It Out GLIO 19 CD

Jordan/Fielder/Futterman/Swell

Masters of Improvisation

Valid Records VR-1016

James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor

Radiant Imprints

Off CD 038

Satoko Fujii

This Is It!

Libra 203-049

Something In The Air: The Established Maturity of The Guelph Jazz Festival

By Ken Waxman
MORE

June 11, 2018

Jazz Cerkno 23

May 17 to 19 2018
Cerkno, Slovenia

By Ken Waxman

Forty-one kilometres west of Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, the compact village of Cerkno has been host to a world-class jazz festival for almost a quarter century. Jazz Cerkno 2018 added to the illustrious tradition with three days of notable performances mostly in a specially erected canvas tent, complete with a sophisticated sound system, adjoining the darkened and homey Bar Gabrijel. What was most evident was how musicians from this country of fewer than 2¼-million people, which arguably has benefitted most economically from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, can easily hold their own in the international improvised music scene. MORE

May 12, 2018

Liquid Trio

Plays Bernoulli
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 08

Agustí Fernández, Artur Majewski, Rafał Mazur

Spontaneous Soundscapes

NotTwo MW 957-2

Although broad-minded in his choice of playing partners, Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández has most often recorded in a trio context, a format he’s comfortable with and which yields dividends when each side of the musical triangle is symmetrical. This is substantiated on the two discs here, recorded about five months apart in cities distant from one another and with different pairs of associates. MORE

May 12, 2018

Agustí Fernández, Artur Majewski, Rafał Mazur

Spontaneous Soundscapes
NotTwo MW 957-2

Liquid Trio

Plays Bernoulli

Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 08

Although broad-minded in his choice of playing partners, Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández has most often recorded in a trio context, a format he’s comfortable with and which yields dividends when each side of the musical triangle is symmetrical. This is substantiated on the two discs here, recorded about five months apart in cities distant from one another and with different pairs of associates. MORE

January 20, 2018

Jahre 25-25th Anniversary

MusikKultur St, Johann in Tirol December 9 and 10

By Ken Waxman

One of Austria’s most forward-looking cultural series takes place every week in an Alpine valley market town half-way between Innsbruck and Salzburg. St. Johann in Tirol has only about 9,000 residents but for 25 years Musik Kultur St. Johann (MuKu) has hosted a variety of exceptional activities, including at least 20 concerts of improvised music each year as well as the annual Artacts Festival in March.

In early December, MuKu threw itself a two-day silver anniversary party in the Alte Gerberei, a converted tannery, a 20-minute walk from the main town square and the nearby busy ski hill. Showcased were groups featuring British bassist Barry Guy, whose influence extended serendipitously to a club in nearby Munich a few days later. MORE

January 6, 2018

NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

2017 Ballot
Ken Waxman

This year’s 10 best New Releases listed in descending order one-through-ten.

1. Sophie Agnel/Daunik Lazro Marguerite d’Or PâleFou Records FR-CD 21

2. Jason Kao Hwang Sing House Euonymus EU 03

3. Alexander Hawkins Unit[e] AH 1002/3

4. Heliosonic Tone-tette Heliosonic Toneways Vol. 1 ScienSonic Laboratories SS10

5. Tiziano Tononi & Daniele Cavallanti Nexus Experience Nexus!Rudi Records RRJ1035

6. Arashi Semikujira Trost TR 146

7. Harris Eisenstadt Recent Developments Songlines SGL 1620-2 MORE

October 26, 2017

Agustí Fernández

Celebration Ensemble
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 04/2017

Albert Cirera/Hernâni Fustino/Gabriel Ferrandi/Agustí Fernández

Before the Silence

No Business Records NBCD 96

Having passed the venerable age of 60, Barcelona-area-based pianist Agustí Fernández has been fêted for his prominence on the broadening international improvised music scene. It’s a tribute to his sophisticated musical adroitness that his playing partners now range from Parker (William) to Parker (Evan), without causing a fissure in any situation. Like a director of foreign films who makes the transition to mainstream Hollywood fare, the Catalan pianist has been acclaimed for his adaptability. But like partisan film maker who imports foreign expertise and actors to shore up the local industry, Fernández’s home town concerts often include international partners. Besides confirming his playing and compositional talents, these Fernández discs demonstrate that ideal. MORE

October 26, 2017

Albert Cirera/Hernâni Fustino/Gabriel Ferrandi/Agustí Fernández

Before the Silence
No Business Records NBCD 96

Agustí Fernández

Celebration Ensemble

Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 04/2017

Having passed the venerable age of 60, Barcelona-area-based pianist Agustí Fernández has been fêted for his prominence on the broadening international improvised music scene. It’s a tribute to his sophisticated musical adroitness that his playing partners now range from Parker (William) to Parker (Evan), without causing a fissure in any situation. Like a director of foreign films who makes the transition to mainstream Hollywood fare, the Catalan pianist has been acclaimed for his adaptability. But like partisan film maker who imports foreign expertise and actors to shore up the local industry, Fernández’s home town concerts often include international partners. Besides confirming his playing and compositional talents, these Fernández discs demonstrate that ideal. MORE

October 21, 2017

Evans/Fernández/Gustafsson

A Quietness of Water
NotTwo MW 952-2

Mats Gustafsson/Alfred Vogel

Blow + Beat

Boomslang BOOM 0491

Transmogrifying poetics onto music is a discriminating task on the same level as creating a painting whose title describes concepts that may not be obvious. But Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson has conspired with his confreres here to use titles inspired by two widely different American poets. The five selections on A Quietness of Water, recorded with American trumpeter Peter Evans and Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández take their inspiration from Robert Creeley (1926-2005), who was associated with The Black Mountain School and who combined an academic career with tough poetics. Like a cultivated rose compared to a wild flower, Blow + Beat, seven duets with Austrian drummer Alfred Vogel, takes as its influence Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997), the quintessential Beat, know as much for his lifestyle as his verse. MORE

October 11, 2017

Joëlle Léandre

A Woman’s Work…
NotTwo MW950-2

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp

The Art of Perelman-Shipp

Leo Records CD LR 794-799 and 786

Something in the Air: Music Appreciation as a Single Serving or Throughout Several Meals

By Ken Waxman

Marketing considerations aside, how best can a musician mark an important milestone or significant creativity? With recorded music the result is usually multiple discs. In honor of French bassist Joëlle Léandre’s recent 60th birthday for instance, there’s A Woman’s Work … (NotTwo MW950-2), an eight-disc boxed set. Almost six hours of music, the 42 tracks were recorded between 2006 and 2016 with one solo disc and the others intense interaction with such associates as trumpeter Jean-Luc Cappozzo, tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, violist Mat Maneri, guitarist Fred Frith, percussionist Zlatko Kaučič, pianists Agustí Fernández or Irène Schweizer and vocalists Lauren Newton or Maggie Nicols. With improvisers from six different countries working alongside, the bassist’s charm, humor, vigor and adaptability are highlighted. MORE

April 6, 2017

Barry Guy

The Blue Shroud
Intakt CD 266

Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Withdrawal (1966/7)

Emanem 5040

By Ken Waxman

Organization and innovation are the concepts most closely associated with British bassist Barry Guy. A classically trained musician, he early on established himself as a masterful soloist in groups led by pianist Howard Riley and others. By his mid-twenties however, Guy, who turns 70 this month, had made in music the same sort of transcendental leap Woody Allen effected in film by demonstrating memorable skills as director as well as actor. Guy’s founding of and compositions for the London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra in 1972 demonstrated that precise notation and free-form improvisation could coexist. From then on, like a hyperactive Jekyll and Hyde, the bassist has enthusiastically directed and played with large ensemble while utilizing his string prowess in a dizzying number of smaller bands. MORE

March 27, 2017

Agustí Fernández/Rafał Mazur

Ziran
NotTwo MW 941-2

Ullén/Muller

Into the Staring Town

Creative Sources CS 323 CD

Like seemingly identical pebbles on a path, which reveal singular markings when examined under a microscope, creative music using similar instruments can result is widely dissimilar results, even if the landscape is the same. So it is with these two solid instances of free improv. Although both eschew expected musical trappings, Into the Staring Town’s more customary interactions are the equivalent of observing a raw gem stone being polished to alluring symmetry, while the Ziran alliance includes devices that are comparable to accentuating the uncut properties of a raw diamond. MORE

November 21, 2016

Agustí Fernández Liquid Trio

Marianne
Vector VSO 18

Figuratively carrying the Catalan flag as effectively as if he was doing so in the Olympics, pianist Agustí Fernández has become the most recognized improviser from that autonomous region within Spain, plus arguable the county’s best-known Jazz musician. But that doesn’t means he’s a man alone. While for various reasons – most of them spelled Franco – Spain doesn’t have a long Jazz history; it has been catching up in recent decades. The second CD by this aggregation, Marianne pairs the pianist with two other Catalan improvisers for a rousing exercise in free-form music. Tenor saxophonist Albert Cirera now lives in Lisbon where he leads his own groups and plays with the likes of bassist Hernani Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini. Drummer Ramon Prats works with locals as well as international visitors including saxophonists Mats Gustafsson and Seamus Blake. MORE

November 11, 2016

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band Small Formations

Tensegrity
NotTwo MW938-2

Mats Gustafsson’ Peace & Fire

At Porgy & Bess

Trost Records TR 140

Keith Rowe/John Tilbury

enough still not to know

SOFA 548

Mopomoso Tour 2013

Making Rooms

Weekertoft 1-4

Something In The Air: Multi-Disc Box Sets Offer Depth As Well As Quantity

By Ken Waxman

When a CD box of improvised music appears it customarily marks a critical occasion. So it is with these recent four-disc sets. One celebrates an anniversary tour by nine of London’s most accomplished improvisers. Another collects small group interactions in Krakow by musicians gathered to perform as an orchestra. A third is a souvenir of concerts celebrating Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s 50th birthday. Finally enough still not to know captures extended improvisations by pianist John Tilbury and table-top guitarist Keith Rowe, who have worked with one another on-and-off for 40 years. MORE

November 6, 2016

Boxed Set

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band Small Formations
Tensegrity NotTwo MW938-2

By Ken Waxman

Rather like viewing short films made during breaks from the larger project by participants in a feature, Tensegrity preserves small-group sets that took place in the evenings following rehearsals of Barry Guy’s Blue Shroud orchestral project. Recorded at Krakow’s Jazz Autumn in November 2014, the four CDs consist of 26 performances that confirm the adaptability of the band’s 14 members. With the exception of two tracks featuring violinist Maya Homburger, sounds are all improvised. The skill and sophistication of the players from Greece, Spain, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, France, the US and the UK, demonstrated that, cross-border musical interchange works more successfully than political alliances. MORE

October 11, 2015

Johannes Nästejö/Agustí Fernández

Johannes Nästejö/Agustí Fernández
Konvoj KOR 007

Agustí Fernández/Don Malfon

Fortress

Discordian 061

For the past two decades, Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández has shown that he’s comfortable improvising in just about any circumstance – from solo to big band. But one of his most favored ensembles is the duo. Stepping into the musical ring with an acknowledged heavyweight of the Free Music world can’t be easy, but Swedish bassist Johannes Nästejö and fellow Catalan alto and baritone saxophonist Don Malfon acquit themselves admirably on these sessions. There are no knock-outs, just mutual satisfaction. MORE

October 11, 2015

Agustí Fernández/Don Malfon

Fortress
Discordian 061

Johannes Nästejö/Agustí Fernández

Johannes Nästejö/Agustí Fernández

Konvoj KOR 007

For the past two decades, Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández has shown that he’s comfortable improvising in just about any circumstance – from solo to big band. But one of his most favored ensembles is the duo. Stepping into the musical ring with an acknowledged heavyweight of the Free Music world can’t be easy, but Swedish bassist Johannes Nästejö and fellow Catalan alto and baritone saxophonist Don Malfon acquit themselves admirably on these sessions. There are no knock-outs, just mutual satisfaction. MORE

July 6, 2015

Festival Report

Ring Ring
By Ken Waxman

Try to imagine any North American TV network telecasting a performance by Charles Gayle that’s simultaneously broadcast on radio and via live streaming. Impossible, right? But that’s exactly what took place mid-way through the annual Ring Ring Festival in Belgrade Serbia. Facing an enthusiastic studio audience, Gayle on piano and tenor saxophone plus Polish bassist Ksawery Wojcinski’s subtle string bending and German drummer Klaus Kugel’s aggressive, but un-antagonistic beats played for one hour. This unique programming characterizes Ring Ring (May 19-25) in colorful Belgrade, a city poised between East and West which has been subject to periodic sieges and bombardments since the 14th Century including NATO’s in 1999. Slightly constrained by the studio, Gayle’s tenor saxophone playing was less ferocious than in the past although still characterized by wide vibrato and molten intensity, which was put to good use on a run through of “Ghosts” and during duets with the bassist’s choppy thrusts. A unique pianist, Gayle favored the instrument’s dark register with boogie-woogie allusions, supplemented by his own voicing, which re-harmonized standards like “I’ll Remember You” and “What’s New”, dissected them, eventually revealing the melody, like an X-ray of the skeleton beneath the skin. MORE

March 13, 2015

Mats Gustafsson NU Ensemble

Hidros 6 - Knockin’
Not Two MW 915

Yves Charuest and Ellwood Epps

La Passe

Small Scale Music SM 005

Pierre Yves Martel/Phillippe Lauzier

Sainct Laurens Volume 2

E-tron Records ETRC 019

Barry Guy

Five Fizzles for Samuel Beckett

NoBusiness Records NBEP 2

Something In The Air: Unusual Formats for New Music

By Ken Waxman

Everything old is new again doesn’t go quite far enough in describing formats now available for disseminating music. Not only are downloads and streaming becoming preferred options, but CDs are still being pressed at the same time as musicians experiment with DVDs, vinyl variants and even tape cassettes. Happily the significance of the musical messages outweighs the media multiplicity. MORE

March 8, 2015

Krakow Jazz Autumn.

Krakow, Poland
November 19-22, 2014

By Ken Waxman

Slightly mangling a metaphor, the world premiere of The Blue Shroud, a major new composition by British bassist Barry Guy, performed by a specially constituted Blue Shroud Band (BSB), was a main course of the musical banquet presented during Krakow’s Jazz Autumn in November. The three nights preceding it, which showcased all 14 members of the BSB in smaller combinations, previewed the varied spices and condiments that went into concocting the final repast; while Guy’s evening of free-form improvisations with American multi-reedist Ken Vandermark – who wasn’t a band member – the following night, was the perfect digestif following the rich fare of The Blue Shroud. MORE

December 16, 2014

Agustí Fernández/Mats Gustafsson

Constellations
Clamshell CR23

Raymond MacDonald & Marilyn Crispell

Parallel Moments

Babel BDV 13125

Despite their perceptible differences – a Scott and an American recorded in a 2010 concert; a Swede and a Catalan recorded in a studio in 2013 – these superlative saxophone-piano duos have more in common throughout their 10-track CDs than the fact that none of the four players accept Jazz’s contemporary status quo.

For despite Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s reputation as an untamed reed explorer as opposed to Glasgow’s Raymond MacDonald as a more classicist Free stylist, when either plays soprano saxophone here, the results are as sensitive as could be from men whose vocabulary long ago internalized the advances of saxophonist as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Evan Parker and Peter Brötzmann. Elsewhere, Gustafsson is suitably bellicose on baritone; and McDonald more abrasive on alto. The other point of congruence is that while American pianist Marilyn Crispell was first known for her rugged style, which aimed to translate Coltrane’s expanded vibrations to the keyboard, she’s quite subdued at the beginning of her duos on this disc; only become more rigorously experimental and percussive as the recital unrolls. In contrast, Catalan Agustí Fernández, who brings matchless so-called classical technique as well as cooperative strategies from working in larger and smaller ensembles, is the soundboard roughneck here. While the American only tries out preparation on her strings in the CD’s penultimate minute, Fernández’s strings and keys are prepped for musical combat from the first. His strokes, plucks, echoes and thrusts not only demand tough ripostes from Gustafsson, but also sonically introduce electronics insinuations. MORE

November 6, 2014

Zlatko Kaučič/Augustí Fernández

Sonic Party
NotTwo MW 912-2

Sten Sandell & Paal Nilssen-Love

Jacana

Rune Grammofon RCD 2159 CD

Recorded live slightly more than a week apart at different European festivals, two accomplished piano-drums duos demonstrate the width and breadth of concentrated improvisations on these discs.

All the players are peripatetic veterans, who have worked with other masters of the genre(s) like saxophonists Peter Brötzmann and Evan Parker; and each set of players brings am individual sensibility to the interface. Perhaps by happenstance the two Southern Europeans – Spanish pianist Augustí Fernández and Slovenian percussionist Zlatko Kaučič Zlatko Kaucic appear more committed to the Jazz tradition, while the two Northern Europeans – Swedish pianist Sten Sandell and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love – operate more within the realm of Free Music. Each approach is equally suitable and significant MORE

June 25, 2014

Barry Guy New Orchestra

Amphi, Radio Rondo
Intakt CD 235

Danielle Palardy Roger

Le Caillou

Ambiances Magnetiques AM 215 CD

Modern Art Orchestra Plays the Music of Kristóf Bascó

Circular

BMC CD 204

Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit

First Blow

PNL Records PNL 021

Graham Collier

Luminosity-The Last Suites

Jazzcontinuum GCM 2014

Something In The Air: Translating a Singular Vision to a Large Ensemble

By Ken Waxman
MORE

April 28, 2014

Joe Morris/Agustí Fernández/Nate Wooley

From the Discrete to the Particular
Relative Pitch RPR 008

Fernández/Manouach/Sans

Wry

Clamshell Records CR 13

After establishing himself as almost without question Spain’s most accomplished improvising pianist, Barcelona-based Agustí Fernández maintains an international career as well as a local one. These premium-quality trio discs, featuring completely divergent instrumentation, recorded about nine months apart demonstrate his interactive facility.

With the unique formation of two chordal instruments and one brass, From the Discrete to the Particular captures a New Haven gig matching the pianist with guitarist Joe Morris, with whom he has played frequently and newer collaborator trumpeter Nate Wooley. Brittle and somewhat disconcerting, the contrapuntal scrapes, buzzes and plucks easily inhabit the abstract Free Music sphere. Recorded the next year in Saint Pere de Vilaajor in Catalonia, Wry is a more ferocious program, reuniting Fernández, with drummer Ivo Sans, who with the pianist is one of the 11 members of the Free Art Ensemble, and adding Greek soprano saxophonist Ilan Manouach. Classic Free Jazz trios such as pianist Cecil Taylor’s with saxist Jimmy Lyons and drummer Sunny Murray are suggested here, except that Manouach’s tone is thinner, subtler and more wide-ranging than Lyons’; while Sans is more involved and less overbearing then Murray. MORE

November 8, 2013

Label Spotlight:

Relative Pitch Records
By Ken Waxman

We both feel that every release has been a success,” says Kevin Reilly, co-owner with Mike Panico, of the New York area-based Relative Pitch (RP) record label. “I want to stay away from categorizing our releases according to the parameters of late industrial capitalist consumerism.”

Economic methodology aside, in the less than five years since it was founded, Relative Pitch has already put out 14 well-regarded CDs, featuring younger advanced players such as guitarist Mary Halvorson and trumpeter Nate Wooley, plus veteran free musicians including bassist Joëlle Léandre and saxophonist Urs Leimgruber. MORE

October 24, 2013

Agustí Fernández

Pianoactivity\One
Sirulita 1201

Pat Thomas

Al-Khwarizmi Variations

Fataka 4

Matthew Shipp

Piano Sutras

Thirsty Ear

Julie Sassoon

Land of Shadows

JazzWerkstatt JW 127

Less of a arduous challenge than a literal record of a keyboardist`s skill at a particular point in time, the solo piano disc is still a milestone in the career of any improvising musician. Although much more common than in years past and latterly joined by innumerable other unaccompanied showcases by reed, brass, string and percussion players, the historical heft of a piano disc is still significant. MORE

July 20, 2013

Evan Parker Electrocacoustic Ensemble

Hasselt
psi 12.03

Continuing his rapprochement with electronic currents, British saxophonist Evan Parker has organized a 13-piece ensemble almost equally divided between acoustic and processing instruments. This disc is notable historically, showing how the philosophies of pure electronics and pure acoustics can intersect. Nonetheless the results aren’t too surprising, considering that the majority of players on both sides of the equation are comfortable in both milieus.

Pieced together from performances presented on different nights in concert in Hasselt, Belgium, the CD climaxes with a more-than-half-hour sequence featuring the entire group. However the trio of preceding selections matches players from both sides of the electro-acoustic divide – without Parker – for shorter instant compositions. “Hasselt 1” and “Hasselt 2” are most illustrative, as they aptly demonstrate how a commanding musical personality, pianist Augustí Fernández in the first case and bassist Barry Guy in the second, can dominate the proceedings despite the presence of potentially louder plugged-in instruments. For instance, the Catalan pianist’s high-frequency keyboard sweeps and tremolo string resonations from inside and outside his instrument on the first piece create a swiftly paced narrative that makes Walter Prati’s computer processing a junior improvising partner. In the same way, the subterranean textures from contrabass clarinetist Peter van Bergen and Guy’s double bass on “Hasselt 2” are more ruggedly commanding and percussively directed than the live electronics produced by the FURT duo of Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer. MORE

January 11, 2013

Artist Feature

Agustí Fernández
By Ken Waxman

A complete pianist in every sense of the word who blends exquisite technique with innovative inspiration, Agustí Fernández is arguably Spain’s most accomplished contemporary improviser. This month he’s playing four nights in different configurations at the Stone, a rare series of American dates. “I like all kind of combinations, from duo to big ensembles because each one presents different challenges for a player,” he explains. “Listening, language, instruments, techniques, sound, volume, interplay, etc. will be different in every setting.” MORE

January 1, 2013

Evan Parker & Agustí Fernández

Booklet notes for: The Voice is One
NotTwo Records MW 878-2

With improvised music dependent on in-the-moment factors and inspiration, it’s sobering to imagine that this masterful 2009 concert featuring British saxophonist Evan Parker and Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández was in fact a make-up date. Scheduled as part of the annual Festival de Jazz de Barcelona in November, the gig was actually rescheduled from the summer of 2008 when a sudden violent storm in the medieval Plaça Del Rei, necessitated cancellation after the sound check. “Everything was ready for the music: instruments, musicians, audience,” recalls Fernández, “but the weather had other ideas. There were rivers of water everywhere on the streets; we couldn’t walk.” MORE

June 10, 2012

Agustí Fernández

El laberint de la memòria
Mbari Musica MBARI 04

Kris Davis

Aeriol Piano

Clean Feed CF 233 CD

Denman Maroney

Double Zero

Porter Records PRCD-4063

Simon Nabatov

Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols

Leo Records CD LR 632

Something In The Air: Solo Piano Strategies

By Ken Waxman

Solo playing has always been the make-or-break yardstick for pianists of any genre. That’s solo playing not playing solo, an important distinction which differentiates between exhibiting showy breaks and having an overall musical plan for the mini-orchestra this is at his or her fingertips. The solo challenge is more pronounced for improvisers since even if they’re interpreting compositions, originality is the paramount concern. These challenges don’t prevent pianists from trying their hands at solo sessions. But it’s instructive to note that the memorable ones, such as the piano dates here by an American, a Canadian, a Catalan and a Russian, use different strategies to attain matchless quality. MORE

May 6, 2012

Label Spotlight:

Maya Recordings
By Ken Waxman

As much as anything else, the birth of Maya Recordings, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, was born from impatience. Swiss violinist Maya Homburger, who operates the boutique label with her husband, British bassist/composer Barry Guy, recalls that since at that time another label was slow in putting out Arcus, a recording by Guy and bassist Barre Phillips, they decided to do so themselves. By 2012 29 Maya CDs have been released, improvised as well as baroque music.

The two were already veteran musician when Maya was created. Zürich-born Homburger, for instance, has worked with ensembles such as Trio Virtuoso and Camerata Kilkenny; while London-born Guy is part of many free jazz aggregations and is the founder/artistic director of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LCJO). Maya was envisioned as a different sort of imprint, Homburger recalls. “We wanted to create a label where music, cover art and writing were all related and on the highest level. We wanted to have control over the look as well as the sound.” MORE

January 20, 2012

Rhapsody's 2011 Jazz Critics' Poll

Individual Ballot
From Ken Waxman

1) Your name and primary affiliation(s) (no more than two, please)

2) Ken Waxman

Jazz Word (www.jazzword.com )

3) Your choices for 2011's ten best new releases (albums released between Thanksgiving 2010 and Thanksgiving 2011, give or take), listed in descending order one-through-ten.

1. World Saxophone Quartet Yes We Can Jazzwerkstatt JW 098

2. Gerald Cleaver Uncle June Be It As I See It Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-375

3. Hubbub Whobub Matchless MRCD 80 MORE

October 10, 2011

Festival Report:

Météo Music Festival August 23 to August 27 2011
By Ken Waxman

Météo means weather in French, and one notable aspect of this year’s Météo Music Festival which takes place in Mulhouse, France, was the weather. It’s a testament to the high quality of the creative music there that audiences throughout the five days were without exception quiet and attentive despite temperatures in non air-conditioned concert spaces that hovered around the high 90sF. More dramatically, one afternoon a sudden freak thunderstorm created an unexpected crescendo to a hushed, spatial performance, by the Greek-Welsh Cranc trio of cellist Nikos Veliotis, harpist Rhodri Davies and violinist Angharad Davies, when winds violently blew ajar the immense wooden front door of Friche DMC, a former thread factory, causing glass to shatter and fall nosily. MORE

July 7, 2011

Evans/Fernández/Gustafsson

Kopros Lithos
Multikulti Project MP 1013

Augustí Fernández/Barry Guy/Ramón López

Morning Glory

Maya Records MCD 1001

Joe Morris/Agustí Fernández

Ambrosia

Riti CD11

Agustí Fernández & Joan Saura

Vents

psi 11.01

By Ken Waxman

Over the past 15 years Catalan pianist Augustí Fernández has become the most celebrated pianist – if not complete improviser – from his part of the world. In many ways he’s the successor to pianist Tete Montoliu (1933-1997). But while Montoliu was a bopper, Fernández doesn’t limit himself to one style, as this quatrtet of memorable discs makes evident. MORE

July 7, 2011

Joe Morris/Agustí Fernández

Ambrosia
Riti CD11

Agustí Fernández & Joan Saura

Vents

psi 11.01

Evans/Fernández/Gustafsson

Kopros Lithos

Multikulti Project MP 1013

Augustí Fernández/Barry Guy/Ramón López

Morning Glory

Maya Records MCD 1001

By Ken Waxman

Over the past 15 years Catalan pianist Augustí Fernández has become the most celebrated pianist – if not complete improviser – from his part of the world. In many ways he’s the successor to pianist Tete Montoliu (1933-1997). But while Montoliu was a bopper, Fernández doesn’t limit himself to one style, as this quatrtet of memorable discs makes evident. MORE

July 7, 2011

Augustí Fernández/Barry Guy/Ramón López

Morning Glory
Maya Records MCD 1001

Agustí Fernández & Joan Saura

Vents

psi 11.01

Evans/Fernández/Gustafsson

Kopros Lithos

Multikulti Project MP 1013

Joe Morris/Agustí Fernández

Ambrosia

Riti CD11

By Ken Waxman

Over the past 15 years Catalan pianist Augustí Fernández has become the most celebrated pianist – if not complete improviser – from his part of the world. In many ways he’s the successor to pianist Tete Montoliu (1933-1997). But while Montoliu was a bopper, Fernández doesn’t limit himself to one style, as this quatrtet of memorable discs makes evident. MORE

July 7, 2011

Agustí Fernández & Joan Saura

Vents
psi 11.01

Evans/Fernández/Gustafsson

Kopros Lithos

Multikulti Project MP 1013

Augustí Fernández/Barry Guy/Ramón López

Morning Glory

Maya Records MCD 1001

Joe Morris/Agustí Fernández

Ambrosia

Riti CD11

By Ken Waxman

Over the past 15 years Catalan pianist Augustí Fernández has become the most celebrated pianist – if not complete improviser – from his part of the world. In many ways he’s the successor to pianist Tete Montoliu (1933-1997). But while Montoliu was a bopper, Fernández doesn’t limit himself to one style, as this quatrtet of memorable discs makes evident. MORE

February 7, 2011

Augustí Fernández/Barry Guy/Ramón López

Morning Glory
Maya Records MCD 1001

Undivided

The Passion

Multikulti MPI 011

Ozone featuring Miklós Lukács

This is C'est la Vie

BMC Records BMCCD163

Nils Ostendorf/Philip Zoubek/Philippe Lauzier

Subsurface

Schraum Records 11

Something in the Air: Global Combos

By Ken Waxman

Globalization, mass communication and travel have actually created certain situations where the standardization of everything from hamburger patties to drum beats can be experienced no matter where in the world a person is situated. Increased mobility also, for instance, allows like-minded musicians in different locations to exchange thoughts and ideas. Because of this, the 21st Century has seen the instigation of literal global ensembles; musicians who work together regularly but live in different cities, countries or even continents. MORE

September 18, 2010

Agustí Fernández/Barry Guy

Some Other Place
Maya MCD 0902

Borah Bergman & Giorgio Dini

One More Time

SILTA Records SR801

Dating from a time when intimate night clubs feared the potentially bombastic rhythms of a drum kit, piano-bass duos – often with the additional of a guitar – became the last work in sophisticated jazz. Employed memorably by piano stylists as different as Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Ahmad Jamal and Bill Evans, a tendency towards fussiness and minimalist panache is avoided if the strength of the pianist and bassist are equally matched. MORE

February 1, 2010

John Butcher Group

Somethingtobesaid
Weight of Wax WOW 02

Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble

The Moment’s Energy

ECM 2066

Now that a large portion of improvised music is deliberately moving further away from its swing-blues roots and into an accommodation with New music, a few far-sighted so-called classical festivals have made a place for improvisers. Tellingly, both these captivating CDs featuring ensembles performing large-scale compositions by significant British saxophonists, were commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. More importantly, neither work is a jazz-classical cameo, but expansive enough to allow the composers’ ideas to be figuratively painted on a larger canvas, using an extended sonic palate. MORE

February 1, 2010

Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble

The Moment’s Energy
ECM 2066

John Butcher Group

Somethingtobesaid

Weight of Wax WOW 02

Now that a large portion of improvised music is deliberately moving further away from its swing-blues roots and into an accommodation with New music, a few far-sighted so-called classical festivals have made a place for improvisers. Tellingly, both these captivating CDs featuring ensembles performing large-scale compositions by significant British saxophonists, were commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. More importantly, neither work is a jazz-classical cameo, but expansive enough to allow the composers’ ideas to be figuratively painted on a larger canvas, using an extended sonic palate. MORE

September 26, 2009

Augustí Fernández & Ingar Zach

Germinal
Plasticstrip pspcd708

Augustí Fernández

Un llamp que no s’acaba mai

psi 09.04

Barcelona-based Augustí Fernández is probably the most accomplished and readily identifiable Spanish pianist since Tete Montolieu – although both he and Montolieu would likely prefer to be known as Catalans.

Each of these high-class sessions emphasizes Fernández’ inventive versatility. As a quick rule-of-thumb, Un llamp que no s’acaba mai involves more of his on-the-keyboard skills and Germinal his explorations beneath the lid – bowing and slapping the string mechanism from soundboard to speaking length. MORE

September 26, 2009

Augustí Fernández

Un llamp que no s’acaba mai
psi 09.04

Augustí Fernández & Ingar Zach

Germinal

Plasticstrip pspcd708

Barcelona-based Augustí Fernández is probably the most accomplished and readily identifiable Spanish pianist since Tete Montolieu – although both he and Montolieu would likely prefer to be known as Catalans.

Each of these high-class sessions emphasizes Fernández’ inventive versatility. As a quick rule-of-thumb, Un llamp que no s’acaba mai involves more of his on-the-keyboard skills and Germinal his explorations beneath the lid – bowing and slapping the string mechanism from soundboard to speaking length. MORE

March 28, 2009

Jazz Brugge

Brugge, Belgium
October 2-October 5, 2008

Pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s German quartet rolled through a set of Thelonious Monk compositions; Sardinians, saxophonist Sandro Satta and keyboardist Antonello Salis liberally quoted Charles Mingus lines during their incendiary set; Berlin-based pianist Aki Takase and saxophonist Silke Eberhard recast Ornette Coleman’s tunes; and the French Trio de Clarinettes ended its set with harmonies reminiscent of Duke Ellington’s writing for his reed section.

All these sounds and many more were highlighted during the fourth edition of Jazz Brugge, which takes place every second year in this tourist-favored Belgium city, about 88 kilometres from Brussels. But sonic homage and musical interpolations were only notable when part of a broader interpretation of improvised music. Other players in this four-day festival came from Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Poland and Belgium. With strains of rock, New music and folklore informing the jazz presented at the festival’s three sonically impressive venues, music at the most notable concerts was completely unique or added to the tradition. The less-than-memorable sets were mired in past achievements or unworkable formulae MORE

August 15, 2008

Fernández/Parker/Guy/Lytton

Topos
Maya Records MCD 0701

Finding a role within an already existing musical partnership can be problematic. When the relationship has lasted most of three decades it’s that much riskier. Yet as the nine instant compositions on this CD demonstrate, Catalan pianist Augustí Fernández creates no fissure when he performs with the long-standing British trio of saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton.

It helps that the pianist, along with Lytton, is a member of extended Guy and Parker ensembles. Yet he’s such an accomplished stylist, whose collaborators range from Free Jazz bassist William Parker to New music flautist Jane Rigler, that his input enhances the tracks so that each part of the paradigm seems indivisible. MORE

August 11, 2006

Evan Parker Octet

Crossing the River
psi 06.02

Although there’s a numerical equivalence plus the crossover of several musicians, this octet shouldn’t be confused with the ensemble involved in tenor saxophonist Evan Parker’s electro-acoustic performances.

For a start there’s no hint of electronics here, even from violinist Philipp Wachsmann, who commonly uses wave forms as regularly as rosin. Plus while Wachsmann and Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández are on board, there’s no sign of the reedist’s long-time playing partners, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton. There’s no drummer at all in fact, while Wachsmann is part of a string choir of cellist Marcio Mattos, bassist John Edwards and guitarist John Russell – all of whom have played with Parker in other contexts. Most jolting is that the saxophonist is one of three horn players. John Rangecroft’s clarinet and Neil Metcalfe’s flute are the other wind instruments. Over the course of the more-than-77-minute CD, both get more space than Parker himself. MORE

February 27, 2006

Agustí Fernández & Mats Gustafsson

Critical Mass
psi

Agustí Fernández
Camallera
G3 Records/Sirulita

Agustí Fernández Quartet
Lonely Woman
Taller de Músics/Sirulita

By Ken Waxman
February 27, 2006

Without trying to propose a rigid maxim, it’s evident that much of the best improvised music has come from individuals whose ethnic group was or is removed from the mainstream.

Jazz, of course, was invented by oppressed African Americans, and since that time its most accomplished practitioners have usually been players from Black, Jewish, Italian or other minority backgrounds. The situation is a little more muddled in Europe, but interestingly enough the first universally acknowledged non-American jazzer was a Roma, guitarist Django Reinhardt. While setting up a hierarchy of victimology is silly, it’s instructive to consider, for example, that the two most acclaimed Spanish pianists are Catalan, not majority Spaniards. Tete Montoliu (1933-1997) was a masterful pop-bopper as his many sessions with American sidemen attest; while today, Barcelona-resident Agustí Fernández is similarly accepted in so-called avant-garde jazz circles. MORE

September 12, 2005

Barry Guy New Orchestra

Oort – Entropy
Intakt

Maya Homburger & Barry Guy with Pierre Favre
Dakryon
Maya

By Ken Waxman
September 11, 2005

Established as one of FreeImprov’s most accomplished composer/bandleaders as well as a major improvising double bassist, Barry Guy continues to extend his musical range.

Having slimmed down his main compositional tool, the 17-piece London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) to the more compact 10 piece, all-star Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGO), Oort – Entropy shows how the group reconstitutes specific sounds. The idea is to expand musical elements initially conceived for Guy’s trio with American pianist Marilyn Crispell and British drummer Paul Lytton. MORE

December 20, 2004

EVAN PARKER’S ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC ENSEMBLE

Memory/Vision
ECM 1852

Accelerating involvement in electro-acoustic creations has characterized one of British saxophonist Evan Parker’s many activities since the mid-1990s.

Parker, whose more than 35 year career has involved membership in groups ranging from massive big bands to two matchless improv trios, and who helped create the solo saxophone recital, has mastered a different genre with this CD.

In its parameters and evocation, this 70-minute plus continuous performance, commissioned by a British contemporary music festival, amplifies the reedist’s partnerships and conceptions. Performed by a nonet, two of the players -- bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton -- are Parker collaborators of decades standing and combine in one of his long constituted trios. Two others -- British/Ugandan violinist Philipp Wachsmann and Spanish pianist Augustí Fernández have worked with Parker in duo and larger group situations, both electronic an acoustic. Parker and Guy alone have recorded with Lawrence Casserley who mans the signal processing equipment here; while computer sound processor Joel Ryan has worked with Parker and French bassist Joëlle Léandre, another Parker associate. Italians Walter Prati on electronics and sound processing and Marco Vecchi on electronics have participated in the saxist’s other electro-acoustic sessions. MORE

June 28, 2004

JOHN BUTCHER/CHRISTOPHER IRMER/AGUSTÍ FERNÁNDEZ

Clearings
ART.CappuccinoNet 008

Trans-European improv, CLEARINGS showcases a meeting of minds among musicians from three different countries with three distinct approaches to free music. Resulting in a substantial program of melding timbres, the CD confirms that only in a liberated musical situation like this could disparate styles meld.

As a matter of fact, if there was ever a complete misnomer, then it’s the title of the second track, “Bumpy Ride”. Here and elsewhere, the distinctive smeary trills of Britain’s John Butcher morph into wiggling irregular vibrations and join the speedy spiccato bowing of Germany’s Christoph Irmer and the dissonant, uneven note clusters of Spain’s Agustí Fernández sans bumps. MORE

March 3, 2003

JANE RIGLER & AUGUSTÌ FERNÁNDEZ

Mandorla
Dewdrop Recordings DDR 002

Defined as the union of opposites, Mandorla, the Italian word for “almond”, is used adroitly in this case. An ancient symbol of two circles overlapping one another to form an almond shape, it accurately describes this short -- 46 minute -- and exceptional CD of impressive, improvisations by what should be paradoxical partners.

Flutist Jane Rigler is a woman, an American and an academic with a PhD from the University of California, San Diego in Theoretical and Experimental Studies. With a repertoire that includes complex scores by Brian Ferneyhough, Vinko Globokar, John Cage and Bruno Maderna among others, she has also explored electronics, interactive computer music and improvisation with the likes of violinist Christoph Irmer, inside-pianist Andrea Neuman and percussionist Lê Quan Ninh. MORE

January 27, 2003

TRIO LOCAL

Trio Local +
Dewdrop Recordings DDR 001

The + in the title is intentional. It’s literally a plus sign, for this CD features three of Barcelona, Spain’s most accomplished improvisers collaborating with French, German and British improvisers.

A meeting of minds -- and fingers -- this fine CD shows that Iberian improvisers can undoubtedly hold their own with players with more advanced scenes. However, it should be stressed that Trio Local, which has been together since the mid-1990s is a Catalonian rather than a Spanish group. In the northeast and near the Pyrenees, Catalonia like Quebec in Canada, sees itself as distinct from the rest of Spain. Harsher and more abrasive than their southern counterparts, Catalonians also have a history of intellectualism, organization and progressive politics. It was this area that held out against Francisco Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War and relations between Barcelona and the capital, Madrid, are always a bit distant. MORE

October 7, 2002

DEREK BAILEY/AGUSTÌ FERNÁNDEZ

Barcelona
Hopscotch Records HOP 10

Excessive intellectualism is one of the most common properties ascribed to completely improvised music like this. Especially if, as on this duo CD, it involves experienced European virtuosi such as Spanish pianist Augustí Fernández and British guitarist and elder statesman of the genre, Derek Bailey.

But, while the collective biographies of the two encompass experience in contemporary classical music, dance band sounds, studio pop and most definitely jazz, a cozy duo session like this one could be linked to an earlier tradition. Performing together in a Barcelona studio, aren’t Fernández and Bailey expressing themselves in a so-called folkloric way? Bringing experience and mother wit into play as each deals with the other’s techniques and inspirations, they appear to be following early urban blues partnerships such as pianist Georgia Tom and guitarist Tampa Red or pianist Leroy Carr and guitarist Scrapper Blackwell. MORE

January 1, 2002

AUGUSTÍ FERNÁNDEZ/WILLIAM PARKER

2nd Set
Radical Records M PE 047

AUGUSTÍ FERNÁNDEZ/CHRISTOPH IRMER

Ebro Delta

Hybrid CD 18

Every day it seems, impressive improvising musicians are appearing in places most North Americans don’t associate with innovative sounds or even modern music. Appearing, of course is a relative term. In cases like this the “appearance” isn’t any more a description than our concept of Columbus “discovering” the New World, which had existed for many previous millennia. MORE