Reviews that mention Joe Fonda

September 12, 2021

Heberer/Fonda/Hertenstein

Remedy
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 04/2021

Devin Gray/Ralph Alessi/Angelica Sanchez

Melt All the Guns

Rataplan Records No #

Balancing two recognizable rhythm section instruments with only the capillary tones of a single trumpet is an unusual configuration. But fortunately these trios made up of veteran improvisers deal firmly and succinctly overcome these supposed impediments.

Each creates a unique program, separated, but not directly affected, by Covid-19 restrictions. The earlier pre-pandemic session Melt All the Guns was convened by New York drummer Devin Gray to interpret four of his compositions that reflect his disgust with the steady increase in American gun violence. His associates are trumpeter Ralph Alessi and pianist Angelica Sanchez. By inference themes on that disc also condemn the retrogressive policies of then-president Donald Trump, whose wrong-headed approach to Covid was one reason for the second CD’s creation. With tours cancelled and self isolating because of the pandemic, affiliated players from different parts of New York met with mandated distance to work through new compositions by each. Two, trumpeter Thomas Heberer and percussionist Joe Hertenstein are German born, while bassist Joe Fonda is an American. MORE

March 3, 2021

Conference Call

Prism
NotTwo MW 1004-2

Rich Halley

The Shape of Things

Pine Eagle Records 013

Jason Robinson

Harmonic Constituent

Playscape Recordings PSR #081119

Brevity is more than the soul of wit. It applies to musical thought as well. At least that’s why of these three outstanding reeds-and-rhythm section dates, Jason Robinson is more problematic than the other two. While Conference Call and the Rich Halley quartet limit themselves to seven and six tracks respectively, Robinson’s group express themselves on 13 (!) for a CD length of more than 78 minutes. It wouldn’t be fair to describe Harmonic Constituent as bloated, but some judicious slimming would have turned good to very good. MORE

July 21, 2020

Uwe Oberg/Joe Fonda/Lucía Martínez

Relight
NotTwo MW 994-2

Paraskevopoulos/Winter/Pröll

Live at artacts ’19 St. Johann

Creative Sources CS 622 CD

Andy Milne and Unison

The Remission

Sunnyside Records SSC 1576

Jim Black Trio

Reckon

Intakt CD 334

Favored in many styles of Jazz at least since the early 1950s, the conventional piano, bass and drums trio has been used by everyone from Teddy Wilson on one hand to Cecil Taylor on the other. The true test of interpretation for many though is how to assert individuality within the category’s parameters. Each trio here does so, but happily with singular solutions. MORE

April 17, 2019

Harvey Sorgen Joe Fonda Marilyn Crispell

Dreamstruck
NotTwo MK 977-2

Pandelis Karayorgis Trio

Cliff

Driff Records CD 1803

Domeniconi/Schlegel/Suter

Quince Dreams

Creative Sources CS 495

The Room

Time & Space

el NEGOCITO Records eNR084

With a history now as old as Rock’n’Roll, but unlike that inward turning genre, the Jazz piano trio continues to be a method of original expression for many players. Without altering its basic shape, savvy musicians can use the format to be as traditional or as ingenious as possible. Luckily the 12 players on these discs – two American and two European trios – excel on the latter path. MORE

July 1, 2018

Michael Musillami Trio +2

Life Anthem
Playscape PSR #091717

From great suffering comes great art or at least that’s what one cliché insists. But in the case of Life Anthem an argument can be made for the statement’s veracity. Recorded a little more than year after an emergency neurosurgery excised the American guitarist Michael Musillami’s unexpected brain hemorrhage and brain tumor, the over-70-minute session has some of the most accomplished writing and playing he’s produced in his more than quarter-century career. Musillami isn’t alone in this. Backing comes from bassist Joe Fonda, known for his work in bands like Conference Call and the FAB trio and drummer George Schuller, with his own Schull Dogs group, both of whom have played with the guitarist since 2002. Musical heft is added by two new collaborators: cornetist Kirk Knuffke and saxophonist/flutist Jason Robinson, both active on the New York scene. MORE

March 21, 2017

Generations Quartet

Flow
NotTwo MW942-2

Dependent on talent not fashion, the generation gap has never been as pronounced in Jazz and improvised music as it is in other fields. Like herds of animals whose direction is determined by skill, sociability and strength of some members, democracy prevails in most musical situations. That’s the basis for the flow of Flow on this CD, which also highlights cross-generational cooperation.

Centre of the band are Americans, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, 66, and bassist Joe Fonda, 61, who have been partners for three decades in their own bands and others such as Conference Call. Generations’ veteran is alto saxophonist Oliver Lake, 74, a leader or member of innumerable groups, including the World Saxophone Quartet, since his work in the early 1970s as part of St. Louis’ Black Artists Group. Many years later, versatile Vienna-based drummer Emil Gross, who is still in his twenties, was born. His presence not only adds credence to the generations tag, but showcases an adapt tyro, who also gigs as a guitarist and has worked with other American such as singer/pianist Mike Kindred and trumpeter Herb Robertson, MORE

February 13, 2017

Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda

Duet
Long Song Records LSROC 140

Porta Palace Collective

Neuroplastic Groove

Rudi Records RRJ 1031

Strikingly evident most of the time, there appears to be very little pianist/composer Satoko Fujii can’t do when it comes to improvised music. Like an actor who is as comfortable performing in unadorned comedy sketches as lavish costume theatricals, Fujii’s skills, are adaptable to situations ranging from bare-bones solo and duo meditations to group situations, stretching from her own small and big bands to affiliated work with ensembles of many sizes. MORE

April 7, 2015

Wojtczak Nyconnection

Folk Five
ForTune 0050 006

By Ken Waxman

Despite appearances, this isn’t a CD by a Polish folk-fusion band, but a summit attended by the All-American Fonda-Stevens group plus Polish reedist Irek Wojtczak. Wojtczak, who plays soprano and tenor saxophones plus bass clarinet, aptly fills the chair which previously hosted the likes of saxophonists Gebhard Ullmamn or Daunik Lazro. From the Łęczyca region, Wojtczak favors Polish folk sounds. Using that thematic material Folk Five shows that kujawiak, mazurek and other Polish dances can be the basis for improvisation. Also implied are the links between eastern European sounds plus early and modern jazz. MORE

August 28, 2013

Barry Altschul

The 3Dom Factor
TUM CD 032

Maintaining his creativity after more than 50 years as a professional musician, this first-rate CD of improvisations and mostly originals by drummer Barry Altschul, 70, proves that when it comes to the creative musician, age is just a number.

Over the years Altschul, who lived for extended periods in France as well as the United States, has provided the rhythmic impetus behind innovators ranging from veterans like pianist Paul Bley and saxophonist Sam Rivers to younger players such as bassist Adam Lane. The 3Dom Factor offers more of the same. Versatile bassist Joe Fonda is a decade younger than the drummer, while fiery tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon is 35 years his junior. Still it’s accord and experience which account for the sympathetic interaction here. Altschul, Fonda and the late violinist Billy Bang made up the FAB trio; while bassist Mark Helias and Altschul fill out Irabagon’s Foxy trio. Crucially the session also gives the drummer an opportunity to revisit some of his compositions first recorded in the 1970s and 1980s. MORE

January 10, 2012

Eastern Boundary Quartet

Icicles
Konnex KCD 5258

Carlo De Rosa’s Cross-Fade

Brain Dance

Cuneiform Rune 317

Ivo Perelman Quartet

The Hour of the Star

Leo Records CD LR 605

Of all the formations that have characterized improvisation at least since the Bop era, the most common has been that of one reed player along with piano, bass and drums. Just because it’s unexceptional doesn’t mean every session has to be identical however, especially if the meeting ground is original compositions. As these quartet discs demonstrate, plenty of variations are available, even if the form prods participants towards a mainstream orientation. MORE

February 12, 2011

Nu Band

Live in Paris
NoBusiness Records NBCD 16

Lou Grassi Po Band

Live at the Knitting Factory Vol. 1 (with Marshall Allen)

Porter Records PRCD 4051

By Ken Waxman

Recorded almost exactly seven years apart, these high-class discs illuminate drummer Lou Grassi’s hard-hitting yet rhythmically sophisticated style in two advanced group contexts. At home with styles ranging from ragtime to free form, Grassi advances any project in tandem with other players, never drawing undue attention to himself.

A welcome document involving the drummer’s long-constituted – since 1995 – Po Band, Live at the Knitting Factory features flutist/saxophonist Marshall Allen, linchpin of the Sun Ra Arkestra, guesting with the 2000 version of the group. Besides Grassi, trumpeter Paul Smoker, trombonist Steve Swell and clarinettist Perry Robinson are featured along with the late bassist Wilber Morris. That same year, Grassi hooked up with three other mature players to form the Nu Band. Live in Paris, recorded in 2007, demonstrates the close cooperation which has allowed it to flourish. Although each Nu Band member is a leader in his own right – as are Po Band’s participants – the CD’s extended tracks demonstrate the group’s collegial if not musical harmony. Mercurial reedist Mark Whitecage and fiery brass man Roy Campbell have an ideal setting for their contrapuntal connections, while the drummer and solid bassist Joe Fonda – who plays in as many bands as Grassi – not only keep the music on an even keel, but solos impressively. MORE

July 13, 2009

FAB Trio

Live In Amsterdam
Porter Records PRCD-4014

Revolutionary Ensemble

Beyond the Boundary of Time

Mutable MM-17532-2

Leroy Jenkins (1932-2007) and his direct successor Billy Bang (b. 1947) occupy unique niches in the history of advanced improvised music. Arguably the first person to fully integrate the violin into both the so-called New Thing and New music, Jenkins’ impelled the traditional instrument’s rhythmic and lyrical functions beyond those of mere lyricism or rudimentary swing. While the older string player turned increasingly towards formal composition in his final years, shortly afterwards Bang added an additional dimension of unvarnished rhythmic elasticity to Jenkins’ fiddle liberation. MORE

July 13, 2009

Revolutionary Ensemble

Beyond the Boundary of Time
Mutable MM-17532-2

FAB Trio

Live In Amsterdam

Porter Records PRCD-4014

Leroy Jenkins (1932-2007) and his direct successor Billy Bang (b. 1947) occupy unique niches in the history of advanced improvised music. Arguably the first person to fully integrate the violin into both the so-called New Thing and New music, Jenkins’ impelled the traditional instrument’s rhythmic and lyrical functions beyond those of mere lyricism or rudimentary swing. While the older string player turned increasingly towards formal composition in his final years, shortly afterwards Bang added an additional dimension of unvarnished rhythmic elasticity to Jenkins’ fiddle liberation. MORE

November 7, 2006

Thomas, Storrs and Sarpolas

Time Share
Louie Records 036

FAB (Fonda/Altschul/Bang)
Live at the Iron Works, Vancouver
Konnex KCD 5158

Filled with flowing fancy fiddling, these West-Coast recorded CDs showcase the initial and most recent violinist from the long-running String Trio of New York.

They offer much more than that, of course and despite a similarity in personnel, the discs couldn’t be more different. An Eugene, Ore.-native on visit to Corvallis, Ore., violinist Rob Thomas slides through a set of spontaneous compositions in the company of local drummer – and label owner – Dave Storrs, plus other New York visitors, fellow Pacific Northwest expat, bassist Dick Sarpola and his son, percussionist George Sarpola. Thus the TS&S name. Backyard snapshots in the booklet testify to the informality of the session: everyone is wearing shorts and sandals and a nearby table is heaped with chips, dips and soft drinks. MORE

November 7, 2006

FAB (Fonda/Altschul/Bang)

Live at the Iron Works, Vancouver
Konnex KCD 5158

Thomas, Storrs and Sarpolas
Time Share
Louie Records 036

Filled with flowing fancy fiddling, these West-Coast recorded CDs showcase the initial and most recent violinist from the long-running String Trio of New York.

They offer much more than that, of course and despite a similarity in personnel, the discs couldn’t be more different. An Eugene, Ore.-native on visit to Corvallis, Ore., violinist Rob Thomas slides through a set of spontaneous compositions in the company of local drummer – and label owner – Dave Storrs, plus other New York visitors, fellow Pacific Northwest expat, bassist Dick Sarpola and his son, percussionist George Sarpola. Thus the TS&S name. Backyard snapshots in the booklet testify to the informality of the session: everyone is wearing shorts and sandals and a nearby table is heaped with chips, dips and soft drinks. MORE

December 5, 2005

JOHN LINDBERG

Winter Birds
Between the Lines BTLCHR 71203

NU BAND
Live
Konnex KCD 5141

Variations on a quartet theme, the different strategies working bands put across depending on whether they’re involved in a live or a studio situation are illustrated by these CDs.

Recorded on gigs in Rochester, N.Y., Amherst, Mass. and Chicago, LIVE showcases extended five performances from the all-star Nu Band quartet that allow its veteran members extensive space in which to let loose. On the other hand, WINTER BIRDS captures the quartet of bassist John Lindberg, with as stellar a line-up, working in a studio date that followed 13 European concerts in 15 days. Playing nine of the bassist’s tunes and one written by flautist Steve Gorn, the CD recreates in a studio the tightness of the touring quartet MORE

October 15, 2005

Michael Musillami Trio

Dachau
PSR #020505

Confounding expectations, guitarist Michael Musillami adds a couple of twists to this otherwise exceptional classic guitar trio album. There’s the off-putting title and the fact that his basic combo – bassist Joe Fonda and percussionist George Schuller – is joined by pianist Peter Madsen on two tracks, tenor saxophonist Tom Christensen on one, plus those two and trumpeter Dave Ballou on “Dachau”.

Blighted by its association with the nearby Nazi concentration camp, Dachau is the German city where ironically Musillami felt the trio members’ musical ideas really fused. You can hear that in three of the selections, as the guitarist’s unique chording structure brushes up against Schuller’s unforced time-keeping and Fonda throbbing bass line. Longtime Musillami associate Madsen makes his presence felt on numbers like “Part Pitbull” and “Today the Angels” where his cascading chords and modal voicing push the others into tempo switching face-offs, including staccato guitar licks and exposure of the drummer’s bell and shaker add-ons. MORE

September 12, 2005

Ann Arbor’s Edgefest expands in its Ninth Outing

for CODA

Participants, including members of Chicago’s AACM, representatives of Montreal’s Musique Actuelle scene and a New York-based musician and hybrid instrument designer who’ll jam with a golf club and an umbrella, will all take part in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s ninth annual Edgefest, October 19 to October 22.

Taking place in a medium-sized college city, home to the University of Michigan, about an hour’s drive west of Detroit, Edgefest has steadily expanded from its one-day debut to the four-day 2005 festival. Besides American musicians, particular emphasis is on innovators from the music scenes in Holland and Quebec. This year, for instance, Claude St-Jean’s Les Projectionnistes is the featured Quebec ensemble – its second Edgefest appearance – with saxophonist Tobias Delius’ Quartet – including cellist Tristan Honsinger and drummer Han Bennink – representing the Netherlands. MORE

January 24, 2005

André Goudbeek/Xu Fengxia/Joe Fonda

Separate Realities
W.E.R.F.

Collectif ReFLEXible
disque flexible
vzw

Dry Speed
Dry Speed
No label

By Ken Waxman
January 24, 2005

Sort of like the country in which they live, Belgian improvisers don’t have a very high profile. Perhaps it can be expected in a land whose best-known musical export, the late singer/songwriter Jacques Brel, many think of as French.

Interestingly enough, despite Belgium’s bilingual status, it appears as if most of the hard core Free Music action takes part in the Flemish-speaking part of the country. Perhaps it’s a result of the fierce struggle by that group to hang on to its language and culture despite the encroachment of other civilizations. Whatever it is, it allows experimenters like Antwerp-based pianist Fred Van Hove to thrive. MORE

August 30, 2004

MYRA MELFORD’S THE TENT

Where the Two Worlds Touch
Arabesque AJ0159

THE FONDA/STEVENS GROUP
Twelve improvisations
Leo CD LR 394

Building on jazz’s standard two-horns-and-rhythm combo format, these CDs impress by showing how the players manage to make things new by tweaking sounds to match their own aspirations.

A team for over 20 years, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and bassist Joe Fonda do this by not only insisting that all the sounds on their CD be completely improvised, but by adding another voice to the line-up. French alto and baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro is one of that country’s foremost experimenters, working in contexts as varied as solo recitals and bands with saxophonist Michel Doneda and Joe McPhee. Here his unique articulation and sound sources add another dimension to that supplied by the pianist, bassist, long-time drummer Harvey Sorgen, and endlessly inventive trumpeter Herb Robertson, who has worked with Fonda and Stevens in various bands, on-and-off for more than a decade. MORE

June 28, 2004

FONDA/MCPHEE/WHITE/KARETNCK

Heat Suite
Konnex KCD 5122

JIM RYAN’S FORWARD ENERGY
The Concept
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1162

Think of Energy Music in the United States like the committed American Left.

Although denounced as an unfashionable anachronism or a contemptible spent force by bombastic conservative commentators, grass roots organizations unexpectedly assert themselves at the local or national level when events swing too far towards the Right.

It’s the same thing with so called Energy Music, Free Jazz or what in the 1960s was called the New Thing. Always treated with contempt by the established mainstreamers of the day, it was derided as a passing fad almost from the time it was first heard. Today jazz’s neo-cons call it old hat with the same disdain that political neo-cons dismiss the New Deal and the unionization. MORE

April 12, 2004

ANTHONY BRAXTON

Ninetet (Yoshi’s) 1997, Vol.2
Leo CD LR 382/383

Ever get one of those melodies inside your head that you keep hearing over and over again and that you can’t get out of your memory, no matter how hard you try?

Well, Anthony Braxton seems to be trying to create a similar situation with his Ghost Trance Music (GTM). A preoccupation of the composer/reedman since at least the mid-1990s, GTM compositions are usually played by larger bands and include a repetitive -- and nearly identical theme -- leavened by improvised solos.

Like the unique soundworlds created by other distinctive improvisers such as AMM or The Necks, to truly appreciate GTM you have to accept Braxton’s compositions on their own terms. Each time you have to simultaneously focus on the leitmotif that controls the piece’s shape as well as listen to the instrumental work around it. MORE

December 29, 2003

FAB

Transforming the Space
CIMP #284

MALCOLM GOLDSTEIN/MATTHIAS KAUL
Christian Wolff: Bread and Roses
Wergo WER 6658 2

Combining the timbres from the violin and percussion symbolically characterizes the miscegenation that has defined modern music since at least the beginning of the last century. There’s probably a no more European instrument than the violin, or a more African one than the drum. Thus contemporary musical history involves a gradual rapprochement between those two powerful sources. MORE

October 13, 2003

CONFERENCE CALL

Variation on a Master Plan
Leo CD LR 371

Unlike Osama bin Laden or George Bush, it’s very feasible that the members of the Euro-American co-op Conference Call don’t have a real master plan -- and definitely not one for world domination.

However the band’s newest CD does pinpoint a plan variation, as veteran drummer Han Bennink has now taken over the drum chair. It seems to be not a minute too soon, either. For while the flailing Dutchman’s penchant for schtick and bombast can often pulverize more delicate sounds, Conference Call’s other three members are tough enough to face a Lowlands invasion. Plus the nearly perpetual percussion sounds he adds to the disc push the others out of a studied delicacy to which they sometimes seem to be heading. MORE

September 1, 2003

MICHAEL MUSILLAMI TRIO

Beijing
Playscape PSR #J121802

Quietly, while many people have been distracted by flashier and/or better promoted guitarists, journeyman Michael Musillami has gone his own way and become a distinctive, exemplary stylist.

He proves it once again on this 11-track recital by stripping down his accompaniment to that of the classic guitar trio with bass and drums. Of course it helps that the bassist is Joe Fonda, who has worked with everyone from composer Anthony Braxton to guzhengist Xu Fengxia, and the drummer George Schuller, whose list of musical associates range from saxophonist Joe Lovano to bassist Mark Helias. MORE

June 9, 2003

THE NEW FLAGS

Live at the Total Music Meeting 2002
a|l|l 007

JOE FONDA/XU FENGXIA
Distance
Leo Lab CD 069

There may be more than one billion people in China, including a goodly collection of pop music stars and classical music interpreters, but so far the country has yet to produce one major -- or even middling -- free improviser.

By sheer force of numbers and the society’s gradual liberalization, that lack will eventually be rectified. But right now, at least on the evidence of these CDs, the person coming closest to the ideal is Xu Fengxia, the Shanghai-born guzheng player who has lived in Germany since 1991. MORE

March 31, 2003

JOE FONDA

When It’s Time
Jazz ‘Halo TS011

ANTHONY COX That & This
Sketch SKE 333029

KENT KESSLER Bull Fiddle Okka Disk 12038

MIKE BULLOCK Initial
Chloë 001

Four bassists, 40 fingers, no waiting. That’s a slogan you’ll definitely never see, at least not outside of a badly run jam session. Seriously, though, each of these four solo CDs shows how singular an individual’s approach to the same instrument can be.

The double bass shed its reputation as a lumbering workhorse midway through the last century, with advances in jazz, contemporary classical music and free improvisation. Now in a climate of bass liberation, recitals like these demonstrate what committed stylists like the four on show can bring to the same four strings. MORE

April 12, 2002

THE NU BAND

Live at The Bop Shop/Rochester, NY
Clean Feed CF 002CD

Definite truth in packaging if not in spelling, the cooperative Nu Band is new enough to have produced this memorable CD on its third ever gig.

Existing in an economic atmosphere where every improvising musician must have several irons in the fire and operate as a member of several groups simultaneously, this awkwardly named combo is made up of four veteran players who have been concerned with making it new since the mid-1970s.

Trumpeter Roy Campbell may have the highest profile, as one of his other gigs is with Other Dimensions in Music, the co-op quartet that also features bassist William Parker and multi-reedist Daniel Carter. But the brassman has also played and recorded with the likes of pianists Mathew Shipp and violinist Billy Bang plus leading his own aggregations. Bassist Joe Fonda has often worked with composer/performers such as Anthony Braxton and Wadada Leo Smith in the past, and is now involved in a variety of projects, most notably his well-received quartet with pianist Michael Jefrey Stevens. Drummer Lou Grassi has accompanied folks as different as ragtime piano specialist Max Morath and Arkestra mainman alto saxophonist Marshall Allen as well as leading his own PO band. Undeservedly the least known element, alto saxophonist Mark Whitecage spent years as featured sideman in German vibist Gunter Hampel’s Galaxie Dream Band, but lately has been working to raise his own profile. MORE