Reviews that mention Joshua Abrams

October 21, 2016

Rempis/Abrams/Ra + Baker

Perihelion
Aerophonic AR-012

An honest representation of club work in Chicago, this two-CD set is analogous to viewing the dailies in a film shoot. Multi-reedist Dave Rempis’ long-running trio with bassist Joshua Abrams, who is familiar with both Jazz and ethic sounds, plus veteran Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) percussionist Avreeayl Ra, stretches out during one long improvisation on disc one, while eccentric keyboardist Jim Baker, who has worked with everyone from Ken Vandermark to Michael Zerang joins the trio on disc two. MORE

June 1, 2016

Festival Report

Doek ABC
By Ken Waxman

With many parts of the Netherlands reclaimed from the sea over the centuries, the Dutch have long been adroit recycling, reusing and repurposing. So it’s no surprise that except for the soft-seated Bimhuis, with its magnificent waterfront view, most venues for this year’s Doek ABC Improvisation Festival in Amsterdam, April 29 to May 4, had initially been built as schools, warehouses and even a dungeon. These locations were particularly pertinent for this year’s fest which united local improvisers (A) with visitors from Berlin (B) and Chicago (C). The festival also demonstrated how different musicians repurpose the jazz and improvised traditions. MORE

November 21, 2014

Rempis/Abrams/Ra

Aphelion
Aerophonic Records 004

When it comes to expressing pure improv, age is just a number. How else to explain the heartbeat-close interaction of this CD featuring two Chicago improvisers in mid-career and one veteran Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) member?

Although saxophonist Dave Rempis and string player Joshua Abrams are best-known for their affiliations with bands such as those led by Ken Vandermark and Nicole Mitchell, both have an interest in sounds that go beyond those of conventional Jazz. On this CD for instance Abrams plays the guimbri or round-necked Sahara lute and small harp as well as his usual double bass. Meantime AACMer Ra, who has played with everyone from Fred Anderson to Ernest Dawkins, brings his collection of ethnic percussion to the program. MORE

February 11, 2014

Artist Feature

Dave Rempis
By Ken Waxman

For proof that a committed improviser can build an impressive career outside of NYC, look no further than Chicago saxophonist Dave Rempis. The Massachusetts native, who relocated to the Windy City in ’93, is kept busy touring with his own bands as well as in a variety of other groups. This month he’ll play two rare gigs in the Apple, as part of a completely new configuration with trumpeter Nate Wooley, bassist Pascal Niggenkemper and drummer Chris Corsano.

Rempis would often bump into Wooley at European festivals and Chicago gigs, so eventually they decided to combine forces. The trumpeter suggested the other players and the four will record following the dates. The resulting CD may be a joint release on Wooley’s imprint plus Rempis’ six-month-old Aerophonic label. MORE

November 13, 2013

Joshua Abrams Quartet

Unknown Known
Rogueart R0G-0045

Envision Bags & Trane if bassist Paul Chambers was leading the session and the program played was all his compositions. That’s a simple way to imagine the achievements of this disc, although the most known unknown on this Chicago-recorded session is that without legend emulation, the bassist-leader and crew have created a high-gloss, well-paced CD that’s comfortable (post) modern without being too experimental.

One of the most in-demand bassists in the Windy City, Joshua Abrams has a high profile with a variety of bands, working with everyone from flutist Nicole Mitchell to guitarist Jeff Parker. This quartet – like the Modern Jazz Quartet – is filled out by others who are often leaders of their own bands in Chicago. Vibist Jason Adasiewicz, who takes the Milt “Bags” Jackson role here is also part in different Rob Mazurek projects; tenor saxophonist David Boykin, who comes out of the John Coltrane-lineage via the AACM connection, is cast in the Trane spot; while Frank Rosaly, like Connie Kay in his day, is also a busy sideman in bands led by the vibraphonist, Mazurek, Parker and saxophonist Dave Rempis. MORE

September 14, 2013

Nicole Mitchell’s Ice Crystal

Aquarius
Delmark DE 5004

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do

Time Stands Still

NotTwo MW 897-2

Bomata

Arômes d’allieurs

Malasartes mam 016

Wadada Leo Smith and TUM Orchestra

Occupy The World

TUM CD 037-2

Something In The Air: The Guelph Jazz Festival Turns 20

By Ken Waxman

Twenty years after its modest beginning, the Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), which this year takes place September 3 to 8, has grown to be one of this country’s major improvised music celebrations. Unlike many other so-called jazz fests which lard their programs with crooners masquerading as jazz singers, tired rock or pop acts, or so-called World or C&W performers who make no pretense of playing jazz, the GJF continues to showcase committed improvisers in sympathetic settings including during the fourth installment of the dusk-to-dawn Nuit Blanche. MORE

September 9, 2013

Nicole Mitchell’s Ice Crystal

Aquarius
Delmark DE 5004

Watershed

Watershed

RogueArt ROG-0044

Nicole Mitchell

Engraved in the Wind

RogueArt R0G-0047

By Ken Waxman

A major Jazz flautist, Nicole Mitchell recently traded her Chicago base for an academic post at University of California, Irvine. But as these sessions attest, the flautist, who during her two decades in the Windy City played in numerous bands and was an executive of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM), hasn’t let geography or academe slow down her recording schedule. These CDs feature her with quartet of Chicagoans, a mixed French-American quintet and most challengingly, solo. MORE

August 1, 2013

Jeff Albert’s Instigation Quartet

The Tree on the Mound
RogueArt R0G-0046

Two generations of innovative New Orleans residents improvise together on this swiftly moving session of seven original compositions, including four parts of a multi-layered suite. Seconding the Crescent city natives – tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan, 78, and trombonist Jeff Albert 43 – are two Chicagoans on bass and drums, creating an ensemble not unlike those extant during the 1920s when the likes of Sidney Bechet and Kid Ory brought Big Easy styles north to the Windy City.

Of course one can’t take the Crescent City-Windy City historical comparisons too far. For a start neither rhythm section member is an apprentice in advanced sounds like early Chicago Jazzers would have been. As a matter of fact bassist Joshua Abrams is proficient playing various world musics as well as being the linchpin of several Chicago bands, including his own. As for drummer Hamid Drake, he’s one of the most in-demand percussionists in the world, as likely to appear on a European festival stage as a U.S. club gig. MORE

June 28, 2013

Roscoe Mitchell

Three Compositions
Rogueart ROG-0043

A rare glimpse of Roscoe Mitchell’s singular skills as an orchestrator and conductor, the fascination of Numbers is how well an 11-piece strings-and-horns ensemble can balance the saxophonist’s notated and improvisational tropes so that the core of the reedman’s creativity is maintained.

Recorded at a Sardinian Jazz festival, the program’s bets are hedged in two different ways. For a start the three compositions were either – in the case of “Quintet #1 for Eleven” and “Quintet #9 for Eleven” – transcribed from charts Mitchell created for his working combo, then rearranged to allow free sections in this score for the larger group, or in the third, based on game theory. Now titled “Cards for Orchestra”, but really “Memories of a Dying Parachutist”, the track is an aleatory invention, where each solo is based on six cards of musical instruction given to each player by the composer. The instructions can be used in any order and played at any tempo. MORE

March 15, 2013

Living By Lanterns

New Myth/Old Science
Cuneiform Records Rune 345

Mike Reed’s People Places & Things

Clean on the Corner

482 Music 482-1081

Drummer/bandleader Mike Reed has established himself as, among things, a deft interpreter of Chicago’s progressive music history. Nothing like a neo-con however, rather than imitation or emulation he and his People Places & Things create new variations of the city’s rich 1950s and 1960s Jazz heritage. On these exceptional sessions, he, and sidekicks, alto saxophonist Greg Ward – on both discs– and vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz – on New Myth/Old Science – have taken the next step: integrated their own compositions with earlier ones. MORE

November 26, 2012

Josh Berman & His Gang

There Now
Delmark DE 2016

Venerating a bit of Chicago history while turning the concept on its head, is the idea behind cornetist Josh Berman’s There Now CD. Titling his seven-piece group as a “gang”, he references the Eddie Condon-Austin High “gang” of the late 1920s, and arranged five of the Chicago School’s Dixieland signature tunes plus three of his own compositions for this project. But the subversive allure of the CD is that it isn’t a Trad Jazz retread, but an exercise in post-modern voice approximation. MORE

April 1, 2012

Jason Stein Quartet

The Story This Time
Delmark DE 2013

Having chosen to make the often unwieldy bass clarinet his only horn, Chicago-based Jason Stein has also had to use good-old American ingenuity to carve out a singular path for himself. Unlike the relative handful of bass clarinetists who don’t double on other reeds and mostly concentrate on New music or abstract expressionism, Stein defines himself as a Jazzman. Thus this CD’s program mixes five knotty Stein originals with a half dozen other tunes composed either by Thelonious Monk or members of the so-called Lennie Tristano school. Additionally the entire program is anchored by the woody time-keeping of bassist Joshua Abrams and the rhythmic accents of drummer Frank Rosaly. MORE

February 12, 2011

Exploding Star Orchestra

Stars Have Shapes
Delmark DE 595

Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly

Empathetic Parts (with Roscoe Mitchell)

482 Music 482-1074

By Ken Waxman

One of the standout players among Chicago’s recent burgeoning crop of improvised musicians, alto saxophonist Greg Ward is versatile enough to gig with groups ranging from the chamber-oriented International Contemporary Ensemble to those lead by saxophonist Ernest Dawkins and other members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM). These CDs confirm his skills, although his role is more prominent in drummer Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly then as part of cornetist Rob Mazurek’s 14-piece Exploding Star Orchestra. His contributions to Reed’s Empathetic Parts are even more impressive, since he shares reed duties with saxophonist/flautist Roscoe Mitchell, more than 40 years his senior and an AACM founder. For his part, Mitchell is spontaneous enough to assimilate a performance strategy already tested with the existing five-piece band. MORE

February 12, 2011

Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly

Empathetic Parts (with Roscoe Mitchell)
482 Music 482-1074

Exploding Star Orchestra

Stars Have Shapes

Delmark DE 595

By Ken Waxman

One of the standout players among Chicago’s recent burgeoning crop of improvised musicians, alto saxophonist Greg Ward is versatile enough to gig with groups ranging from the chamber-oriented International Contemporary Ensemble to those lead by saxophonist Ernest Dawkins and other members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM). These CDs confirm his skills, although his role is more prominent in drummer Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly then as part of cornetist Rob Mazurek’s 14-piece Exploding Star Orchestra. His contributions to Reed’s Empathetic Parts are even more impressive, since he shares reed duties with saxophonist/flautist Roscoe Mitchell, more than 40 years his senior and an AACM founder. For his part, Mitchell is spontaneous enough to assimilate a performance strategy already tested with the existing five-piece band. MORE

December 12, 2009

Rob Mazurek Quintet

Sound Is
Delmark DE 586

Regenorchester XII

Town Down

Red Note RN 14

Although these similarly structured quintets play what could loosely be termed electric jazz, the complex patterns and unexpected strategies shouldn’t be confused with clichéd fusion sounds.

For a start the chief protagonists aren’t guitarists, but brass players – Sao Paulo via Chicago’s cornetist Rob Mazurek on one, Vienna’s Franz Hautzinger on the other. Another reason is that the inspiration for these sound-collages was as one way out of a conundrum, not towards fusion. As a matter of fact Sound Is doesn’t even feature jazz-rock’s most distinctive icon: a six-string electric guitar. MORE

December 12, 2009

Regenorchester XII

Town Down
Red Note RN 14

Rob Mazurek Quintet

Sound Is

Delmark DE 586

Although these similarly structured quintets play what could loosely be termed electric jazz, the complex patterns and unexpected strategies shouldn’t be confused with clichéd fusion sounds.

For a start the chief protagonists aren’t guitarists, but brass players – Sao Paulo via Chicago’s cornetist Rob Mazurek on one, Vienna’s Franz Hautzinger on the other. Another reason is that the inspiration for these sound-collages was as one way out of a conundrum, not towards fusion. As a matter of fact Sound Is doesn’t even feature jazz-rock’s most distinctive icon: a six-string electric guitar. MORE

October 16, 2009

Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Strings

Renegades
Delmark DE 587

Indigo Trio

Anaya

Rogueart Rog-0018

Having established herself as one of the primary flute voices in today’s improvised music, Chicago’s Nicole Mitchell has reached the point when she can record within six months of one another such dissimilar – yet equally engrossing – CDs. At the same time however, the sessions also pinpoint yet another evolution in the music as well as the challenge for the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) of which Mitchell is co-chair. MORE

October 16, 2009

Indigo Trio

Anaya
Rogueart Rog-0018

Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Strings

Renegades

Delmark DE 587

Having established herself as one of the primary flute voices in today’s improvised music, Chicago’s Nicole Mitchell has reached the point when she can record within six months of one another such dissimilar – yet equally engrossing – CDs. At the same time however, the sessions also pinpoint yet another evolution in the music as well as the challenge for the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) of which Mitchell is co-chair. MORE

October 8, 2008

Variations on a Theme

Guelph Jazz Festival Musicians On Their Own
Extended Play

Barry Guy/Mats Gustafsson/Raymond Strid

Tarfala

Maya MCD0801

Junk Box

Cloudy Then Sunny

Libra Records 203-019

John Zorn

News For Lulu

hatOLOGY 650

Matana Roberts

The Chicago Project

Central Control CC1006PR

Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet

Tabligh

Cuneiform Rune 270

AMMÜ Quartet

AMMÜ Quartet
MORE

November 15, 2005

Guelph Jazz Festival:

Improv On The Move
for CODA

Taking the concept of free-flowing improvisation a step further, one morning at this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), 15 musicians performed simultaneously in four different whitewashed rooms of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre.

The workshop developed this way, according to Ajay Heble, GJF artistic director, because so many musicians wanted to participate. Some – American alto saxophonist Marshall Allan, British pianist Veryan Weston, Québécois guitarist René Lussier and American banjoist Eugene Chadbourne – rooted on a spot and collaborated with whoever came along. Others moved from place to place and up and down the staircase as they played. MORE

August 22, 2005

NICOLE MITCHELL BLACK EARTH ENSEMBLE

Hope, Future and Destiny
Dreamtime Dream 007

SAVOIR FAIRE
Running Out Of Time
Delmark DE 562

Newer voices from Chicago’s ever-evolving Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), flutist/vocalist Nicole Mitchell and violinist Savoir Faire are starting to make names for themselves in the Windy City and elsewhere.

Fourth generation of players who have adopted the progressive concepts of the now 40-year-old AACM, Mitchell and Faire – real name Samuel Williams – have modified certain distinct aspects of the AACM. Neither appears to be much interested in out-and-out sound experiments which characterized the work of early AACMers like Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell. Instead Nicole Mitchell’s 14-piece ensemble adapts wholeheartedly the ritualistic, Africanized performance ethos that is another AACM staple; six of the tunes include vocals or recitations. Meanwhile, not unlike many younger generation AACMers, Faire and his quintet seem unswerving in a commitment to swing and rhythm. Only one of his compositions is even vaguely atonal and four include modified programming by the single-named Anti. MORE

June 7, 2004

STICKS & STONES

Shed Grace
Thrill Jockey thrill 140

DRAGONS 1976
On Cortez
Locust Music 40

Real Jazz has always been a music of apprenticeship. Unlike so-called classical or pop music where younger players can make a reputation and a living by reinterpreting and/or copying the work of their elders, jazz revolves around what you as a player can bring to the band stand.

That’s why SHED GRACE is a major step forward for the Sticks & Stones trio, while ON CORTEZ is very much an apprentice effort. Saxophonist Aram Shelton, bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Tim Daisy, who gave their band its unique name because all were born in 1976, are gathering the experience in Chicago to put them in the sophomore class of players. Reedist Matana Roberts, drummer Chad Taylor -- both of whom spend much of their time in New York -- and bassist Josh Abrams, on the other hand, are already in the senior class. Individually, and collectively as a trio, they’ve developed distinct identities and appear ready to trade the promising for the established designation. MORE

April 9, 2004

JOSH ABRAMS

Cipher
Delmark DG-546

PAT O’KEEFE/JASON STANYEK/SCOTT WALTON/GLEN WHITEHEAD
Tunnel
Circumvention 038

Putting together a drummer-less combo has evolved past novelty to assertion. But the underlying sonic concept and with whom you choose to play, makes an important difference in how your music is perceived. These two quartet session demonstrate that.

Chicago bassist Josh Abrams’ debut disc scores because he had the foresight to recruit a band made up of players of vastly different experience to present a combination of his own and group compositions in 2002. Unfortunately, TUNNEL doesn’t fare as well. It does have cohesion, since all four participants were graduate students at the University of California San Diego School of Music when it was recorded in 1999. Probably for the same reason though, parts of the CD smack of over familiarity, others of academic ostentation. One result is that its seven compositions seem to take up more listening time than CIPHER’s 10 tracks, even though the second disc is actually about four minutes longer. MORE

February 10, 2003

NICOLE MITCHELL/BLACK EARTH ENSEMBLE

Afrika Rising
Dreamtime Records 004

Creativity is still common currency in Chicago as the new CD by flutist/composer Nicole Mitchell proves. Even more ambitious than her debut disc (VISION QUEST also on Dreamtime Records) this CD finds Mitchell, who also teaches flute at Chicago State University, convening an even larger Black Earth Ensemble made up of 19 different musicians on various tracks. The result is an Afrocentric disc that shows off not only her flute, piccolo and vocals, but also the wealth of other Windy City talent, many of whom are also part of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. MORE

September 30, 2002

ROBERTS/ABRAMS/TAYLOR

Sticks & Stones
482 Music 482-1012

Playing improvised music in a trio setting can be the most revelatory, as well as the most humbling, experience for any jazz musician. Not only does each side of the triangle have to fit just perfectly for the music to take its proper shape, but the looming accomplishments of earlier bands in that configuration can make anyone wary.

Working in the most common saxophone-bass-drum arrangement, Chicago natives alto saxophonist Matana Roberts, bassist Josh Abrams and drummer Chad Taylor have set out with this cooperative combo to craft their own sound. Each contributes three tunes to the CD. Overall, though, the result is a split decision. Some of the tracks are interesting; others drag. More seriously it appears that the skills and versatility of Taylor overpower the other two. MORE

April 19, 2002

DAVID BOYKIN EXPANSE

47th Street Ghost
Dreamtime Records 003

Proving once again the old adage that everything old is new again, Chicago saxophonist David Boykin and company have produced a perfect, progressive hard bop LP. Thing is, the session was recorded not in 1958 at 33 1/3, but last year on CD. While the results are impressive, it suggests that younger members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) aren’t as involved in experimentation as their elders, who include icons like Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell and George Lewis, have been. MORE