Reviews that mention Kenny Wollesen

June 11, 2018

Sylvie Courvoisier Trio

Intakt Records CD 300

By Ken Waxman

Nearly 15 years of collective rumination about the jazz trio tradition has led to this collection of original compositions dedicated to many of her inspirations by Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and her American associates, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Intense, but not insensate, Courvoisier’s tunes are unique enough to equally incorporate brooding meditations, solemn threnodies and springy acknowledgments.

Dedicated to pianist Geri Allen for instance, “D’Agala” is actually more reminiscent of Bill Evans trio elaborations, where emphasized keyboard tones move forward crab-like, as each texture is shadowed by connective double bass thumps and underscored by echoing bell-tree-like and chain-shaking percussion that frames each carefully thought-out pattern. “Éclats for Ornette”, honoring saxophonist Coleman, jostles with a wobbly effervescence as the semi-blues melody and walking bass emphasis work into a clanking climax that’s as self-possessed as it is solid. “South Side Rules” for guitarist John Abercrombie is sparse, distant and darkened as his work, yet each isolated note is kept from formalism due to cymbal swirls and drum shuffles; while “Fly Whisk” for Irène Schweizer, isolates the celebrated pianist’s distinctive keyboard tapestry, relieved by bursts of forceful chording, without every compromising Courvoiser’s singular identity. MORE

January 7, 2017

Festival Report

By Ken Waxman

Appropriately the mid-point of Festival Jazzdor’s second week was November 11, when ceremonies honor soldiers who died during both world wars. Reflecting music’s universality though, Strasbourg’s Jazzdor presented several concerts in nearby Offenburg, Germany throughout the festival. This is despite the fact that Strasbourg, a French city of unique Alsatian meals and mixed French and German architecture, atmosphere and street signs, is in a region conquered by Germany from 1870-1917 and 1940-1944. MORE

November 11, 2016

Quinsin Nachoff

Mythology Records MR0012

By Ken Waxman

Like a Para-Olympian who triumphs in a contest despite lacking something usually deemed fundamental, tenor saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff has composed a set of seven well-balanced creations with a quartet missing one jazz necessity: a double bass. But so skillfully are the tunes affiliated and so sophisticated are his musical associates that it’s almost unnoticed.

A former Torontonian, now based in New York, Nachoff, who also composes for big bands and string ensembles in North America and Australia, makes sure Flux’s flow is maintained by relying on three of New York’s nonpareil improvisers: alto saxophonist David Binney; Kenny Wollesen on drums and, percussion; and Matt Mitchell who stretches his hands over piano, Fender Rhodes, organ, Wurlitzer and Moog synthesizer, sometimes synchronously. Like a generic drug compared to an original, Mitchell’s bottom notes and Wollesen’s faultless beat remove the need for a bassist. More crucially through the drummer’s animated clatter or hard backbeat plus Mitchell’s harmonic judgment – his crinkly, slurry electric keyboard fills are as arresting as his cultivated romanticism on acoustic piano – fit perfectly jigsaw puzzle piece-like depending on the circumstances. On its own, Binney’s sculpted-out-of-stone tone can be heard at its flinty best on a tune such as “Astral Echo Poem”. Elsewhere he and Nachoff chew up or caress phrases like conjoined twins. Alternately stinging or smooth, the tenor saxophonist’s can angle out weighty Coleman Hawkins-like story telling on “Mind’s Ear 1” then turn around to spit out triplet snorts on “Mind’s Ear 2” backed with thick piano extensions. MORE

April 12, 2015

Ben Goldberg

Orphic Machine
BAG Productions BAG 007

Ananda Gari


Auand Records AU 9041

Tineke Postma

Sonic Halo

Challenge Records CR 73370

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York


Libra Records 215-036

SITA: Cutting-Edge Free Improvisation at The Music Gallery

By Ken Waxman

Major improvisers from elsewhere frequently play Toronto, but not as often do they appear with an all-star line-up. That’s what happens on April 29 when alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s Snakeoil is in concert at The Music Gallery. Berne, who has been on the cutting edge of advanced jazz for 30-odd years, arrives with three younger players who have distinguished themselves on the New York scene: fellow reedist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith. This being the 21th Century and past the age of consistently working groups, each – including Berne – is involved in many other projects. MORE

June 20, 2014

Festival Report

Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon
By Ken Waxman

Wood fabrication in many forms, from house renovation to cabinetry, is one of the industries in the area surrounding the small Austrian town of Ulrichberg. Appropriately enough this year’s 29th Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon May 1 to 3, featured a wood-based instrument in nearly every performance.

First among equals were French double bassist Joëlle Léandre, performing in a quartet with Swiss soprano and tenor saxophonist Urs Leimgruber, Austrian guitarist Burkhard Stangl and Rome-based, American composer Alvin Curran who played piano and electronics. An experienced improviser since his time with Musica Elettronica Viva in the ‘60s, Curran’s tapping on piano strings prepared with cymbals made a perfect percussive counterpoint to Leimgruber’s key slaps and Stangl’s vertical rubbing of a violin bow on guitar strings. Léandre’s typically disruptive response to this was semi-romantic bowing. Later on, when Curran’s wheezy harmonica and steady piano chording referenced “St. James Infirmary”, she reversed course to slap a bass line as Stangl strummed appropriately. When not showcasing high-velocity string sawing which complemented Leimgruber’s extended techniques, Léandre’s ascending, pseudo-operatic cries and throat gurgles kept the program constantly fascinating to the extent that the 45-minute performance seemed to flash by in an instant. MORE

January 8, 2014

Artist Feature:

Ben Goldberg
By Ken Waxman

When Bay area clarinetist Ban Goldberg describes the creative process that constantly compels him to compose new music and seek out new collaborators, he sounds like the partner in a love affair: “When I hear someone I like, I have to play music with him or her. I need that person in my life.”

It may take a while after that first infatuation, but eventually Goldberg composes music which turns this attraction into reality. For instance the genesis of Unfold Ordinary Mind, one of his recent CDs, was the result of hearing tenor saxophone Ellery Eskelin and having a vision of having Eskelin playing alongside tenor saxophonist Rob Sudduth, a long-time Goldberg associate. “It’s a palpable feeling I have of how the music will sound,” he relates. That group, filled out by drummer Ches Smith and guitarist Nels Cline, plays NYU’s Law Space this month as part of the Winter Jazz Fest; and with pianist Craig Taborn in place of Cline will be part of an extended Goldberg residency at the Stone in February. New Yorkers can also experience Goldberg in a unique January setting at Roulette, as one of four bass clarinetists in pianist Kris Davis’ octet. The reed man, who has never played with either Davis or Taborn before, says he looks forward to the challenges. “It’s scary in the right way,” he affirms. MORE

October 7, 2012

Guy Klucevsek

The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour
Innova 819

By Ken Waxman

Probably the only person who bridges the gap among Slovenian polkas, Tex-Mex ballads, Erik Satie and John Zorn, is accordionist Guy Klucevsek. Assisted by more than a dozen other musicians, Klucevsek has come up with 13 performances here that show off every aspect of his keyboards, buttons and bellows skills and makes sure everyone has a good time as he does so.

Crucially though, the reason why The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour impresses on every level is the accordionist’s insistence on treating each of the compositions with equal deference. Three so-called hymnopedies, dedicated to Satie, for instance, including “Hymnopedie No. 2” with Dave Douglas advancing a legato variant of baroque trumpeting alongside Klucevsek’s pressurized accordion stops, are performed with the same serious intent as “The C&M Waltz”. The latter, honoring Klucevsek’s cousins, who have been waltzing to Slovenian music for more than half a century, includes the proper pumps and sways in its exposition, while subtly incorporating improvised obbligatos from Klucevsek and fellow squeeze-box specialist Alex Meixner. MORE

November 6, 2010

Kirk Knuffke/Lisle Ellis/Kenny Wollesen

Chew Your Food
No Business NBLP 17

By Ken Waxman

More than a musical mouthful, this session lead by trumpeter Kirk Knuffke is an apt demonstration of unselfish trio interaction. The result of a Jerome Foundation composers grant, the nine compositions, recorded live at Roulette, flow seamlessly into one another suite-like. Not only are Knuffke’s well-masticated compositional and improvisational skills served up, but the disc also confirms that ample improvisational nutrition can result with only a trumpet in the front-line – just as long as the sonic meal includes proper seasoning from other players. MORE

May 29, 2006


Tick Tock 001

Extending the free-form legacy of the saxophone, New York tenor man Louie Belogenis isn’t likely to turn up in a smooth jazz or hard bop revival situation any time soon. Committed to the go-for-broke genre of improvising that mixes emotions and intellect, he wears his influences on his sleeve – or at least his CD sleeve.

UNBROKEN, which may also refer to his links to earlier Free Jazzers, includes dedications to Sonny Rollins and Albert Ayler among others. Belogenis is also known for his extensive work with Rashied Ali – another dedicatee here – in combos that play the music of John Coltrane or Ayler. MORE

August 30, 2004


Where the Two Worlds Touch
Arabesque AJ0159

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