Reviews that mention Ches Smith

October 1, 2018

Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog

YRU Still Here?
NorthernSpy NS 098

Willers/Roder/Marien

Derek Plays Eric

Jazz Werkstatt JW 188

Seemingly revisiting their roots, improvising guitarists Marc Ribot of the US and Andreas Willers of Germany, attempt to graft more complicated textures onto the uncomplicated styles with which they began their careers – Willers as a Blues-Rocker and Ribot as a Folk-Rocker. Sticking close to the Power Trio configuration of guitar, bass and drums – plus some add-ons on Ribot’s CD – the power and fury is in evident, but whether musical complexity can change the concepts is open to discussion. MORE

September 1, 2018

Jason Robinson’s Janus Ensemble:

Resonant Geographies
pfMentum PFMCD 115

Using all the sonic colors available from an 11-piece ensemble, San Diego-based tenor saxophonist Jason Robinson has composed a seven-part suite that articulates straightforward swing without sacrificing exploratory touches. While recruiting some exceptional talent, Robinson’s writing emphases its uniqueness with a non-expected orchestration that includes three low-brass players, four reeds divided between saxophone and clarinets, two percussionists. plus double bass and guitar. While the expansive arrangements are sometimes enlarged enough to reflect Stan Kenton orchestra at its most restrained, the bedrock riffs and rhythms relate back to more subtle organization of the pre-war Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington bands. MORE

March 18, 2018

Matt Mitchell

A Pouting Grimace
Pi Recordings 71

Onze Heures Onze Orchestra

Vol 1

Onzeheurs Onze ONZ020

Having a singular, original vision is often cited as the best way to create outstanding music, more so when, as on these sessions here, concepts can be communicated to a large ensemble. Yet individualism doesn’t necessarily edge out a collegial approach. New York-based keyboardist Matt Mitchell for instance obviously aimed to create an original take on contemporary sounds that mixed notated, improvisational and electronic tropes, and he rounded up a dozen of the city’s most accomplished players to interpret his 10 compositions. Yet all too often on A Pouting Grimace, the composer and his associates appear to be leaping from one idea to another, exposing a variety of concepts, but with no logical continuum that draws together the detonating themes. MORE

February 3, 2017

Nick Millevoi

Desertion
Shhpuma SHH024CD

By Ken Waxman

Perhaps Nick Millevoi is a musician born out of time. Possessed of an opaque style that revels in psychedelic rock and blues riffs, the New York guitarist could have made his mark in the’60s with Booker T & the MGs or The Electric Flag, perhaps doing double duty penning Ennio Morricone-like Western scores. Like the enriched version of a familiar product, Millevoi amplifies these skills on Desertion, shoring up his playing and composing by echoing more genres, with his tunes interpreted by a state-of-the-art band. Bassist Johnny DeBlase is a long-time member of Millevoi’s trio; drummer Ches Smith is best known for his work with Tim Berne; while mercurial keyboardist Jamie Saft also recorded the session. MORE

July 1, 2016

Ches Smith

The Bell
ECM 2747

Reductionist and intervallic, the 10 tracks on percussionist Ches Smith’s CD tiptoe between what could be defined as aleatoric notated-oriented music and the freer sounds of Jazz-improv. Floating and dreamy, tremolo quivers from pianist Craig Taborn plus string judders from violist Mat Maneri often move so close to soporific hypnotics that it’s up to Smith’s percussion add-ons to widen the passages so they advance from rural-road like near-repose to superhighway mobility.

In fact until the third track, the sardonically titled “Isn't It Over”, this near-somnolence stew isn’t thickened enough to project lively as well as languid tones. Only when multi-toned percussion beats and piano key clipping introduce a cop show-like rhythmic emphasis that gradually inflates into variations of Eastern European-like dances, does the session appear to jell. From then on track such as “I'll See You on the Dark Side of the Earth” and “Wacken” more successfully outline Smith’s commitment to sonically negotiate the contrasts between light and darkness, tension and release. Taborn, who usually works in less refined circumstances with the likes of saxophonist Tim Berne, contributes rugged lower-pitched runs to the latter tune, which are given full expression when up against the contrapuntal asides of Maneri, an experienced hand at this sort of playing, having apprenticed in it with his father the late saxophonist Joe As if he was slicing through aluminum foil with a very sharp object, Maneri’s fiddle sweeps on the same tune encourage Smith to output a percussion strategy that clarifies the theme statement. Usually as self-effacing as a social democrat in a room full of rabid Tea Party supporters, Smith steps forward on “I'll See You on the Dark Side of the Earth” with paradiddles, ruffs and collection of cymbal clangs that bulk up the tune as it defines it. MORE

March 22, 2016

Guelph Jazz Festival

Guelph, Ontario
September 16-20, 2015

By Ken Waxman

Story telling of the verbal and instrumental variety was an important feature of this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival. Trying out new venues such as Heritage Hall (HH), Guelph’s first black church; and the soft-seated Guelph Little Theatre (GLT), the festival added a feeling of intimacy to its innovative programming.

Front and centre with tales, tall and otherwise were two Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) members, multi-reedist Douglas Ewart and alto saxophonist Matana Roberts. Confirming the old adage that actions can speak louder than words were musicians as cerebrally intricate as Evan Parker’s soprano saxophone forays or as raucous as guitarist Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog trio. MORE

September 6, 2015

Mary Halvorson Trio

Ghost Loop
ForTune 0010/010

Ingrid Laubrock Anti House

Roulette of the Cradle

Intakt CD 252

Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up

After All Is Said

482 Music 482-1089

Jason Adasiewicz’s Sun Room

From The Region

Delmark DE 5017

Fred Frith/Evan Parker

Hello, I Must Be Going

Victo cd 128

Something In The Air: Many musical Interconnections at 2015’s Guelph Jazz Festival

By Ken Waxman
MORE

June 11, 2015

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil

You’ve Been Watching Me
ECM 2443

By Ken Waxman

Augmenting the already well-balanced sound of his Snakeoil quartet, alto saxophonist Tim Berne introduces guitarist Ryan Ferreira’s chord-shredding distortions to the seven Berne originals here, creating a fuller but no less memorable program than the quartet offered at April’s SRO appearance in Toronto. Added to the alternately luminously fluidity or strained grunting from Oscar Noriega’s clarinet or bass clarinet; Matt Mitchell’s poised linear piano style; plus discriminating accents from Ches Smith’s drums, vibes, tympani and percussion; the re-imagined ensemble easily negotiates the compositions’ intricacies. MORE

April 12, 2015

Ben Goldberg

Orphic Machine
BAG Productions BAG 007

Ananda Gari

T-Duality

Auand Records AU 9041

Tineke Postma

Sonic Halo

Challenge Records CR 73370

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York

Shiki

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

October 11, 2014

Artist Feature

Ches Smith
By Ken Waxman

To exaggerate a bit, it appears that there was never a time in his life that Ches Smith wasn’t playing drums. Even today at 40, the Brooklyn-based percussionist seems to rarely move from behind his kit. Besides leading his own groups, which include the These Arches quintet, a couple of trios and his Good for Cows duo with bassist Devin Hoff, Smith is kept busy as a sideman in bands led by among others Tim Berne, Marc Ribot and Mary Halvorson, plus indie-rock stalwarts such as Xiu Xiu and Secret Chiefs 3. There’s also his Congs for Brums solo percussion project; and he can sometime be found in NYC’s outskirts participating in extended vodou drum ceremonies. MORE

July 11, 2014

Artist Feature

Matt Mitchell
By Ken Waxman

After a year’s unhappy experience in the late ‘90s trying to establish himself in NYC, pianist Matt Mitchell, 38, escaped, as he terms it, to his hometown of Philadelphia and got a day job at the University of the Arts’ library. “I swore I'd never again play one music gig I didn’t want to play, and I haven’t.”

He’s certainly lived up to that pledge. Mitchell, who ultimately quit the library job in 2009, is still in Philly. But he now divides his time working in such high-profile ensembles as Dave Douglas’ Quintet, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Project, Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, Darius Jones’ Quartet, John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, Rez Abbasi's Invocation, plus his own band with bassist Chris Tordini, drummer Dan Weiss and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed. Mitchell has also been widely praised for Fiction, his Pi Recordings debut, which is a series of duets with Snakeoil drummer Ches Smith. MORE

February 11, 2014

Ben Goldberg

Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues
BAG Productions BAG 003

Ben Goldberg

Unfold Ordinary Mind

BAG Productions BAG 004

By Ken Waxman

Bay area clarinetist Ben Goldberg has a consistent vision. The evidence is in how these two sessions, which were recorded four years apart but released simultaneously, don’t reveal any startling stylistic differences. The main divergence between 2008’s Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues and 2012’s Unfold Ordinary Mind is that different casts create different emphasis. MORE

February 11, 2014

Ben Goldberg

Unfold Ordinary Mind
BAG Productions BAG 004

Ben Goldberg

Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues

BAG Productions BAG 003

By Ken Waxman

Bay area clarinetist Ben Goldberg has a consistent vision. The evidence is in how these two sessions, which were recorded four years apart but released simultaneously, don’t reveal any startling stylistic differences. The main divergence between 2008’s Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues and 2012’s Unfold Ordinary Mind is that different casts create different emphasis. MORE

January 8, 2014

Matt Mitchell

Fiction
Pi Recordings PI50

By Ken Waxman

Having made his name as a commanding and sympathetic sideman with the bands of Tim Berne and Dave Douglas among others, pianist Matt Mitchell first solo disc is as impudent as it is dazzling. Taking as a base 15 so-called études he composed as practice pieces, he and percussionist Ches Smith combine to transform the musical puzzles into full-fledged sonic statements. Complex yet satisfying, the pianist’s hyper-kinetic keyboard command faces appropriate rhythmic challenges from Smith’s punkish beat-making. 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

December 13, 2013

Mary Halvorson Septet

Illusionary Sea
Firehouse 12 Records FH12-04-01-017

More enterprising than most of her earlier discs, New York guitarist Mary Halvorson created this series of compositions for an expanded ensemble, most of whose members she works with in other contexts. The results are audacious, proving that the guitarist, who first made her reputation with Anthony Braxton, is a sophisticated composer as well as soloist.

That said many of the tracks have a resemblance to Henry Threadgill’s jaunty writing for similar-sized ensembles. But, as would be expected, while Threadgill emphasizes low brass and rhythm, Halvorson’s weight is more on guitar and saxophones. Dividing the reed duties here are alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon and tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, while the rhythm section consists of bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith. Brass power arrives from trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and trombonist Jacob Garchik. Garchik’s and Laubrock’s contributions were added to the others who usually make up the guitarist’s working quintet, so her challenge was reconceptualising the five-part arrangements for seven. Listening to the sympathetic outcome though, you’d never know that the pieces hadn’t been created for that configuration from the get-go. MORE

December 8, 2013

Matt Mitchell

Fiction
Pi Recordings PI50

Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton

Live at Maya Recordings Festival

NoBusiness NBCD 55

Butcher/Buck/Mayas/Stangl

Plume

Unsounds 35u

Michel Doneda/Joris Rühl

Linge

Umlaut Records umfrcd 07

Lori Freedman & John Heward

On No On

Mode Avant 16

Kidd Jordan & Hamid Drake

A Night in November Live in New Orleans

Valid Records VR-1015

Paul Bley Trio
MORE

August 28, 2013

Ches Smith and These Arches

Hammered
Clean Feed CF 270 CD

Ingrid Laubrock’s Anti House

Strong Place

Intakt CD 208

Guitarist Mary Halvorson may be the connection between these two New York-centred quintet sessions, yet their striking individuality results from who’s sitting behind the drum kit. On Hammered, Ches Smith, whose experience encompasses drumming for rock bands such as Secret Chiefs 3, brings a punkish energy to an affiliation with certified New York downtowners. Meanwhile, although Strong Place is under saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock’s leadership – she also composed all the tunes – much of the disc’s definition comes from the laid-back rhythm strategy of drummer Tom Rainey, who usually fronts a trio filled out by the German-born tenor and soprano saxophonist and Halvorson. Other players on Strong Place include pianist Kris Davis, who is Canadian, and bassist John Hébert who isn’t, despite the way he spells his last name. MORE

June 23, 2013

Ben Goldberg

Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues
BAG Productions BAG 003

Ben Goldberg

Unfold Ordinary Mind

BAG Productions BAG 004

Keeping too much of a low profile, Bay area-based clarinetist Ben Goldberg hasn’t released many CDs under his own name for the past several years. He finally confirms his compositional and improvisational heft with these two sessions, recorded four years apart but released simultaneously.

In truth Goldberg, who often works in the Tin Hat group and with pianist Myra Melford, is so consistent in his vision that there aren’t any startling stylistic differences between 2008’s Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues and Unfold Ordinary Mind from last year. The main divergence is the sonic colors provided by the sidemen, although steady drummer Ches Smith makes both dates. MORE

June 23, 2013

Ben Goldberg

Unfold Ordinary Mind
BAG Productions BAG 004

Ben Goldberg

Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues

BAG Productions BAG 003

Keeping too much of a low profile, Bay area-based clarinetist Ben Goldberg hasn’t released many CDs under his own name for the past several years. He finally confirms his compositional and improvisational heft with these two sessions, recorded four years apart but released simultaneously.

In truth Goldberg, who often works in the Tin Hat group and with pianist Myra Melford, is so consistent in his vision that there aren’t any startling stylistic differences between 2008’s Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues and Unfold Ordinary Mind from last year. The main divergence is the sonic colors provided by the sidemen, although steady drummer Ches Smith makes both dates. MORE

August 1, 2012

Tim Berne

Snakeoil
ECM 2234

Bruno Chevillon/Tim Berne

Old and Unwise

Clean Feed CF 221 CD

After keeping a low profile of late, working mostly as sax-for hire in co-op bands, New York alto saxophonist Tim Berne asserts himself more conspicuously with these revealing projects. Old and Unwise is a set of unvarnished improvisations between Berne and French bassist Bruno Chevillon. Recorded seven months later, and his first studio date in eight years, Snakeoil introduces a new Berne combo, which tellingly doesn’t include a bass player. Instead Berne’s alto forays are harmonized with Oscar Noriega’s clarinet and bass clarinet, Matt Mitchell’s piano and Ches Smith’s drums. MORE

July 17, 2011

Brian Drye

Bizingas
NCM East Records NCM 40130

Bruno Tocanne

4 new dreams!

IMR label IMR 002

Moving along parallel yet singular paths, these quartet discs are united by imaginative borrowing from Rock-styled rhythms plus the tonal freedom offered by advanced improvisation. Simultaneously though both trombonist Brian Drye’s all-American combo and drummer Bruno Tocanne’s French/Swiss/Canadian group express a linkage to more traditional Jazz via their instrumentation. With a front-line consisting of harmonized trumpet (or cornet) and trombone, both bands are give new impetus to a instrumental blend that goes all the way back to Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory or Red Allen and J.C. Higginbotham, and was most effectively expressed in modern times by J.J. Johnson’s trombone in tandem with Nat Adderley’s cornet or Freddie Hubbard’s trumpet. MORE

November 2, 2007

Johnston/Frith/Hoff/Ochs/Smith

Reasons for Moving
NotTwo MW 779-2

As well as trumpet solos which range from the elegantly muted to raucous plunger work, Burlington, Ont.-native Darren Johnston seems to have contributed sly local references to this notable co-op session, recorded in his new Bay area hometown,. Some of the tune titles are “Deep North”, “Distant Cities” and “QEW” [!].

Yet this CD of 10 instant compositions impresses even more, since the trumpeter’s skills are judiciously integrated among the trills, pops and honks of Larry Ochs’ saxophones; the crunching reverb and distorted runs from Fred Frith’s guitar; plus Devin Hoff’s thick bass chords and the rumbling back beat of Ches Smith’s drums. MORE

May 1, 2006

BEN GOLDBERG QUINTET

the door, the hat, the chair, the fact
Cyptogramophone CG126

Celebrating the achievements of irreplaceable soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy (1934-2004), this suite of compositions by clarinetist Ben Goldberg appropriately salutes the longtime American expatriate by not attempting to replicate the honoree’s sound.

Although he briefly studied with Lacy, Berkeley, Calif.-based Goldberg’s concepts are both gentler and more tonal than what Lacy achieved. “Blinks” is the only Lacy composition performed, although the clarinetist adds to this eulogy on “Facts”, by composing music for a written statement of the soprano saxophonist’s creed. MORE