|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention Jim Black
By Ken Waxman
“All projects have their own stories and I now have more than 60 stories I can tell,” explains pianist/composer/bandleader Satoko Fujii when asked about her recording career. Luckily more than 32 of these stories are available from Tokyo-based Libra records, a label she and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, founded in 1996. Although the highly praised pianist and trumpeter occasionally record for other imprints, Libra reflects her most personal projects, including duets and trios with Tamura and other Japanese and Western musicians, solo projects, records by her New York and Japanese big bands, her avant-rock-free jazz combo and a quartet in which she plays accordion.
Although by the early ‘90s, Fujii, who attended both the Berklee College of Music and Boston’s New England Conservatory, and Tamura, who had been a member of Toshiyuki Miyama’s New Herd Orchestra, one of Japan’s best-known jazz bands, had extensive recording experience, “the biggest reason we started this label was that we got tired of looking for labels that would release our recordings,” she reveals. At that time most record companies had certain fixed ideas of how jazz sessions should sound – and look. She recalls one firm that suggested for promotion she wear a certain fancy dress and surround herself with “good looking guys as sidemen.”
In contrast Libra is a small operation that usually presses 1,000 copies of each release, with tasteful CD covers designed by Masako Tanaka. To devote full attention to the music, Fujii produces Tamara’s CDs and he produces hers. Additionally sessions recorded in NYC are done at Brooklyn’s System Two studio because Fujii likes its piano. Business dealings are straightforward as well. For a project under Fujii’s or Tamura’s leadership, they hire the musicians and pay all expenses. For other CDs, such as Under the Water, her duo piano record with Myra Melford or Rafale with French musicians who helped compose the repertoire, costs are shared and profits divided accordingly.
Too small to have any other employees, the DIY-ethos extends to CD distribution. Available from a variety of distributors in Japan, Europe and the US, plus its own Web site, Libra is officially located in Tokyo because that’s where a close friend of Fujii’s has the key to a small warehouse and can send out requested discs.
Named Libra for Fujji’s astrological sign “Natsuki is Leo and as you know there is a Leo label already,” she jokes, the imprint’s idiosyncrasies extend to its numbering system. “The first three numbers tell whose project it is and how big the band is, and the last three numbers are continuous,” Fujii notes. “For example: Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo, Zakopane is Libra 216-027; 2 means a Satoko’s project – Natsuki’s project is a 1– 16 means there are 16 musicians in the band; and 027 means this is the 27th Libra CD.”
There are further numerical changes if a CD is re-pressed, such as Something About Water, Libra’s first session which features Fujii and Paul Bley. But with the market for CDs shrinking, plans for re-pressing other CDs have been put aside so that new ones can be recorded, she admits. At this point Vulcan is probably the label’s best seller. It features the trumpet and pianist with two Japanese rock musicians, including bassist Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins. All Libra CDs can be downloaded from iTunes, and while there are yet no Libra LPs, “we’d love to do one,” says Fujii.
Other well-received Libra CDs include discs made with Fujii’s American trio of drummer Jim Black and bassist Mark Dresser. “I admire Satoko as a person and musician and would be happy to perform or record with her again,” notes Dresser. “She has fantastic performance energy, a great ear, a musical fearlessness that allows her to travel into new territories, has an amazing work ethic and is constantly building bridges. Her label is dedicated to releasing her various projects which make it part of a long tradition of improviser/composer/performers self-producing.”
Although the pianist tells most of her stories via Libra, she won’t turn down the opportunity to work with other labels. “If we find a label that loves our music and that we can trust”, she avers. For instance the newest disc by her Ma-do ensemble is on Poland’s NotTwo imprint. Another departure was Kaze’s Rafale, put out in 2011 by Libra and Circum-Disc, the label of the Muzzix musicians’ collective, based in Lille, France. Kaze consists of Fujii, Tamara plus two French musicians: drummer Peter Orins and trumpeter Christian Pruvost.
“The most important fact about Libra and Circum is that both record companies are headed by musicians, so there’s passion in the way things are done and freedom that we don’t find elsewhere,” explains Orins. “Nowadays musicians almost always lead their project from the beginning to the release, so I think that running our own record company lets us manage the way we want to do it. Working with Satoko is one of the simplest musical experiences I know. Even if the music we make is highly elaborate and purposeful, the way we do it is very natural and without pressure. We simply play while being very focused on one another.”
While Fujii and Tamara do record for other imprints, so far Libra’s only CD under someone else’s leadership is 2004’s Yamabuki by Japanese vocalist Koh. “She is so amazing, that I wanted to introduce her from Libra,” the pianist says. Fujii also played on the session and composed some of the material. However Koh’s CD remains an anomaly. “Sometimes we get e-mails from musicians we don’t know asking if Libra can put out their CDs,” Fujii states. “But we don't have enough time and money for that. However if in the future we find someone we would like to record like Koh we’ll do so.”
But they may be too busy. Already planned for Libra’s 2013 schedule, are new solo discs by both Fujii and Tamara, another Kaze CD plus a new recording by Fujii’s New York orchestra.
--For The New York City Jazz Record March 2013
March 5, 2013
By Ken Waxman
No matter how many products are in the marketplace quality wins out, and Italian label Auand demonstrates this. Celebrating its 10th Anniversary with a series of New York concerts, the label, located in Bisceglie, on the Adriatic seacoast, was founded by Marco Valente because, he says, with most Italian jazz labels dating from the 1970s, “I felt the Italian scene needed something new to shake up the market.”
Valente, who owns www.jazzos.com, a successful e-commerce site, admits to a “love of the so-called downtown New York scene. I often found its influence on some Italian musicians I work with”. Consequently Auand has often put out CDs by foreign, as well as Italian improvisers. With players such as Tim Berne, Jim Black and Bobby Previte, it has facilitated Americans recording with Italians.
Translated as ‘Warning” in the local dialect, Auand was picked as label name because it’s one easily remembered by non-Italians. A loan from Valente’s aunt financed the start-up, but since then every CD has been self-financed. Like jazzos.com, Auand is a one-man operation. “I do all aspects by myself, from scouting to executive producing, from press to marketing,” says Valente. “I prefer to release just a few albums a year to have time to work on promotion.”
Although the majority of the 26 Auand CDs have resulted from sessions organized by the musicians’ themselves, Valente notes that “I like to be involved from the beginning, including the choice of the music and the musicians. I take part in the decision regarding the recording studio, but I don’t have a favorite. I prefer musicians to feel good and work with someone they know. I like to have a high quality recording, with balanced, natural mixing and strong mastering.” Also, since 2009, Valente has operated an Auand-affiliated a booking and management agency.
This doesn’t mean that Valente is a martinet who forces his concepts on the players however. “He does have suggestions, but they’re always offered in a constructive and warm communicative setting,” notes Brooklyn-based saxophonist Ohad Talmor, who has recorded two CDs for the label. “Marco has a pretty ‘hands off’ attitude and trusts the musicians,” he continues.
“I feel completely free to do what I want,” adds Paris-based reedist Francesco Bearzatti, who has recorded four Auand discs. “But Marco suggests many ideas as well. Auand has an aesthetic that is very original and precise. Marco must like what he produces. If not there’s no way it will be on his label.”
One example of this is Bearzatti’s Virus CD. “I called Marco because I was doing my second CD and I wanted to do something different,” the saxophonist recalls. “My first record was more in the jazz tradition, original tunes but with piano, bass and drums. I asked Marco to produce a modern organ trio because I had different ideas in my mind and I knew that Auand had a different concept.” Not only did the CD build his Continental reputation, reports Bearzatti, but in 2003 he was named “best new talent” in an Italian critics’ poll.
The label owner’s New York contacts have led to other connections. For instance Stolen Days by Bearzatti’s Sax Pistols came about in 2006 after the saxman told Valente wanted to do a rock-styled session playing his horn with guitar effects. “He saw [electric bassist] Stomu Takeishi at a gig and loved him. I suggested [drummer] Dan Weiss because I knew he was a John Bonham fan,” recalls Valente. “The trio worked together perfectly.” Intollerant featuring Berne with Mr. Rencore, was the result of that Livorno-based trio seeking a guest artist. “Of course they knew Tim from his records but they never met him,” report Valente. “I’ve known Tim for years and sent him their music. He accepted to work with them and we invited him to participate in a festival in Bari which premiered the work.”
Talmor notes that releasing Playing in Traffic on Auand in 2009 by Steve Swallow, Adam Nussbaum and himself “was a good deal, as Marco would be producing a group led by a senior figure of the jazz establishment, yet with a foot in the ‘young’ contemporary scene.” The when it came to NewsReel, his recent CD as a leader, “I had an offer to put it out on a ‘bigger’ label but preferred to go with Marco knowing his true love for the music and his very supportive stance toward the group,” Talmor adds.
Growth of the Internet and musicians’ schedules make up for the geographic distance, Talmor relates. “I travel extensively so Marco and I meet up often enough if there’s a real need. Having Auand in Italy actually presents some advantages: When I did a two-week European tour with Swallow and Nussbaum Marco was able to sync CDs to be sold at each show, overcoming distances and border issues. I suspect having Auand based in Europe has led to more European reviews and contacts which positively affects touring.”
Although Auand discs are available from iTunes, Valente states that “I don't like digital downloads and always declared I didn’t want Auand on digital platforms. This year I gave up due to some musicians asking for it. I don’t think downloads will fully replace CDs, anyways.”
Auand’s most recent CDs, Room of Mirrors and Living in a Movie are part of a new piano series. While he likes piano trios, for years Valente refused such projects because they weren’t part of Auand’s “artistic path”. Now he’s relented and promises more. Committed to releasing two or three CDs every year, the next scheduled are by guitarist Giovanni Francesca and another by the Barber Mouse trio playing pop songs by Italy’s Subsonica. The Auand celebration, which takes place in different New York venues, will also be recorded for later release.
The fact that so many Italian and American musicians are making the trip to play the Auand fest, says a lot about how Auand is regarded. As Tamor states: “Marco defends a vision of music and supports it financially, logistically and aesthetically.”
--For New York City Jazz Record November 2011
November 10, 2011
Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black
One Great Night ... Live
Trio New York
Prime Source CD 6010
These two sides of Brooklyn-based tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin’s trio sounds aren’t as disparate as they appear on the surface. While Eskelin is identified with the experimental side of improvised music, typified by his trio with keyboardist Andrea Parkins and drummer Jim Black plus sideman gigs with the likes of drummer Gerry Hemingway, the results are only far-out when measured against the most rigidly conservative Jazz.
That why the disc recorded with Hammond B3 organist Gary Versace and drummer Gerald Cleaver, with a playlist of only standards, isn’t so much a reorientation of his work, as a confirmation of his roots. Growing up with a mother who played organ professionally, he was exposed to that sort of sound early on. Trio New York demonstrates how non-idiomatic treatments of musical war horses can be as exciting as the atonal explorations of original themes that the other trio showcases on One Great Night ... Live, recorded three years and three months earlier.
Eskelin’s nightclub organ-trio roots still emanate from the seven originals on One Great Night, even though sonic coloration depends on Black’s brisk, Rock-styled drumming and Parkins’ command of accordion, laptop and sampler. Recorded in Eskelin’s Baltimore hometown, many of the riffs Parkins plays on organ and piano plus the saxophonist’s style of fluttering and honking are variants of traditional organ-trio narratives elaborated on the other CD. Similarly Versace and Cleaver aren’t typically Funk-Jazz beat makers. The drummer, who is also a first-class composer and arranger, has worked with advanced stylists such as saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, while the organist has gigged with cerebral players ranging from saxophonist Lee Konitz to drummer John Hollenbeck.
With his fluttery, Gene Ammons-influenced tone on show as early as the hoary “Memories of You”, the saxophonist comes up with slippery and sluicing variants on the theme as Cleaver claps and slaps and Versace quivers cross textures. Swiftly enough the saxophonist`s smooth melody reading moves the tune into classic swing form, aided by the drummer’s bomb dropping plus broken-chord shimmies and quivers from the organist. As each man slowly extends the lines contrapuntally, the piece climaxes with mid-range variations from Eskelin and a conclusive return to breathy reed tones.
Throughout arrangements are conventional enough to allow room for solos from all the participants; but not one is a showcase for the sake of showiness. Notably, as well, a pop tune such as “Lover Come Back to Me” and Thelonious Monk’s “Off Minor” are approached in a similar fashion, with variations before the theme. The former features diaphragm-pushed upturned cadences from the reedist before Cleaver’s brush work sets up the melody. The latter highlights the organist’s quirky rococo pumping before Eskelin’s honks move backwards into a thematic groove. Later it’s the saxophonist who double tongues the theme as the keyboardist adds Monk-like accents, key fanning and cadenza pumping.
“Lover” on the other hand soon becomes a hard swinger, with emotional reed slurs, tone extension and split-second quotes from other standards part of Eskelin’s solo. Meanwhile Versace keeps up a ground bass ostinato that mixes with Cleaver’s pops and flams and eventually leads to Eskelin’s extended reading of the head that audaciously and unaccompanied undulates to near-motionless legato, punctuated with a final dissonant cry.
Dissonance and extended techniques are prevalent on One Great Night. But so are part-boudoir, part boisterous tenor sax tones Eskelin inherited from 1950s stylists and, at points, Parkins’ pumping organ cadenzas that could without disruption be substituted for the organ work on the other CD. This is most obvious on “Instant Counterpoint” and the concluding “Half A Chance”.
On the second tune her dual-keyboard repetitions take on almost church-like inferences – talk about Soul Jazz – while the narrative elaboration dips into a similar call-and-response. Black’s eventual backbeat adds to the Funk emulation, although Eskelin’s squeezed tongue flutterings are more abstract than R&B-oriented. True to its title, “Instant Counterpoint” manages to keep triple lines moving even as Parkins slides between harsh accordion pulses and jerky organ slurs. Black’s ruffs and ratamacues are a point of demarcation though, while the saxophonist’s linear extension is fragmented rather than thematic. After a notable reed cadenza, Eskelin busies himself with multiphonic roars and smears, cramming as many dissonant timbres as he can into his lines.
Conversely, a track such as “For No Good Reason” is in the realm of post-modernism, with clinking and clattering piano chords, electronic buzzes and minimalist samples that cascade like Christmas bells. Eskelin narrows his tone with unstable and ghostly obbligatos that are as obtuse as the keyboardist’s voicing is thick and forceful. Piano cadenzas unroll methodically as the saxophonist’s timbres slither and spew.
Part of this transition is obvious on the lead-off track, which like all the others was composed by Esklein. While it has a title that could have been used on a Lee Morgan Blue Note session, it actually matches elements of experimentation with traditionalism. Although the reedist spins out breathy, Ammons-like textures from his horn at the top, the pumping accompaniment is from quivering accordion bellows, and it’s only when Black introduces a backbeat that swaggering organ stops enter the mix. With the drummer in-your-face, the concentrated narrative moves forward with off-centre timbres from the saxophonist and key shuddering from the keyboardist in lockstep. Eventually the accordion buzzes put into boldest relief Eskelin’s balladic inferences.
Post-modern or Old School, it appears that the saxophonist has found notable improvisatory strategies for both of his trios.
Track Listing: One: 1. The Decider 2. For No Good Reason 3. Coordinated Universal Time 4. Split The Difference 5. Instant Counterpoint 6. I Should Have Known 7. Half A Chance
Personnel: One: Ellery Eskelin (tenor saxophone); Andrea Parkins (piano, electric piano, organ, accordion, laptop and sampler) and Jim Black (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Trio: 1. Memories of You 2. Off Minor 3. Witchcraft 4. Lover Come Back to Me 5. How Deep is the Ocean
Personnel: Trio: Ellery Eskelin (tenor saxophone); Gary Versace (Hammond B3 organ) and Gerald Cleaver (drums)
September 30, 2011
David Liebman/Ellery Eskelin Quartet
More astringent in their reed interaction then earlier tandem tenor teams such as Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Johnny Griffin or Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, the overwhelming techniques of American saxophonists David Liebman and Ellery Eskelin advantageously boost each other’s strong points.
Seconded by the spontaneous pulses of drummer Jim Black from Eskelin’s working trio, and the steady back-up of bassist Tony Marino from Liebman’s regular band, the quartet ranges through a series of originals written by band members plus two versions of Eric Dolphy’s “Out There”. Although of different generations – Liebman was born in 1946, Eskelin in 1959 – their mutual respect means that the resulting unison or double counterpoint styling harmonically plugs any pre-existing timbral gaps from either soloist. A similar irregular vibrato allows each saxophonist to frequently improvise a half-step apart until one dips into slurred basso growls and the other nervy altissimo shrills.
The Dolphy line features accelerated spitting pops and knife-sharp cries, with the tune completed by each saxophonist sequentially trading fours with the drummer. Alternately, both are confident enough to limn “Renewal” in a gentle balladic mode, with Marino’s rasgueado arpeggios and triple-stopping their only anchor.
Probably the most expressive piece is Liebman’s “Demi and The Blue Man”, with its vaguely Latin rhythm conveyed by cow-bell whacks, tambourine rattles and bass drum bumps. As the tempo speeds up, the saxmen construct echoing blocks of broken-chord cross tones until reaching a climax of scalar sluices, chirps and tremolo note clusters.
-- Ken Waxman
-- MusicWorks Issue #104
August 8, 2009
Songlines SGL SA1556-2
Hopscotch Records HOP 36
Conventional and unconventional methods of recording with a string quartet are highlighted on these CDs directed by vastly different reed players.
On MAGIC NUMBERS Toronto-based tenor and soprano saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff has taken the traditional route composing eight pieces that feature him, plus New Yorkers, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Jim Black, improvising in front of a quartet of Montreal string players. In vivid contrast, except for the Duke Ellington-penned title track, all the pieces on SOLITUDE are instant compositions with Brooklyn-based tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Assif Tsahar giving equal prominence to percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and members of the KJLA String Quartet.
Enjoyable in the tradition of those saxophone-and-strings dates that over the years have featured everyone from Stan Getz to Joe Lovano, occasionally the two violins, viola and cello on Nachoffs CD threatens to fade into mere impressionistic background sounds. Meanwhile, while featuring the same instrumentation, SOLITUDE is as liberated and spiky as the reedist and percussionist would be playing as a duo.
Nachoff, who has recorded with British pianist John Taylor and Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger and is a member of guitarist Tim Posgates Hornband, also teaches jazz at the University of Toronto/ He cites classical and 20th century composers such as Mozart, Debussy Stravinsky and Schoenberg as inspirations, along with mainstream jazz and Blacks rock music leanings. Tsahar whose closest associations are with experimenters such as multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore and bassist William Parker puts his faith in atonality and with his unexpected textures produces a more challenging session.
Nachoffs strategy uses Helias as the bridge between the so-called classical and the so-called jazz impulses in these tunes. But this separation alone points out one weakness here: the failure to fully integrate the string section into the compositions. Plus throughout, the saxophonists tendency is to opt for smoothness in most of his solos.
This admixture can work, however. For instance, How Post-Modern of Me, which telegraphs its changes in its tongue-in-cheek title, features an interaction among impressionistic string shimmers, rock-style drumming and Nachoff hardening his tone to post-bop, with squeezed split tones and squeals. With the string quartet mediating between rococo and staccato, Black pummeling his kit almost overcomes a final return to impressionism by the strings.
Ostensibly inspired by Berg and Schoenberg, Whorls is more austere, with polytonal phrasing built up from the strings. But just as it seems the splayed tones and silences are going to create a desolate nocturne, Nachoffs saxophone tone makes the results inappropriately gentle as if he was Paul Desmond.
Despite livelier rim shots from Black, wailing lower pitches and measured stopping from Helias, and occasional tongue stops and multiphonics from the saxophonist, overriding string harmonics coupled with mellow reed solos from Nachoff prevent many tunes from igniting. Just as it appears as if an angular fiddles and sax détente is going to arrive, the artful prettiness of the violins is asserted. Wreathing contrapuntal lines in dignified violin-viola-cello synchronization almost push a few pieces into film soundtrack territory.
While Black sometimes uses ratamacues and rebounds to expose his inner John Bonham and Nachoff occasionally honks on tenor, the overall placidity of the string set and the soprano lines reduce MAGIC NUMBERSs chances of being more than a pleasant collection of interludes.
Maybe Nachoff should have recruited his string section from the Apple? Certainly, when violinists Katt Hernandez and Jean Cook, violist Ljova and cellist Audrey Chan face off with Tsahar and Nakatani theres no hint of background schmaltz. Unmoving and The Epistemology of Loss highlight how, rather than being treated as an afterthought, strings can be fully integrated into the action.
The first track begins with clanking and rubbing that is as likely to come from the ribs and belly of the fiddles as from Nakatanis percussion arsenal. Meanwhile, as Tsahar squeezes altissimo split tones and growled multiphonics from his reed, the bee-busy strings splash and slash high and low-pitched textures around him, creating a contrapuntal counter-melody. Fading to pregnant silence, the 16 strings provide an undertone of squealing pulsations as Tsahars timbres accelerate to howling overblowing. Although the others tempo quickens, you can still hear his abstract reed-biting on top. Meanwhile Nakatanis walloped polyrhythms intersect with the other two sections.
More atmospheric and forbidding, The Epistemology of Loss features string oscillations and prolonged cymbal echoes that eventually subside for alp-horn-like echoing from Tsahars darkening tenor sax tone. Soon, like spirits in a haunted house, the dissonant strings are fluttering, adding sul tasto and sul ponticello squeals behind reed bites. Eventually, melded bass clarinet and fortissimo cello slurs round out the improvisation.
Other tunes feature prolonged col legno interface from the strings, the percussionist shaking tam tams, rattling, popping and snapping his drum tops and at one point producing a martial bass drum thump. Allowing the fiddles plus to snake discordantly through the compositions, at points the reedist inverts his role to provide an ostinato to the strings. More challenging than Nachoffs CD, SOLITUDE is also more individualistic, with a foreground role created for the KJLA String quartet.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Solitude: 1. Love Is 2. Unmoving 3. Sand Between a Toe 4. The Epistemology of Loss 5. Of Amazing Most Now 6. Blue Sun 7. Falling 8. By and By 9. Solitude
Personnel: Solitude: Assif Tsahar (tenor saxophone and bass clarinet); Tatsuya Nakatani (percussion) plus the KJLA String Quartet: Katt Hernandez and Jean Cook (violins); Ljova (viola) and Audrey Chan (cello)
Track Listing: Magic: 1. There & Back 2. To Solar Pizza 3. How Post-Modern of Me 4. October5. Branches 6. Circles & Waves 7. Whorls 8. Sun-Day
Personnel: Magic: Quinsin Nachoff (soprano and tenor saxophones); Mark Helias (bass); Jim Black (drums) plus Nathalie Bonin and Noémi Racine Gaudreault (violins); Jean René (viola) and Julie Trudeau (cello)
May 7, 2006
CHRIS SPEEDS YEAH NO
Squealer SQLR 040
Known for his incisive soloing with prototypical downtown groups lead by the likes of altoist Tim Bernes and pianist Myra Melford, reedist Chris Speed, seems most concerned with lyricism, Balkan inflections and ambience here.
Not a smooth jazz record, the less than 39-minute session could easily be confused for a soft-rock outing by members of a metal band eager to display their chops in a quieter setting. Cumulatively the 10 tracks offer little more than music that could be played for dancing and background during a semi-hip wedding in Manhattans East Village or Brooklyns Park Slope.
Yeah NO includes drummer Jim Black and electric bassist Skuli Sverisson, who along with Speed and guitarist Hilmar Jensson guesting on one track operate in similar, though rockier territory in the drummers AlasNoAxis band. Additional dense harmonies are slathered over most of the tracks by Rob Burgers accordion and/or Jamie Safts mellotron or Wurlitzer electric piano. Remaining member is trumpeter Cuong Vu, who despite membership in Pat Methenys most recent touring combo, manages to do something more with jazz-rock interface on his own CDs.
Safts mellotron noodling is particularly unfortunate, since when its featured, the band leans into King Crimson territory. In fact nearly all of the undulating keyboard textures create similar harmonics, smoothing out the few spiky impulses Vus double-tongued plunger growls or Speeds barnyard squeaks proffer. With the themes nearly indistinguishable from one another, solo work is often reduced to breaks among collective coloration.
Electrified, sluicing bass lines and shuffle beats from the drums are the most common accompaniment. Nadir is reached on a couple of tunes where impudent polyphony from the horns gives way to a steady almost monochromatic line centred around a folkie guitar, picked clawhammer style and sounding as if it was break time at an Eagles concert. Since no acoustic guitarist is listed, no individual blame can be ascribed.
In short, SWELL HENRY is more no than yeah.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. She Has Four Thorns* 2. Last Beginning* 3. Born in the Air*+ 4. Camper Giorno+ 5. Cloud Stopper 6. Flanked^ 7. He Has a Pair of Dice 8. Dead Water* 9. Staircase Genius*# 10.Kip Files$
Personnel: Cuong Vu (trumpet); Chris Speed (tenor saxophone, clarinet and Casio); Rob Burger (accordion*); Jamie Saft (mellotron+); Wurlitzer electric piano^); Hilmar Jensson (guitar#); Skuli Sverisson (electric bass); Jim Black (drums); Speak & Spell (program$)
May 30, 2005
SATOKO FUJII TRIO
Sixth chapter of the ongoing saga of Japanese-American pianist/composer Satoko Fujiis American trio, ILLUSION SUITE shows her confidence in working up from the single tune short story to the novella length (34 minutes) with the title track here.
Along the way it not only shows off the skills and techniques of the pianist and her sidemen bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black but suggests this may be the most comfortable setting in which she works. Fujii, whose playing situations range from massive big bands to electric combos featuring a Japanese rhythm section with a strong fusion heck, rock, orientation thrives in this acoustic setting.
Proof is the suite itself, which moves through many moods and energies. Dresser, who now teaches at Californias Mills College, is, hands down, one of the most versatile bassists extant. Work with people ranging from reedist Anthony Braxton to drummer Gerry Hemingway confirms this. Black is pliable as well, marking his mark as part of tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelins trio as well as his own bands.
Illusion Suite itself advances from languid, impressionistic variations all the way through to sparse, near-atonal patterning and substantial rhythms, plus everything in between.
Beginning with ride cymbal scratches, fluttering arco poramento from the bassist and single note action from the pianist, the piece soon involves low-frequency cadences from Fujii, hollow rim slaps, bell tree and chain rattling from Black and most spectacularly sul ponticello interludes from Dresser.
Very shortly, when the bass begins walking and the drums play a shuffle beat, Fujii exposes different parts of the soundboard, adopting a fantasia of patterning, strumming chords and double timing for her take on modernistic soloing. Blurred, locked-hand arpeggios then encourage Black to express himself in a solo of perfectly formed ruffs and flams as the pianist and bassist together explore the darker, lower-pitched parts of their instruments.
Repeated, contrasting dynamics on her part cause Black to accelerate his hard snare and tom action, rambling into semi-march time. When Dresser squeals a sul tasto counter melody, Fujii returns to romanticism, except this time the beat seems to come from a beanbag shaken by Black. Following a rhythm rebound, Fujii expostulates a high frequency octave-spanning theme development, stabbing the keys in tremolo action as she references sources as disparate as Cossack dances and gospel hymns.
Reaching final variations on the theme, the suite opens up with a lyrical interface from the pianist and the double stopping bassist, while hard counter rhythms from the drummer echo. Summation posits a reorientation of the initial theme with sparse chording from Fujii, legato bowing from Dresser and irregular pulsing from Black.
Newer short stories to complement the novella, the CDs subsequent three tracks all, like the suite, written by the pianist showcase other techniques. One composition appears to be an abstract contrafact of Caravan with Fujii contributing low-frequency turns, Dresser scratchy spiccato line and Black stroking what could be a glass armonioca. An Insane Scheme, on the other hand, probably isnt as far out as its composer thought. But in it she skitters across the keys, replicating half-tango, half-Swing era licks. Black stabs his sticks into his drum tops and along his ride cymbals, as Dresser resonates sul tasto and sul ponticello color.
A true experimenter, Fujii shouldnt be discouraged from trying out as many different styles with as many different groups as she wishes. But this CD confirms that much of her best work is done in the context of this trio.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Illusion Suite 2. An Irregular Course 3. Flying to the South 4. An Insane Scheme
Personnel: Satoko Fujii (piano); Mark Dresser (bass); Jim Black (drums)
May 16, 2005
Benoît Delbecq Unit
By Ken Waxman
February 14, 2005
Jazzs universality now means that having Americans record with a European leader is no novelty. In the 21st Century, the match-up isnt like those LPs of the 1950s and 1960s that featured Bud Powell playing with no name sidemen or Zoot Sims visiting Paris.
Today if foreigners are on a date, its because the leader figures theyll add something unique to his vision. Which is what happens on these two discs by pianists, that serendipitously both feature tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, putting him in unexpected situations for a California-raised so-called young lion.
Brugge, Belgium-born, Brussels-based pianist Kris Defoort, who studied music in New York on a Fulbright scholarship in the late 1980s, also calls on the talents of a second Yank, drummer Jim Black, plus bassist Nic Thys, a Belgian who lives in New York. His CD, Sound Plaza, is pretty much state-of-the-art advanced modern mainstream.
Paris-based Benoît Delbecq, who sometimes plays prepared piano and more probing sounds with experimenters like Canadian clarinetist François Houle and British drummer Steve Argüelles, goes one step further on Phonetics both musically and geographically. For his astringent program of eight compositions, hes not only recruited Americans -- Turner and veteran bassist Mark Helias -- but also violist Oene van Geel from the Netherlands and drummer Emile Biayenda from Cameroon. Beefed up Africanized rhythms are more prevalent here than on Defoorts session. So are European New music inferences, especially from van Geel, who leads the improv-oriented String Quartet and has played with such sophisticated Dutch rule-breakers as pianist Guus Janssen and cellist Ernst Reijseger.
Still, unless youre a raving musical antiquarian, youll soon realize that the sound coloration from the quintet members only slightly distorts the contemporary improv tint on Phonetics, perhaps only as much as a phoneme.
New York-based Turner, whose usual playing partners are certified neo-cons like pianist Brad Mehldau and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, does have an affinity for the gnomic compositions of pianist Lennie Tristano and his acolytes, tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh and alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. In contrast to most contemporary mainstream tenormen, Turner usually plays with a light, alto-like sound, close to Marsh. He seconded Konitz on a tour a few years ago, both played with Defoort at that time, and the pianist has arranged the altoists Subconsciouslee for this quartet.
Perversely this is one of the few times that Turner operates almost completely in his horns lower register, producing dark-pitched variations on the theme. Inventively as well, this is a roadhouse version of Subconsciouslee with Black supplying a heavy backbeat plus sock cymbal pops and the pianist walking bass runs that bear down hard with thick chords and portamento slides. Finally the piece is taken out with unison double counterpoint between the saxophonist and Defoort.
That double motif is a common stratagem here. Its especially noticeable on tunes like the leaders Tranen, which may or may not be a salute to John Coltrane. If it is, its actually Defoort who produces the double-timed sheets of sound, often blended and contrasted with Turners winnowing light-toned slurs and trills. The piano mans flowing dynamics turn to chiming chords by the end -- the better to mesh with Blacks ratamacues and cymbal rebounds.
Almost 15 minutes of polyphonic elaboration, the title tune is Defoorts keyboard showcase. Leaving the buoyant melody to Turner, he hits notes in quick succession from one side of the soundboard to the other, leaving space for internal musings and metronomic note placement. While the polytonal piano accents and Turners melodic chest tones seem perfectly attuned, this is one time the rhythm section is particularly overpowering. Thyss thumb pops on electric bass, and Blacks slapdash beat mongering almost push the saxist into a showboating James Carter groove, until formerly disconnected piano harmonies link up first with trilling sax obbligatos, then soothe the bass and drums into a more relaxed rhythm.
Other compositions encompass languid impressionism. Oddly unfocused the timbres encourage Defoort to try to produce patterns of almost equal temperament that only rarely coalesce into proper harmonic colors. Two versions of Blues is on the Way arent that memorable either, since the four try to make something more of a tune based on the London Bridge is Falling Down riff. On the second run through the pianist contributes repeated tremolo voicing and Black diffuse rebounds, but polyrhythmic variations on such a simple theme expend an awful lot of effort to inflate what could be a throwaway.
None of the Delbecq compositions are that simple, though luckily they also skirt excessive formalism for multi-cultural invention. The most prominent example of this is Pointe de la courte dune, where lush, romantic string overtones strive for space among polyphonic and contrapuntal rhythm patterns at a quicker tempo, while the composer sounds out a fidgety, high frequency line.
More generic to the program is Au Louvre a mutating and recasting of an earlier Delbecq quartet piece. With different themes proclaimed in a cycle, extended techniques come into play. The piano seems to be at least semi-prepared, as what appears to be stopped action irregularly mutes parts of the soundboard. Helias slinky bowed bass line rhythmically brushes against these tones, while van Geels magnified viola stops soon are pushed into higher partials by the other strings. Biayenda, who leads his own percussion ensemble Les Tambours de Brazzal, cross sticks on his cow bell and floor tom in such a way that he could be playing a djembe and a batá.
Double-stopping ponticello jettes from the fiddler then soar sinuously on top of Turners reconstitution of the theme with his characteristic light-toned tone, only occasionally dipping to lower pitches. Climax is a combination of the Africanized rhythms, European legato string runs and contrapuntal piano patterning. Coda is a final cadenza of double-stopped fiddle timbres.
Other tunes like Multikulta and Zao Wou-ki may have title far removed from continental Europe, but his étude-like note choice and placement expose Delbecq as a European. Its a good thing too, since the CD is concerned with interpreting compositions, not replicating so-called World music. On these tunes, Biayenda strokes steady throbs from his drum kit, while Helias strums as if he was accompanying an American folk ballad. Discordant pizzicato runs from van Geel then meet broken note patterns from Turner and the pianist. While there is some definite concordance here, the endings on both seem curiously forced.
Not so with Multikulta which quickly turns from glowing high-pitched partials from an unaccompanied Turner to bouncy cadenzas from the pianist. The drummers diffuse, contrapuntal beat again suggests African percussion, but here it melds with an keening, Arabic tint from the violist. Soon spiccato multiphonics are goosing the tempo until a strident, pressured fiddle line bring the whole staccato outbreak to a satisfying conclusion.
Sadly also lacking a final resolution is 4MalW, Delbecqs threnody to his mentor, American pianist Mal Waldron. In it, the astringent weeping partials from the strings that suggest melancholy fail to connect the compositional thread leading up to the finale. Although descending col legno techniques from van Geel, and a resonating double stopping from Helias low bass strings add to the quirky memorial, both Delbecqs pitter-patter cadences and Turners upper register trills seem to be more about broken chords, than an intermingling of commiseration.
Overall, however, both CDs prevail more often than they misfire. They provide another glimpse into Euro-centered creativity and demonstrate how the talents of selected outsiders can be properly integrated into the overall sound fabric.
February 14, 2005
TED SIROTAS REBEL SOULS
Activists working for social change might give their supporters a break from weepy folk singers and over earnest sloganeers next time they schedule an anti-globalization rally and instead hire Ted Sirotas Rebel Souls.
Judging from his song titles and booklet notes, Chicago drummer Sirota has as finely honed a commitment to social justice and against institutionalized oppression as any leftist spokesperson. Plus his Rebel Souls quintet is a top-notch aggregation that swings with wild abandon and manages to mix musical intelligence with foot tapping. Wasnt it anarchist Emma Goldman who said she wouldnt to be part of any revolution that didnt include dancing?
Over in New York, meanwhile, Hilmar Jenssons concerns are rather closer to home. The Icelandic guitarist, who studied at Berklee and has connections all over the so-called New York downtown scene, leads a quintet similarly constituted to the Souls in a program of nine of his own compositions. More electrically oriented and literally songlike than the 11 tunes on Sirotas CD, they too move at an impressive pace.
However unlike Sirota, whose song titles reference, among others Mao Tse Tung, Black Panther Fred Hampton and Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, DITTY BLEIs titles come from the mouths of the guitarists two toddlers. Considering ditty blei for instance, means change my diaper in Jenssons 18-month olds baby talk, the sounds have to be good to surmount their naming sources.
Back to Sirota. Another Berklee grad, he demonstrates his accomplishments as a percussionist throughout by varying his backing beat so subtly that the listener suddenly realizes how inventive he is without having been figuratively hit on the head with technique. Considering some of the tunes here have reggae, R&B and African antecedents, Sirota is versatile as well. He spent two years backing blues guitarist Eddie Kirkland, has been part of the mainstream Sabertooth Jazz Quartet for nine years, produces hip-hop sessions and has worked with everyone from mainstreamer pianist Jodie Christian to outside players like cornetist Rob Mazurek.
The Other Souls are pretty adaptable too. Best known are guitarist Jeff Parker, who has played with various Chicago Underground groups, as well as post-rockers Tortoise; and trombonist Jeb Bishop, member in good standing of a clutch of bands led by multi-reedist Ken Vandermark. Saxophonist Geof Bradfields employers have ranged from pianist Christian to Swing revivalists the Mighty Blues King, which also gave bassist Clark Sommers a recording opportunity after journeyman work with various mainstreamers.
Sirotas post-modern approach to boosting the struggle against oppression is most obvious on Chairman Fred (I Wish Fred Hampton Was Here), which mixes tapes of a speech by the murdered Black Panther leader with a hearty live vamp from the entire band. Reminiscent of some of Archie Shepps more overly political pieces, it reaches its climax when a knife-sharp guitar solo and double tongued tenor sax interlude is followed by the sounds of the crowd chanting power to the people. Earlier Hampton has prophetically stated you can murder a freedom fighter, but you cant murder freedom.
Not that you should imagine that BREEDING RESISTANCE is all agitprop, however. Huntsville, TX may memorialize the city where the most executions in the United States took place during George W. Bushs term as governor, but the sounds reference swirling sadness more than anything else. Sirotas minor key blues line includes riffing horns, a B.B. King-like single string blues guitar solo, and his use of mallets on cymbals, bass drum and snare imparts the memory of a Native Indian ceremonial melody.
Similarly, Saro-Wiwa may have its origin in the execution of the Nigerian activist, but with a strong reggae backbeat -- like the simpler This is a Takeover, inspired by the Jamaican films Rockers -- it pulses as well as politicizes. Interpolating Bob Marleys anthem Dont Give Up the Fight into the basic tune, the performance includes some JBs style harmony. Theres a swooping PeeWee Ellis-like solo from Bradfield, a Fred Wesley blowout from Bishop and some chicken scratching rhythm guitar from Parker. Takeover features heavy reverb guitar effects, creating a hurricane-like effect behind shaking horn line and what could be the sound of the drum machine or maybe a mallet on the guitar strings.
More radical in his politics than in his music, most of the compositions on Sirotas disc have a standard head-solos-head structure, but the strength of the musicianship is such that such simplicity works in this case. Socialism arises with the extending of compositional input, with each Soul contributing something according to his ability. Most impressive is Bradfield, whose D.C. is a fine replication of later period Don Cherry music. It features the composer on light-fingered soprano and some jazzy, Herb Ellis-like slurred fingering from Parker.
Moving from the political arena to Jenssons nursery, the oddly titled tunes take inspiration from different sources: Balkan music, so-called avant-rock and Electric period Miles Davis as well as more codified improv. At times there are faint echoes of trumpeter Dave Douglass Tiny Bell Trio, which isnt surprising since it too was heavily guitar-oriented and featured drummer Jim Black, who also plays here.
Black, whose own AlasNoAxis quartet includes Jensson, is one of the busiest of New York drummers, playing with everyone from tenor saxist Ellery Eskelin to pianist Satoko Fujii. Reedist Andrew DAngelo has been featured in drummer Matt Wilsons band, and West Cost bassist Trevor Dunn has been in combos lead by clarinetist Ben Goldberg. New recruit, trumpeter Herb Robertson has been honing his original style for years, playing with everyone from altoist Tim Berne and drummer Gerry Hemingway in the U.S., to Italian drummer Tiziano Tononi, Dutch pianist Michiel Braam and British bassist Barry Guy.
On Correct me if Im right he turns in an expressive, half-valve solo, filled with burnished notes and chromatic trumpet tone. DAngelo contributes a funky, smeared alto lick, complete with Territory band riffs that get stronger and throatier as Black becomes more insistent in his rhythm. Meanwhile, Jensson completes the piece playing rhythm guitar rock fills and begins it sliding up the nylon strings of his acoustic as if he was introducing a ProgRock ballad.
Jenssons inner guitar god makes another appearance on Everything is Temporary where his droning reverb moves past John Scofield territory to wiry Prog immoderation. This is after he has shimmied and shimmered through the track, meeting up with some horn vamps, with faint trumpet tones in the lead, and discursive flams and ruffs from Black.
Other times the rock undertow is enlivened by a funk beat, as on Mayla Mayla. Here Robertson sounds like a muted, electric Miles, Black produces a double shuffle beat, and Jensson gives as good as he gets, with intricate finger picking that echoes and then matches up with the trumpeters brassy flourishes. Finally as the tune diffuses and liquefies around him, the plectrumist rings out guitar lines that wouldnt be out of place on a Radiohead session.
Slurred fingering and fuzztones from the guitarist; corkscrew reed slurs and honks; powerful walking bass lines; and chromatic trumpet blasts enliven some of the other pieces -- all of which the confirm band members technical skills.
In the end these two discs musically outline the 21st century conundrum for many. Do you stay cozily at home with your family, or go out and try to change the world? Both quintets present forceful musical arguments. It may depend on your orientation, but it appears that Sirotas is the more convincing position.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Breeding: 1. Saro-Wiwa 2. Chairman Fred (I Wish Fred Hampton Was Here) 3. Knife 4. For Martyrs 5. This is a Takeover 6. Elegy 7. Breeding Resistance (AKA Paper Tiger Blues) 8. Huntsville, TX 9. D.C. 10. Axé 11. Pablo
Personnel: Breeding: Jeb Bishop (trombone); Geof Bradfield (tenor and soprano saxophones); Jeff Parker (guitar, Korg MS20); Clark Sommers (bass); Ted Sirota (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Ditty: 1. Letta 2. Larf 3. Mayla Mayla 4. Correct me if Im right 5. Abbi 6. Grinning 7. Davu 8. Gobbles 9. Everything is Temporary
Personnel: Ditty: Herb Robertson (trumpet); Andrew DAngelo (alto saxophone and bass clarinet); Hilmar Jensson (electric and acoustic guitars); Trevor Dunn (bass); Jim Black (drums)
June 14, 2004
ASSIF TSAHAR/MAT MANERI/JIM BLACK
Thirsty Ear THI 57144.2
Ever since he first appeared on disc as part of his father, reedist Joe Maneris, Boston-based microtonal trio, violist Matt Maneri has been turning heads with his playing. Versatile enough to move effortlessly from the harshest excesses of loud, so-called ecstatic jazz to the supplest examples of understated chamber improv, hes created a legitimate role for the bloated fiddle in exploratory situations.
These two discs add luster to the achievements of this now New York-based string-slinger. But, to be honest, he sounds more commanding on the nine free improvisations recorded with reedist Assif Tsahar and percussionist Jim Black then in the more tightly controlled atmosphere of keyboardist Craig Taborns date.
JAMs advantage is that it spreads responsibility for the creations among the three participants. Except for the fact that he has to perform at a more restrained volume because of his instrument, theres never any indication, for instance, that Black is merely the accompanist to the improvising duo.
That said, some of the most impressive work comes from Maneri on the final track. Described as playing an electric 5-string violin, hes the antithesis of the fiddling fusion speed demon. On Part 9, for instance, his pace is slow, but still creates double-stopped, angled multiphonics. Only when Tsahars meandering trilling turns sibilant alto-like timbres to more intense overblowing, does Maneris multi-string pulsation get louder. Black contributes irregular pulses that conclude with clip-clop, ambulatory expressions, after which the saxist and violinist emulate an imaginary meeting between Albert Ayler and Leroy Jenkins.
In contrast, Part 6 finds Tsahar weaving tweaks and trills into low-pitched output from his bass clarinet. Amazingly Maneris deliberate hesitation and wiggling note placement move from Eastern European single-string patterns to an accordion-like squeezed tone. Blacks pitter-pattering flams and rolls and Tsahars near-inaudible exposition means that the torque put on the tempo by the fiddler spins out a fleet counter theme which polyphonically redefines the piece.
Tongue slaps, intense reed biting and a cornucopia of fog horn effects give the reedman plenty of irreverent inflections he can contribute to musical expositions, as do Maneris bow lifting ponticello, arco beats and snaky, pizzicato fills. When the percussionist adds subtle cymbal pressure, irregular snare pulses and what seem to be tambourine shakes, sideslipping tones not only resolves themselves into new melodies, but also make the trio sound like a larger group.
JUNK MAGIC features a quintet, as opposed to JAMs trio. With Taborn, who is best known as a member of altoist Tim Bernes groups, programming as well as playing different keyboards, the textures available outpace those from three acoustic instruments. But a little bit of electronica can go a long way. There are times during the seven tracks that the result sounds like playtime at the cloning lab, with that human touch lacking.
Adding to this robotic disconnect is the drumming of David King, who also plays with acid-jazz band the Bad Plus. While many tunes here are more rhythmically powerful than those on the JAM CD, the beats themselves are often overly mechanized. Kings favored lick -- or what Taborn asks him to play -- is the backbeat and that vamp is as omnipresent here as on any techno date.
Furthermore, tenor saxophonist Aaron Stewart may have worked with Anthony Braxton and Steve Coleman. But on the evidence here, his solos exhibit more smooth or fusion tones than you would hear on either mans CDs. Primatica, for instance, finds the saxman slurring tones in a limited arc, to join claves, off-beats and cymbal slices from the drummer. Maybe this is modified Detroit techno backbeat?
Mystero may be a little more abstract, as sine waves meet off-kilter snare and bass drum beats. But the semi-sweet tenor line sounds as if its been electronically altered, perhaps with an EWI. The drumbeats seem programmed as well, with only Maneris spiky, dissonant playing adding some humanity to the proceedings.
Its the same story on Bodies at Rest and in Motion, where Taborns acoustic piano pitter-patters and Kings drum thumping only gain mettle when they meet fiddle arpeggios. Maneri sawing away on all strings adds some additional tough -- and humanoid -- input. On his own, the pianists conventional soloing and the backup loops are as strident and mechanized as what youd hear on a video game soundtrack.
Then on The Golden Age [!], at 11-plus minutes, the CDs longest track, Maneris legato, double stopped classical overlay lasts only until ululating, calliope-style crescendos and dive-bombing buzzes are exposed from the keyboardist and percussionist respectively. As the backbeat kicks in and an electronic ambience settles over the soundfield, the fiddle timbre doubles as well. Soon squeaky string ponticello and whirling electronic squeals end the piece.
Some may regard this CD as magic, others as junk. Its actually somewhere in between. Taborn is trying to introduce new concepts to expand the simple rhythms and melodies that characterize techno, electronica and breakbeats. But he doesnt appear to have given himself enough leeway to whole-heartedly hook into free music.
Definitely someone to watch as he evolves an original style, Taborns efforts here come out second best when compared to the acoustic professionalism on the JAM disc. But Manner proves his versatility on each session.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Jam: 1. Part 1 2. Part 2 3. Part 3 4. Part 4 5. Part 5 6. Part 6 7. Part 7 8. Part 8 9. Part 9
Personnel: Jam: Assif Tsahar (tenor saxophone and bass clarinet); Mat Maneri (electric 5-string violin); Jim Black (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Junk: 1. Junk Magic 2. Mystero 3. Shining Through 4. Primatica 5. Bodies at Rest and in Motion 6. Stalgmite 7. The Golden Age
Personnel: Junk: Aaron Stewart (tenor saxophone); Craig Taborn (piano, keyboard, programming); Mat Maneri (violas); David King (drums)
May 17, 2004
Gustav Mahler - Dark Flame
Winter & Winter 910-095-2
Newest chapter in pianist Uri Caines POMO recasting of the works of the so-called Great Composers, DARK FLAME showcases an almost total vocal program.
Based on lieder composed by Austrian Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), the musicianship and inventiveness here are at the same high standard as Caines earlier meditations on the work of J. S. Bach, Richard Wagner and other Mahler projects. But with 14 selections rearranged over 77 minutes, there are times the variations move from novelty to gimmickry. Mahlers oeuvre heard in gospel, Klezmer, rock or mainstream jazz variations is engaging; but linking it to turntable tricks, Oriental sounds, overwrought poetics or cocktail jazz works less well.
Caine, who still sometimes functions as a straight jazz pianist, shows that hes lost none of his facility as a player or arranger on tracks like When My Sweetheart. In its middle section he and clarinetist Don Byron make like Tony Scott and pre-1973 Herbie Hancock, creating a brief, but potent, double-time bebop motif. This contrasts with whistling tremolos from violinist Mark Feldman and a vocal from cantor Aaron Bensoussan that is more freylach than Teutonic folk song. Its also one of the times when the varied sounds from DJ Olives turntable provide a memorable fillip to the piece.
Song Of The Prisoner In The Tower showcases the same sort of antithetical coupling, except this time the clarinet and piano approximate 19th Century chamber music. In opposition to that, drummer Jim Black pounds out a hard rock rhythm that is amplified by distorted guitar reverb from David Gilmore. In conjunction with the rockers, actor Sepp Bierbichler spits out the harsh Germanic lyrics; backed by the chamber group, poet Julie Patton provides an English translation filled with homonyms, puns and onomatopoeia.
Then theres In Praise of Lofty Judgement, where gospel singer Barbara Walkers melisma and glossolalia turns a secular song of praise into a sacred one, despite -- or perhaps because -- of backing by the Kettwiger Bach Choir. Sounding as if she was feeling the spirit during the whole performance Walker suggests a match-up between gospel diva Shirley Caesar and any overwrought, classical vocal choir.
St. Anthony of Padua Preaches To The Fishes, which may have had more resonance for Mahler, who converted to Catholicism from Judaism than Caine, who hasnt abandoned his ethnic identity, is treated as a full-on, light instrumental performance. Although it takes on a modern cast, from the allegro fantasia created by the pianist, some of the other tracks here are a little too precious, especially those which include Feldmans caprices and sweeps and what sounds like Baroque trills from trumpeter Ralph Alessi.
Other recreation shortcomings include Sadiq Beys street poetry addendum to the lyrics of Labor Lost, which grates against the chamber recital accompaniment. Plus those times hen traditional Chinese instruments like the hammered dulcimer and end-blown flute and translating Mahlers words into Mandarin, which happens a couple of times here, doesnt successfully move his music from Bohemia to Beijing.
Two Blue Eyes and the title tune, two of the most ambitious and longest tracks also point out the pitfalls in this mix-and-match treatment. On the former, Bensoussans synagogue-trained voice initially meshes with Caines recomposition and arrangement of the composition. That is until a finger-snapping, swinging jazz variation has the trumpet, clarinet and violin voiced so that they sound like larger string and brass sections. This is then followed by Shulamith Wechter Caine reciting the words in hesitant Hebrew and dramatic English. Finally, Byron solos in what only could be described as a jazzbo MittleEuropean style, ending the piece with a sort of tango rhythm supplied by the acoustic instruments and turntables. Is mishmash a German or Hebrew word?
Additionally, Pattons actorly mode almost betrays the intent of the words on the 11-minute Dark Flame. Thats because her recitation seems to flow in a tone usually reserved for childrens stories. As Ur-Romantic fiddle vibratos and legit clarinet tones meet a tinkling Ahmad Jamal overlay from Caines piano, you start to wonder how the band meandered into a cocktail lounge. From then on the piece scene shifts back and forth from Romantic chamber music-backed recitation to the jazz club, with Blacks drums provide hearty accents on one hand and Feldman lets loose with tremolo shuffling on the other.
A CD that will likely be welcomed by Caines fans eager to see what new classical mutations he has envisioned, DARK FLAME is an interesting session, but because of its overly-POMO stance, unfortunately weaker than earlier efforts in this genre.
Heres an idea. Now that Caine has proven he can reinterpret composed material, maybe its time for him to put together a jazz combo and record an all -improvised jazz session. Some have been waiting for him to do so since 1995s exceptional TOYS.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Dark Flame^& 2. Only Love Beauty& 3. In Praise of Lofty Judgement+ 4. Two Blue Eyes*~ 5. Shining Trumpets 6. The Lonely One In Autumn@% 7. Song Of The Prisoner In The Tower+^ 8. When My Sweetheart* 9. Labor Lost$ 10. On Youth%! 11. Rhinelegend+ 12. When Your Mother Comes In The Door+ 13. St. Anthony of Padua Preaches To The Fishes 14. Only Love Beauty
Personnel: Ralph Alessi (trumpet [except 2, 6, 10, 12]) Don Byron (clarinet [except 2, 6, 10, 12]) Uri Caine (piano [except 2, 6, 10]); Mark Feldman (violin[except 2, 6, 10, 12]); David Gilmore (guitar); Michael Formanek (bass [except 2, 6, 7, 10, 12]); Bao-Li Zhang! (erhu); Yi Zhou! (pipa); Sisi Chen (yanquin)%; Tao Chen (dizi)%; Jim Black (drums [except 2, 6, 10, 12, 14]); DJ Olive (turntables, electronics)#; Barbara Walker& or Sepp Bierbichler+ or Aaron Bensoussan* (vocals); Kettwiger Bach Choir with Wolfgang Klasener (conductor)&; Sadiq Bey$ or Julie Patton^ or Shulamith Wechter Caine~ or Tong Qiang Chen@ (voices)
March 24, 2004
Winter & Winter W&W 910 082-2
BOBBY PREVITE & BUMP
Palmetto PM 2091
Fans who complain that improvised music is too cerebral and not concerned enough with rhythm should hear these sessions led by drummers usually confined to the avant-garde side of the spectrum.
Although both are literal dance parties -- in the 1950s definition of the term -- each is different as well. ASTEREOTYPICAL shows what happens when you give three American and one Icelandic musicians license to create a sound animated by the traditional music of Eastern Europe, especially the Balkans. Conversely, COUNTERCLOCKWISE, featuring five Americans of a slightly earlier vintage than the dewy-cheeked Pachora crew, plays improv informed by the sort of R&B licks leader Bobby Previte probably heard growing up in Niagara Falls, N.Y. in the 1960s.
While often compared to a fanciful Balkan wedding band, Pachora has more influences than that. Rock/pop arrives through the bass guitar and electric bass of Icelander Skúli Sverisson and the electric saz of guitarist Brad Shepik, who played with the Tiny Bell Trio and Babkas. The plectrumist also adds South Asian intimations through his use of the droning tambura. Reedist Chris Speed and drummer Jim Black, both of whom were in Tim Bernes bands have strong jazz influences. Black, who creates even rockier textures in his own groups, breaks up the rhythms here by his use of cowbells, bell trees, selected and unselected cymbals and other percussion. He also adds unique pianica tones to some of the backgrounds, suggesting both the harmonica and the accordion.
Additionally, Speed, whose alto saxophone is featured in bands like Myra Melfords, stick exclusively to clarinet here, likely for purported authenticity. What results however when his reed tone is mixed with the pianica and strings isnt Balkan, but sounds that are more related to joyous freylech melodies, that are to Klezmer what czardas are in Hungarian music and the jig in the music from the British Isles.
There are times, however, when this not-quite-ethnic strategy falters. Usually those tunes features overly busy drumming from Black -- some of which sounds as if his instrument of choice is the telephone book -- and when Shepiks nylon string guitar forays resemble those acoustic intermission fillers so loved by overly-loud heavy metallers.
Still, most of Pachoras tunes feature Speeds uninflected, clear-toned clarinet playing the melody, mostly in contralto, but occasionally in chalameau register, with the beat promulgated by Sverrissons bass arsenal. With the freylech undercurrent in accordion washes, and rock interjections arriving though Hendrixian fuzz-laden guitar leads and buzzing amps, the challenge is for the musicians to not sound like the hippest ethnic wedding band in the world.
With what appears to be almost literal balalaika and dumbeck backing -- probably courtesy of the saz and baritone guitar -- Howl avoids this, with Blacks rhythms relating more to Persian or Dervish music that anything further west. Then theres Rider, when dual guitars and tabla sounds from Blacks knurly percussion implies that raga rockers have drifted into the souk. Speed dissolves his Eastern European trills into split reed tones, Shepik tries some fancy triple-lined flat picking and Black appears to be doing the near impossible, playing a dumbeck and regular drum kit simultaneously. The Little Theater celebrated on the tune of that name seems to include performers who need a belly dancing melody arising from reed contralto trilling and dancers who need andante polkas and mazurkas created by buzzing triplets from the guitar players.
Although Pachora may appear to be playing at an ethnic wedding, Bump seems to spends its time in an ghetto honky tonk where funk-soul aggregations induce folks onto the dance floor.
That means that erstwhile Lounge Lizard and Jazz Passenger trombonist Curtis Fowlkes come across like the a blend of the JBs Fred Wesley and The Crusaders Wayne Henderson; Marty Ehrlich who is usually a high-brow alto saxophonist channels The Crusaders Wilton Felder and the JBs Pee Wee Ellis; Zony Mash mainman keyboardist Wayne Horvitz becomes The Crusaders Joe Sample; veteran electric bassist Steve Swallow cops Bootsy Collins licks; and in his playing Previte himself recalls the early, unclichéd style of the JBs Clyde Stubblefield and The Crusaders Six Hooper.
Dont think that Bump has suddenly morphed into a funk/fusion band though. Despite the funk trappings, Previte is still the same musician who has written notated music for films, orchestras and the Moscow Circus and worked with thorny downtown noisemakers like John Zorn, Elliot Sharp and Berne. So while something like And the Wind Cries-Mademoiselle Katherine may reference Jimi Hendrixs And the Wind Cries Mary, its lockstep rhythm function and extended horn sounds recalls Miles Davis Mademoiselle Mabry as well.
Additionally, Bobby's Next Mood, the longest track, initially skates along on a reggae-like beat courtesy of Swallows four square rhythm and key clips from Horvitz. However by the time Fowlkes has revealed his inner Rico Rodriguez and Ehrlich is sounding out long-lined altissimo trills, the piano output has turned impressionistic with turnaround meeting the bassmans linear attack. Other tunes feature charts that lead the horns up in incremental pitches, the trombonist constructing a complete countermelody to what the others are playing, and the pianist erecting some high intensity fantasias, slipsliding from sharps to flats and back again while ranging all over the keyboard.
As for the short soul interludes here, they seem to be area code salutes to the down-and-dirty sounds produced in Detroit, Columbus, Ohio, New York, the East Bay area, Chicago and several unidentifiable spots. Most of the time Ehrlich and Fowlkes play unison passages with more sophistication than the Tower of Power horns, including rare forays into plunger mute territory for the bone man and writhing split tones from the saxist.
Unfortunately, the final number -- which adds Zony Mash guitarist Timothy Young to the band -- is an oddly unfinished pastiche of atmospheric sliding guitar chords, ascending horn charts, and left handed nightclub piano sounds. After two full minutes of silence at its end, the tune reappears filled with recurrent R&B changes, tinkling, right-handed fills and pitch-and-catch riffs from the horns. At this point it literally lives up to the CD title since the concluding notes in that track seem to fit -- counterclockwise -- right into the first notes of track one.
More for your feet than your head, ASTEREOTYPICAL and COUNTERCLOCKWISE show that accomplished improvisers can get down if they wish. Lets just hope they continue to intelligently experiment as well as showcase dance rhythms.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Astereotypical: 1. Romanics 2. Bushka Lounge 3. Klink 4. Snap 5. Push 6. Howl 7. Drifting 8. Little Theater 9. Nyla 10. Rider 11. Silencio 12. Mexahata
Personnel: Astereotypical: Chris Speed (clarinet); Brad Shepik (tambura, electric saz, nylon string guitar); Skúli Sverisson (acoustic bass guitar, electric bass, baritone guitar); Jim Black (drums, percussion, pianica)
Track Listing: Counterclockwise: 1. 877-Soul 2. Counterclockwise 3. 614-Soul 4. Bobby's Next Mood 5. 111-Soul 6. Patricia 7. 312-Soul 8. And the Wind Cries Mademoiselle Katherine 9. 498-Soul*
Personnel: Counterclockwise: Curtis Fowlkes (trombone); Marty Ehrlich (tenor (saxophone); Wayne Horvitz (piano); Timothy Young (guitar)*; Steve Swallow (electric bass); Bobby Previte (drums)
July 28, 2003
Ewe Records EWCC 0006
Ewe Records EWCD-0034
One of the dangers in analyzing the efforts of any non-North American improviser is expecting to find explicit references to his or her culture in the music.
Sure some creators introduce scraps of so-called native sounds into their creations -- Italians, South Africans and some Latin Americans are particularly good at that -- but that doesnt mean that every foreign musicians wants to do the same thing. Which gets us to the work of pianist/composer Satoko Fujii.
Unlike someone like pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi, for instance, who despite having lived in the United States since 1956, uses Japanese sounds, instruments and references in writing for her big band, Fujii is a citizen of the larger improv world. In truth, her compositions and improvisations have no more to do with Japan than, say, saxophonist Ivo Perelmans pieces reflect his native Brazil or violinist Phil Wachsmanns playing references his Ugandan homeland.
Fujii performs in a wide variety of contexts, including her New York and Tokyo-based big bands, a quartet, and in the duo and trio represented here. Additionally, although she often flys back and forth from the archipelago to the United States the way some musicians commute through the Holland tunnel, her work is more easily linked to the POMO gestalt that include jazz and classical music than anything Oriental.
A classical piano student from the age of four until she was 20 and subsequently trained at both the Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory, the CDs highlight the split between her real musical history. The duet with violinist Mark Feldman could be heard as her classical-improv session, while JUNCTION, the fourth CD shes recorded with rock-solid bassist Mark Dresser and resourceful drummer Jim Black, is her jazz disc.
Talk about background influences. Feldman, as a studio musician in Nashville and New York, recorded with folks as disparate as pop stylists Diana Ross and Carole King plus country icons Johnny Cash, George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Later, as an improviser, he was part of John Zorns Bar Kokhba string group, the Arcado String Trio, wrote for the Kronos Quartet and played and wrote for Colognes WDR Big Band, among many other gig.
Neither Klezmer, pop nor country music makes an appearance on APRIL SHOWER, which in instrumentation and intent instead comes across as a slightly skewed chamber musical recital. Not only that, but the violinist is only present on seven -- albeit the longest -- tracks. Four others are short piano solos and four feature Fujii overdubbing her work on two different pianos.
Spartan, rigid and ponderous, Fujii seems to be dragging her feet during the solo interludes, whether shes using the piano pedals or not. Probably reminiscent of her classical recitals, she often seems to be giving all the notes the same temperament and the sound is a bit too clunky to really qualify as improv.
By the same token her overdubbing isnt going to cause Lennie Tristano or Bill Evans to rise from their respective graves. One of the overdubbed Satokos always appears to be playing percussive prepared pitches, which is sometimes so tinny that it sounds like a music box. The other, on Gnome, for example, leans more towards TV cop show theme music than out-and-out swing. Harmonically she seems to have reached a little too far over those 176 keys.
The duo tracks are better, but still uncomfortably prim. On Then I met you, for example, despite the title, romance seems to have leeched from the tune. Instead it appears to be put together in blocks, with Fujii often playing in a weepy 19th century style, and Feldman staying true to the stiff recital feeling by highlighting his sustained bass pizzicato. Other tracks seem to depend on a back-and-forth formula of soft-soft, loud-loud, soft-soft.
Only on Nice talking to you do any sparks fly. Feldman arches a free-flowing melody at the top of his instruments range, while Fujii bashes away at the bottom end of the piano. Constant forward motion then characterizes her playing as she glides across the keys then rolls phrases out of the bass.
Things go much better on the trio disc. Firmly in the land of Jazz, or at least its modern variation, the pianist abandoned her formal prissiness and digs into the music, power chording in some places and elsewhere creating toy piano and prepared piano sounds. Confident enough after all this time with them, she also gives her sidemen enough leeway to do what they do best. Most of the time, Dresser is able to make his presence felt by powerfully suggesting shapes and rhythms without often moving to the foreground. On the other hand, Black, who is usually as resourceful as he is active, constantly finds different parts of his kit to emphasize, depending on the shape and slope of the composition.
Ninepin, for example, which begins with what sounds like a kids water fight between Black manipulating a pianica -- a plastic mini keyboard -- and Fujiis husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamara -- in his one appearance -- tooting a melodica -- soon resolves itself as a cool, West Coast-style swinger. Sticking mostly to the pianos mid-range, Fujii
advances some expansive theme variations in a romantic manner that suggests Bill Evans in cinemascope. Throughout, the bassist makes sure to keep everyone on the straight and narrow.
In contrast, Eel is as slinky as its title suggests. Early on, Black unleashes a mini drum solo, sabotaging the rhythm with grating cymbals and snare blows to turn what appeared to begin a cocktail ballad with bass accompaniment into something unraveling at a breakneck tempo. The tune accelerates as the pianist picks up the beat and showcases similar theme patterns at many different volumes and pitches. Continuing to roll around his kit like a child in a playpen, the drummer pushes Fujii up the stairsteps of invention to some of her quirkiest soloing on record.
Pure strength characterizes The future of the past, the enigmatically titled final tune. Ostensibly a simple jazzy theme, it too is whipped into frenzy with Black punishing his kit, Dresser furiously bowing, and an impassioned Fujii producing menacing, rumbling chords.
With the drummer alternately hammering like a blacksmith or somehow producing a lighter-than-air cymbal screech and the bassist making arco forays into what sounds like violin-range, the pianist confines herself to the odd plink and plunk, then two-handed bass explorations. Suddenly in the penultimate minutes, pizzicato bass reintroduces the major theme, which is revealed to be a POMO hand clapper. It lopes along at this tempo as Black projects a lesson in maintaining a beat without pulverizing it, until the piece subsides into some serene key strokes and the rumble of the bass.
More examples of Fujiis versatility, neither of these discs can be faulted. But for the more exciting experience, three musicians add up to a lot more than two.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: April: 1. April shower 2. Mirage 3. Inference 4. After you have gone 5. Then I met you 6. In the morning 7. In parenthesis 8. I know you don't know 9. The snow was falling slowly 10. Gnome 11. Nice talking to you 12. Behind the notes 13. A strange piece of news 14. Right before you found it 15.White sky
Personnel: April: Satoko Fujii (piano, overdubbed piano); Mark Feldman (violin)
Track Listing: Junction: 1. Junction 2. Go on foot 3. He is very suspicious 4. Ninepin* 5. Humoresqueak 6. Eel 7. Caret 8. The future of the past
Personnel: Junction: Satoko Fujii (piano); Mark Dresser (bass); Jim Black (drums, pianica*); Natsuki Tamura (melodica*)
January 8, 2002
White & Blue
Buzz ZZ 76011
Anyone contemplating an almost 57 minute CD of trumpet-percussion duets is in the position of a diner sitting down to a whole meal of liver and brussels sprouts. In the hands of the right chef, the simple spread can be mouth-watering and satisfying. But thrown together by someone with less skill as a kitchen magician, you end up with a dry and tasteless repast.
The restaurant review on this CD is mixed. Although head chef Tamura and sous chefs Black and Alexander work hard, the end result is only partially palatable. Perhaps a bit more diversity in the added spices and a variety of preparation methods would have helped the meal.
Tamura himself is no stranger to bare bones sessions. His solo trumpet CD and piano/brass duet with Satoko Fujii garnered good reviews. Moreover, while uncommon, trumpet-percussion duets aren't unknown in jazz. Don Cherry-Ed Blackwell created a couple of exceptional discs a few years ago, most notably with 1982's El Corazon (ECM). But there Cherry played piano, melodica, organ and doussn' gouni as well as trumpet with Monk's "Bemsha Swing" featured along with more abstract pieces.
There's no equivalent "Bemsha"-like haute cuisine on this disc. The 10 Tamura compositions are titled "White & Blue" 1 through, 10, and most seem to have more to do with minimalist novelle cuisine than rib-sticking comfort food.
What leaves the listener hungry in the end is that the trumpeter is so intent on exploring the microtonal and intervallic properties of his horn and his voice that he sometimes forgets that a musical meal is more than artful presentation. Yet the disk is most successful when different tones are introduced into the mix.
On "White & Blue 4", for instance, Tamura voices throat sounds that resemble Mingus' "Passions Of A Man" dialogue on the OH YEAH album, while on "White & Blue 6" it appears that Alexander is banging on water bottles and cymbals placed on the ground, while Tamura alternately chants and plays abbreviated trumpet choruses. "White & Blue 10" even has a swinging, jazz-like beat, part of the time.
A composition's overall success often depends on what percussion seasoning is added to Tamura's lean cuisine. Percussion should mean just that and improvising on anything that can be struck, banged, hit or scratched adds immeasurably to the final meal.
Because brassman Tamura is throwing everything into the pot when he plays, the drummer sous chef must be prepared to respond as quickly. Unfortunately it seems that the duets with Alexander on his half of the disc brings more to the table than the Black duets. Still the best restaurant meal -- like the best improvised music -- runs the risk of creating an inconsistent product, because inspiration varies with the day and even the hour.
Adventurous listeners should still turn their ears to WHITE & BLACK, especially those who have a preference for either of the two featured instruments. Just open your mind and don't expect to find what isn't there -- pretty, restful melodies or finger-snapping rhythms.
Instead Tamura has added his name to those anything-for-a-sound improvisers like Evan Parker and Derek Bailey and by doing so must be allowed to fail as well as triumph. Thus WHITE & BLUE will probably have many people impressed by the presentation, but ending up with their musical hunger only half satisfied. Still the Tamura recipe here suggests that in future a cordon bleu feast may be on the table.
1. White & Blue 1 2. White & Blue 2 3. White & Blue 3 4. White & Blue 4 5. White & Blue 5 6. White & Blue 6 7. White & Blue 7 8. White & Blue 8 9. White & Blue 9 10. White & Blue 10
Natsuki Tamura (trumpet); Jim Black or Aaron Alexander (drums, percussion)
Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley at New York City's Tonic
A former kosher winery in Manhattan's multi ethnic Lower East Side became the North American epicenter for improvised music for three days, November 2 to November 4, with the first ever duo performance between two free jazz forefathers.
Tonic, which bills itself as the only musician-curated club in New York, presented six sets of empathetic improvisations from American pianist Cecil Taylor, 71 -- who almost single-handedly created Jazz's experimental sound nearly a half century ago -- and British percussionist Tony Oxley, 62, who has helped foment a similar European improv movement since the mid-1960s.
The two, who have collaborated on disc and in person over the years easily proved to a standing room only audience -- some of whom traveled from as far away as North Carolina, California, Ontario and Michigan to witness the historic concordant -- that they've lost none of their prowess. Maturity and focus seem to have intensified their skills, in fact.
Chunky, with a cherubic face framed by shoulder length gray hair, Oxley, in jeans and loose shirt, resembled an aging Prog Rocker. But he quickly demolished that image with his subtle drum shadings. Concentrating on the cymbals, wood block, snares and a unique oversized cowbell, he often used a scythe-like motion of his arms to reach every part of the kit without straining.
Lithe, animated Taylor, with newly cropped hair kept in place with a tight-fitting cap, often swept the keyboard from within the sleeves of voluminous French-cuffed shirts. Sometimes his hands would make gazelle-like leaps over the keys, extracting sounds with his fingertips; other times he'd bend his arms in wing-like sweeps, pummeling the piano with his forearms and elbows. No acrimonious effect, this was rather the controlled physicality of a practiced surgeon. All wasn't bombast, however, during the course of several improvisations, the pianist would briefly introduce miniature snatches of what could have been romantic "classical" music. Occasionally too, he would refer to a score propped on top of the instrument for new paths to follow.
Seemingly as similar as one white on white oil painting appears to resemble another, but with as many complex distinctions as those canvases reveal on closer inspection, each set -- which was never shorter than 75 minutes -- contained a varying amount of hushed and stentorian passages. Particular ear-wrenching effects came as Oxley stroked his larger cymbal with a drumstick held perpendicular, or whacked the oversized cowbell. Any sound could be utilized as percussion, he proved during the course of the evenings. A singular gesture exposed on the final set was the tone created as he rubbed the two sticks together like a boy scout making a fire. Overall, Oxley seemed to cheerfully follow Taylor's lead, nodding and broadly smiling as a particularly appealing musical idea appeared and was added to the mix.
Each night, Taylor's finger forays were frequently so overpowering that audience members could be seen moving, jerking, squinting, neck craning and finger drumming along with his solos as if they were marionettes responding to invisible strings that radiated from the piano. The effect was utterly mesmerizing.
No words were spoken while performing, but at the completion of each set, as a sly, little boy's grin played across his face, Taylor would move to the center of the stage and acknowledge his partner with a gesture. Oxley would reciprocate, and both men would dab at the perspiration on their faces with hand towels and leave the stage wrung out, but elated.
Stylistically, Oxley now sits at the front of a higher-than-usual drum stool so that he can easily lean forward while he plays. He may do that, yet every night at Tonic it was the audience members who were sitting on the edge of their seats as they watched these two master improvisers at work.
-- Ken Waxman
March 31, 2000