Friday, December 18, 2009

Mo' Clean Feed Records

The demand for free jazz and creative improvised music must be a whole lot greater in Europe than it is here in these United States, because the folks at Clean Feed Records in Lisbon continue to release interesting, challenging recordings at a rate that would probably break the bank at an American label. Once again, it’s a varied bunch:

New York-based accordionist Will Holshouser and his drummerless trio meet up with Portuguese pianist Bernardo Sassetti on Palace Ghosts and Drunken Hymns. Together, they produce a music of lush romanticism, highlighted by Ross Horton’s trumpet, which alternately waxes lyrical and sings sassy, and Dave Phillips’ lovely work on arco bass. This is chamber jazz at its best, alternately wistful and playful, cast from the same mold as Dave Douglas’ Charms of the Night Sky. The title refers to the music’s European setting (recorded in Portugal) and “the mysterious link between alcohol and spirituality,” which sounds good to me.

Well-traveled Israeli-born altoist Michael Attias has a pensive sound, influenced by Lee Konitz and Jimmy Lyons (both of whom have compositions covered on Renko in Coimbra), with an acrid tone and acerbic ideas. He’s ably supported here by bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi. The three can play with Art Ensemble of Chicago-like minimalism (“Do & the Birds”) or David S. Ware-ish intensity (“Fenix Culprit,” featuring a cameo by pianist Ross Lossing), sounding their best on “Universal Constant,” where their dialogue moves from abstraction (with Satoshi applying some extended techniques to his traps) to something approaching funk.

Empty Cage Quartet are so called because the members’ initials spell out MTKJ. “We are not conceptualists,” trumpeter Kris Tiner insists, in Gravity's liner notes, which rival Cecil Taylor’s for density (if not obscurity). He and his mates Jason Mears (sax, clarinet), Ivan Johnson (bass) and Paul Kikuchi (drums) play through alternating sections from two pieces (“Gravity” and “Tzolkien”) that sound through-composed but are probably improvised, their horn polyphony and tightly-tuned drums evoking an agreeable collision of Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” with Out to Lunch, Point of Departure, or one of those.

Voladores is the latest outing for Tony Malaby’s Apparitions. On tenor, Malaby raises a plaintive cry like mid-‘60s Ornette on the previously unrecorded Coleman composition “Homogeneous Emotions,” and gets a burry, Sam Rivers-like sound on “Old Smoky,” where he’s as forceful as Rivers can be in a trio setting. On “Dreamy Drunk,” he comes across like Archie Shepp channeling Ben Webster and makes effective use of multiphonics. The basic horn-bass-drums trio is augmented by John Hollenbeck’s tuned percussion, which adds textural variety to the proceedings. On “Sour Diesel,” Hollenbeck injects melodica into the harmonic mixture (the way Jack Dejohnette used to on his ECM sides) while Malaby follows a circuitous melodic path on soprano. Might just be the pick of this litter.

To play the bass clarinet is to invite comparisons to Eric Dolphy, but Jason Stein -- a native Lawn Guylander now based in Chicago -- volunteered to be thrown into that briar patch after switching from guitar as a teenager. On Three Less Than Between, he’s creating a vocabulary for his instrument on the fly as he goes: growls, squeals, intervallic leaps, and staccato lines, aided by a rhythm section – bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Mike Pride – that’s equally inventive in supporting him. “Isn’t Your Paper Clip” explodes with energy, culminating in an old-fashioned clattering drum solo; the denouement is a relatively straightahead interlude with walking bass, followed by a restless bass solo with sympathetic drum accompaniment.

Nicolas Masson Parallels’ Thirty Six Ghosts is proof that the land of William Tell has produced more than just watches and chocolate. The Shorteresque tenorman and his all-Swiss quartet (which features electric piano and stand-up bass) play a mostly introspective brand of jazz that’s informed by a love of 20th century composed music and, less audibly, alt-rock. Not surprisingly, the proximate model here is a less wired/weird version of early ‘70s Miles, particularly on the relentlessly funky “Hellboy.”

The Godforgottens is the name adopted by Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo and the Sten Sandell trio. On Never Forgotten, Always Remembered, they perform three lengthy extemporations – the longest nearly 20 minutes – with titles that are variants of the album’s title. On “Always Forgotten,” they create brooding, oceanic swells with Sandell playing first-time Hammond B3 as well as piano. “Never Remembered” starts with a cascade of drum thunder from Paal Nilssen-Love, over which Broo and Sandell spar. “Remembered Forgotten” starts as a duel between Broo and Nilssen-Love before Sandell and bassist Johan Berthling enter the fray. Their interchanges can be either exhilarating or exhausting, depending on your point of view.

Worth checking out. Cop via


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