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When you name your group after a Philip K. Dick character who felt his body odor was lethal, even if said order didn’t exist, and yet the one thing you’re known for is being the official White House pianist, and that you can play the piano with your mind, you know there are some head games going on. Perhaps that was the point when Alberto Collodel, Davide Lorenzon, and Ivan Pilat came up with Kongrosian, and the sounds they came up with on their debut album, Bootstrap Paradox (my review of which can be read here). With their brand new album, it is the continuation of the mind moving forward, figuring out what to do, where to go, and allowing the mind to take you, the creator and individual, where it feels it needs to be.
The Exit Door Leads In (Aut) is based after the title of a short story Dick wrote and published in 1979, and the entire album was written and put together in his honor. The assembly of creation in free jazz is something I enjoy, errors and all, and along the way they bring in Nello Da Pont (drums), Tim Trevor Briscoe (alto saxophone/clarinet), Edoardo Marraffa (tenor saxophone), Nicola Guazzaloca (piano), and Piero Bittolo Bon (alto saxophone, alto clarinet, and kou xiang) to help them on their mission. The majority of the tracks on the album are on-the-spot improvisations, and it’s nice to hear what they come up with in the spirit of the theme of the album. Four of the tracks were written by Kongrosian’s Pilat, while Bittolo Bon also offers up the very nice (and clever) “Sahdeecoolow”. Even the songs that have form tend to sound as if they have no form or structure due to the freeform feel of the other material here, but then things begin to gel and the listener (or at least I) gets a sense that all of this is meant to be. With multiple listens, I’m sure The Exit Door Leads In will reveal new things not felt before, and maybe that’s how it was meant to be as well.
These are the three things I thought of while listening to The Trees (Ilk), and while that may not make any sense at first, it may upon completion of hearing this album.
The Mark Solboorg Trio are Mats Eilertsen on double bass and Peter Bruun on drums, percussion and kalimba. The trio also welcome in Herb Robertson on trumpets, kalimba, and pump organ and Evan Parker on saxophone, kalimba, and gong, playing a style of jazz that is uniquely European but also never straying far from their American influences (with the only American performing on this is Robertson). While this isn’t all out free jazz, there is a sense of freedom here that isn’t heard in traditional jazz, and wondering where each of these musicians will take themselves and one another is one of the highlights of The Trees. Some of these songs come off like “a spaniard in the words”, where you’re not sure if they’re trying to come up with a solution, or are merely releasing the deliberation of possible ideas to display, but it’s fun to hear what they come up with. Parker’s saxophone work stands out in “Skyrækker”, and as he slowly moves into the background, the others layer themselves in future songs and it becomes less than individual songs and more as one cohesive piece. Even if you’re unsure if all of it should stick with one another or it’s just diverse influences placed under one umbrella, you listen because the listen is thrilling, and you don’t want to let go while flying through. Perhaps this is why they called this album The Trees. One can only wonder.
A new John Zorn album brings a lot of excitement, anxiety, anticipation, and curiosity, because he has done so much, writes so often, and can cover everything from country and folk to holiday music and twisted jazz. For diehard fans, it’s not a surprise that an album with Zorn’s name may have little to no actual Zorn musical contributions, other than the songs being performed, and that’s the case here. For Templars: In Sacred Blood (Tzadik), Zorn has brought together Joey Baron (drums), Trevor Dunn (bass), John Medeski (organ), and Mike Patton (vocals) for an adventure that is described on Tzadik’s website as being a “testament-tribute to the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, the legendary crusading Warrior-Monks whose 200-year rise to power ended abruptly in 1307 under accusations of heresy.” It’s religious, it’s spiritual, it’s a folk tale, it’s history, but it becomes a twisted adventure when you put this material in the hands of Zorn, Patton, Medeski, Dunn, and Baron. All of this would make for a fairly wicked gothic film about the history of their crusades, as the music has all of the drama and power of the words being described, although in a way where you imagine Patton becoming each person/character, in his own unique way. The sacred is something Zorn has always used in his music, and what Medeski does by creating sounds perfect for churches and castles will give a few chills up the spine. Some of it, like the groove in “Murder Of The Magicians”, could be adapted for a police crime TV show or film, but knowing how these musicians work individually and with one another, you don’t know when the sacred will mix with hatred will mix with metal will mix with jazz will mix with classical.
While one doesn’t have to follow the script of the album in a processing fashion, it should be listened to the way it was created/intended for full impact. This album proves to me once again why Patton is one of the greatest vocalists of the last 25 years, and why Medeski can do no wrong with any of the projects he has done in the last two decades. Dunn and Baron work great together and to add this to their already exhaustive discography will make their fans quite happy. It may seem like Zorn works without limits, but within the limitations he may create for each project comes the knowledge that he has created a piece of work that will be examined and explored for years to come.
Vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles may arguably not be the core behind the band that is Manner Effect, in fact their website seem to utilize her as accompaniment to what they (Josh Davis on drums, PJ Roberts on bass and guitar, Logan Evan Thomas on piano and Caleb Curtis on sax) do as musicians, but upon listening to Abundance, while they work beautifully together as compoments of a well-tuned machine, Charles has more than what it takes to stand out on her own merits.
Not only does Charles work as the vocalist, but her singing is also very much used as an instrument in a jazz context, whether she’s emulating a flute, bass, or guitar. While some might hear this as limiting, I think a lot of times it’s the best jazz singers that show how they are fully capable of singing anything and everything passed their way, whether it’s the cool, calm, and collected “Theodore” (with a brilliant solo from Thomas) or the full blooded “Flying”.
The songs are evenly balanced between full vocal numbers and songs that do use her as accomaniment. When she steps to the side and the band gets to play, they jam beautifully together and I would have loved to have heard the album go down this route too. I do think the balance is quite nice, giving listeners an evenness to what they’re consuming. In Charles, I hear what Amel Larrieux, Jill Scott, Ledisi, and Angie Stone have become and evolved to, and in time, Charles will join them.
Crisco 3 are a jazz trio consisting of Beppe Scardino (baritone sax/bass clarinet), Piero Bittolo Bon (alto sax/alto clarinet) and Francesco Bigoni (tenor sax/clarinet). Their style of jazz is primarily free form and improvisational, but like their counterparts in prog rock, these Italian musicians also have a soft and delicate side that is done without irony, as shown on their new album You Can Never Please Anybody (Aut).
For most of the album, you’re hearing the craft of these three musicians unfold right in front of you, and it sounds like they have no idea what the other person is doing, but there is a point to the incredible madness. “Don’t Touch Him (This Is Jazz)”, “The Onanistic Side Of Crisco 3″, Bill Frisell‘s “Twenty Years” moving into Crisco 3′s own “Forty Years” are songs that sound like these groups are brothers of the same mind, and you can’t help but smile at the beauty of it all. The biggest surprise is when they take a brief break and makethe ugly into something much more beautiful. In this case it’s their cover of The Shaggs‘ “Philosophy Of The World”. The original is a 1960′s nightmare masterpiece, played by a group of ladies who wanted to rock but could not do it well. It caught on because Frank Zappa became a fan and found humor in the group’s tone-deaf ways. What Crisco 3 do is make an effort to turn the song into what it could have sounded like, and in their hands it becomes something that all groups should do: take a bad song and make it better. They group close the album with another rendition of the song, but called “Pphhiilloossoopphhyy Ooff Tthhee Wwoorrlldd” and when it is heard, you’ll understand why it was title this way.
You Can Never Please Anybody is a title that many artists could use as a personal philosophy, and Crisco 3 probably don’t care, as long as it makes them happy. Having others like their work is a bonus, so consider this album the potential towards being pleased.
(You can Never Please Anybody can be purchased on CD and digitally directly from Aut Records.)
It’s great when I come across an album where I don’t know the difference between the title of the album and the name of the artist. I really enjoy looking at a cover that tells me nothing about the content within. In this case, the group is Matta Gawa and the name of the album is Ba (Engine Studios). This 2-man Ohio band go right into a room, turn on their instruments, hit the drum kit and just play, allowing each other to steer the way with no sense of direction but to move forward. They play, metaphorically, with blindfolds on and it could be some controlled noise rock with the kind of freedom one can expect from free jazz, where you’ll hear a bass with an intense amount of distortion, or they’re tweaking an effect pedal and making things sound ridiculous. Then have a guitar player that may sound like his ass has been itching for a week and he’s trying to cure it by playing in secret code. Then you have a drummer that no only relies on his own kit to set the mood, but has various percussion instruments that make him sound like the offspring of Billy Martin of Medeski, Martin & Wood. In fact, if you like the more exotic and freak-out sections of MMW, you may find something of interest in Matta Gawa. As with any improvisational music, anything and everything can and does go, so what you hear in these songs may only sound like this on this album. There are titles like “Dialogue of a Man With His Ba”, “My Ba Cannot Be Kept From My Corpse”, and “You Ba Will Not Abandon Your Corpse”, it should be obvious they’re not caring about converting any of Katy Perry‘s fans anytime soon (although that would be great).
The sound quality is un-produced, it’s not bootleg quality but don’t expect some mindbending panning or anything too exotic in the mix. It would be cool to hear them get a souped up mix, but I’m satisfied with the “let’s run in and see what comes out of it” approach of Matta Gawa. As for what a Matta Gawa is and how it relates to the power of Ba, I have no idea and I’m fine with that. I like what’s here and I hope they’ll record and release more music.
(BONUS: I like the fact that their MySpace page lists Sun Ra, Kool Keith, Mission Of Burma, and E-40 as friends. Ba indeed.)
The music of Kongrosian is free jazz, or is it improvisational jazz? I think both terms will bring to mind complete freedom, which for a few may mean “lack of organization or direction”, which in their case is untrue. Bootstrap Paradox (Aut) is a collaborative effort between the trio and Oreste Sabadin, and together they make music with a small bit of foundation, but then they each have the freedom to go anywhere and everywhere with what they do. In fact, the group say they are “a trio + 1″, and the role of that +1 is open to anyone who wants to join them.
I love the concept of music that is “in the making”, or at least music that sounds like it’s being assembled as you hear it. You may hear trumpets, saxophones, and a bass clarinet play an off-key melody, while another clarinet plays around and within that melody, only for another instrument to follow, which in turns follows something else. It’s like an onion unveiling new layers, and you’re not sure whether to enjoy the onion or keep peeling. That’s the joy of such pieces as “I’m A Strange Loop”, “Fractal Structure Of Revolutions”, and “No, sir, away! A papaya war is on!”, the words have no reason for being there and perhaps the sounds are the same. They don’t belong, but do because that’s how it’s combined, to create these reckless sounds that may make you want to join in and play.
Bootstrap Paradox is an album that is far from lacking any direction, the fun is trying to compile the sounds and figure out what they’ll do next. I look forward to their next destination.
Madlib is at it again, and I’m not just talking with a new release. In a month, the man has released four albums. It’s like those old U.S. Army commercials where the voice-over stated that the people who enlist will do more before 9am than what most people do all day. What he has done, even in a year’s time, is more than a lot of artists have done in ten years. Granted, Madlib may not have the celebrated hits, and he may not have created the kind of earworms Hollywood tends to want to sponge out of anyone and everyone who is willing to spread their buttchecks, but what Madlib has is class, style, substance, and let’s be honest, a true “I-don’t-give-a-fuck” attitude that isn’t only an attribute to stoners, but a hip-hop attribute that has since been placed in storage.
Credited to the Young Jazz Rebels, Slave Riot (Stones Throw) is being pushed as a “free jazz” album. Anyone who has listened to the many projects he has released under the Yesterdays New Quintet/Yesterdays Universe umbrella knows that anything and everything can happen at any given time. Sometimes the “group” will get locked into a funk and it sounds brutal, rural, and incredible, and as they make their way towards the next song, they’re searching one another to find a common consciousness. With the Young Jazz Rebels, it’s about the search, you hear the examination of each others need to create and make sounds. The craft behind this album sounds as if someone brought Art Blakey, Pharoah Sanders, Rashied Ali, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, John Gilmore, Lester Bowie, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Derf Reklaw, and Miroslav Vitous into the studio, and said “let’s play until the 25 foot candle melts into the ground.
Within that process are songs, suites, mini-suites, everything is somehow linked together be it musically, sonically,and if you think deep enough, physically. Percussion instruments rattle off as if they are chains from distant ships long forgotten by some, but are always a means of resistance and tolerance for many. Some sounds come off as things fading away into the ocean, while others is the pain and frustration of making it in the concrete jungle, especially in tracks like “Hate/Love”, “The Sun”, and “The Legend Of Mankind”. Out of the blue (black), a human sensibility (i.e. melody) comes in within “Newear” and changes the soundscape all together. Things become musical, only for it to melt and dissolve into that ocean with unknown entities sinking slowly as it extends its hand, trying to survive or at least make it up for air once again.
To make that a bit more palpable, imagine all of the dramatic freak-outs one may hear on an albums mentioned in this interview. Introductions and interludes that help develop or lead the way towards the song. This is what the Young Jazz Rebels are about, freaks that are about the satisfaction of creating psychedelic moments that may or may not be influenced by hallucinogens. Maybe it’s natural, maybe it’s substantial, no one knows.
To bring things down to Earth, Madlib has definitely blurred the thin line between what may be real instrumentation and what could be samples from his record collection. When he moves towards this direction, he’s very much like Jan Jelinek where he’s making music out of the non-musical, or elements that are often discarded as just noise are turned into something very exciting. If you enjoyed what Monk Hughes & The Outer Realm did on their fantastic A Tribute To Brother Weldon, Slave Riot is not too far from that where songs, sounds, and stories bathe with each other as if Madlib is the pimp and the members of the “group” are his realized fantasies. It’s very orgiastic, and that’s the fun, to be a spectator and either go “this is fucking brilliant” or “I don’t know what the hell this is, but it’s definitely something I have to listen to again.” Will you find the next generation of breaks here, perhaps not. Will you find enough information worthy enough to sample, sure, but it’s the realization that Madlib is a producer who not only creates sample-based producer, but is also adding to the sample library not only for more adventurous producers, but himself. It’s as eclectic as Pink Floyd when they create music for art-house music, but it’s as Afrocentric as he makes it out to be, as if he’s calling back to those who came before him to continue the link between self and origin. This is the sound of hundreds of years of pain and suffering resurfacing and making itself known in a modern context, a Slave Riot if you will, an extension of Sly Stone‘s There’s A Riot Going On. Judging from the sounds here, the riot never ended.
It is also possible that the Young Jazz Rebels is music from the mind of someone whose attitude is simply about placing himself into his music, removing the consequences some will place on music like this, created by sound enthusiasts like him.
(Slave Riot will be released on April 6th, but can be pre-ordered from Stones Throw through the appropriate formats listed below with each icon.) | |
This is an album that I’ve been sitting with for awhile, taking it in, peeling it layer by layer, one by one, and it’s a mindfuck. Zu released The Way Of The Animal Powers five years ago on, and this Italian trio have been doing a lot of interesting things ever since. With the help of Public Guilt Records, it makes its vinyl debut.
Imagine being able to go back in time and having Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band play at your birthday party. Now imagine the Captain not wanting to sing, he wants to paint. Fine. Now bring in someone wanting to be John Zorn stunt saxophonist, but he’s on ludes. Add in some guys who love jazz and Melvins. Now tell them to just play, without any sense of what they will be playing. Maybe a few notes, but that’s it. This is what The Way Of The Animal Powers sounds like, a group of guys about to play, tuning up, not going anywhere but also going everywhere, and as they’re doing this, they’re getting involved with each others improvisation while doodling. When they reach the last song, “Every Seagull Knows”, you hear the sound of birds and an ocean, and perhaps the goal has been achieved. Maybe, but it sounds like they’re unloading their bag of tricks all over the beach, with no suntan lotion to protect themselves, but there’s some sense of organization. Then it’s over.
What I like about this is that you’re hearing creation in action. The album sounds like Zu are trying to take out their tools towards creating something of value, but on the way you’re hearing brain matter in motion. On other words, it’s the creative process that you’re listening to, disorganized sounds that actually have some sense of logic to it, it’s not random sounds or freaky jazz spurting out the human urethra of the band. But maybe it’s just that. Titles like “Tom Araya Is Our Elvis”, “The Witch Herbalist Of The Remote Town”, and “Farewell To The Species” are meant to stand out, but you really have to take a serious listen in order to get into what Zu are doing. My Melvins comparison comes from the way Zu are able to stumble and stomp through in their songs, deliberately but in a methodical way so that listeners will go “okay, it’s time to linger here for awhile and enjoy.”
Here’s another way of putting it. Look at a walrus. You’re hungry for it. Slice it. The Way Of The Animal Powers is one hell of a loaf of a meal.
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Discovered this book review blog when someone had posted a review of a music book. Went through it and saw a number of books I immediately put on my want list. Created by Maria Popova and features a number of contributors.
Cool slew of goodies from books and diaries to T-shirts, bags and soaps. Now based in Portland.
The show is no more, but you may explore the archives of this great Portland-based podcast while you can. You may now listen to Cort & Bobby in Welcome To That Whole Thing, listed below.