06 FrictiveFiveThe Fictive Five
Larry Ochs
Tzadik TZ 4012 (rova.org)

Clues to saxophonist Larry Ochs’ expansive cinematic approach to composition are that three of four lengthy tracks here salute filmmakers Wim Wenders, Kelly Reichardt and William Kentridge. Just as those cineastes advanced diverse takes on the language of film, so Ochs references the free music breakthroughs of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. More crucially though, in the same way that none of these filmmaker’s work replicates earlier productions – or each other’s ideas – so too is The Fictive Five project a step beyond the visions of Ayler and Trane. Plus like filmmaking this project is a group effort, the concepts of Ochs as writer-director are interpreted by a cast of Nate Wooley’s truculent trumpet sneers, drummer Harris Eisenstadt’s irregular splashes and snare splatters, the dynamo-like pressure that emanates from dual bassists Ken Filiano and Pascal Niggenkemper, and like auteurs such as Orson Welles or John Cassavetes, a role for jagged abrasions that make up Ochs’ outlay on tenor and sopranino saxophone on the CD.

Take By Any Other Name, the appropriately animated salute to South African artist and animator Kentridge, for instance. Here the bassists reveal their Internet-era adaptation of experimental music, judiciously tinging the thumping interchange with virtuosic strumming and twanging amplified by preparations and effects. As excitement is intensified via crying reed split tones, rim-shot pitter-patter and bugle call-like brassiness from Wooley, the bass lines eventually divide, with one bassist ruggedly advancing the theme while the other comments on it with an archer’s bow-like vibrations.

It’s this sort of intuitive communication that characterizes the rest of the CD as well. But expressiveness doesn’t have to mean stringent discordance. Translucent for example, dedicated to Reichardt, begins with Eisenstadt’s metal garbage-can lid approximating commotion intersecting with slobbering puffs and smears from the horns as the bassists put a choke hold on their instruments’ necks for more percussive pummelling. But by its climax – and the CD’s completion – tongue slaps and snarls turn to gnarly harmonies aided by banjo-like rhythmic plinks from the bassists.

Like the themes engendered in a well-made film, the sounds here highlight affinity, as well as agitation, for proper dramatic effects.

07 LivingRoomLive at Literaturhaus
The Living Room; Barry Guy
Ilk 239 CD (ilkmusic.com)

Demonstrating the distinction between fission and fusion, veteran British bassist Barry Guy partners the Danish Living Room trio in a timbre-suturing-like program that sounds like three improvisations from an integrated quartet rather than from a trio plus one. Sophisticated in the use of multifold string techniques, Guy has spent a half century intersecting with improv visionaries, so the challenges advanced by reedist Torben Snekkestad, keyboardist Søren Kjærgaard and drummer Thomas Strønen don’t faze him.

However Live at Literaturhaus doesn’t become a Guy quartet session. Strønen’s cross-cut cymbal scratches and percussive buzzing; Kjærgaard’s high-frequency piano chording and judicious electric keyboard interjections; plus Snekkestad’s timbres from soprano and tenor saxophones and reed trumpet which often seem to be aggressively forced through a stainless steel strainer, are just as prominent. These pared guttural blows alongside the telephone static-like crackling from the other two Living Roomers in Part 1 bring out staccato stops from Guy, that alternate between lowing and squeaking. Before the 51-minute performance wraps up with an evocative yet muscular finale at the completion of Part 3, it’s only one strategy advanced by the four. Midway through Part 2, for instance, Snekkestad’s tenor timbres turns boudoir-like sensuous with equivalent hedonistic splashes from Kjærgaard’s piano. While Part 3 eventually locks together winnowing reed draughts, bass string pounding and drum ruffs, the first part of the last selection is as belligerent as a declaration of war. Triple-stopping sul ponticello strokes from the bassist, crowded, circularly breathed pitch alternations bubbling from Snekkestad’s horns and swelling dynamics from the keyboard(s), and descending accents and pauses from the drummer, lead to a narrative that slowly disappears, leaving echoes of peace and power.

08 MostFrom the Attic of My Mind
Sam Most
Xanadu Master Edition 906074 (elemental-music.com)

Herbie Mann may have been the most prolific; Pail Horn the most mystical; and Moe Koffman the one who composed the tune most closely identified with the instrument, but the musician who assuredly created a niche for the flute in modern jazz was Sam Most. Most (1930-2013) was an unprepossessing journeyman who spent most of his career in Hollywood studios and Las Vegas show bands. But by the early 1950s, his rhythmic overblowing and expanded colour palette fully confirmed the flute’s improvisationary dexterity. Backed matchlessly by pianist Kenny Barron, bassist George Mraz, drummer Walter Bolden and percussionist Warren Smith, the reissued 1978 session, From the Attic of My Mind, is doubly valuable since it’s the only CD made up completely of Most’s compositions.

With an economy of phrasing and an extravagance of taste, Barron amplifies Most’s tonal strategies, whether it’s moderato low-pitched sonority on the bossa nova-like Breath of Love or the funky boogaloo of Keep Moving. In the latter, the flutist’s Rahsaan Roland Kirk-like note popping coupled with unison throat vocalizing is given extra impetus by Smith’s swiveling pulses and ratcheting pressures. Most also demonstrates his flexibility by transforming a romantic introduction that evolves from Mraz’s bowed bass lines into a jumping romp on Child of the Forest, and performing a similar feat with You Are Always the One that expands from a backwards turning ballad to a finger snapper with a solo that encompasses a quote from Manhattan, ornamental cadenzas and peeping beats. But it’s the simplicity of the blues that best showcase Most’s balance of passion and precision. His low-pitched rhythmic stutters intensify the earthy mood that a groove engendered by locked double bass and piano chording on Blue Hue begins; while Out of Sight in Mind contrasts his muscular flute lines with Barron’s most delicate pianism.

Like an author whose freshness of style grew out of his initial ingenuity, and is recognized only after it has been put in the context of others’ prose that this CD confirms Most’s historical importance as a pioneering flutist while also preserving high-quality sounds.

Young Blood Still Pumps in Jazz

Child prodigies really don’t exist in improvised music. Occasionally there may be some youngster known for jazz playing. But unlike other musics which depend on a performer having a cute image or being able to copy what’s on the score paper, improvising demands full exposure of an inner self. Lacking maturity, the majority of these tyros soon disappear. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t young improvising musicians. But to create notable works, like the skills of exceptional actors or visual artists, true musical talent is almost always refined during the player’s 20s or 30s.

01 GrundTake German percussionist Christian Lillinger, 31, for instance. An in-demand sideman and leader of smaller bands for the past few years, the septet he assembles on Grund (Pirouet PIT 3086 pirouet.com) allows him to craft interlocking arrangements for the 11 tunes he composed. Except for his singular incisive drum beats which underline or put into bold face the cumulative sound, Grund is an exercise in parallelism. There are two saxophonists, Pierre Borel and Tobias Delius; two double bassists, Jonas Westergaard and Robert Landfermann; while Christopher Dell’s vibraphone and Achim Kaufmann’s piano are the chordal instruments. Like a well-drilled military unit this is a group effort. Lean and taut, each of the drummer’s tunes is directed from behind via stick-slapping nerve beats, cymbal taps or positioned rolls, allowing Kaufmann’s piano or tongue-slapping reeds to create the declarative theme statement, with Dell’s vibes scattering reflective tone colours like new paint glittering on a surface. Most reflective of the moods the seven engender are the adjoining Blumer and Malm. The latter is pitched so that it sounds like a Jazz Messengers LP played at 45 rpm with Delius’ sharp clarinet tones adding atonality, while the vibes lighten the mood. When barroom piano-styled pumps and dual horn flutter tonguing threaten to derail the narrative, regular drum thwacks push the theme back on track. In contrast Blumer is organized like a gentle chamber piece with first vibes, then piano and finally swaying horns voicing the melody. What could be jejune is transformed as the low-energy narrative is agitated by a clip-clop drum beat. Buzzing dual bass lines, rolling piano chords or atonal sax explorations are prominent elsewhere. But whether the results are balladic or bombastic, the spackle-like fills from Lillinger’s percussion patterns consistently and distinctively glue the parts together.

02 DieHochFrench alto saxophonist Pierre Borel, 28, is also one of the voices in the Berlin-based quartet Die Hochstapler, along with fellow Gaul, trumpeter Louis Laurain, 31; Italian bassist Antonio Borghini, 38; and German drummer Hannes Lingens 35. Dedicated to aleatoric strategies that mix notation and improvisation, Die Hochstapler’s The Music of Alvin R. Buckley (Umlaut ub007 umlautrecords.com) is inspired by the probability theory of researcher and musician Buckley (1929-1964) who apparently abandoned music after an encounter with Karlheinz Stockhausen. Never particularly jazzy, although the concluding Playing Cards easily fits into that idiom with walking bass and parry-and-thrust movement from the horns as if participants in a speed-chess match, the CD’s five tunes are instead concerned with how many unexpected strategies can be teased out of an initial theme statement. Lingens’ rhythm accents are placed with clocklike regularity or expressed in free metre to intensify the steaming emotionalism from Laurain and Borel. A further trope slyly combines martial-like beats with oblique exaggerations related to modern chamber recitals. Layered horn tones are particularly evident on…ce que le ver est a la pomme as phrasing ranges from those replicating wind-shaking trees to fortissimo porcine snorts. Elaborating the tune as they deconstruct it, the saxophonist’s squeaks, runs and the drummer’s press rolls move in and out of bop emulation before torrid trumpet toots thrust the piece back to swing underpinnings. Other performances include players lobbing divergent sequences until a melody connects as if plopping pieces in winning order in a game of Chinese checkers. Dribbling reed vibrations, smoothly bowed bass strings and focused paradiddles suggest calming cool jazz swing on every bird must be catalogued; or an unexpected foot-tapping melody can arise after bellicose brass plunger tones and body tube sax growls are regularized into an upbeat theme on le musician est au son.

03 PetiteMoutardAnother musician who has created his own sound is French violinist/violist Théo Ceccaldi, 29, whose quartet on Petit Moutarde (ONJazz JP-001 onj.org), performs music he composed inspired by French director René Clair’s 1924 Dadaist short film Entr’acte. The CD is twice the length of the movie, but its initial tracks are crafted organically enough to accompany the film. (Try it yourself with a muted Internet version of Entr’acte). But Petit Moutarde is much more than that. Balancing his superior training in notated music with the jazz sophistication of Alexandra Grimal, 35, who plays tenor, soprano and sopranino saxophones plus vocalizes wordlessly here, the music isn’t some hybrid jazz/classical soundtrack but a melange that stands on its own. With drummer Florian Satche both time-keeping and layering the tracks with cymbal scratches and other unconventional percussion techniques plus bassist Ivan Gélugne alternating between string slaps and rubbing arco concordance with Ceccaldi or Grimal, visuals aren’t necessary. Although some portions of the tracks are purposefully as herky-jerky as the movements in Clair’s film, overall blistering modernism overcomes bal musette-like nostalgia. Bowed bass strings make a proper backing for the fiddler’s Paganini-like display on Petit Wasabi for instance, as curbed and cantilevered swipes fly with upwards enthusiasm. Double counterpoint from violin and saxophone complement one another like steak and frites on Petit Chipotle, as Grimal’s fragile stutters are reflected by Ceccaldi’s delicate stops. Swing can also be displayed at breakneck speed as on Petit Harissa, when tenor saxophone tonal squirts and fused staccato rubbing from double bass and violin strings join focused press rolls to produce limitless excitement.

04 GreenLightMore excitement is apparent on Green Light (MultiKulti MPTO 12 multikulti.com), where Poles, clarinetists Wacław Zimpel, 32, and percussionist Hubert Zemler 35, play on equal terms with well-known American new music improvisers, clarinetist Evan Ziporyn and guitarist Gyan Riley. Beginning as if the tracks present a sonic slide show of someone’s recent travels, tambura, frame drum and bell-like echoes intermingle with Western chamber music tropes including delicate guitar plinks and reed tone layering. The CD reaches an early climax with the instant composition Chemical Wood, as Ziporyn pecks out spangled bent notes through the harsh continuum created by Zimpel blowing both melody and drone from an alghoza or Punjabi woodwind. Since the idea of Green Light is cooperative not solipsistic, the American clarinetist joins in congruent improvisation with his Polish counterpart on tunes like Melismantra. Backed by hard strokes from Riley’s guitar, reed tones are tensely intermingled, with Ziporyn’s clear tones puffing out lines in unison with Zimpel’s rugged altissimo gulps. Even more cross-culturally cooperative is Gupta Gamini, the Zimpel-composed final track. Processional, with echoes of Polish as well as subcontinent folk music, the narrative is kept in motion by tremolo layering from the two horns. Using electric guitar, Riley’s corrosive licks reverberate like torn electrical wires adding a barbed interface. After a pause, the theme finally relaxes into a coda that is a dual showpiece for the reeds’ spectacular upward flutter tonguing.

05 DikemanThere’s only one reedist, tenor saxophonist John Dikeman, 32, on Live at La Resistenza (El Negocito Records eNR041 elnegocitorecords.com), but the American-in-Amsterdam forces out enough pure energy to keep up with one of American jazz’s most accomplished and longstanding rhythm sections: bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake. Recorded at a Ghent concert, the two long improvisations on Live appear as inevitable as forces of nature. With cyclone-like ferocity Dikeman splays, smears and sputters bent notes and irregular vibrations into the mix, with a see-saw efficacy, reminiscent of mid-1960s Sonny Rollins. Digging taut snorts from the darkest parts of his horn with the same facility as altissimo glissandi are sourced, his solos are as powerful and cerebral as a military tactician. Parker’s pulsating beat is as precise as items placed in both weighing pans of a balanced scale, with a small portion of Invocation given over to his solo showcase. Otherwise Parker’s string stability appropriately moors the saxophonist’s frequent triple tonguing and vibrated shrieks. When WY Funk, the final track, reaches a climax, Drake’s polyrhythmic cymbal explorations are replaced by a steady backbeat which weds timed swing with timbral striving. Intensity and relief arrive in equal measure by the finale. Overall, with younger players like these on the scene, the future of improvised music appears secure.

John Coltrane A Love Supreme

A Love Supreme
John Coltrane
Impulse/Verve 80023727-02


Few jazz recordings have the significance of A Love Supreme, the four-part suite that Coltrane recorded on December 9, 1964, with his classic quartet of pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. With Miles Davis’ 1959 Kind of Blue, it virtually defines the concept LP in jazz. Inspired by a transformative experience that freed Coltrane of his addictions and turned his music into a spiritual mission, A Love Supreme is his most structured work, describing the progress through Acknowledgement, Resolution, and Pursuance to an ultimate Psalm. A definitive statement of the quartet, it was also a watershed between some of Coltrane’s most orderly work and the tumultuous free jazz that marked his last years.

For the 50th anniversary of its release, Verve has expanded on the previous deluxe edition of 2002 with two- and three-CD versions. For serious Coltrane listeners, the three-CD set, with extensive commentary and more new material, is the one to get. Some material seems superfluous, the mono dubs to which Coltrane listened adding nothing new, but the alternate takes and other versions (virtually the complete recordings) demonstrate the extent to which the released version is an image of order amidst rough seas. The day after the quartet recording, Coltrane set about recording the suite with a sextet that added tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp and bassist Art Davis. The set adds two sextet versions of Acknowledgement to those previously released. The music initially seems less successful, with Shepp adding a raucous, almost R & B flavour, but as one listens to the four takes, one appreciates the spirit of collective improvisation that Coltrane was exploring, with each version radically different than the one before, each growing in freedom and intensity.

Also included is Coltrane’s sole live performance of the work, recorded six months later at the Antibes jazz festival. This, too, is raw, more exploratory work, with the up-tempo Pursuance stretched from ten to 21 minutes in length. Listening to Coltrane’s further elaborations on A Love Supreme, reinforces the idea that the quartet studio recording captured a uniquely reflective (and structuralist) moment in Coltrane’s art, a gathering of one’s secure knowledge before launching again into the unknown.

02 Susie ArioliSpring
Susie Arioli
Spectra Musique SPECD-7854

For this, her eighth studio album, Montreal-based singer Susie Arioli looked to Toronto and its roster of heavy-hitters in the jazz realm for support. Produced by Grammy Award-winner John Snyder and arranged by the legendary Don Thompson, Spring is about renewal and fresh starts. In other words, it’s a break-up album. A glance through the list of songs – Those Lonely, Lonely Nights, Me Myself and I, After You’ve Gone – tells the story. The clever illustrations by Arioli that accompanying each song title on the CD cover, literally paint a picture.

So, while lyrically this is an unhappy album, the music is anything but. There’s nary a ballad to be found. It’s upbeat and swingy with a bouncy horn section and Arioli’s deep, warm voice casually cataloguing a list of hurts. With Thompson’s vibraphone doubling Reg Schwager’s guitar, the cool 60s are evoked on a number of tunes including Mean to Me and I’m the Caring Kind. Arioli’s own compositions, of which there are four on the album, range in style from a country and western homage to the lure of the bottle on Can’t Say No, to a breezy bossa nova-style indictment of infidelity on Someone Else.

Ariloi has a number of tour dates in 2016 in Quebec, with more to come. Check susiearioli.com.

03 John Alcorn

Flying Without Wings
John Alcorn
Loach Engineering LE1001 (jazzinthekitchen.ca/product/flying-without-wings)


This project was conceived and recorded by trumpeter/engineer/producer John Loach, and came about as a result of his being inspired by a performance by leading Canadian jazz vocalist John Alcorn. During his show, Alcorn not only rendered gems from the Great American Songbook, but also deftly included anecdotes and fascinating factoids about each composer and composition. This idea of creating a total, composer-focused experience propelled Loach to produce this fine CD – which features talented musicians Mark Eisenman on piano, Reg Schwager on guitar, Steve Wallace on bass and the world-renowned cornetist Warren Vaché.

Throughout the 12 tracks (which include contributions from Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, the Gershwins and more), Alcorn’s rich baritone is expressive and infused with life experience. His intuitive understanding of a witty, ironic or devastatingly emotional lyric coupled with his intuitive communications with the other players are part and parcel of the contagious appeal of this charismatic and thoroughly gifted musical artist.

Standouts include Porter’s Just One of Those Things, which cooks along with an irresistible percolation from the rhythm section and features a masterful solo from Eisenman. Also of note is It’s Like Reaching for the Moon (Marqusee/Sherman/Lewis), featuring an intimate guitar/voice intro, which segues into trio perfection, as well as a stunner of a solo from Warren Vaché, who embraces the era of the composition while adding his own contemporized sensibilities.

Also of special note is an evocative arrangement of the rarely performed You’re My Thrill (Clare/Gorney), which conjures up a languid, sensual garden of delight. The CD closes with Harry Warren’s I Wish I Knew – a track filled with almost unbearable beauty and longing.

This exceptional CD – so full of heart – is aptly dedicated to the memory of the lovely Diane Alcorn.

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