Honouring More Than The Few Famous Jazz Greats

With music like the other arts increasingly focused on known quantities, recorded salutes to jazz greats have almost become a subcategory of their own. If the world needs another record of Beethoven, Mozart, Elvis or Sinatra, then saluting Ellington, Trane or Miles one more time shouldn’t be a dilemma. But more erudite improvisers realize the music’s wider reach, and if they opt to honour innovators, as on the CDs here, choose lesser-known but equally important stylists.

01 RoscoeMitchellCD007Prize of the group is saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell’s Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa ncd-37 nessarecords.com). Here, one of the founders of Chicago’s influential Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) honours another of its founders, tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson (1929-2010) by playing two of Anderson’s and four of his own compositions. Backed by other AACMers, cellist Tomeka Reid, bassist Junius Paul and drummer Vincent Davis, Mitchell, 75, a more experimental stylist than Anderson, uses the narrow, near-Oriental timbres of sopranino to liberate Anderson’s Bernice and Ladies in Love from the older saxophonist’s freebop conceptions. As Davis’ cymbal smacks sprinkle intermittent tones like flowers on a tombstone, Mitchell uses the natural melancholy from Reid’s instrument plus his sax’s nipped tones to convert Bernice into an effective threnody. In contrast, Ladies in Love moves from a respectful moderato melody to Morse code-like beeps, expressed by near replication of infant cries from Mitchell plus staccato counterpoint from the cello. Emphasized is the rainbow-like expressiveness of the theme’s powerful colours. Hey Fred is the session’s highlight. During its 17-minute length Mitchell expels staccato alto saxophone timbres with the ferocity of a lightning storm, while Paul’s thundering stabs and slants pace his string tones. As laboratory scientist-like Mitchell exposes melody permutations, Reid contributes arco extensions and Davis a continuous pitter patter. Crucially, the climax is reached when circularly breathed saxophone pitches blend with distinctively scattered arco swipes from both string players. Confirmed is the abiding power of, plus the continued sonic research involved in creating, the sounds that Anderson and Mitchell helped nurture.

02 RobReddyCD006Cello, soprano, bass and drums are also featured in a salute to another deceased saxophonist, also using a combination of his compositions and others written especially for the date. But soprano saxophonist Rob Reddy’s Bechet: Our Contemporary (Reddy Music RED 003 robreddy.com) resembles neither Celebrating Fred Anderson nor a reproduction of the music of New Orleans-born soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet (1897-1959). Like theatre companies which perform modern variations on Shakespeare’s plays, Reddy re-orchestrates the timeworn pieces into something contemporary. Case in point is Chant in the Night expanded from Bechet’s rickety-tick, under-three-minute reed showcase to a 15-minute exercise in counterpoint between trombonist Curtis Fowlkes’s protracted slide smudges and hard-punching almost rural licks from Marvin Swell’s guitar. Encircled by flashing swipes from violinist Charles Burnham and cellist Marika Hughes plus amalgamated horn riffs, the end result piles burnished tones atop one another creating a unique structure that’s both traditional and futuristic, especially when a Theremin-like twinge signals the end. Trombone and trumpet vamps predominate on Petite Fleur. But like a ballet dancer who surprises by executing a faultless cha cha, rather than the familiar theme coming from Reddy’s soprano, it’s instead given a memorable reading by Burnham. Two other Bechet tunes are strutting expositions, although Pheeroan akLaff’s Gene Krupa-like hollow wood block smacks on Broken Windmill may be more trick than tribute. Reddy’s portion of the tunes is as high class, with Erasing Statues making room for bottleneck guitar-like sonorities within a ring-shout-like accompaniment; while luculent horn multiphonics modernize the yearning blues licks from Sewell that introduce Yank.

03 OscalypsoCD004Taking the concept one step further is cellist Erik Friedlander whose Oscalypso (Skipstone SSR22 skipstonerecords.com) consists of nine compositions by cellist Oscar Pettiford (1922-1960), one of the first to introduce that orchestral instrument to jazz. Throughout Friedlander and company – tenor and soprano saxophonist Michael Blake, bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Michael Sarin – interpret the tunes with restrained, unselfconscious swing, that could be called cool, but with a harder edge. Sarin, for instance, never thunders, but outputs a constant pulse that ranges from clipping rim shots on the title tune that are answered by spiccato bowing from Friedlander and narrowed note spearing from Blake, to near-Afro-Cuban conga replications on Sunrise Sunset that encourage dance-like flutters from the saxophonist. Supple and relaxed, the cellist’s and reedist’s timbres intersect often, like the conversation of fraternal twins. They can do so at warp speed as on Pendulum at Falcon’s Lair, with its familiar-sounding melody studded by (Stan) Getzian euphony from Blake, or in full balladic mode with the slowly building Two Little Pearls. Tongue-trilling tremolos from the saxophonist are egged on by the cellist’s string sweeps as Dunn strengthens the rhythmic bottom as he does throughout. Expressively romantic playing arco as any cellist facing the Impressionistic repertoire, yet as rhythmically exciting plucking pizzicato as any guitarist in a swing combo, Friedlander not only confirms his talents and those of the quartet members, but flags the continued adaptability of Pettiford’s compositions to contemporary sounds.

04 HomageBleyCD005Canada’s second best-known jazz pianist is the subject of another salute: Homage to Paul Bley (Leo Records CD LR 732 leorecords.com), but Italian pianist Arrigo Cappelletti has taken the oddest way to frame his admiration for someone he lists as one of his chief inspirations. Cappelletti, who teaches at Venice’s Music Conservatory and has played with Bley associates like drummer Bill Elgart and bassist Steve Swallow, plays mostly his own music here. Of the three tunes not by Cappelletti though, one was composed by Andrew Hill, two were composed by Thelonious Monk. There’s probably some perverse Mediterranean logic at work here. Although none of the 13 tracks are Bley compositions, the pianist, assisted by bassist Furio Di Castri and drummer Bruce Ditmas, both of whom worked with Bley, writes short, weedy lines that compare to the Canadian’s work. Unlike Bley’s note economy though, the Italian’s style is much busier, even on the title tune. The multi-note textural exposition he specializes in is reminiscent of someone making sure to spread jam on every single millimetre of his toast. More crucially, the pianist’s synergy with his bassist is as pronounced as Bley’s was with his sidemen. Tracks such as the stop-and-go Bluesy and Refugee Blues find the two playing pitch and catch with the themes, with blues expressed only by inference. Meanwhile on the introspective Ashes, Cappelletti appears to be answering every chord he plays himself; and on the slow-moving and stately Coral creates a sense of unfolding drama which perfectly presages the Monk medley that follows it. While Cappelletti’s touch is also not spare enough to meet Monk’s idiosyncrasies on Pannonica & Crepuscule with Nellie, the luxurious elegance he brings to his own compositions is imposing. DiCastri’s bowed bass line adds expressive deep tones to Durate, as Ditmas’ molasses-slow rolls maintain the tune’s ambulatory momentum; while the almost endless thematic development the three bring to Dialogue invests it with a scanty romanticism, characterized by piano-key dusting and the drummer’s patterning smacks.

05 BarryHarrisCD002An identical format was used in 1975 by pianist Barry Harris’ trio to pay tribute to a composer-arranger-pianist, whose achievements were even at that early date in danger of being forgotten. Plays Tadd Dameron (Xanadu Master Edition 906071 elemental-music.com) with bassist Gene Taylor and drummer Leroy Williams was the first – and for many years the only – disc given over to classics by Dameron (1917-1965), whose tunes such as Hot House and Our Delight defined bebop. Harris, whose harmonic adroitness is in many ways comparable to Dameron’s, stresses both the melodic and rhythmic parameters of these tunes. With Taylor string interpolations shadowing him like a guide dog with his master, the pianist’s interpretations are more buttoned down than the originals, but this controlled session also lacks spectacular front men like Fats Navarro and John Coltrane, for whom the tunes were first composed. Yet by separating these eight classics from their initial recordings, Harris burnishes the composer’s reputation. For instance his evocative version of If You Could See Me Now, initially recorded by Sarah Vaughan, adds a wash of colourful breaks to the ballad like nuts sprinkled on caramel chocolate. Soultrane, first recorded by Coltrane, is modulated into sophisticated smoothness with the floating beat encompassing pure emotionalism. Meanwhile the assured treatment of the frequently recorded Ladybird is allowed to float freely until double-timing bass work and an elliptical keyboard coda confirm its individuality. Even the lush Casbah is dappled with rhythmic quotes and humour to strip out the false exotica so that the melody stands on its own.

Forty years ago Harris, now 85, showed that memorable jazz was made by more than a handful of great composer/performers. Today, canny players are further exposing inventive compositions by lesser-known creators. With more colours and contours in place, a fuller picture of the music emerges.

01 EisenstadtDrummer/composer Harris Eisenstadt is currently based in New York, but he commemorates his roots in the band that recently released Canada Day IV (Songlines SGL 1614-2, songlines.com). The group style has its roots in the Blue Note avant-garde of the mid 60s: it’s a quintet of trumpet and reeds, vibraphone, bass and drums, but the style is stretched at every point into a dramatic contemporary idiom, from the eerie sound of Chris Dingman bowing his vibraphone to Nate Wooley’s radical reconstruction of trumpet sound, sometimes departing from his crisply incisive lines to couple multiphonics with circular breathing. Eisenstadt’s compositions keep inviting the band members to further invention while anchoring them in often complex designs that reference his interests in African and Cuban rhythmic patterns. An emphasis on sub-groupings brings each individual to the fore, including tenor saxophonist Matt Bauder and the group’s newly arrived French-German bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, while Eisenstadt leads from his drum kit, exploring fresh forms of momentum.

02 Preminger Pivot Live At The 55 Bar COVERKnown for his long tenure in Metalwood, the remarkably successful trans-Canada fusion band, Ottawa-born Ian Froman is another Canadian drummer who works primarily in the New York area. He plays a key role on Noah Preminger’s Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar (noahpreminger.com). Preminger is an adventurous saxophonist whose influences range from the laconic abstraction of Warne Marsh to the wail of Ornette Coleman, but he’s chosen to root his music here as deeply as possible. The CD consists of two songs by Mississippi Delta blues singer Bukka White: Parchman Farm Blues and Fixin’ to Die Blues. Each primordial blues provides a launching pad for a 32-minute exploration that will recall both the Coleman quartet and the titanic work of John Coltrane and his drummer Elvin Jones as Froman (a student of Jones) keeps the music moving with continuous polyrhythms and shifting accents, whether pressing Preminger and trumpeter Jason Palmer ahead or providing detailed commentary on their phrasing. Like its sources in the blues, this music has the feel of living tissue.

03 Scott MarshallAnother fine Ottawa-born drummer, Nick Fraser provides solid support to saxophonist Scott Marshall on Nihahi Ridge (SMT004, scottdouglasmarshall.com), Marshall’s fourth CD as a leader and the third by his Toronto quartet with pianist Marcel Aucoin and bassist Wes Neal. Marshall is a lyrical player using his tenor to create warmly reflective music even when the rhythms are forceful. The group’s sense of dialogue emerges on After all this Time as the quartet smoothly negotiates shifts in mood. Aucoin’s luminous solo is a highlight. Marshall’s tone is just as nuanced when he switches to alto, from the keening wail of Groovy Eliot to the light, airy sound he achieves on I Wish You Peace. Marshall’s preference for ballad tempos and strongly asserted melodies can dominate here, but the off-kilter How Very Kerouac provides a change of pace along the way.


04 Alpha Moment cover 912x912Pianist/composer Peter Hum may be better known as a jazz and food critic for the Ottawa Citizen, but there’s nothing to suggest anything but full commitment to his art on Alpha Moment (peterhum.com). Hum leads a sextet here, and his group concept is almost orchestral. His compositions are well formed and subtly voiced, with solos arrayed against his own lush chords, Alec Walkington’s resonant bass and drummer Ted Warren’s constant sonic shadings. While the band’s members are currently spread out geographically, the group clearly came together at a special moment for the Ottawa jazz scene, much of the excitement coming from two Ottawa-raised saxophonists who have since moved on: Kenji Omae, now resident in Seoul, may be the most exciting tenor saxophonist to emerge in Canada in recent years, a powerful, impulsive player who’s also capable of lustrous ballad playing; Nathan Cepelinski, now a New Yorker, plays alto and soprano with quicksilver thought and phrasing. Along with glassy-toned Montreal guitarist Mike Rud, the six make up a terrific band, something that’s apparent everywhere here, but most pointedly on the aptly named title tune.

05 BrinksBassist Daniel Fortin makes his debut as a bandleader on Brinks (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 473, freshsoundrecords.com). While his compositional skills have figured in releases by the band Myriad3, they play a more prominent role here, defining a strong, personal style. Fortin’s pieces consist of just a few notes, a phrase or two to be recast, concentrated and contrasted. He creates edgy, tensile structures that have some of the character of Thelonious Monk’s works without any particular resemblance. It’s music that requires tremendous discipline on the part of the band to come up with sufficiently minimalist improvisatory approaches that are true to the spirit of the works, but that’s just what tenor saxophonist David French, vibraphonist Michael Davidson and drummer Fabio Ragnelli have done. Operating within a set of timbres that might suggest comfortable ballads, the group turns out complex music filled with intriguing juxtapositions and fresh patterns. Fortin himself plays bass with a keen sense of structure and a special melodic focus.

06 Steve KaldestadTenor saxophonist Steve Kaldestad criss-crossed Canada and spent an eight-year sojourn in England before settling in Vancouver in 2008. Since then he has established himself there as a solid exponent of the mainstream modern. New York Afternoon (Cellar Live CL032014, cellarlive.com) presents him in performance with pianist Renee Rosnes (one of Vancouver’s great contributions to New York jazz) and her regular rhythm section of bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash. Kaldestad swings fluidly through a program that ranges through hard bop blues and swaying Brazilian melodies to the more exotic modal underpinnings of Joe Henderson’s Punjab, with Rosnes’ scintillating solo recalling her extensive work with the late saxophonist’s band. Her own Icelight explores similar strata, while the ballad highlight comes on Kaldestad’s soulful and silk-toned rendering of Beatriz.

01_Cecile_Salvant.jpgFor One to Love
Cecile McLorin Salvant
Justin Time JTR 8593-2 justin-time.com

American singer Cecile McLorin Salvant put the jazz world on notice with her first major release in 2013. With a voice that is at once fresh and traditional, Salvant won numerous accolades such as Female Vocalist of the Year from the Jazz Journalists Association, Jazz Album of the Year by the Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll and a Grammy nomination. Still only in her mid-20s, the bar was set high for her sophomore release – and For One to Love is a continuation on the same fine musical path she set for herself.

The impeccable pitch, diction and control are still there, as are top-notch band mates. The choice of material is similar to the first release – a few standards wrought in interesting new ways, such as The Trolley Song, made famous by Judy Garland and which includes a brief, amusing imitation of Garland. Also, in what’s becoming a bit of a trademark, Salvant takes a run at some low down dirty blues – like Growlin’ Dan. These aren’t my favourites, largely because Salvant’s classically trained voice just doesn’t suit the material, but they’re fun. And that’s true of a lot of Salvant’s delivery – theatrical and broad and a little flighty, never really landing on one style or sound. I imagine she’s very entertaining to see live. There’s also a sprinkling of original compositions and the opener Fog really exemplifies the whole album – artful, skilled and not entirely certain what it wants to be.

02_Cold_Duck.jpgCold Duck
MonotypeRec Mono 096 (monotyperecs.com)

No relation to the sparkling wine of the same name, Cold Duck is instead a series of nine biting improvisations by S4, an ad-hoc, all-star quartet of soprano saxophone innovators – one British, John Butcher, and the others Swiss: Urs Leimgruber, Hans Koch and Christian Kobi, the last of whom is also a member of the all-saxophone Konus Quartett, which interprets notated music.

Designated by Roman numerals, Cold Duck’s tracks, lasting from barely one minute to more than 12, could be the auditory sound track of an experimental ornithologist’s laboratory. But unlike such trial and error endeavours, the quartet deliberately creates timbres that range from police-whistle harshness to fipple-like songbird echoes, with a goodly collection of tongue slaps, tongue pops and snorts thrown in for good measure. At the same time its skill is such that III is harmonized as intimately as if by a bel canto choir, but open enough so that every strain, partial and split tone is audible as the four work through tonal variations. Severing and re-attaching with plasticine-like continuity on VII, tremolo whines and lip burbles maintain a shrill pitch until the final moment when one sharp tone pushes the other reeds into more comfortable interaction. Then on the extended IV, S4 members pump air bubbles through their horns with a velocity that resembles electronic processing. After the narrative is magnified enough, it’s squeezed like a balloon, slowly deflating as growls and yelps mix with puffs and squeaks. Subsequently, united circular breathing leads to an aural rainbow-like expansion of tonal colours involving all four.

That climax may be one of the fundamental triumphs and instructive pleasures of Cold Duck. No matter how many instances of sound separation exist, no individual voice is more prominent than the others. The result is a program that confirms group cohesion while fittingly sampling a saxophone choir’s outermost elements.

04_Kurt_Elling.jpgPassion World
Kurt Elling
Concord Jazz CJA-36841-02 (concordmusicgroup.com)

When I first tried to listen to Kurt Elling’s new album Passion World, I had a hard time getting through it. That’s because whenever I got to the seventh track – his cover of U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name – I had to stop, hit repeat and then just take a moment to recover. It’s a powerful and beautiful take on an already powerful and beautiful song. Once I managed to move on, I realized it’s an album full of such takes.

Passion World was born out of Elling’s desire, when touring, to deliver a song that would give the audience a taste of their country’s own music – what he refers to as “charmers.” The collection of songs then developed into a project for Jazz at Lincoln Center and, now, an album. Leaning mainly toward ballads, Passion World is filled with songs about longing and a sense of place. The project also exemplifies collaboration in its many forms. The opening tracks set the tone as Elling puts lyrics about home and the road to two instrumentals by John Clayton and Pat Metheny before getting into more traditional territory with Loch Tay Boat Song featuring a modern woodwind arrangement played by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. Arturo Sandoval’s Bonita Cuba is another fine example of musical minds meeting. The band members all play major roles in the success of this album and, in particular, John McLean’s arrangements and guitar work elevate this collection. 

John Russell
Emanem 5037 (emanemdisc.com)

As the musicians of the so-called second generation of British improvisers move into their seventh decade, many celebratory concerts are marking their undiminished skills. One of the best, preserved on this 78-minute disc, took place last December as 60th-birthday-boy, guitarist John Russell, played four sets with six improvisers. The result confirms the adage that free music keeps you young.

Measuring all four, the two shorter meetings are like extended bagatelles. On The Second Half of the First Half, Russell matches wits with his contemporary, sound-singer Phil Minton, who has never found a noise he couldn’t duplicate. As Minton bellows, burbles, moans, whistles and hiccups, the guitarist’s folksy picking is perfect accompaniment for a bawdy verbal Punch & Judy show with the singer taking all the parts. The Second Half of the Second Half signals a rare return to the electric guitar for Russell to battle the psyched-out, dial-twisting distortions from Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore. Propelling electronic shrieks, flanges and trebly rebounds likely not heard since Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck worked together, Russell rocks out while keeping the duet chromatic and with unexpected aleatory highlights.

True sonic sustenance comes with the extended trios. The First Half of the First Half unites three separate musical strands into congenial whole cloth. Trading licks with trumpeter Henry Lowther’s muted puffs as if the two are Art Farmer and Jim Hall in a cool jazz situation, Russell also plinks wide linear accents which lock in with the studied sweeps of violinist Satoko Fukuda expressing her classical training. Staccato stopping on the guitarist’s part knit the loose ends so the garment has no holes. Even more impressive is The First Half of the Second Half, where the trio is filled out by a younger – bassist John Edwards – and an older – tenor saxophonist Evan Parker – free-music lifer like himself. With the bassist digging a foundation scooping darker tones from within his wooden instrument, Russell uses resonating flanges and slurred fingering to build a modernist edifice, upon which Parker’s architecturally inventive vibrations provide the decorative detailing. With confirms Russell’s – and free improv’s – adaptability, foretelling many more creative years for both.

Since the realignment of East and West after the fall of the Berlin Wall, musicians of every stripe have found new playing opportunities and partners. In the former Soviet countries, one particularly fertile area for improvisers has been Poland. While westerners may figure Polish jazz begins and ends with Krzysztof Komeda’s score for Rosemary’s Baby and other Roman Polanski films, the country’s rich jazz history goes back to the 1920s and maintained its place during Communist rule. Today, like the equivalent attention paid to their ancestral roots among the children of immigrants, western improvisers have discovered the fulfillment of working with Polish bands or having Polish musicians part of their groups.

01_Unknowable.jpgCase in point is Montreal alto saxophonist François Carrier. Unknowable (NotTwo Records MW 928-2, nottwo.com), showcases a touring partnership he and his Montreal associate, drummer Michel Lambert, have formed with Krakow-based acoustic bass guitarist Rafal Mazur. Authoritatively using both the guitar and double bass properties of his instrument with equal proficiency, Mazur is like the third partner in a fantasy ménage à trois, adding to the situation without disrupting the others’ union. An equal opportunity companion, his hand taps add percussive weight to Lambert’s rolling ruffs and pops, while his array of thumb and finger positions animates Carrier’s skyward smears or stressed multiphonics. Listening Between, the first track, could serve as a description of how the three operate throughout: not only shadowing each other’s propelled textures, but also anticipating sound patterns to fit what will soon be heard. Carrier’s initial churlish reed-straining on that track for instance is soon pulled towards accommodating mezzo-like melisma as Mazur strums his guitar as if he was backing an operatic tenor. With Lambert beating away stoically, the bass guitarist loops out multiple theme variations, as compressed buzzes slide from Carrier’s Chinese oboe for a unique interaction. Broken-octave communication characterizes Unknowable, the date’s centerpiece. Like an extended length of hose unrolling, Mazur’s staccato finger style sets up a continuum that’s matched by the saxophonist’s rubato cries which retain some sweetness. Eventually rim shot crackles and cross sticking from Lambert resolve the outbursts into a satisfying thematic whole. Still, it’s indisputable that the three didn’t want to let go of what they achieved musically. Like guests at a great party who dawdle before leaving, Springing Out, the next track, and Dissolution, the concluding, barely 90-second one, come across as coda and then as coda to the coda of the title performance.

02_Uppercut.jpgA duo consisting of American pianist Matthew Shipp and Polish multi-reedist Mat Walerian illustrates another collaborative application. Involved with his own trio and other combinations, Shipp has worked sporadically with Walerian, who plays alto saxophone, soprano and bass clarinet plus flute, yet the ten selections on The Uppercut – Live at Okuden (ESP-Disk 5007 espdisk.com) document fulfilling rapport between the two. Like a method actor, Walerian portrays a different character on each horn, but the output is united in finding unique sounds. Because of this, Shipp’s narratives encompass everything from multi-note Art Tatum-like emphasis, out-and-out abstract key and string ratcheting reflecting both new music and free music, shaggy keyboard carpets of Chopin-like recital-ready intermezzos and primitive blues and early jazz echoes. The last is apparent on Blues for Acid Cold where a restrained lounge-like exposition from Shipp gradually hardens into a blues conception following Walerian’s rangy, elongated clarinet tone. By the climax the two could be Jimmy Noone and Earl Hines in 1920s Chicago. In contrast, what begins with the pianist and alto saxophonist propelling slick mainstream timbres at one another on Love and Other Species – think Phil Woods and Jim McNeely – evolves into a breathtaking display of complicit split tones, as the two deconstruct the melody as if it were a building being dynamited to smithereens, then rebuild the tune into a solid edifice for a sympathetic ending. As for the consecutive Free Bop Statement One and Free Bop Statement Two, a flexible intro works up from creamy Johnny Hodges-like alto playing plus juddering, pre-modern jungle-band keyboard splashes to attain a series of motifs encompassing key clips and dissonant reed squawks, though never abandoning underlying swing. Conventional and avant-garde simultaneously, Black Rain may be the CD’s most evocative track. A soothing duet, characterized by gentle keyboard patterning and graceful bass clarinet breathing, as if Shipp and Walerian were a long-time married couple finishing each other’s sentences, it’s suddenly ripped apart and replaced with Shipp’s key clips and harp-like piano string strums hewing out an ascending sonic path and Walerian’s intermittent tongue stops and flute peeps. Concluded with sparse sounds that wouldn’t be out of place in a new music recital, the two confirm their versatility and the vitality of the disc.



Another application of this international formula is the Ocean Fanfare quartet. Consisting of Polish trumpeter Tomasz Dąbrowski, two Danes, alto and tenor saxophonist Sven Dam Meinild and bassist Richard Andersson, and American drummer Tyshawn Sorey, the fusion results in an exceptional modern mainstream unit on its cleanly recorded CD Imagine Sounds Imagine Silences (Barefoot Records BFREC O40 barefoot-records.com), which consist of six Dąbrowski and three Meinild originals. Despite having composed the bulk of the material, Dąbrowski isn’t any more prominent in performance than other members. Like a new drawing superimposed over an existing one, Ocean Fanfare has the instrumentation and left-field orientation of an Ornette Coleman quartet plus the stamina of the Jazz Messengers. Crucially, Sorey’s broken time sense and cymbal swishes are less prominent than Art Blakey’s, leaving supple booms from Andersson’s bass to define the rhythmic bottom. Featuring the drummer’s time-clock-like pacing, a track such as Lotus positions crying split tones from the saxophonist and melancholic plunger work from the trumpeter for an emotional narrative. 7 Days to Go extends the Coleman-like comparison, starting off echoing Lonely Woman until the skirmish takes on the strength of a battle with a double bass vamp and interlocked horn bluster. On the other hand the crackling velocity that propels US 12 resembles that of a classic bop 78, with each player’s contributions tossed every which way, until a pseudo-march sequence introduces some spectacular brass plunger tones and climaxes with conjoined twin-like horn unison. By the final Meditation (on a Visit from France), the band appropriately trades in blunt reed smears, kazoo-like brass hums and popping bass and drum beats for a stable but buoyant ending. Following trumpet and saxophone tone slacking, the theme slips away leaving behind a bass string pluck and cymbal resonation.


Politically Nichi Nichi Kore Ko Nichi by the P.U.R. Collective (ForTune 0056 006 for-tune.pl) is instructive in a non-musical manner since the cohesive seven tracks of free improvisation match a Polish combo of guitarist Maciej Staszewski, drummer Tomek Chołoniewski and Krzysztof Knittel on electronics with two reed players, Alexey Kruglov from Russia and Yuri Yaremchuk from Ukraine. Rather than being at loggerheads like their respective governments, the players create a collective program where the keening vigor of Yaremchuk’s bass clarinet and soprano saxophone plus the jagged bites from Kruglov’s alto saxophone, basset horn and block flute snuggle alongside the others’ expressions like Matryoshka nesting dolls. Unlike these wooden Russian toys no player is more inside or outside than another. You can get an idea of this Eastern Bloc pact on U 01 where chalumeau lowing from the clarinet moves alongside uniform guitar strums as electronics create a convulsive ostinato of peeps and static. Even after the line mutates into a free jazz blow out from the saxophonists, intricate finger-style guitar lines and drum pops mute the explosions enough, while a moving block flute cadenza signals the finale. These ex-Soviets have a sense of humour as well. Cutting through the harsh flamenco-like runs from Staszewski and unorthodox beats from Chołoniewski on Extreme 07, Kruglov inserts some mocking rooster crows that presage his quicksilver reed smears and split tones as the factions unify distinctively. 

05_Panta_Rei.jpgOf course it’s still common for a visiting international soloist to hook up with Polish musicians to tour and record. One notable instance of this is Panta Rei (ForTune 0047 034 for-tune.pl), where Marco Eneidi Steamin’ 4 consists of the leader, an American alto saxophonist living in Vienna, plus three high-functioning Poles: tenor saxophonist Marek Pospieszalski, bassist Ksawery Wójciński and drummer Michał Trela. Comfortable in two-saxophone situations, Eneidi’s communication with Pospieszalski is at the highest level, often suggesting a funhouse mirror, where similar phrases from each are distorted with unique reflections. Ironically titled, Made in Pole Land highlights an emotional two-step which breaks down into speedy tremolos with snorts, horks and nasal buzzes goosed by Wójciński’s pacing and Trela’s wooden cracks. The swirl of buzzing double bass strings energizes White Bats Yodelling, although whether the flying rodents saluted with violent mammalian split tones, rumbling basso honks and agitated wing-like swishes are Polish or American isn’t made clear. What is clear is that, like intrepid (tone) scientists, the two saxophonists chase every phrase and note to the end, wringing each sonic nuance, expansion and implication from it. With measured bumps, but no bombast, the drummer follows up Wójciński’s sul ponticello intro to the concluding wordplay of Arco M. Adding additional string twanging later on, both he and Trela maintain the swinging pulse as the soloing of Eneidi and Pospieszalski contrast their intercontinental styles. When one architecturally builds a sleek Le Corbusier-like modernist line, the other counters with rococo detailing; then they switch roles with conclusive cooperation. Panta Rei may have been a first meeting for the American and the Poles, but the high level of musicianship exhibited by all confirms why collaborations involving adventurous Polish stylists and equally impressive out-of-country musicians are becoming increasingly common.


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