Monday, August 29, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Vrrt

Indigo Trio: Live in Montreal. 2005. Greenleaf Music: GRE-P-03.
Nicole Mitchell: flute, wood flute, vocals
Harrison Bankhead: acoustic bass, vocals
Hamid Drake: drums, hand drums

Since this disc last came up in the rotation I have relocated to the hometown of Nicole Mitchell, Harrison Bankhead and Hamid Drake and had a chance to experience their respective activities within the lifeblood of the Chicago music scene. My appreciation for what resides on this session is significantly deeper than the last time this music had a spin. These musicians plunge deep into the soul of these compositions and explore spontaneous angles from within the music. Few players so thoroughly transcend the spectrum between free improvisation and composed music to the degree where it doesn't matter. It is all music. Musically, this session is amazing. But I wouldn't expect anything less from this power trio.

Katt Hernandez/Evan Lipson: Hisswig. 2007. Mini-CD-R.

Katt Hernandez: violin
Evan Lipson: bass

A moment (or twenty of them) from the Philadelphia improvisation scene once upon a time. The ever restless Katt Hernandez has made her way to Stockholm and the vibrant improvisation opportunities on the other side of the pond. Leaving behind scattered documents such as this dialog between string players. Evan Lipson brings a great energy to this sound as he deftly crosses registers and common timbres with Hernandez. Free improvisation works well with ears such as these. It leaves the ears reaching for more.

Mazen Kerbaj: Brt Vrt Zrt Krt. 2005. Al Maslakh Recordings: 01.

Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet

To say that Mazen Kerbaj is a unique force on the trumpet would be an understatement. It's hard to imagine a soloist who could make one more acutely aware of the vibrations of a column of brass. The inner workings of the instrument as a construction site. The presence and absence of air flowing through the column. The lungs that propel the air. The connective tissues and cellular workings of the performer as Kerbaj brings "extended technique" to a whole new level. Engineering such a recording has to pose intense challenges as sound emanates from points all along the horn. The sound of valves, of tubing and friction. This is a unique language in sound. An acoustic musique concrete rendered with an alluring intimacy of its live creation. These ears were captivated for the full duration of this set.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Your Face Arrives in the Redbud Trees

Chris Mosley Trio: The Miraculous Aspect of Time. 2006. Red Button Records: RBR-101.

Chris Mosley: guitar, fretless guitar, 36-tone guitar
Damian Erskine: electric bass
Drew Shoals: drums

I could easily go for a full length recording of the "Interlude" material that Chris Mosley barely hints at on this set. Which is not a knock on the trio pieces that fill out the bulk of this recording with his thoroughly intimidating guitar chops and inventive sense of melodic development. It's just that I've heard a lot of insane guitar chops and inventive melodic development and it's the introspective, 36-tone guitar pieces that carve out new harmonic territory that hit me right where I live. The prospect of hearing a full hour (or several hours) of insane guitar chops and improvisational ability applied to a xenharmonic world is incredibly tantalizing and the brief "Interlude" pieces are just a wisp of what could be. Beyond that, Mosley is clearly a guitar talent that bears watching regardless of what creative directions he pursues.

Myra Melford/Be Bread: The Image of Your Body. 2006. Cryptogramophone: CG131.

Myra Melford: piano, harmonium
Brandon Ross: electric guitar, bajo, voice
Cuong Vu: trumpet, electronics
Stomu Takeishi: electric bass guitar, acoustic bass guitar, electronics
Elliot Humberto Kavee: drums

The familiar Melford composition "Equal Grace" opens this collection with an arrangement that pulls these ears in with incredible gravity. Promising an aural journey over the span of this disc and then delivering with breath taking accuracy. Myra Melford's compositions and arrangements (and titles) are infused with poetry and an absorption of Sufi spirituality. A poetry that emerges for just one track as Brandon Ross reads the poem from which so many of the titles on this disc are derived in "The Image Of Your Body." Poetry and music that is grounded within a sensibility of self and selflessness. This music turns inward and more spiritual through the tracks that Myra Melford switches over to harmonium. Forming the core of this set before moving back to piano and the mix of composed themes pollinated by bursts of free improvisation and ensemble textures. This is a remarkable recording.

The Ray Anderson-Marty Ehrlich Quartet: Hear You Say - Live in Willisau. 2010. Intuition: INTCHR71303.

Ray Anderson: trombone
Marty Ehrlich: clarinet, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone
Brad Jones: bass
Matt Wilson: drums

My first impression is that Brad Jones and Matt Wilson are accomplished enough musicians to deserve equal billing in this convergence of titans. Matt Wilson in particular has a way of propelling everything to the next level just by working the drum kit. This quartet is no exception even though one wouldn't think that Ray Anderson and Marty Ehrlich could possibly have a "next level" to go to. Each musician brings their own personality into this mix. And that means the compositions brought into this set allow plenty of room for both the "crazy" solos and a deep grounding in the history of jazz. These are musicians that play that history without wallowing in it. They bring the same kind of energy and sense of time that has been such a vital part of swing and bop through the ages and deliver a synthesis of something astonishingly vital. A great document of what happens when living masters collide on stage.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Listen, This Is For You

Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections. 2011. Cuneiform Records: Rune 330/331.
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, electric trumpet
Michael Gregory: electric guitars
Pheeroan akLaff: drums
Brandon Ross: electric guitar
John Lindberg: acoustic bass, electric acoustic bass
Skuli Sverrisson: electric bass, 6-string bass
Angelica Sanchez: acoustic piano, wurlitzer electric piano
Josh Gerowitz: electric guitar
Lamar Smith: electric guitar
Stephanie Smith: violin
Casey Anderson: alto saxophone
Casey Butler: tenor saxophone
Mark Trayle: laptop
Charlie Burgin: laptop

A double-CD set that leaves the ears hungry for more. Wadada Leo Smith carves out a sonic terrain with some unusual instrumentation. Pheeroan akLaff's drumming nearly takes on the focal point of this experience with a music that moves effortlessly between groove and free textures. The striking thing is how effortless the transitions are for the range of material covered. Each side of that rhythmic equation is so well balanced there is never a sense that one is merely setting up for the other. The eddies of space that Wadada Leo Smith finds for his understated trumpet solos line this music with several sonic gems. This small army of guitarists also leaves an impression. This is great material. Highly recommended.

Lisle Ellis: Sucker Punch Requiem: An Homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat. 2005. Henceforth Records: 104.

Pamela Z: voice, electronicsLinkHolly Hofmann: flutes
Oliver Lake: saxophones
George Lewis: trombone
Mike Wofford: piano
Lisle Ellis: bass, electronics, sound design
Susie Ibarra: drums, percussion

The collective image of the artist applying paint to canvas while listening to music is relatively common. The translation of sonic energy (be it be-bop or hard punk) to visual art is a relatively intuitive concept. With Sucker Punch Requiem we have a convincing reversal of this translation. With the art and irreverence of Jean-Michel Basquiat yeilding a concept record guided by the vision of bassist (and electronic musician) Lisle Ellis. The range of textures is startling. A range in the service of realizing the energy of the great graffiti artist. The materials of flute, piano, voice, electronics, etc. darting off with the spontaneous and calculated precision of a brush stroke. Music that stays true to its inspiration by retaining its controlled freedom. This is a record that stands up well to multiple listenings as it reveals layers with familiarity.

Matthias Kaul: Fever. 2002. Nurnichtnur: CD 05245.
Matthias Kaul: percussion, voice

Listen, This Is For You
Amadeu Antonio Kiowa
Listen, This Is For You (II)

Five pieces for solo percussion conceptualized and performed with an intriguing sense of intimacy. Both with the materials as well as with the imagined listener. Listen, This Is For You opens and closes this set with the wide open gesture of offering this music as a gift. Yet it is the first part of that admonition - to listen - that is the most rewarding. The fragility of percussive sound giving breath to Amadeu Antonio Kiowa - a piece written as an empathetic response to the senseless murder of Angolan immigrant Kiowa at the hands of Nazi skinheads. Music as a human need for meaning and atonement in the face of the senseless. The shrill harmonic tones of Bachmann - played on the glass harp - as a fragility of sound from another timbre. The acoustically realized near musique concrete sounds of Fever exploring the fragility of amplification and friction. Each of these performances is both a solemn offering and a sincere articulation. Each piece has a nearly transparent compositional form that sustains the unfolding of sound.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blackbirds at Dusk

Chicago Counterpoint: A Steve Reich Celebration @ Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago, IL
Monday, August 22, 2011

Come Out (1966)*
Mallet Quartet (2009)
Double Sextet (2008)
Melodica (1966)*
Music for 18 Musicians (1974-1976)
It's Gonna Rain (1965)*

Performed by Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion and friends (with the exception of the *tape pieces, which were broadcast over the sound system at Pritzker).

Come Out was broadcast over the sound system as an invocation for an outdoor celebration of the music of Steve Reich. It quickly established that this was going to be a different Reich experience. Imagine hearing avant garde tape pieces of the 1960s played at a sporting event for a crowd of thousands. The sound vanishing into the open space with odd reflections obscuring the phasing that is the foundation of this sound. Eventually the Reich qualities emerge and the meditative nature of his repetitions begins to take hold and holds up surprisingly well within an acoustically challenging space. A sequence that repeated with each piece and performance of a music centered around repetition itself.

The late works of Mallet Quartet and Double Sextet draw upon stylistic elements that are deeply established. Even though these pieces were new to me, they were also deeply familiar in their similarities to the Reich oeuvre. The middle "slow" movements for both of them sounded like the the slow movements of Desert Music. But unlike Come Out or Desert Music, these works were strikingly non-political and polite. Pleasant music. But without the hungry fire that made his early works so groundbreaking and exciting. However, the soaring final movement of Double Sextet is a thing of soaring bliss that clearly was the reason why it won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Music. The processes that build over time in Reich's music have a way of scaling toward staggering musical vistas.

Music for 18 Musicians is an irresistible masterpiece. One of those rare works that carves out its own space to inhabit. One could hear the gentle push and pull at the rhythmic pulse as the outstanding musicians of Eighth Blackbird and Third Coast Percussion collectively focused upon that all consuming pulsation. The sky darkened perceptibly over the span of this hour long work. By the end, even the chirping crickets of the night had adjusted their own pulse to match.

The amplification for each of these pieces was a bit disorienting. The balance and the resonance being so different from the sound of concert halls and studio recordings. And yet, one by one, each of these compositions overcame the challenges of being freed from the concert hall and recording studio and found a way to thrive as a music that builds toward transcendent experience. That is a quality found in music that endures.

Steve Reich abandoned electronic music some time after his celebrated tape works of the 1960s in favor of live musicians realizing the rhythmic implications of the phasing principles he had been exploring. Performances of tape music have a long tradition of getting little respect. A tradition that the city of Chicago observed as they evicted me from the seating area long before the beautifully sonorous It's Gonna Rain had stopped filling the night air. Another obstacle that Reich's music manages to overcome with the persistent beauty of his compositions.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Texture of Isolation

Alexander Berne: The Soprano Saxophone Choir/The Saduk/The Abandoned Orchestra. 2010. Innova: 755A/755B/755C.

Alexander Berne: all instruments

A luxurious triple-disc study of multi-tracking as a compositional medium. These lush textures invite multiple comparisons to Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, or Jon Hassell. Yet it's only a few surface details that invite such comparisons. This is a music informed by deep listening and it rewards the listener who brings the same sensibility to the experience. The Soprano Saxophone Choir begins this three act collection with a singular focus upon a single instrument. The layering pulls the ears within the timbre of the soprano saxophone. Exposing subtle nuances from the resonance of multiples. This same focused energy continues in The Saduk as Berne features an open-holed flute/reed hybrid as the timbral force of this music. But slowly allows other instruments into the dense mixture of sound. The sparse introduction of percussion makes clear that this three-act cycle is not about stasis. The Abandoned Orchestra continues the process of opening up the range of instrument timbres. The procedure of a singular performer utilizing the technology of multi-tracking becomes the unifying thread of this music. Exposing a limitless universe drawn from within Berne's intuitive creativity. An impressive soundscape with a clearly individual voice. The use of tracks performed live gives this music a decidedly non-sequenced/non-quantized sound. Yet it feels more composed than improvised. This music is absolutely gorgeous and an accomplished long-form work of textural density with transcendental gravity.Link
Liz Allbee: Quarry Tones. 2005. Resipiscent: RSPT 001.

Liz Allbee: trumpet, voice, electronics

This set is also a study in multi-tracking with a decidedly different emotional and psychological bent. Noisescapes assembled from the interior of the trumpet bell, conch shells, loops and some chanting that is beyond spooky. This is a beautifully psychedelic montage of sounds and rage that holds together as a short concept album. At just half an hour in length it makes an impression on the psyche. Feeling neither too long nor too short and leaving one drained by its surprisingly emotional punch. Highly recommended.

The Green Pasture Happiness: Aut Disce Aut Discede. 2010. Peira: 03.Link
Daniel Fandino: turntables
Brian Labycz: electronics
Aaron Zarzutzki: no-output turntable

Here the sonic universe is drawn from the inner workings of electronic circuitry. Realized live without overdubbing, one can hear this trio of performers listening to the environment as they splice in their own elements into this noisy fabric in real time. Hearing this on the heels of the two over-dubbing studies utilizing traditional instruments I am struck by how the technology itself becomes the instrument and the instrumentation in this set. The results are every bit as disorienting. In a good way. These ears like to get lost in the unfamiliar terrain. This is a texture of rugged peaks. The conductivity of electrons never sounded so fragile and alive. Amplification as its own means to an end.

HurdAudio Rotation: Sacred and Secular Music

Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach Edition [IV-1]. 1999. Brilliant Classics: 93102/77

Funeral Ode BWV 198
For the 1st day of Christmas BWV 110

Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Roth Holton: soprano
Marjon Strijk: soprano
Sytse Buwalda: alto
Knut Schoch: tenor
Bas Ramselaar: bass
Pieter Jan Leusink: conductor
Peter Frankenberg: oboe
Kristin Linde: oboe
Ofer Frenkel: oboe
Doretthe Janssens: traverso
Oeds van Middelkoop: traverso
Rien Voskuilen: cembalo
Vaughan Schlepp: cembalo
Freek Borstlap: viola da gamba
Ivanka Neeleman: viola da gamba
David van Ooijen: lute
Micheiel Niessen: lute
Jan Zwerver: alto
Martinus Leusink: tenor
Edward Wesley: oboe
Kate Clark: traverso
Brian Berryman: traverso
Susan Williams: tromba naturale
Frank Anepool: tromba naturale
Geerten Rooze: tromba naturale
David Kjar: tromba naturale
Frank Aarnink: timpani

Cantatas for two very different occasions. Could one differentiate between a Bach piece written for a funeral and one written for the first day of Christmas? The breadth of Bach's tonal language - a language he advanced in the same manner Shakespeare advanced the English language - lends itself to the solemnity of both human death and the birth of a messiah. Leaving the contemporary ear to ponder the variance between the profound and the secular. David Lang captures the conundrum of the contemporary ear confronted with the passionate belief of J.S. Bach when he states that Bach's music "goes to a place I simply cannot follow." Drawn in by the majestic reverence of the sound while acutely aware of the unfamiliarity of such profound devotion to Christ. I am struck by how little of this musical passion was ever present in the church music of my own youth. Somewhere along the centuries the sophistication of Baroque music was systemically supplanted by a decidedly bland, institutionally friendly approach toward hymn arrangements that favored homogenization over the sublime. A further reminder that these cantatas are a gift from a time, a mind and a belief that is lost to the ages.
Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets volume VIII. 1994. Delos: DE 3038.

String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6
String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135
Grosse Fuge, Op. 133

Orford String Quartet
Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

I've cycled through these Complete Quartets a few times (which are brilliantly performed by the Orford String Quartet on this collection) and it's clear that this is where the gauntlet was thrown that caused so many composers to take the medium of two violins, viola and cello so seriously. This is the seed from which so many great quartets have bloomed. The breadth of aesthetic purpose that Beethoven spans (and straddles) is incredible. The eighth volume in this set is the only one to feature three works. Staying with the pattern of early work followed by mid-to-late work. This time the distance between opus 18 and opuses 135 and 133 doesn't feel as wide. As my ears begin to connect the formal development of the late Classical with the temporal expansiveness of the early Romantic. Next time through, I'm tracking these with a score.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [disc 7]. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Don Ayler Sextet - January 11, 1969 @ Town Hall, New York City
Don Ayler: trumpet
Albert Ayler: alto saxophone
Sam Rivers: tenor saxophone
Richard Johnson: piano
Richard Davis: bass
Ibrahim Wahen: bass
Muhammad Ali: drums

Albert Ayler Quartet - July 28, 1970 @ La Colle sur Loup: Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Call Cobbs: piano
Steve Tintweiss: bass
Allen Blairman: drums
Mary Parks: tambourine, hand clapping

In many ways, Albert Ayler represents a more contemporary manifestation of the faith and devotion of J.S. Bach. Only Ayler's love and belief exist decidedly outside of the protective walls of the church as employer and institution. Ayler's spirituality is unflinchingly honest and deep that it descends into madness. A reminder that true devotion does not necessarily lead toward comfort despite what the marketing promises of more institutionalized religions would have one believe. The seventh disc from this set is a tough one to sit through. Two sessions poorly recorded with the drums often saturating the recording completely and obscuring the rest of the sound. Don Ayler does flash a few moments that lead me to believe he had more unrealized potential than we'll ever know. This material is buried deep within this box set as it is not for the uninitiated.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Connecting Tissues

Curlew: 1st Album + Live at CBGB 1980. 2008. Downtown Music Gallery: DMG/ARC-0704.

George Cartwright: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Tom Cora: cello, indingiti
Nicky Skopelitis: guitar
Bill Laswell: fender bass
Bill Bacon: drums, percussion, gamelan
Denardo Coleman: drum kit

This double-CD re-issue from the Downtown Music Gallery is an incredibly valuable documentation of one of the key ensembles of the "downtown" New York scene of the early eighties. At a time when so many New York based ensembles were only timidly blurring musical boundaries, Curlew was forming a sound that aggressively confounded stylistic conventions. One of the few bands that could haunt CBGB's punk venue and the old Knitting Factory stage on Houston Street without altering their set. The surprising thing about this 1st Album is how fully formed the Curlew sound was right from this early incarnation of the band. The Bill Laswell and Nicky Skopelitis connection are a surprise to me. Though I can hear how Laswell's electric bass sound and influence would continue to reverberate with the band in the years and bassists that followed. Skopelitis clearly paves the way for the Davey Williams guitar freak outs a few years down the road. The Denardo Coleman connection on the Live at CBGB 1980 set is another surprise and another name to add to the list of jazz drummers who passed through Curlew. The melodic materials bear George Cartwright's stamp and would prove to be an enduring part of the Curlew DNA. Also, any chance to fill these ears with the late Tom Cora's cello playing is a welcome part of my collection. The electric bass sits a little too far into the foreground on the live sets. But that's a small imperfection on an otherwise outstanding documentation of this significant downtown staple.Link
Sun Ra: Strange Celestial Road. 1987. Rounder Records: CD 3035.

Sun Ra: keyboards
Michael Ray, Curt Pulliam, Walter Miller: trumpets
Craig Harris, Tony Bethel: trombones
Harry Wilson, Damon Choice: vibes
Richard Williams, Steve Clarke: bass
Vincent Chancey: french horn
John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Elo Omoe, James Jacson, Danny Thompson, Kenny Williams, Hutch Jones, Sylvester Baton, Noel Scott: reeds
Luqman Ali, Reg McDonald: drums
Artaukatune: percussion
Skeeter McFarland, Taylor Richardson: guitars
June Tyson, Rhoda Blount: vocals

Evidence that the celestial being of Sun Ra was subjected to the gravitational forces and the energies of given time periods as the Arkestra emerged from the decade of the 1970s with something funky in their sound. And yet this is still the Arkestra as Sun Ra paints his sonic canvas with considerable skill with an ear toward the cosmos. Utilizing the size of the ensemble to constantly pull different instruments into and out of the focal point within a bed of luscious, funky sound. Sun Ra traveled a long road, he traveled the space ways and every vibration does reverberate with a heady mix that never loses its physical attachment to rhythm and melody. The groove cuts especially deep on this one as the familiar phrases and chants wash over and beyond. A fascinating, albeit brief glimpse into a specific moment of the Arkestra's evolution.
David Lang: Child. 2003. Cantaloupe Music: CA21013.

Child for chamber ensemble
Sentieri Selvaggi
Carlo Boccadoro: conductor
Paola Fre: flute, piccolo
Mirco Ghirardini: clarinet, bass clarinet
Andrea Rebaudengo: piano
Thomas Schrott: violin, brake drum
Antonello Leofreddi: viola
Marco Decimo: cello, brake drum
Andrea Dulbecco: vibraphone, percussion
Filippo Del Corno: brake drum

A minimalist meditation upon the biological formation of the human child in utero. At times delicate, and composed with a sweetness that suggests innocence. David Lang manages to tread just within the bounds of a sugarless sweetness. One without a sticky residue that wears thin with prolonged exposure. Sentieri Selvaggi gives this music a uniquely disciplined and human interpretation that flows with the gentle insistence of a babbling brook. Much of the counter-sweetness draws upon the compositional courage to allow repeated systems to remain static and untouched by Romantic inclinations. This is tender and beautiful music.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: The Devil's Got To Burn

Myra Melford / Tanya Kalmanovitch: Heart Mountain. 2007. Perspicacity: PR03.Link
Tanya Kalmanovitch: viola, violin
Myra Melford: piano, harmonium

Nineteen pieces of striking brevity formed through free improvisation. Idiomatically, this music draws from a stream between jazz and classical without favoring one over the other. It's the striking compatibility of ear and instinct that draws these two players together and yields a music of understated gravity. "Annapurna" in particular jumps out with its interplay of viola and harmonium carving its melody and harmony out of an overlap of timbre. This is musical beauty with all the resiliency and quiet introspection of any natural wonder.

James Blood Ulmer: Birthright. 2005. Hyena Records: TMF 9335.

James Blood Ulmer: guitar, voice, flute

What James Blood Ulmer can do with a guitar is equal only to what he can do with his voice. The expressive combination of the two cuts deep. His demonic cackle in "Devil's Got To Burn" rises up from the depths of Hades. Blues so real and so informed by life's ragged experience that the air takes on a thickness with this sound. Profound and emotional with an honesty few can tolerate. James Blood Ulmer is one of the best.

Bela Bartok: String Quartets. 1992. Hyperion Records: CDD22003.
The New Budapest Quartet
Andras Kiss: violin
Ferenc Balogh: violin
Laszlo Barsony: viola
Karoly Botvay: cello

It had been too long since I last sat down with the scores for the six string quartets of Bela Bartok and took a full dose of what an intense and awesome accomplishment this cycle of pieces is. These are amazing feats of composition and each one cuts a sharp angle to reveal the inner workings of the universe. The string quartets trace the arc of Bartok's creativity over the span of his development as a composer. The first two are expressive, inventive pieces that follow up upon the Beethoven model of development with a decidedly early twentieth century twist. The middle two quartets move toward more abstraction as formal elements and pitch theory begins to enter the picture. The final two quartets are a consolidation of these early impulses with a sophisticated sense of tonality. The voyage through these works as an entirety is exhilarating. A tangible reminder of what high accomplishment in this medium sounds like.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: The Sybert Commission

Dave Holland: Jumpin' In. 1984. ECM: 817 437-2.
Dave Holland: bass, cello
Steve Coleman: alto saxophone, flute
Kenny Wheeler: trumpet, pocket trumpet, cornet, fluegelhorn
Julian Priester: trombone
Steve Ellington: drums

Dave Holland is a valued presence in the jazz world for so many reasons. As both side man and ensemble leader he has an impressive discography that touches upon an astonishing and expansive range of jazz from the fringes to the mainstream. The fact that he's consistently hit such a high level of quality is nearly taken for granted by now. Jumpin' In from 1984 is no exception. Unbelievably great writing for a quintet of super stars that often sounds larger than the mere five improvisers assembled to fashion this sound. "Sunrise" is a breath taking and beautiful piece that builds a choral sound out of lush harmonies and inspired voice leading. "The Dragon and the Samurai" works an infectious groove that keeps Julian Priester's trombone in the center of its fury. The sophistication of these compositions never overwhelm or crowd out the impressive solos and improvisational chops that each of these players bring to this session. Well worth a listen for the varied journey this set offers up to the ears.

LinkMisha Mengelberg Quartet: Four In One. 2001. Songlines: SA 1535-5.

Misha Mengelberg: piano
Dave Douglas: trumpet
Brad Jones: bass
Han Bennink: percussion

To know the Dutch jazz sound is to develop an addiction to its mix of deep roots and off-kilter humor. And to know Dutch jazz is to know the towering influence and irreverence of pianist Misha Mengelberg. Featured here with an ensemble that straddles the Atlantic and nearly a century of jazz history. With Mengelberg's long time collaborator and counter weight Han Bennink at the drums. An improviser who's sense of physical humor and comedic timing acts as a foil for Mengelberg's dry, understated qualities. Dave Douglas brings a similarly addictive sound as he once again brings his considerable trumpet chops into a improvisational situation along with his long time collaborator Brad Jones on the bass. Douglas' sound nearly dominates this set early on before giving way to an astonishing display of Mengelberg and Monk compositions in the hands of true instrumental masters. Brad Jones' solo interpretation of "Monk's Dream" is unbelievable. This disc is a strong argument for Mengelberg's place in jazz tradition and an irreverent, forcible prod toward investigating more of his creative output.

Cold Reading Trio: Life of Ghost. 2007. Form Function Records: f(F)0701.
John O'Brien: drums, percussion
Evan Mazunik: accordion, melodica, electric piano
Christian Pincock: laptop computer

The live sampling, sample manipulation and processing gives the improvisative dimension a strong sense of interaction. A feeling of energy that is barely harnessed, though focused and never frenetic. The "ghost" presence of Life of Ghost sounding like a reference to the invisible-yet-clearly-audible force of digital manipulation in real time. The fact that the electronic leg of this trio works in full parallel with the creative impulses of accordion and drums is a testament to the musicianship of each member of this trio. The transparency of the final two tracks offering up sonic insight into the compositional forms that inform these improvised textures. "Jennie at the Hippodrome" laying bare the process of adding and blending the processed layer to a set of accordion phrases. And "Auvers-sur-Oise" works with a beautiful texture of electric piano chords. Life of Ghost explores territory that is refreshingly remote and thoroughly other worldly.