Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Free Nelson Mandoomjazz, The Organ Grinder

Free Nelson Mandoomjazz is back with their third album, The Organ Grinder (Rare Noise Records 068). On hand is the strong neo-metal electric bass of Colin Stewart, the slithery sax of Rebecca Sneddon and hard hitting drumming of Paul Archibald (along with a little piano and organ). Guesting effectively for this one is Luc Klein on trumpet (four cuts) and Patrick Garley on trombone (two cuts).

The Organ Grinder pioneers its way through the metal psychedelia jazz that is its trademark, but also adds some roots, a little hardbop and old school funk to open things up a bit.

And that gives us the listeners a little changing up and plenty to latch onto.

Nicely done!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Marcos Varela, San Ygnacio

Marcos Varela bursts on the scene as an important bassist and bandleader in the contemporary jazz world that comes out of the work of some of the master jazzmen prominent in the '60s and '70s especially--Trane and McCoy Tyner come to mind most readily, but then Herbie Hancock too and some of the Blue Note classic sides of the era.

Yet like the best art of continuation this goes forward from there. What is this? Marcos Varela's album San Ygnacio (Origin 82711). Varela puts on an exemplary bass attitude throughout as bandmate and as soloist. He is joined by a core group of masters: Billy Hart on drums and George Cables on piano (for all but a couple of tracks). They are enhanced and forwarded by the solid fire of Logan Richardson on alto for most of this. Clifton Anderson on trombone, Dayna Stephens on tenor, and Arnold Lee on alto (and Eden Ladin on piano plus Kush Abadey on drums on several tracks) add substance as well.

The mix of one standard and a bunch of contemporary mainstream originals (by Varela, Hart, Cables, Mraz, Ladin, Anderson) sets up a very conducive situation for great blowing.

It all swings and makes for a terrific listen. Varela has arrived.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cameron Mizell, Negative Spaces

Electric guitarist Cameron Mizell shows what he is made of on Negative Spaces (Destiny Records). He has a jazz-rock sophistication and a melodic-harmonic inventive sense that stands out with nice grooves and tunes. He is ably seconded by Brad Whiteley on keys and Kenneth Salters on drums.

I suppose you might call this laid-back psychedelics. Cameron picks through some nice note choices and expands the compositional frameworks with smarts and taste. It's not an album you put on and exclaim, "holy living cow!" Instead it quietly sneaks up on you and does its work until you are under its spell.

Cameron is not so much out to impress though sooner or later you may well feel that way. He is in a making good music mode. And he strings it all together very well, with a lyric touch. Worth hearing. Mizell is a talent.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bent Knee, Say So

Oh, something different. Something really good. A group named Bent Knee. Their 3rd album, called Say So (Cuneiform Rune 417). The main vocalist (is it Courtney Swain?) is filled with the spirit of song, emotions that reflect a postmodern alienation. (Is that it? It is not a typical expression in the lyric and projection. It's part of what makes this group and album special. I cannot give it a worthy name. It is self-introspective, oddly abstract surreal in concrete ways, and the world outside of self seems pretty uninterested in the inner struggle?) It can be like that so they capture a new loneliness that comes of techno-isolation?

The arrangements are really fresh and unexpected. They climax when you do not expect them to and do so with vocal-instrumental singularity. And then it goes up another notch and you did not expect that.  There is a band in there that is disciplined. Nice guitar-vocal interplays, fully orchestral keys, drums not stuck in a rut, some real soundscapy moments of beauty. And it's the careful brilliance of the flow that makes it so, like POSTMODERN? No,  POSTPOST. Heavy when you least expect it, transparent in moments, then heavy again. Ironic and obliquely assuming the other but not connect to him or her except in fleeting moments?

The structure of the band's routines and the wonderful vocal placements. Not Imogen Heap but something equally vocally interesting. Like what my dad said about the last World Series he watched before he died. "The pitchers and the catchers...". Well, yes, it's like that. You can label it but it goes considerably beyond what you can name, for now. The pitchers and the catchers....the routines and their placement. Like that.

This album floors me. It is so fully itself and successfully so that you cannot map out a song before you hear it and some groups get that kind of predictability now and again.

"Every lawn is green, every fence is white, and you're the only one I see when I close my eyes." Poetic weirdness, evocative imagery in the lyrics and then a damned ton of power from the band obliterates the delicacy for a while because life is getting in the way again?

This is a rock album of the year for me so far. Maybe the? Maybe! It is a game-interrupter. The damndest music I've heard in a long time....

Oh, they are touring the US this October, opening for Dillinger Escape Plan. Check the net.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

La Lucha, Eljuri

OK, a week without posting here? It was not intentional and I hope to get my life settled and avoid the interruptions. It's not like I have nothing to write about. For example there is La Lucha (Manovill 70026 14445 43), the third album from singer-songwriter-guitarist Eljuri.

She sings for "the fight," the fight against injustice and senseless violence. Cecilia Villar Eljuri has been at it for 20 years. She has Spanish and Lebanese roots.

The music is a kind a Latin-Rock amalgam with some heavy guitar and an eclectic approach, oh and her nicely put together vocals.

I am enjoying this album as we speak. She has got something very good going. The first hearing I did not quite put it together but now I get it.

She's good.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Joelle Leandre, Theo Ceccaldi, Elastic

The liner notes by Stef Gijssels on the album today pretty much sum up the exceptional kind of new music improv heights achieved by contrabassist Joelle Leandre and violinist Theo Ceccaldi on Elastic (Cipsela 006). It is the thoroughgoing inspiration of two masters of their instruments coming up with a beautiful two-way sonance that hangs together as brilliant in-the-moment creations that are considerably more than a coincidental coincidence of two instrumentalists. It is more the magic of creation than simply "freeing" it up. After more than 50 years of freedom in the music realm we should expect the best matchups to go beyond. Here they most certainly do.

Joelle brings forward her multi-range bowing thoughts to second Theo's upper-range violin ideas while still holding down the bottom end. But there is considerably more going on. It's all about string tone, yes, beautifully so, and yet it is still about the notes so that we get a multi-dimensional expression, a total musical phenomenon.

Like a rubber band, the duo stretches what is possible in the listen-participation zone, so it's not idea and response so much as it is simultaneous double ideas that come into play. Beautifully so.

As a bass and violin improvisation set Joelle and Theo show us their phenomenal mastery and move us! Do not miss this one. It is breakthrough improv in all senses of the phrase!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Golfam Khayam and Mona Matbou Riahi, Narrante

A finely wrought change-of-pace is in the works today with the Iranian Naqsh Duo of Golfam Khayam on acoustic guitar and Mona Matbou Riahi on clarinet and their recent album Narrante (ECM 2475).

Both players are quite good. They combine Persian tradition and tonalities with an original composition-improv approach for some haunting music.

Both were born in Tehran, founded their duo in 2014 and recorded this album in Lugano, 2015.

What makes this album especially attractive is the fine interplay between Riahi's floating clarinet tone and Khayam's well developed, singingly classical guitar style.

The music has a magic of its own that mark this duo as something very special. Highly recommended.