Monday, May 12. 2008
Still on the road, just stable and connected enough I can file this brief note. Should be back home by the end of the week, unless more bad things happen between now and then. Village Voice is again due to publish Jazz CG this week. Haven't heard otherwise, but also haven't heard any layout details. I've been pondering its future, given that the Voice's music editor wants to make it online only. That's probably still worth doing, although a compromise occurs to me: publish a short precis in the paper (400-800 words, whatever fits easily in their format) which then refers to the website for the full column. I haven't proposed that yet, but most likely will. Thanks to those readers who wrote in with their comments. I've been hard pressed to respond individually given the logistics here.
Haven't really been doing jazz prospecting either, but late in the week I negotiated a compromise with myself and decided to start doing some exceptionally brief notes with provisional grades just to have something to show and tell. Didn't get much done. Didn't even get out of the ECM's at the front of the case. Will try to continue in this mode as I travel this week, and promise to get to work when I get back.
Evan Parker/The Transatlantic Art Ensemble: Boustrophedon (2008, ECM): Large group, like those of Parker's other ECM efforts, in what sounds a bit like a revival of Globe Unity Orchestra, or maybe Barry Guy's LJCO -- Guy is present here, part of the European side of the Transatlantic Art Ensemble. The Americans are led by Roscoe Mitchell, whose large group efforts are also relevant here. Long and scattered, often ornery, the sax noise limited to alto and soprano, with clarinet and flute, trumpet (Corey Wilkes), strings (violin, viola, cello, two basses). Craig Taborn has interesting moments in piano. Not coherent enough for a tour de force, but several interesting diversions. [B+(***)]
Jacob Young: Sideways (2006 , ECM): Norwegian guitarist -- American father explains the unusual name. Previous album, Evening Falls, was an elegant HM. This one follows suit, probably the same quintet, with Mathias Eick on trumpet and Vidar Johansen on tenor sax/bass clarinet. Seems a little more subdued. [B+(*)]
Ketil Bjørnstad/Terje Rypdal: Life in Leipzig (2005 , ECM): Norwegian pianist, b. 1952, not sure how many records, but at least a dozen since 1990, some recordings since 1973; also has written 20-some books, mostly novels. Guitarist Rypdal is better known, a major figure at ECM since 1970; trends toward fusion, although he can also wax lyrical, and has produced a good deal of aural wallpaper. Duets, reprising several pieces from The Sea, a 1994 album by a quartet of the same name, a superset. Rypdal's riffs dominate the sound here in one of his more robust performances. The piano mostly adds rhythm, a fair trade. [B+(**)]
Jon Balke: Book of Velocities (2006 , ECM): Norwegian pianist, has 6 previous albums on ECM and Emarcy with groups Oslo 13, Magnetic North Orchestra, and Batagraf. This one is solo piano, 19 pieces organized into 3 Chapters and an Epilogue. Played this several times and haven't connected with it yet. Some parts are unusual sonically, and the spacing and ordering can be interesting given enough attention. [B]
Marilyn Mazur/Jan Garbarek: Elixir (2005 , ECM): Finished cover shows Mazur's name above title in white, with Garbarek's below white title in black -- a little more pecking order than my credit suggests. I'm not familiar with Mazur's previous work. I was under the impression that she's a vocalist, but there are no vocals here, and sources agree that she is primarily a percussionist, with other credits including vocalist, pianist, and dancer. She plays a wide range of percussion instruments -- the list starts with marimba and ends with various metal utensils. Her pieces are varied miniatures, some solo, most accompanied by Garbarek's tenor sax, soprano sax, or flute -- spare, elegant, often flat out gorgeous. The one record I've played in the last two weeks Laura complimented then asked me who it was. Not the first time that's happened with Garbarek. In fact, it's happened so often I had to laugh before telling her. [A-]
Marilyn Crispell: Vignettes (2007 , ECM): One of the major jazz pianists of our times, working mostly on the avant-garde, including a long run with Anthony Braxton's Quartet and numerous independent albums on obscure labels until ECM urged her to slow down and develop a quieter, more meditative side. I found her last ECM album, The Storyteller, nothing short of enchanting. This one is harder to gauge, for the obvious reason that it's solo, and as such requires too much attention span. No swing or boogie, and little noise; deliberately fragmentary, with long, chamberish lines, artfully plotted. [B+(**)]
Marcin Wasilewski Trio: January (2007 , ECM): Piano trio. Group drew first notice as three-fourths of Tomasz Stanko's "young Polish quartet." Beyond three albums with Stanko, and a couple with Manu Katché, this is the trio's second album on their own. Top line of the album also names bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz. First song is followed by a stretch of five covers: Gary Peacock, Ennio Morricone, Prince, Stanko, Carla Bley. The covers sustain the melodicism, but what really carries the album is its measured logic and attention to detail. [B+(***)]
Eri Yamamoto: Duologue (2008, AUM Fidelity): Pianist, from Japan, in NY since 1995, notably working with superbassist William Parker. Has a previous fine piano trio on AUM Fidelity, and evidently has a batch of three more 2007 albums on Jane Street that I haven't heard (haven't heard of the label either). Don't have info on this, but I gather these are duets, matching her piano with drums (Federico Ughi or Hamid Drake), bass (Parker), or sax (Daniel Carter). Each of the pieces are interesting, and they don't seem to scatter excessively, as this format is wont to do. Drake and Parker are especially worth focusing on. [B+(***)] [June 24]
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
PS: Did finally hear back from the Voice. Looks like Jazz CG is a go this week. Even better, I hear they somehow managed to squeeze it all in.
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