Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Thirteenth Assembly: Station Direct

The Thirteenth Assembly (quartet)
Station Direct (Important; 2011)
Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet)
Mary Halvorson (guitar)
Tomas Fujiwara (drums)
Jessica Pavone (viola)

One of the other exciting musicians on the New York scene in the last few years has been Taylor Ho Bynum. One of his many groups, The Thirteenth Assembly, released its second album, Station Direct in 2011. Built around the numerous influences of each musician, Station Direct spans rock, avant garde, folk and classical with ease. The mixture is subtle yet you will be amazing at the delivery and impact the music will have after a number of spins.

"Nosedive" opens with in an almost Americana fashion. With Pavone's viola roaming and sounding casual but calculating. Then the contrasting harmonics of Bynum, Fujiwara begin to slice notes in sections. Halvorson arrives in later stages and brings a cohesiveness to the piece that also allows the musicians to experiment more with sound.

"Coming Up" features some intriguing passages between Halvorson and Fujiwara. But it really is a feature piece for Fujiwara who explodes across the kit with exciting and fun. The song was written by Pavone, but she does lay in the background and allows the rest of member to explore and expand the piece beautiful.

"Long Road" swirls with experimentation thanks to Halvorson and Pavone. Notes and patterns that move in and out of darkness. Halvorson has a number low toned chords that give way to the pitch of Pavone's viola. As the tune moves forward it shifts from experiment to funky to folk and back to experiment; with Bynum returning in low hues and echoes of a New Orleans celebration and finally a joyous and raucous conclusion.

Station Direct is an album that travels in many directions thanks to the influences of its members. But it is an exciting journey and well laid out. The Thirteenth Assembly is one of those experience and creative side projects that is always worth diving into. You never know what will be next. But you know you're going to love it. Great stuff.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kris Davis: Capricorn Climber

Kris Davis (piano)
Capricorn Climber (Clean Feed; 2013)
Ingrid Laubrock (sax)
Trevor Dunn (bass)
Tom Rainey (drums)
Mat Maneri (viola)

The incomparable, Kris Davis returns with more brave and complex patterns on her sixth album, Capricorn Climber. Davis, is part of the new legion on New York musicians that are redefining the scene nationally and globally. A scene composed of such notables as Tom Rainey, Mary Halvorson, Peter Evans, Ches Smith, Tashawn Sorey, Moppa Elliott, Jon Iragbagon et al. But Davis like Halvorson has been one of the major standouts for me over the last few years.

Capricorn Climber provides all you need to know and hear from a talented composer with challenging ideas. "Pass The Magic Hat" is a smooth yet very involved piece. The first steady tempo is lead by some lovely rolling lines from Davis. This is subtly balanced by Rainey and an uncharacteristically calm Laubrock, who sounds bold and romantic. Then all that changes as the piece moves forward and becomes even more reserved and delicate. Maneri dominates with some wonderfully inventive and chaotic notes. Beautiful and surreal.

Davis gives Trevor Dunn a lot of room to roam of course on "Trevor's Luffa Complex." The opening solo is superb and illustrates how well developed his craft has become in the last few years (actually he's been at way longer than that). He sets up some lovely exchanges with Laubrock that then fold nicely into a boiling cascade as Davis and Rainey come blasting in.

"PI is Irrational" flexes back and forth with breaking rhythms and patterns, mainly from Maneri and Rainey, with little slices of improvised notes floating in and out from Davis and Dunn. Laubrock's arrives towards the end of the number to add a nice linear passage for the closing notes by Dunn.

Maneri really shines in Davis' pieces, this is evident of the title track where his conversation with Davis is a perfect simpatico. Once the rest of the quintet dive in, the piece becomes a bright wash of sound that levels off calmly but with deep sense of structure.

A new album from Kris Davis always brings real joy to my ears. Capricorn Climber is definitely one of the more developed and intense sessions she's done so far. And it may take a little time for you digest all its beauty. But you will shortly realize how important Kris Davis has become as musician, composer and influence on a larger scene globally. Highly Recommended. And one of my albums of the year!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Intersection: Olafur Arnalds

The Intersection: An ongoing feature on JazzWrap that looks at artists that have blended jazz, world and electronica in new and highly creative ways.

Olafur Arnalds (piano, electronics)
For Now I Am Winter (Erased Tapes; 2013)

I admit, I only own one other record by Icelandic pianist, Olafur Arnalds. And that really is just a duet ep with Nils Frahm. But with his latest release, For Now I Am Winter, I am officially hooked!

There's a peaceful and ethereal element that flows from Arnalds music. Built both on atmospherics and classical traditions, ...Winter feels like a combination of William Orbit's experiments (circa Pieces Of A Dream), Max Richter and Harold Budd. But this album has a pleasant sense of awakening, amongst its subdued settings.

Opening with two contrasting pieces, the dark yet softly touching, "Sudden Throw," with swathes of clam keyboard lines augmented to simply and gentle piano melodies and quickly transitioning into the violin movements and electronics of "Brim" which are harsh and beautiful like Aphex Twin. These two pieces exude the texture of the session and invites the listener on a magical ride.

"Old Skin" features a more populous approach. Arnor Dan's vocals are passionate and provide a folkish feel against a chamber backdrop of Arnalds notes and string instruments. "This Place Was A Shelter," with its crunching electronics lines pushing against the solemn strings is the cinematic moment of the album for me. While short, it does leave a strong impression and features wide facets of Arnalds compositional skills packed into a brief four minutes.

A wonderful and reflective outing from this young musician and composer, For Now I Am Winter is solid piece of work. Olafur Arnalds has been gaining more notoriety in the last few years, but here's to hoping that For Now I Am Winter is the breakthrough he richly deserves. A magnificent record.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Intersection: Brandt Brauer Frick

The Intersection: An ongoing feature on JazzWrap that looks at artists that have blended jazz, world and electronica in new and highly creative ways.

Brandt Brauer Frick (trio)
Miami (K7! Records; 2013)
Daniel Brandt (electronics)
Jan Brauer (electronics)
Paul Frick (electronics)

Miami is the German group, Brandt Brauer Frick's third and most dramatically cinematic album so far. While the previous albums, Mr. Machine and You Make Me Real had elements of dance, free jazz and experimentalism mixed throughout, Miami strips things down to the deeper introspective parts. And it delivers on every level.

Harboring more dark beats and themes than its predecessors, Miami is a intricate leap forward and exciting listening experience. The opening title theme is a slow plodding movement based on basic two or three chord piano notes, some eerie electronics, slow bowed cello (possibly even a tuba!) and haunting vocals from Erika Janunger. A lengthy opening piece with a lot of emotional impact that resonates throughout the album.

"Plastic Like Your Mother" has a dense, soulful vibe to it that is almost reminiscent of early Tricky or mid-period Massive Attack. The dance elements finally emerge towards the middle of the piece with trippy repetition and vocal loops. And just as you think the piece is about to explode--it ends. Intelligent and crafty.

"Empty Words" is like walking through a hall of mirrors in any horror flick. Slow descending heart-thumping paces on the keys and lots of improvised moments with Jamie Lidell's loving and cries floating in and out. And then having the slicing bass lines defining each movement made this one of my favourite tracks in the session.

"Fantasie Madchen" keeps true to the Bodo Elsel original with simple electronics and infectious attitude and the rough vocal treatment by Gudrun Gut. Gut's vocals give the piece a little more of a sexy vibe with the instrumentation making this late 90s dance piece more futuristic.

Yes, musicians want to challenge themselves every time out. But you don't get many that succeed with each effort. With Miami's more improvised vision the trio of Brandt Brauer Frick manages to do that over and over and over. This is an excellent session and must have for music fans. Highly Recommended!