Monday, March 25, 2013

Zero Centigrade: Selce

Zero Centigrade (duo)
Selce (Nothing Out There Music; 2012)
Tonino Taiuti (guitars)
Vincenzo de Luce (trumpet; electronics)

Zero Centigrade has always been a duo pushing boundaries and corrupting perception. Selce, finds the duo with another unique task--pulling their minimalistic approach even further backwards. And in essence, exploding the theory of what "genre" should be.

"Blue Dress" mixes a two note chord with sound collages and electronics that at first sound like tuning to find the journey. But as the piece moves forward you realize this tuning is the journey. It's a path to find what can come next in this improvisational structure. It's gentle and well crafted with new sound emerging every few minutes.

"Dougmouth" and "Selce" both ride a folkish, country theme hidden behind dense echo chambers of sound that reverberate from Taiuti's guitar. DeLuce's electronics and distant trumpet line the atmospherics in both pieces giving them an other-worldly tone and keeping the listeners interest peaked. With "The Far Road" Taiuti and DeLuce stretch the notes as far as the can go, utilizing as much space as possible. Found effects come into the forefront later in the piece only to accentuate the notes.

Zero Centigrade is all about exploring new territory. Sitting back and experiencing each movement for how it can transform is the best way to evaluate Selce. It is an album that has surprises with every listen. And once again Zero Centigrade pull off another fabulous experiment in sound.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

David Weiss: Venture Inward

David Weiss (trumpet)
Venture Inward (Posi-Tone; 2013)
Nir Felder (guitar)
Luques Curtis (bass)
Jamire Williams (drums)
J.D. Allen (sax)

Venture Inward is an interesting third outing from David Weiss' quintet, Point of Departure. Technically, in recording order, this would actually be the first Point of Departure album. The album features the studio versions of tracks that would later be performed on the live albums, Snuck In and Snuck Out. It's still a solid release that is worth every bit of the money. And real document of the organics that the group is and would result in their later live dates.

While the four tracks that would be featured in the live dates have the same vibe here in the studio; it might be "Snuck In" that feels slightly different. This studio version opens with Felder's guitar lines instead of the ferocity of Weiss' trumpet. But the energy of the performance is still there but a little subdued. This gives the piece a little bit more depth and allows you to focus more on the interaction between the members.

"Venture Inward" and "Pax" both classic Andrew Hill tunes illustrate the desire that Weiss has to re-invigorate and educate jazz fans about hard bop. The group expresses some colourful tones throughout "Venture Inward." On "Pax" you can almost feel a note for note annotation but with real reverence.

David Weiss & Point Of Departure is one of those groups that Weiss uses to explore the more raw and free form elements of jazz history. He seems to be doing an extremely excellent job with this group. Let's hope they stay together. Point Of Departure are giving a superb jazz history lesson with Venture Inward

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fusk: Super Kasper

Fusk (group)
Super Kasper (Why Play Jazz; 2013)

Philipp Gropper (sax)
Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet)
Andreas Lang (Bass)
Kasper Tom Christiansen (drums)

So, a few years ago I reviewed the debut album from Fusk. A rich combination of hard bop and free jazz. The quartet have finally returned with their follow up, Super Kasper. And I have to say, this is a massive step forward. Challenging chords, imaginative thinking and superb performances. Super Kasper is a more mature and effective record than its predecessor. And that's what you want to see in a band--right?

"Music Eins Punkt Null" and "Lauft" open playfully but both illustrating an adventurous spirit. Mahall and Lang provide a forceful bottom up approach that allows Gropper and Christiansen to mold different tones through. Especially on "Lauft." Both pieces are a survey in sound structures and where they will go next. It's beautiful to hear how each instrument interacts with the next note.

I enjoyed the swirling nature on the first half of "Suburbia Surreal." It's hypnotic and abstract but soon levels out into almost blues-like structures. Very nicely done and crafty. "Led Right, Gleen Right" adds a little humour to the proceedings. Another rolling piece that doesn't complicate the melody but does show the complexity of musicians and ongoing kinship to each other.

The real thing that struck me from the first listen to Super Kasper was how many times I kept coming back to the record throughout the first week I got it. Fusk is a quartet of veteran musicians. But a quartet that has matured in its compositions and performances faster than you would expect. I really really loved this record. And it will be one of my best of albums of the year. Highly Recommended!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Soren Gemmer: At First

Soren Gemmer (piano)
At First (Ilk Music; 2013)
Per Mollehoj (guitar)
Tapani Toivanen (bass)
Andreas Fryland (drums)

The debut album from the Soren Gemmer Quartet, At First, is one of those unassuming albums that lays everything out for you--quietly, smoothly and elegantly. The pianist got a late start to playing music but has blended a love of classical tradition with melodic jazz structures to create a engrossingly beauty first session.

"Russians" opens the album with a soft but propelling drum beat and fully framed lines from Gemmer. The expressionism the quartet exude is exciting and fresh. Mollehoj's guitar perfectly blends with trio giving the group a distinct quality that sets them slightly apart from many of their contemporaries within the region.

An intense opening passage between Mollehoj and Fryland on "Dear W." (written by Fryland) allows the listener the chance to experience the full dynamics of the quartet. Each performer shines with their dedicated section. But all revolving back towards the center in the closing cords.

Heavy keys and dense patterns mark the title track. With some enveloping chords that feel like a chamber piece but yet filled with vitality. You can sense this is a session and piece in particular, is one that the quartet are enjoying greatly.

The harmonics and subtle colour that Soren Gemmer adds to each piece is wonderful to hear. At First is an invigorating debut that is easy to fall in love quickly. A lush and moving work for any music fan. Start listening now...

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Intersection: Sava Marinkovic

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

Sava Marinkovic (guitar; electronics)
Nowhere Near (Acustronica NetLabel, 2013)

The debut from Serbian multi-instrumentalist, Sava Marinkovic, is quiet, gentle and reflective. Before you know it--you've listened to Nowhere Near five or six times. A luscious album of soundscapes that sits nicely alongside ambient works by Harold Budd, Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Eivind Aarset and Michael Brook. 

Nowhere Near is a short album in length but long on beauty, distance and space. "Argemone" includes slow passages of piano and electronics and haunting harmonies from Melinda Ligeti. A peaceful opening journey that elegantly sets the tone for the session.

"Taste Of Rust" and "Nowhere Near" both have a melodic nature that is reminiscent of David Sylvian circa Gone To Earth. It's light, atmospheric and rolls along in a dreamlike pattern. Marinkovic's guitar lines burst into the open on the title track in Fripp meet Gilmore fashion but you definitely sense a voice in his playing.

While it does work from a familiar palette, you won't be disappointed by Sava Marinkovic's first outing. Nowhere Near is very impressive debut that is both enjoyable and illuminating. Let's hope the next project comes quickly so I can take this off repeat. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Colin Stetson & Mats Gustafsson: Stones

Colin Stetson (alto, bass sax)
Mats Gustafsson (tenor, baritone sax)
Stones (Rune Grammofon; 2012)

This is an unbelievable meeting of two enigmatic performers and composers on the avant garde scene at the moment. Mats Gustafsson and Colin Stetson have been stamping their imprint on the jazz for well over a decade now. Their first ever collaboration is the probably the best way to experience it--live!

Stones presents a sheer blizzard of sound with a slow building and haunting overture on "Stones That Rest Heavily." Gustafsson and Stetson exchange passages of long drags and bellowing echoes that are tugboats moving through cavernous space. Sound bounces back and forth, all around.

"Stone That Can Only Be" has humour but also a small hint of blues passes through in some notes. Almost unrecognizable, but the movements are encompassing and enjoyable. "Stones That Only Have" feels like a piece from Stetson's recent New History Warfare II, if it weren't for Gustafsson breaking the door down. The battle that engulfs the second half of the piece is sublime.

This is a unique and fiery date that may not appeal to everyone. But if you are fan of both Colin Stetson and Mats Gustafsson, Stones is one of the best collaborations in improvised music you'll hear this year.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Charles Lloyd & Jason Moran: Hagar's Song

Jason Moran (piano)
Charles Lloyd (sax)
Hagar's Song (ECM Records; 2013)

One legend and one future legend meet in the studio... When Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran first started playing together a few years ago, I thought it was a fantastic meeting of creative minds. Over the course of a couple of records they have demonstrated deep beauty and an understanding of how each moves lyrically.

Now on their first venture as a duo without a quartet or ensemble, they show just how grand their relationship has become. Hagar's Song is a brilliantly extensive and emotional session with multiple stories. The performances are full-boded and encapsulating. This session at times reminded me of two sessions made by the late, Frank Morgan (sax) with George Cables and John Hicks on piano. Contemporary yet technically well constructed.

"Mood Indigo" and "Rosetta" swing along gently with class and verve. Moran is playful yet always intricate at the keys on both tracks. While Lloyd's horn adds the mature element of a master. Beautifully executed and thoroughly rewarding especially during the swirling improvised sections in "Rosetta".

"Hagar's Lullaby" and "Journey Up River" feel like explorations in emotional distances. Both capture an ethereal vibe that resemble some of Lloyd's early 60s and 70s work. Moran's playing is solid and conventional in a calm manner that lends itself perfectly to introspection. The session closes with the soft ballad, "God Only Knows." A superb blend of love and longing that leaves a lasting impression on the ears and memory.

Hagar's Song has Moran and Lloyd in stellar form and sounding cool and contemporary. It's cuts against the more adventurous nature you may have heard Moran in on his own albums. But it's an excellent balance for both musicians. I loved this session. It's easily one of my albums of the year. And I can't stop listening to it. Highly Recommended.