четверг, 24 апреля 2014 г.

Sound & Fury - Pulsacion (2013)

Sound & Fury - Pulsacion (Ektro, 2013)

Personnel:
Jorma Tapio: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute
Pepa Päivinen: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute
Tane Kannisto: tenor saxophone, flute
Matti Riikonen: trumpet
Julius Heikkilä: guitar
Jimi Sumén: guitar
Sampo Lassila: bass
Ilmari Heikinheimo: drums
Composed By – Edward Vesala

Tracklisting:
01 - Lamgonella Lomboo
02 - I Tell You a Story
03 - Siamese Twins
04 - Pulsacion
05 - Nattuggla
06 - Punk
07 - Shadows

For a little more than a decade before his untimely death in 1999, legendary Finnish drummer Edward Vesala led a group called Sound & Fury, which released several albums on ECM records. Largely outside of international view, the band has continued on after his death, and now returns as invigorated as ever with Pulsacion, what appears to be their first album since Nordic Gallery in 1995. Still, Pulsacion remains somewhat of a hidden gem—Ektro Records, the label run by prolific Circle bassist Jussi Lehtisalo, is known more for metal and experimental rock releases than avant-garde ensemble jazz.

Sound & Fury still contains five members from the group’s heyday—hornsmen Jorma Tapio, Pepa Päivinen, Jouni Kannisto, Matti Riikonen and guitarist Jimi Sumén—all of whom have been present since 1989’s Ode to the Death of Jazz. Added to this core is an all new rhythm section and an additional guitar. Tellingly, it takes two percussionists to fill the void left by Vesala, both of whom do an admirable job infusing these tunes with the bursting passion Vesala seemed to bring to everything he did. With Pulsacion, the band turns to previously unreleased compositions, here expertly arranged by Vesala’s wife, Iro Haarla.

Opener “Lamgonella Lomboo” gives an idea of the bright, expansive sound of the group, which immediately calls to mind both the open spaces of Nan Madol and the more forceful, adventurous albums of the late 80s and early 90s. It all sounds like standard Vesala fare—complex arrangements of ghostly melodies that swirl over a seething swarm of drums—until halfway through, when the guitar is suddenly thrust to the forefront. Long, reverb-soaked lines cut across the rest of the band, almost perpendicular to those used to sketch out the song’s framework. It calls to mind Sumén’s angular work on “Somnamblues” from Invisible Storm, but also feels like a daring step forward.

I Tell You A Story” has some utterly gorgeous sax tones, the whole thing a shimmering, laid-back tropical cruise that feels so familiar. I’m still trying to fully place it—sometimes jaunty, Very Very Circus-era Henry Threadgill comes to mind.

Later on, the title track takes a turn toward the intense. It teeters on an unsteady rhythmic base, with complex, jabbing horn motifs that build to the disorienting, shrieking cacophony of your life flashing before your eyes. But if “Pulsacion” represents the confusion of dying, “Nattuggla” is like finally ascending to that higher place: a dream of flutes and ringing guitar arpeggios that’s settled around a beautiful bass-driven centerpiece.

If there’s anything here that’s less than convincing, it’s portions of the brief “Punk”, which veer a little too close Zorn-style big band parody. The track has an energy that can’t be faulted, however, and it rushes into closing track “Shadows”, a much more satisfying piece that meanders through a loosely-knit counterpoint of horns and guitar noise.

It’s heartening to see Vesala’s long-time bandmates keeping his music alive. I’d like to think Pulsacion wouldn’t sound any different if it still was Vesala behind the kit. It’s certainly a welcome addition to Vesala’s canon, and an impressive accomplishment for a group that still lives and breathes these compositions.

A great late-year surprise.[Free Jazz Blog]

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четверг, 10 апреля 2014 г.

Chris Speed - Really Ok (2014)

Chris Speed - Really Ok (Skirl Records, 2014)

Personnel:
Chris Speed: tenor saxophone
Chris Tordini: bass
Dave King: drums

Tracklisting:
01 - Really OK
02 - All of Me
03 - Takedown
04 - Nimble Demons
05 - Argento
06 - End of the Day
07 - Delaware
08 - Round Trip
09 - Tamborino
10 - 26-2

Saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed's two decades descent into New York City's underground jazz realm has proven a multi-pronged mission. Not only has myriad groups he's either led or assumed membership in been vital in levitating the local scene but the multireedist has also helped document the innovators roiling the landscape via his Skirl Records imprint. Speed had a banner year in 2013: a collaboration with intrepid electro-acoustic trio Lama (Lamaçal, Clean Feed); another set of intertwining wizardry from Endangered Blood (Work Your Magic, Skirl); rock/jazz hybrid of Jim Black's AlasNoAxis (Antiheroes, Winter & Winter) and post-jazz sprawl of The Claudia Quintet (September, Cuneiform). Now, in these early days of 2014, it turns out Speed has wasted nary a minute in both further highlighting his craft and imprint, equipped with not just a single release, but a pair of disparate recordings. Speed's modus operandi has long been underscored by his effortless penchant for mellifluous phraseology mated to tasteful improvisational moxie and on Really OK, he runs that gamut - and then some. Leading a trio of bassist Chris Tordini (Tyshawn Sorey; Greg Osby) and drummer Dave King (The Bad Plus), the results are decidedly striking in their spirited, full-toned and deep resonance. Speed's immaculate rapport with his oft collaborator King has already been rooted on efforts by the drummer's Trucking Company ensemble and in duo settings (a particular raucous set last year at Barbès comes to mind) and Really OK - comprised of seven original Speed compositions, a standard (All of Me), plus tunes by John Coltrane (26-2) and Ornette Coleman (Round Trip) - illustrates that vernacular between the veteran twosome and the neophyte Tordini. The requisite term often attached to Speed's aesthetic has been described as warm but in assuming the leader role and ignited by Tordini and King s rambunctious oomph and the bass-drums clinic they dish out, the tenor saxophonist is anything but. Excluding the subtle rendition of All of Me , the trio boasts intense rhythmic fire on cuts such as the Tordini-King-dominated Nimble Demons , soul-searching epic Delaware and breathless energy music of Argento. [The New York City Jazz Record]

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