Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jason Roebke - In the Interval (self-released)

Bassist Jason Roebke is an enviably busy musician. Projects and gigs are deservedly plentiful these days, often in the company of Chicago and New York-based colleagues like Mike Reed, Keefe Jackson and Nate Wooley. In light of the flurry of activity of the past few years it’s easy to forget that he’s been plying his craft for well over a decade. Most of his current docket aligns with jazz-related contexts. As an outlet for his interests somewhat removed from those realms comes this solo studio recital, a difference noted in the disc’s title. It’s actually his second in the format, the first having garnered initial circulation on the Family Vineyard imprint, though now apparently available only via iTunes.

Comprising two pieces that combine to modest EP length, this set is a markedly different affair from its predecessor. The first track clocks to just over a third of an hour opening and closing with a single resounding string pluck. Between those stark temporal markers, Roebke reveals a second meaning behind the disc’s title by inserting lengthy intervals of rest on his instrument that decrease and increase incrementally in duration as the piece progresses. The first pause lasts nearly half a minute, but feels much longer and the effect at first resembles Cage’s “4’33”” as acoustic aspects of the studio space in relation to Roebke’s bass become audible in the near-silence. These frequent segments of relative stasis add both gravitas and definition to the moments where tones and patterns are sounded. The buzz and bustle the second piece serves as welcome contrast.

Roebke’s percussive preparations to the body and strings of his bass further vary the sound menagerie. Creaking, tapping and rubbing ornamentations scuttle around the edges of fully-rendered pizzicato progressions. Both pieces makes canny use of these ulterior elements and there’s even a section in the first where the squelchy textures of what sound like muted electronics accompany Roebke’s quiet string manipulations though they very well may be the product of acoustic sources. In sum it’s a musical experience that actually improves through repeated encounters as the frustrations of expectations fall away in favor of the logic and cohesion of Roebke’s elaborate and spacious designs. The rewards may not be as immediate and easily-won as his jazz-centered playing, but they’re every bit as manifest to the perceptive listener willing to make the aural trek.

ROW: Tony Allen - Jealousy/Progress (Evolver)

Tony Allen’s tenures at the wheel of Africa ’70 were fleeting compared those of its founder Fela Kuti, but the drummer made the most of the periodic role reversals with his employer. The single-word titles of the two albums from ’75 and ‘77 reissued on this UK disc cut to the topical chase in much the same manner as his propulsive and polyrhythmic kit style. Similarities to contemporaneous Fela-led sets like Expensive Shit and No Agreement are sizeable. But there are differences too, most notably in the amount of solo space accorded Allen and the resulting dynamic more in line with the jazz quartet that marked the beginnings of their collaboration in 1964. Head-bobbing grooves are rampant, as are the respectively hard riffing horn charts and idiosyncratic saxophone solos from Fela, the latter sections making up in charming brio and muscle when they give up in errant reed squeaks and occasionally roughshod phrasing. The rest of the band is on point across the pair of A-side title pieces and the B-side instrumentals (particularly the smoldering shanty funk of “Hustler”) and the set weighs in at an economical LP-length all told. Allen’s years with Africa ’70 were numbered and as the set’s notes contend his eventual departure would signal a shift in Fela’s sound from which he would never fully recoup. That sentiment, subjective as it might be, gains substantial traction on the aural evidence of these formerly rare sides.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Foltz/ Turner/ Carrothers – To the Moon (Ayler)

Music has long been a useful implement in the evocation of place. That hoary relationship registers at the forefront of this set, recorded at the height of winter in icebound Minneapolis in 2008. Clarinetist Jean-Marc Foltz mentions the “lovely, freezing cold day” that precipitated the completely spontaneous sounds. Cellist Matt Turner, an unsung improviser and native of the region has such climatic corollaries in his blood. Pianist Bill Carrothers is comparably attuned and all three men build austere and pristine assemblages that wouldn’t be out of place on the ECM or Nuscope labels. The music is testament to the Ayler label’s resistance to reductive pigeon-holing when it comes to the pedigrees of chosen projects.

Chamber jazz is a wide brush summary for what happens here, but closer listening reveals a bevy of detail in the players’ improvised exchanges. Carrothers goes under the hood on the aptly-titled “Knitting Needles”, plucking his strings in brittle harpsichord fashion in a manner that brings to mind some of Paul Bley’s constructions in the company of Jimmy Giuffre. Turner’s saws high swirling harmonics on cello as Foltz blows fog horn bass clarinet. The Giuffre effect is even more prominent on “Moondrunk” as Carrothers and Foltz piece together an twining progression shot through with enveloping space that pleasantly echoes the mix of mystery and revelry intimated by the title. On “Crosses”, it’s Foltz’s turn with rafter-scraping harmonics as he etches controlled reed chirrups against a lyrical repeating motif spun by Carrothers and Turner.

Turner’s classical chops and precision command of pitch match those of Foltz on the verdantly textured “Gallows Song”. Carrothers provides staggered commentary to his colleagues’ acrobatic counterpoint and once again the three players demonstrate and uncommonly close communication. The waltzing calliope patterns of “Old Pantomimes” are enhanced by Carrother’s preparations which create a gauzy percussive effect in tandem with his tamper-free keys. “To Columbine” centers on Foltz’s liquid clarinet in its opening minute, Turner’s cello soon joining with starkly drawn strokes and Carrothers completing the melancholy mood with minimal clusters from his corner. These three players take a trio of common chamber instruments and successfully construct new settings for their application. It’s no small feat and one that motivates an immediate repeat of the program in entirety.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Loren Stillman - Winter Fruits (Pirouet)

Oranges in February? Not a likely find outside the confines of the local supermarket. Rare too are the jazz ensembles containing an organ that opt to work largely outside the ingrained soul jazz traditions of the instrument. Altoist Loren Stillman hits the challenge head-on, though it’s not exactly a new avenue of expression in his discography. The instrumentation also has origins in The Brother’s Breakfast, a Stillman disc for Steeplechase that also marked his first collaboration with organist Gary Versace on record.

Stillman’s been something of an accolade magnet over the last decade, scoring an impressive array of encomiums from critics and colleagues through a regular gig calendar and a steady stream of releases, most recently on Pirouet. His name headlines the disc, but it’s more accurately described as a collaborative affair. The quartet operates under the band name Bad Touch, having self-released an EP back in 2008. This set is different still though the core relationship between the two holds as a key creative pivot. Stillman’s feathery, Konitz-tinted tone and lithe, snaking phraseology immediately set him apart the bulk of the saxophone lineage commonly associated with organ sessions.

Versace is just as singular and versatile, with a sharp command of stops and settings and layered oblique way with shaping solos and support that immediately turns the mental page to Larry Young. There are segments where he goes for a churchy sort of sound, but not that of a fiery Baptist chapel, but instead the sort of slithery, insinuating cast more common to meditative liturgical mass. His proficiency at shadowing and buttressing Stillman’s spooling phrases parallels that of guitarist Nate Radley who also goes for a liquid, lubricious tone when working his frets. Drummer Ted Poor parses complex, tension-wound beats from a position erring on restraint and he seems just as amenable to laying out as the situation dictates.

Stillman’s writing (all of the compositions save the opening “Muted Dreams” and the title track come from his quill) is ripe with mood-laden detours and eliding asides. The sense of tonal compatibility remains strong with alto, guitar and organ overlapping and at times almost indistinguishable in an airtight, but supple weave. It’s an obvious product of mutual respect coupled with fertile rehearsals and performance. Season to crop alignments like the one described in the project title may be scant but the quartet here makes a convincing case for successful application of organ outside its customary contexts.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Farewell, Fred

A previous post harboring hope now has as a sobering finality to it… Fred Anderson is gone. Details are widely available regarding the particulars of his passing so I won’t dwell on them here. Despite best laid plans, I wasn’t able to immerse myself in Fred’s recorded work to the degree that I had planned. That disparity between intent and outcome got me thinking about cause and effect relationships and more specifically the death of a musician signaling a flurry of homage-minded listening on the part of fans. The practice is widespread, though it’s one that ultimately means little beyond the symbolic and cathartic gestures at its core. It also only touches on one facet of his legacy, the legions of listeners he mentored and the physical edifice of the Velvet Lounge as performance space oasis being two others among a multitude.

Fred was regular part of my listening diet whether via recent releases like the excellent Black Horn Long Gone and 21st Century Chase or classics like Chicago Chamber Music and The Missing Link. He left a lot behind and the tape trove from the Velvet (both old and new) promises a reservoir of riches for years to come if those holding the keys find the resources and wherewithal to make it so. My fingers remain crossed, but in the meantime another mantra-like missive comes to mind at times variously credited to Jackie McLean and others: “Give them their flowers while they’re here.”

Fred had his share of encomiums in his twilight years with people all over the world rightfully singing his praises and offering continual thanks for his artistry and humanity. Plenty of others who take up the calling aren’t so lucky. While Fred’s good fortune is something to treasure, the decades he spent in relative obscurity are also a healthy reminder that this business of music can be an unrelentingly harsh mistress. As Fred was wont to wisely say, the rewards don’t come from the recognition anyway, but rather from those who are touched and in turn decide themselves to touch others through musical means. He certainly made that relationship manifest in his own work, stewarding countless students in the music while continually following his own muse. On my peripheral end, all I can do reliably is listen (and comment) and it’s something I’ll continue to do by Fred’s lasting example. Thanks for the music & memories, Wise One.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Liebman/ Parker/ Bianco - Relevance (Red Toucan)

By practically any educated estimation, Dave Liebman and Evan Parker are saxophone icons. Each man has advanced the post-Coltrane lexicon on the instrument in deeply personal and divergent directions. Liebman’s preference is jazz-based. Parker retains analogous roots, but his reed explorations have also encompassed European free and electro-acoustic improvisation as well as modern classical forms. Those disparities in no way nullify the amount of common ground shared by the men. This date, prompted at Liebman’s behest and recorded in concert at London’s Vortex, an old stomping grounds of Parker’s, proves their parallel mindsets from the opening salvo onward.

Drummer Tony Bianco serves as the percussive trampoline atop which the two saxophonists freely bounce and cavort, no easy assignment considering the magnitude of saxophone ordinance on hand. He’s also an occasionally frustrating aspect of the trio, giving over to lengthy sections where tumbling snare and tom-tom tattoos set up a lock-step backdrop that seems to rub off on the horns through increased repetition and pockets of stasis. Neither Parker nor Liebman is the sort of improviser to be contained, but in light of Bianco’s choices it’s also hard not to pine for a drummer like Paul Lovens or Paal-Nilssen Love who might’ve brought more versatility and nuance to the kit. In the drummer’s defense, there’s never any question that it’s the saxophonists’ show and he dutifully cedes them the ground required for their respective pyrotechnic displays.

The two sets documented, each broken down into lengthy first parts followed by shorter seconds, explore every possible combination of players with the co-leaders starting out on jousting tenors and moving on to keening sopranos as well independent sections with Bianco. Parker reins in his circular breathing virtuosity on the straight horn, voicing instead on occasion in a more overtly melodic vernacular, particularly in the second set. Liebman switches up too, tapping the late-Coltrane side of his personality and leaving any decorous theme-based jazz-speak backstage. The effect is like two lodestones lining into magnetic synch with each other, the aforementioned common ground getting a thorough tilling in the bargain. While the wish for greater variety and cohesion could certainly be levied, the chance to hear these two giants in tandem easily outweighs any minuses set into play by the evening’s sometimes skewed dynamic.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kenny Burrell - Be Yourself (High Note)

Advancing age has a disquieting habit of eroding jazz relevancy. Stars of the hardbop era alive today have to wrestle with bodies of work that can easily become millstones attached to their creativity. The old specter of diminishing returns isn’t some harmless haint. Still performing and recording in his 78th year, guitarist Kenny Burrell knows these potential dangers firsthand. His playing from the mid-Fifties onward set a standard for bop-based fretwork, but six decades on it’s a style that’s arguably been done to death. On this live date, recorded at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the small club venue inside Jazz at Lincoln Center, in the fall of 2008, Burrell hedges his bets with some astute preparations.

First there’s the band of comparative young bloods in his employ. Tenorist Tivon Pennicott pulls from a Sonny Rollins bag while still plying his own sound and also doubles on feather-dusting flute on “Listen to the Dawn” and that shows a Lew Tabackin influence. Pianist Benny Green and bassist Peter Washington are seasoned session pros and each injects healthy doses of testosterone into the readings of the charts. Rounding out the band is drummer Clayton Cameron, who works equally well on galloping sticks or pattering brushes. The guitarist sounds inspired by their company for the opening takedown of “Tin Tin Deo”, an old favorite of his set lists dating back to the classic Five Spot date for Blue Note in ’56.

Second in Burrell’s favor are the acoustics of the venue and their savvy capture by an engineer identified only under the enigmatic cipher JediMaster. The recording exhibits an excellent spatial presence with the clink of glass and plate ware clearly audible but hardly intrusive. The audience is an experienced one, keeping their applause and conversations to the appropriate moments and giving the music full attention. Even on up-tempo numbers, like an inspired rendering of the Kenny Dorham chestnut “Blue Bossa” that works as an edifying feature of Cameron’s percussive prowess, the instruments retain their independence and presence. Burrell’s picking is still sharp as a tack shifting from felt-tipped chords to ballpoint single notes without missing a beat. No tired retreads here. The satisfying session leaves off with a simple certainty intimated by its title: Being Kenny Burrell is still enough.

ROW: Sonny Treadway - "Jesus Will Fix It!" (Arhoolie)

Sonny Treadway was my gateway into the renewing wonders of Sacred Steel. His opening selections on a late-Nineties Arhoolie compilation immediately piqued my interest for more of the idiom that applies lap steel virtuosity to the context of gospel hymns. Treadway stands apart from some of the more spirited and raucous of his peers like the Campbell Brothers with a fretting style that is frequently more laidback and jazz-inflected. This collection of a dozen studio instrumentals comes on like sweet iced tea spiked with the sporadic lime zing compared to the tangy lemonade of other live sets on the label. Treadway’s twangy lines and carefully inserted effects bob and float atop a rhythm supplied by just Ronnie Mozee’s crunchy guitar and the steady chugging clip-clop of Derrick Glen’s drums. It’s like Honky Tonk played from a Pentacostal pulpit with no lyrics to get in the way of strictly secular appreciation either and a reliable aural tonic when the stresses of the day cause the faculties to fray.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Evan Parker - Whitstable Solo (Psi)

Nearly four decades deep into the Evan Parker solo performance precedence and despite what some critics might contend the saxophonist is still finding fresh things to say on both straight horn and curved. A confluence of new recording space (St. Peter’s Church, Whitstable), trusted engineer (Adam Skeaping) and extra-disciplinary collaborators (artist Polly Read and film-maker Neil Henderson) help make this set recorded in the summer of 2008 special. Parker states a preference for the pristine acoustics of the space in his succinct notes and it’s impossible to argue with the assessment. A photo shows him facing the nave, the vaulted ceilings of the building forming an inviting echo chamber for his intricate improvisations.

First recorded is actually last in sequence, exerting a temporal bait-and-switch that has Parker’s pre-performance musings bookended at the close. The concert starts with Parker conjuring a binary stream of multiphonics sustained with circular breath. Each layer seems to operate independently in a lubricious opposition that creates the illusion of forward and retreating momentum. It’s a trick Parker’s plied to audiences past, but here in the lucid acoustics of the church each coiling line gains even greater detail and incisiveness. The two converge in the closing seconds into a single ceiling-pitched cry. Parker keeps any urges toward loquaciousness in check. The concert’s closer tracks a similar tack in more blended fashion and nearly all of the pieces clock to comparatively modest durations. That economy enhances the program’s accessibility along with a general skew towards the mellifluous and rhythmic.

Several other sections directly mine the language of Lacy with an improbable admixture of feathery and abrasive tones voicing by turns clipped and measured phrasings and the occasional Bechet-sized burst. The fourth and fifth sections even quote a couple of the departed saxophonist’s tunes though my Lacy lexicon isn’t up to snuff enough to successfully tag them and bag them. It’s all perfect fodder for sneaky Blindfold Test sleight-of-hand. Hearing Parker play the semblance of song structures makes those plentiful stretches where he plies the usual meticulous barrage of extended techniques all the more palatable. His postscript promises more projects recorded in the St. Peter’s space, a promising prospect indeed.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jack Walwrath - Heavy Mirth (Steeplechase)

The pleasures of a working band in action are profusely accessible on this latest session under the leadership of trumpet player Jack Walrath. Bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Jonathan Blake are the only holdovers from his last Steeplechase effort, the ballad peppered Ballroom, but the band was several tours steeped by the time they hit the studio together. Pianist Orrin Evans and tenorist Abraham Burton sound like natural fits in their respective roles take to the nine originals with nary a hesitation.

In Walrath’s own words it “was a no sweat date”. That’s not to suggest that there isn’t any heat or calories expended. To the contrary, Walrath and colleagues hit the tunes hard with little room leavened for niceties. The leader’s signature brand of hardbop originates out of a Mingus assemblage of roots, but his many projects over the years have also pulled from rock, funk and most pervasively the blues. The band is also populated by members past and present of the Mingus Big Band, a shambolic aggregate that also counts Walrath as an alumnus.

“Bassballs” is the first of a number of pieces that pinpoint Walrath’s laconic brand of humor in their titles. It and “Dark Star” are brisk and moody bop numbers that wouldn’t sound foreign on a classic Blue Note platter from Lee Morgan or Wayne Shorter. Walrath plugs a mute in his bell for the latter, sounding like a two-martini deep Miles in his essay of the theme. Burton’s tightly knotted solo offers Coltrane-quality contrast and Evans’ dusky robust comping also helps immeasurably in establishing a constructively combative mood. “It Must Be a Holiday, So Why Do I Have the Blues” channels the long-windedness of its title into a juxtaposition of tenderness and temerity with Burton once again standing out.

“A Long, Slow, Agonizing Descent into the Depth of Despair” signals the arrival of enigmatic T.C. II on guest vocals with a string of blues-fermented verses that were apparently improvised on the spot, proof once again that conformity to conventionality isn’t wired to Walrath’s character. A Mingusian mettle to buck and tweak the system pervades these pieces even as they adhere to the argot that’s served jazzmen for nearly half a century. Bottom line, Walrath’s chops and imagination are still intact. The dues-paying he’s done over the years only assures that date’s like this one will reliably come in well under par.

[Steeplechase titles are available direct through Stateside AT prodigy DOT net]

Friday, June 18, 2010

Michael Jaeger Kerouac - Outdoors (Intakt)

Michael Jaeger’s ensemble makes explicit reference to one of the founding fathers of Beat poetry, but the Swiss tenorist is also careful to note that his actual inspiration source rests in the Dizzy Gillespie’s composition of the same title. Now five years on since their inception the foursome is well-oiled improvisation machine. Pianist Vincent Membrez, bassist Luca Sisera and drummer Norbert Pfammatter don’t answer well to the summary of sidemen. Jaeger’s name adorns the case spine, but the session is very much a group effort.

Tight shifts in meter and seamless ensemble interaction exemplify several of the eight pieces in the program. The opening “Tanz” threads in African rhythmic elements with a pliant vamp that harkens back to classic Blue Notes in its mix of bop momentum and township attitude. Jaeger’s breathy tenor blows a cool breeze against the percolating beat as guitarist Philipp Schaufelberger, the session’s other guest who contributes to all but two cuts, keeps easy pace with his compatriots. Shadowing Jaeger with ringing tones on the lovely “Flexible” he contrasts cannily with the clattering tumble from the Pfammatter and Sisera that brackets Membrez’s pedal-weighted commentary.

Altoist Greg Osby is an obvious influence on Jaeger’s methods of composition and as such makes for a natural and copasetic conscript on half of the tracks starting with the lilting postbop balladry of “Goldfaden”. Their stacked unisons and harmonies maximize the group’s lyrical tendencies pivoting nimbly off the tension rooted in Pfammatter’s fluid stick play and Membrez’s swirling chordal anchors. “Daha” expands from sharply wound dissonance of dampened and bent strings in its opening minutes, an assemblage that sounds sharply like the early work of Joe Morris, into another fertile playground for the horns in tandem and solo.

“Schwarzes Eis” and “Frein Fünf” suggest another side of the group’s ethos as texture-saturated pieces that avoid any sort of constricting meter or scripted symmetry. They don’t register quite as memorably as their brethren, but folded into the whole add appreciably to the date’s diversity. “Kluss” and the suite-structured title piece take the set out with a double shot of scintillating, sextet-rendered postbop and more Jaeger/Osby creativity congruity.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Orlando Le Fleming - From Brooklyn with Love (19/8)

Bassist Orlando Le Fleming doesn’t score many points for creativity when it comes to the title of this live disc. Fortunately, what’s absent in left-field thinking is made up for through audible work ethic and dedication to craft. Culled from two dates at Freddy’s Backroom in the titular borough, the disc’s six cuts find the bassist’s quartet ranging by turns leisurely and aggressively through a songbook of conventionally-structured originals outfitted with generous improvisational space.

Le Fleming seems to accept the rhythm section roots of his instrument and repeatedly confers principal soloists’ status to altoist Will Vinson and guitarist Lage Lund. Drummer Antonio Sanchez also gets a share in spotlight though mainly through breaks and exchanges as on the opening loping interplay of “False Dilemma”. The opening minutes of the title piece flip the dynamic with Le Fleming solitary for a gradually-paced preface that folds into an ensemble statement and ensuing solos from his colleagues. Vinson and Lund assert themselves through solos and Sanchez makes a comparable impression with a higher degree of difficulty through his support capacity.

Theirs is a style of jazz that appears to be quite common these days, one that’s internalized the past while sustaining fealty to the present. Subsequently, the set can’t quite completely escape a paint-by-numbers schema. The track title “Rummaging for Significance” hits home here as a writ large encapsulation of the band’s place in the larger jazz community of which they are a part. A former professional cricket player in his native England, Le Fleming’s always got a second career to fall back on. The consistency of his playing and leadership here suggests that he’s still got a fair bit of slack before such a move might prove necessary.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bill and Fred

Bill Dixon is gone. Fred Anderson is ailing. This week has been one of the worst in recent memory for creative improvised music. Reason enough to interrupt the relatively rigid format under these rafters for a salvo of positive thoughts beaming out to the families and loved ones of both men.

I haven’t been as in tune with Bill’s recent work, but an out-of-the-blue email from him seven years ago is an event I still treasure. Prompted by a piece of mine on Berlin Abbozzi (FMP), he wrote to inquire whether I’d be interested in reviewing Odyssey and Dixonia, the box set and bio-discography. Tabling self-doubts of doing both justice, I jumped at the chance and about a week later copies of both showed up in my mailbox. Both pieces published at One Final Note and Bill’s feedback was warmly and reassuringly positive. Our correspondence after that was at best sporadic, but he thoughtfully sent me Xmas cards for the next several years. I never once experienced any veracity to the recurring charges of rampant ego and withering ire that certain critics lodged at him. I’m going to miss him.

Fred is still with us and is hopefully on the mend. My history with him goes back to the late-90s and my tenure in Madison. Semi-monthly trips to the Velvet Lounge are some of my fondest memories from that period of my life. Fred behind the bar, spinning Charlie Parker (the Carnegie Hall set w/ Diz released by Blue Note was a favorite) and serving tap beers. Him hanging up his bar rag & shuffling to the stage to sit-in with the night’s acts, the gloriously garish wallpaper that now serves as this site’s banner serving as a most apposite backdrop. His signature knees-bent hunch and the prescription lens behind which the kindest eyes smiled out. Years later seeing and speaking with him at the Vision Festival. Witnessing the adoration and esteem expressed in equal measure by those who knew him and those who didn’t. I had hoped to bring my wife to see him in Chicago this summer and still hope to. Here’s to a swift and seamless recovery and an eventual return to music-making on his own sweet time.

ROW: Prince Niko Mbarga - "Aki Special" (Rounder)

Evincing cherry-picked elements of the stylistic diaspora that characterized Nigerian music in the Seventies, this influential album was also one of the most popular of its day. “Sweet Mother” was a certified hit and considered by many both within his native country and without as Africa’s unofficial anthem. Mbarga devised a personal variant on Congolese guitar playing and grafted it to Highlife polyrhythms to create an infectious and dance-friendly sound. The hybrid sits apart from many of its contemporaries by the comparatively modest instrumentation. Nico plays shimmering lead with Jean Chachua on rhythm guitar and the enigmatic Morris on bass. Drummer Ashagashu joins conguero Franco Okolo to complete the core band operating on under the colorful moniker Rocafil Jazz. Seven songs glide by in just over an hour, regularly belying their lengths with engaging cyclical riffs and laconic lyrics spun largely from traditional proverbs and topic themes like “Free Education in Nigeria”. The weave of amplified strings is clean and consistently scintillating with insistent but unobtrusive beats augmenting a flexible percolating groove. This reliably satisfying set is a regular in my summer rotation.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rich Corpolongo Trio - Get Happy (Delmark)

Tenor, bass and drums projects will probably forever be name checked against Sonny Rollins’ pioneering parables with the form. In the case of Rich Corpolongo the connection fits. As one of the younger “old reliables” of Delmark’s current tenor stable, his latest release is a long overdue showcase for his talents sans piano. Along for the ride, but also willing to take the wheel when tapped are bassist Dan Shapera and drummer Rusty Jones, Chicago-based session men who fill their respective instrumental roles with journeyman skill and the goal of making their employer look good.

The program is ripe with blowing vehicles in the guise of standards, from a pair of bookending Bird tunes to the lesser picked standard “Mangoes”. Corpolongo and his colleagues indulge in each one in earnest. Applecart-upsetting surprises are few, but there’s no faulting the caliber of tenor play brought to the party. Corpolongo counts Coleman, Bird and Coltrane as his principal points of influence and each man is apparent in his philosophy toward improvising if not explicitly audible in the personalized manner with which he phrases a line. A relaxed sally through “Body and Soul”, largely unaccompanied, has the tenor choruses spooling out at length and the leader reveling in his own brand of “spontaneous composition”.

The notes make complimentary mention of the “old school” recording techniques used to capture to the music. Curiously, the sound quality is the only slight sticking point with the session to these ears. A bit boxy and flat, a two-mic in theater space set-up doesn’t seem to do the players any favors, particularly in the case of Jones who comes across as discouragingly diluted in conversation with Corpolongo on the otherwise amiable and invigorating “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”. Still, this is a minor quibble and one easily eclipsed by the sustained élan and swagger of Corpolongo and crew. Fans of Chicago tenors classic and contemporary would do well to give this date a considered shot.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Domenic Landolf - New Brighton (Pirouet)

The cover shot to Swiss-born saxophonist Domenic Landolf’s Pirouet debut offers a clever visual analogue to his music with a stark sepia tone view of Coney Island’s Hell Hole attraction, now defunct some 15 years. Landolf’s overarching concept on the date is an intriguing variant on chamber jazz past and present. Bassist Patrice Moret and drummer Dejan Terzic come at the thirteen pieces from comparable trajectories of introspection and restraint without slipping into the maudlin or moribund. There’s a mood of mystery about many of them, one that parallels the present state of the peninsula’s decaying amusements while also echoing the history of better times gone by.

Horn vamps and bass ostinatos undergird ambling intervals on several of the pieces and an economy of expression ensures that the program progresses in lubricious succession. Terzic uses glockenspiel and an assortment of chimes alongside his kit to create an array of quiet accents and textures. Moret’s strings vibrate and thrum sans invasive amplification and bring a dry brittleness to the ensemble passages that tighten the tension while keeping the action comparatively low-key. Both players take to Landolf’s supple and deceptively layered compositions like naturals, offering both support and subtle challenges to the leader and sticking their necks out well beyond usual sideman deference and deportment.

Landolf uses the fluid backdrops and foregrounds to best advantage, cycling between tenor, bass clarinet and alto flute and conveying a calmly singular sound through each. It’s the first horn that holds the most interest much of the time. His by turns grainy and feathery tone recalls Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre. Delicate melodic whorls and spirals are regular patterns in his phrasing, even in comparatively up-tempo numbers like the curiously titled “The Beatles Go East”. That piece also serves as a workout for his colleagues, Terzic in particular, as another vamp gets the business end of the trio’s collective creativity. This session may be as gradual to gel with listener pleasure receptors as it was with mine, but once it does the bonds become tenaciously strong.

Friday, June 11, 2010

AIR - Air Raid (Why Not)

Cue the bugles and bata drums: We’re in the midst of a full blown Henry Threadgill renaissance thanks to a recent compiling of the multi-reedist/composer’s Black Saint/Soul Note albums and another from Mosaic gathering his work for Arista, RCA and Columbia slated for the immediate horizon. Add to that copious bounty the reissue by Candid of a pair of AIR dates on the Japanese Why Not label and nearly all of the man’s major works magically return to print, at least for the time being. An AIR extravaganza (thankfully not a name chosen for an album during their tenure) is in full swing while Threadgill’s current creativity continues to find a consistent conduit via the Pi imprint.

As with the new edition of Air Song from last year, this set is a no frills affair in terms of packaging and annotation. It’s just a straight reissue of the album’s four tracks, two per LP side in the original 1976 pressing. Threadgill fields Chinese musette and alto on the title opener, using the first instrument to intone shrill sustained siren effect over a thick bed of arco bass and sharply-fizzing cymbals. Bassist Fred Hopkins’ gains a rubbery bounce through amplification, but the crux of his deep earthy sound doesn’t hinge on that crutch. His massive harmonically-rich patterns echo the counterintuitive corpulence and agility of Wilbur Ware and apply strenuous percussive force to his instrument.

“Midnight Sun” gives over to more alto, its opening minutes working off a surprisingly “inside”-sounding vamp. “Release”, the album’s lengthiest piece, finds Threadgill on flute and the hubkaphone, the second a percussion instrument hand-cobbled from hubcaps that sounds like a junkyard gamelan variant. McCall’s cymbal-centered textures swirl and eddy, but the piece loses keen focus in a few places despite several spates of mercurial melodic improvisation by Threadgill and another arresting solo from Hopkins’ that pitches a perfect balance between burrish bow strokes and febrile finger plucks. “Through a Keyhole Darkly” downshifts to a closing vehicle for grayscale tenor and shuffle boil rhythm highlighted by another stellar statement from Hopkins.

The original line-up in AIR had a relatively truncated tenure and that transience makes all of their albums worth owning. This classic set registers among the best thanks mainly the shared acuity of concept and execution.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chris Massey's "Nue Jazz Project" - Vibrainium (self-relased)

Saxophonist Wayne Shorter is one of the few jazz icons on record as a self-admitted comic book fan. The fantastic four-color mythologies of both Marvel and D.C. imprints have at least indirectly inspired several of his compositions over the decades, most conspicuously with the classic “Kryptonite”. Drummer Chris Massey appears in possession of a similar admiration as the title of this self-released album makes clear. Vibrainium is a pun on Vibranium, one of a host of rarified fictional metals perhaps most famous as material constituting Captain America’s shield. It’s also one of the principal natural resources of Wakanda, the African nation home to Black Panther, the first black superhero in American mainstream comics and a cultural connection that no doubt resonates strongly with Massey.

Musically, Massey’s influences reside firmly in the advanced hardbop of the Blue Note Sixties, another common ground with Shorter. His “Nue Jazz Project”, a quintet comprising the horns of Donald Malloy and Benjamin Drazen and a rhythm section completed by pianist Evgeny Lebedev and bassist David Ostrem. The cerebral connotation in the title and another commonality with Shorter comes through in Massey’s clever compositions and arrangements. Borrowing its title from the world-eating celestial villain of the same name, “Galactus” joins the title piece in directly referencing elements from comics. Both run close to twice the length of the other cuts and open up ample modal space for the players to solo and interact.

Drazen’s alto owns the burning rendering of Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge”. Name-checking the Yoruban god of thunder, “Chango” gives Massey brief space to flex his sticks in a solo setting while Chick Corea’s “Windows” naturally shifts the focus to Lebedev’s keys and gives both Malloy and Drazen a breather. Massey keeps a brisk and variable selection of rhythms cycling around and beneath his sidemen and the album zooms by. Drazen’s “Mr. Twilight”, a superhero moniker ready-made, closes the album out in much the manner it began with a propulsive vamp from Lebedev and darting horn unisons and a steady frothing beat. Spinning these effervescent sounds, it’s not hard to come up with an early Kirby-Lee collaboration as convenient visual analogue.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tom Rainey Trio - Pool School (Clean Feed)

A much-belated case of “giving the drummer some”, Tom Rainey’s debut as a leader is long-overdue formal recognition of his substantial talents. Leave it to the relentlessly prolific Clean Feed label to recognize and rectify the lapse. Rainey’s appeared on a number of the imprint’s releases over the years and his gig docket remains reliably full via projects with Tim Berne and a host of others. Typical to form and true to the press blurb on the CF website, this set “sounds nothing like anything recorded by Rainey as a sideman.”

Equally crucial to the music’s singularity are Rainey’s chosen colleagues. Guitarist Mary Halvorson handles her Guild hollow-body with an ear closely-aligned toward eclectic sound production. Plugging-in through a trusty Peavey amp, her contributions have oblique reference points in the work of Joe Morris (a mentor) and Derek Bailey in the canny use of distortion detonations between spidery arpeggios and fills. Halvorson regularly invents melodic helixes on the fly, her intricate patterns spun in gossamer, near-acoustic filigrees or boldly crunching riffs. Add to that an uncanny and instantly-endearing ability to acrobatically twist notes like cherry-stems between teeth.

Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, a new name to me, evinces a similarly broad-minded tack toward tone and phrasing. Post-Ayler squeals and sputters are a part of her playbook, but so are the dryly aerated breath sounds and reed pops that fall more under the common rubric of European improvisers like John Butcher. She’s also adept at straight melodic blowing that limns surprisingly close to postbop norms. Rainey revels in the strong support, his stick play often skirting strict meters in favor of a loose, but still carefully structured patter to clatter that keeps the program moving at a reliable clip.

A dozen pieces shuffle by in just under an hour, the resulting ratio keeping individual selections terse and to-the-point. The trio’s humor manifests in the title puns, “Om on the Range” and “Clean Feat”, the latter an obvious nod to their benefactors. From the spooky intervals of “Calico Road” and the fractured, hair-pulling funk of “Three Bag Mary” through the set closing shadow play of “Pacification” that finds Laubrock switching to what sounds like mouthpiece sans sax each piece has its own earmarks, but all hang together cogently as an album-organized statement. Rainey may be a late-bloomer on the leader front, but the wait was definitely worth it.

ROW: Warne Marsh - Warne Out (Interplay)

An inventory of Warne Marsh’s discography immediately reveals a heavy skew toward the Seventies. Decades prior weren’t nearly as kind toward the documenting of the tenorist’s art. This set remains rarity even within the context of the comparative bounty of offerings that accompany his later years. Recorded over three days in the spring of 1977 in drummer Nick Ceroli’s home studio, it’s a bit of a mixed affair in regards to audio fidelity. The extended opportunity to hear Marsh extol his personal philosophy toward melodic improvisation and interpolation sans a traditional chordal instrument immediately compensates. Ceroli doesn’t stray far from the typical Tristano School decorum of securing a steady beat for his colleagues, though there are sporadic segments where he does loosen the self-imposed straight jacket. Bassist Jim Hughart has more latitude and his period-amplified lines create a springy weave for Warne’s flights, especially on the lovely “Ballad”. There’s no ambiguity about it being Marsh’s show though and the familiar chord changes rigged with fresh melodic ornamentations cycle by with little pause or posturing. Post-performance production comes into play through some judicious overdubbing on both Marsh and Hughart’s parts, which yields several stimulating examples of Warne jousting with himself. Not easy to find, this set is still well worth seeking out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Geri Allen & Timeline - Live (Motema)

Pianist Geri Allen is in the midst of an artistic and creative roll. Recorded at Oberlin Conservatory, this densely-packed and highly satisfying performance follows the release of a solo recital, also on Motéma and carries forward in a similar vein with some marked departures. Chief among them is her crew of assembled accompanists. Bassist Kenny Davis competes a bit with the cavernous acoustics of the concert hall and there are moments during the more stentorian ensemble passages where his strings endure compromised audibility though fortunately his solo passages suffer no such hindrances. Conversely, drummer Kassa Overall has no problem being heard, his aggressive percussive patterns regularly matching Allen’s in terms of momentum and volume.

The inspired ensemble wildcard is tap dancer Maurice Chestnut, conscripted in part to contribute and embody the project’s focus on honoring African American dance traditions as well as those of the music realm. Allen name checks a good dozen luminaries in either artistic arena as sources of inspiration among them the likes of “Bojangles” Robinson, Ornette Coleman, Gregory Hines and Betty Carter. None explicitly manifest in the music, but Allen makes other referents abundantly clear in her set list choices. A lengthy contrafact of her “The Western Wall” and Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” spools out over nearly a third of an hour. Later it’s a suturing of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” and Billie Holiday’s signature “Loverman”, each filtered through Allen’s grandly rhapsodic lens.

“Philly Joe” echoes its namesake in the opening snare shot from Overall. Much of the piece’s second half gives over to a dialogue between the drummer and the clickety-clacking tap play of Chestnut and the pair very nearly wears out their welcome. The two paired-tune medleys follow broken by the shorter interstitial pieces “Four By Five” by McCoy Tyner and the original “LWB’s House”. On both Chestnut once again asserts himself, his steel-heeled syncopations blending nimbly with Overall’s stampeding kit constructions. Like Davis, there are moments where he has step lively to compete with the pounding surf generated by the drums, but more often than not ably holds his own.

Allen directs the action like a matriarch at an extended family picnic, marshalling each piece and each of her sidemen for maximum potential. It’s a by turns exhilarating and exhausting journey, but audience rewards far outweigh expenditures in the final tally. Passionate and magnanimous in her musical explorations, Allen wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday, June 7, 2010

James Blood Ulmer - In and Out (In & Out)

A rare case of record title matching record label, James Blood Ulmer’s latest carries that parity over to the music by not tinkering much with the successful strategy of past outings. Fronting a trio session, Ulmer’s guitar positions up front with athletic support from bassist Mark Peterson and drummer Aubrey Dayle in close proximity. Peterson plucks both electric and acoustic instruments and his corpulent lines on the former are a sturdy undercarriage to Ulmer’s snaking, seething blues leads and dart-tipped arpeggios. Dayle keeps the backbeat tight and responsive, bubbling and frothing around and beneath the strings.

Lyrics and vocals have long occupied a position peripheral to Ulmer’s stinging plectrum and that guiding dynamic is no different here. “No Man’s Land” muses on geopolitical turf wars while the slow shambolic shuffle “Maya” tells a tale of the titular muse through an economy of words. Neither is a case of superlative verse, but both get the job done. “A Thing for Joe” revolves on a constrictive groove, Ulmer ramping up and reeling down the tension before a tumbling drum break from Dayle and an unexpected return by the leader on flute that’s more than proficient. Peterson, on upright, tugs out a short chugging solo before a full circle ensemble finish.

“Fat Mama” recycles another flexible riff from the Ulmer fake book, spooling out in prickly tendrils coated in brittle amplification. An about-face into hard-edged funk built on snare suspensions and a killer percolating bass groove compensate for another round of suspect shout-sung vocals. “Eviction”, “High Yellow” and “Backbiter” unfold as loose-limbed bebop-rooted shuffles that prove Ulmer’s undiminished prowess in personalizing the idiom while “Baby Talk” and “My Woman” amble agreeably along on quotidian blues changes. Peterson’s bass closely shadows Ulmer in each context while Dayle lays down potent and punchy snare and crash cymbal-dominant rhythms.

The packaging trades up explanatory prose for colorful visuals with close-up shots of the band taking the place of liner notes or other annotations. Ulmer looks sharp in a mustard-colored suit that mirrors that of Mayfield on the cover of Curtis and his alligator boots give further indication of his fastidious fashion sense. At this stage of his long-storied career, he knows what works and what doesn’t and the adage that starts with “if ain’t broke…” is as good a playbook page to work from as any to give the people what they want.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Konitz/ Cheek/ Furic Leibovici - Jugendstil II (ESP)

How to improve on an already winsome formula? Such was a question facing producer Jim Black and bassist/composer Stephane Furic Leibovici in the wake of their first chamber jazz project for ESP. The answer came in an unexpected and inspired conscription, altoist Lee Konitz. Konitz has been influential party to these types of projects for well over a half-century as a melodic improviser nonpareil. His presence in the company of Leibovici and saxophonist Chris Cheek, here sticking solely to tenor, raises an already high bar several notches higher.

Leibovici’s spacious though spare compositions afford the players plenty of latitude for personal expression. The first several focus on the three with Konitz and Cheek evenly parsed into stereo channels, but often employing for a similarly gauzy tonality in their improvisations. Leibovici holds the center with skeletal walking notes placed like floating buoys of commentary between the saxophones twining and eliding lines. The resulting music is austere without being antiseptic, introspective without being hermetic and obliquely recalls the kind of aerated weave of melody and harmony that Konitz used to specialize in with Warne Marsh.

“A L’ile de Freesanges (…Nuit D’Été…)” signals a considerable change in the ensemble with the addition of a handful of support players. Black comes off the sidelines and sounds off on glockenspiel, fielding vibes and chimes at other junctures. Joy Plaisted on harp and Margja Garcia on celesta insert additional tonal colors. Dan Dorrance and Chris Speed join the horns on flutes and clarinet respectively, bolstering the leads and guiding the pieces for brief stretches as well as with Dorrance’s turn on “Phongsaly”. The mixture harkens back to Konitz’s 1958 atmospheric collaboration with strings, An Image in its assemblage of dulcet chamber elements and calmative but responsive chamber components. Black summarizes the set as “over-all-too-soon”, an observation that resonates perfectly with my own reaction.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bill Carrothers – Joy Spring (Pirouet)

June 26, 1956- a day that will forever register in the ledger of jazz tragedy. Pianist Bill Carrothers pays tribute to the two jazz icons lost on that faithful date, Clifford Brown and Richie Powell, on this consistently engaging trio session. Carrothers covers the major bases of the Brown and Powell songbook, also pulling in tunes by other composers that they favored on albums and concert sets. Regular collaborators bassist Drew Gress and Bill Stewart jibe perfectly with his designs while bringing a slew of their own ideas to the studio.

Carrothers doesn’t get saddled or sidetracked with radical reworkings or slavish repertory copies. Each of the pieces benefits from sharp arranger’s touch and abiding sense of ensemble economy. Subtle surprises abound, but they’re always in the service of the tunes. Gress and Stewart are near perfect in their accompaniment and equally stimulating in their solo statements. They’re each experts at framing Carrothers’ leads and just as adeptly taking the wheel in an organic fashion that doesn’t feel contrived or forced. Carrothers seems to appreciate the freedom that level of shared prowess affords him and the three men regularly engage in chases and interpolations secure in the shared knoweldge that the basics are always buttoned up.

Picking highlights in the program is a challenge since all twelve pieces sustain such high standards. The light to dark lyricism of Powell’s “Gertrude’s Bounce” is an ideal vehicle for Carrother’s closely colluding hands and the muscular finesse of the Gress/Stewart bass/drums tandem. The one-two punch of Duke Jordan’s “Jordu” and Brown’s “Daahoud” is perhaps the most inspired instance of sequencing. The first scrolls out like martial march, Stewart dropping snare rolls beneath Carrother’s staggered suspensions and Gress’ robust bass thrum. The second gets a dosing of funk in the Horace Silver-sense with a brisk tempo reading that has the leader’s hands working a dizzying clip.

Carrothers and his crew succeed in a format favored by so many others by preserving what makes it timeless and summarily jettisoning any baggage that might weight it down. The effect, especially on this program of familiar hardbop vehicles, is one that joins the best aspects of tradition with a fluid injection of personal expression. No coincidence then that it’s the same tactic taken in the past by the very subjects of their tribute on the horns plus rhythm quintet.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Steve Lacy - November (Intakt)

As catalysts to a host of conflicting emotions, final recordings commonly carry more baggage than those that come prior. Sometimes the results are heartbreakingly catastrophic, as with the case with Lester Young’s last foray in front of microphones in Paris. Other swan songs reflect still triumphal talents cut abruptly short. Steve Lacy’s last solo concert falls far closer to the latter summation than the former. A disheartening diagnosis of liver cancer earlier in the year left him increasingly prone to fatigue, but hardly daunted. Instead, he took it as a lemons-to-lemonade sign to redouble his efforts in teaching, recording and performance.

Recorded at the Unerhört-Festival, Switzerland late in the titular month of 2003, Lacy runs through a program of tunes common to his concert repertoire of the time. Bill Shoemaker explores a prevailing element of Lacy’s coming to terms with his impending mortality in his accompanying essay. It’s not a leap in logic given the topical underpinnings of several tunes and the reflective nature of their renditions. Lacy takes a cue from his life partner Irene Aebi by speak-singing a few lines on “Tina’s Tune” that tellingly nod again to the relative frailty of This Mortal Coil and the pregnant pauses that pepper the piece thumb presciently in this direction as well.

Recurring moments arise where Lacy sounds slightly winded and the soaring, diving flights of earlier years aren’t much in evidence. Even so, there are also startling moments of technical and creative acumen as through the abrasive trills that pepper “The Door” and “The New Duck”. Lacy’s wry humor is intact as well with the wood-knock punctuations that crop up in the first piece. On the second, his hoarse reed exhortations, puckered pops and curling harmonics make it abundantly clear that even an ailing Lacy still has sturdy sea legs for improvisation. A curious mild echo on “Blues for Aida” only adds to its poignancy and cyclical sing-song simplicity of “The Rent” gives off its usual array of Monk-refracted charms. Lacy culminates the set with a direct hat tip to Mr. Hat and Beard with “Reflections” delivering it with a playful plangency that lingers long after the last cursive note sounds.

ROW: Quarteto Novo (Odeon/EMI)

Decked out in crisply-pressed suits and ties, the foursome on this influential album has the look and exterior demeanor of a stuffy chamber quartet. Their vibrant and variable music speaks a completely different story. Fusing indigenous Northeastern Brazilian rhythms to a bop-grounded conception of melody and harmony, guitarists Theo de Barros and Heraldo do Monte joined percussionist Airto Moriera and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal in divining something new. Bossa Nova is a close cousin, but this music has its own distinct pedigree. Pascoal’s boisterous dancing flute spices up tunes like “O vo” and “Fica mal Com Deus” as Moriera bangs out bracingly dissonant rhythms and coarse textures in striking contrast to the steady calming strum of the twining guitars. Later tracks have a more prevalent jazz feel, distantly echoing the earlier collaborations between Bola Sete and Vince Guaraldi but with an added punch relayed through Moriera’s dynamic drumming. The album catapulted he and Pascoal into the vanguard of Brazilian popular music, eventually garnering the notice of Miles who co-opted them both into his early 70s electric bands. Brief at little more than EP length, this set is undeniably sweet and an excellent soundtrack for properly ringing in summer.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Oberg/ Thewes/ Griener - Lacy Pool (hatOLOGY)

One measure of a composition’s longevity is its relative receptiveness to reinterpretation. Steve Lacy’s songbook was largely neglected during his lifetime, but the dearth of interpreters was more a function of a paucity of transcriptions than any reflection on rigidity or recalcitrance in his tunes. The German trio Lacy Pool proves conclusively the malleable properties of their namesake’s folio on this live set taped at Loft in Cologne. The band name has a delicious double meaning encompassing the kinetic geometries of billiards reflected in their angular and inventive approaches to Lacy’s tunes as well as the deep reservoir of pieces from which they draw.

Repertory bands operating under a Lacy-centric rubric are promisingly on the rise. Ideal Bread out of New York and The Rent from Toronto have each turned in valuable albums. Pianist Uwe Oberg, trombonist Christof Thewes and drummer Michael Griener are arguably even more radical in their explorations. Part of that distinction derives from their instrumentation, which immediately pulls the pieces out of the familiar frameworks originally forwarded by their composer’s straight horn.

The band has something of a chamber dynamic in collective sound and temperament. Each man is an expert at injecting texture and color, Thewes through a number of plunger and embouchure modifications, Griener through a studied touch on brushes, cymbals and peripheral percussive devices. Oberg is a bit constrained by the tempered nature of keys, but he still succeeds in subverting their stricter tonalities with an array of interior and pedal dampening moves. Thewes gurgling nasalized growls on “Flakes” offer one of the more extreme examples, burbling over a cyclic rhythm from Grenier on what sounds like Gamelan gongs. The dour legato tones, gossamer brush play and piano string scrapes of the Eastern-tinged “Retreat” represent another.

“Stamps” is full of playful elbow-bruising, head-butting collisions while “The Crust” rolls out like a delicate tone poem, Griener’s fluttering brushes bracketing a slow coalescing of the theme. “Blinks” builds from bright effervescence and incremental stair-stepping progressions. Thewes drops out on a section of “The Dumps”, leaving Oberg and Griener to stride-inflected dialogue that echoes trad jazz hi-jinks of Art Hodes and Cie Frazer before a communal rhapsodic finale. “Raps” gallops along like a roughsod boogaloo dirge, Griener thwacking a sturdy backbeat over which Oberg and Thewes twirl. It’s not hard to conjecture Lacy beaming with pleasure had he lived to hear these at once faithful and fertile sounds.