Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Matthew Shipp Trio, Piano Song

Matthew Shipp Trio
Piano Song
Thirsty Ear Recordings (2017)
By Stamish Malcuss

Matthew Shipp has been busy recording with at least a half dozen albums featuring Matthew Shipp including The Uppercut (ESP-Disk) with Polish reed player Mat Walerian, Live in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004 (AUM Fidelity), a duo release with the late David S. Ware, the Bobby Kapp duo recording Cactus (Northern-Spy Records) and The Core Trio Live Featuring Matthew Shipp (Evil Rabbit Records). All vastly different in their aesthetic, further proving Shipp’s versatility.

The trio is comprised of bassist Michael Bisio, a regular Shipp collaborator, the two have established a synergistic work relationship even though Shipp approach is often asymmetrical. Drummer Newman Taylor Baker joined Shipp's trio with the release of The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear, 2015), who as Whit Dickey’s successor, the match has proven to be an astute choice. 

The piano solo "Links" begins the albums introspective motif, a wonderful set for the hard-bop "Cosmopolitan," which primes the listener for what is to come.  Strikingly unique are the compositions "Blue Desert" and "Void of Sea" while "Microwave" and "Gravity Point" are quickly paced tunes, with block chords and angular lines for a more impactful effect.  The title track “Piano Song,” is the closing piece and takes the listener back to a pensive finish just as it was introduced, so is it closed out.  Creative a calming send off to a diverse program.

Like many of his previous recordings over the past 3 decades, Piano Song has deepened the visionary of Shipp, on this, his final recording for the Thirsty Ear label, it has been announced he will continue on as the label's Artistic Director, continuing to shape the catalog of matchless recordings, I for one, look forward to hearing more from the catalog forthcoming.

Track Listing: Links; Cosmopolitan; Blue Desert; Silence Of; Flying Carpet; Scrambled Brain; Microwave; Mind Space; Void of Sea; The Nature Of; Gravity Point; Piano Song.

Personnel: Matthew Shipp: piano; Michael Bisio: bass; Newman Taylor Baker: drums.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Jeff Richman, Sizzle

by Raul da Gama

Sizzle, Jeff Richman
Nefer Records 06

The guitarist Jeff Richman’s 2016 recording, Sizzle has been beautifully performed by an intergalactic constellation of stars who feast upon some wonderfully written and robust music that seems to have parts created just for the likes of saxophonist Bob Mintzer, trumpeter Jeff Beal, and pianist Taylor Eigsti, keyboardist George Whitty and others not to mention the omnipresent southpaw, Jimmy Haslip who has also taken on the task of producing the album. The musical content of it for outweighs the spare packaging, something that is fast turning presentation of the compact disc into one resembling a square envelop. However, it doesn’t really matter in the case of Richman’s fine disc. The guitarist plays every one of his songs with unimpeachable fastidiousness and there is much, therefore, to savour in Richman’s distinct, energetic also accentuated by the appetite of a mercurial zealot. Fortunately for him this flaming musicianship has stoked by the likes of drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, Jimmy Haslip and the other musicians who have been assembled to celebrate Jeff Richman’s music.

Jeff Richman has developed something of a reputation for edge-of-the-seat virtuoso risk-taking. This CD is the absolute epitomé of that; a series of short pieces evoking atmospheres of fiery nooks and crannies that the guitarist seems to lure his accompanying musicians into, together to create the equivalent of the musical Northern Lights. Universal emotions are at work here; even if you leave the theme aside for a moment you will find something to enjoy, discover as well as identify with. Songs such as Hit Parade and Oracle say it best as they conjure images of rollicking, old-time jamborees that worshipped at the altar of rock. Through it all, Jeff Richman’s voice is eloquent indeed; his voicing is expertly balanced in the opening tune, Sizzle, as well as in the hip follow-up to it – Hangtown. The phrasing sings wonderfully in Sweet and in Vibe, as well as in Say It Isn’t So. The fingerwork is scintillating in Samaya and in Oracle. The lively appearance of the powerhouse of a tenor saxophonist, Bob Mintzer in Sweet and the star turn by Mitchell Forman who plays with sustaining radiance on Just 4U makes for a fitting, otherworldly conclusion to the album.

Although all of the heavy-lifting is done by Jeff Richman’s wailing guitar, much credit must go to Jimmy Haslip, formerly of the Yellowjackets. The bassist resigned his job with the highly successful band to pursue a dual career as a journeyman bassist and a producer and if anyone has carved a reputation as comfortable and burgeoning as bassist and producer Jimmy Haslip is it. Perhaps Marcus Miller as bassist and behind-the-console-ear might make a greater claim to fame than Haslip for now, simply because Miller was already associated with Miles Davis when his time came to shine as a producer. Of course, working with someone of the caliber of Jeff Richman has its privileges; a guitarist of immense talent and virtuoso technique Richman has made a name for himself with his singing style that opens up the musician to explore the more tuneful aspects of his instrument. Sizzle is a fine example of this. And it bodes well for the guitarist’s future.

Players: Jeff Richman: guitar; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums; Jimmy Haslip: bass; Jeff Beal: trumpet; George Whitty: keys, programming; Taylor Eigsti: piano; Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone; Gergo Borlai: drums, keyboards; Mitchell Forman: Fender Rhodes; Will Lee (bass).

Flying Machines, Flying Machines

by Stamish Malcuss

Flying Machines, Flying Machines
Pictor Records Pic 001

A busy sideman, you most likely have seen the name Alex Munk cropping up on recent CDs, a guitarist on the move and considered the upcoming generation of young jazz artists.  Collaborations of recent British recordings by Trish Clowes, Ivo Neame, Reuben Fowler and Matt Anderson are among the names of his recent endeavors.  The time is finally here for his debut recording as leader, which features his electric quartet Flying Machines, that formed in 2014 and it shows great promise for the future of this burgeoning ensemble.   Munk displays his ingenuity both as improviser and composer drawing on the lyricism of Pat Metheny and the fusionistic ideals of Wayne Krantz, occasionally reminiscent of the Neil Cowley Trio, the music is filled with spontaneity, fervor and just enough edge to not drive it over the edge of a limited only audience. Munk's music is deceptively simple, yet assertive and direct enough to give the listener plenty of stimulating twists and turns. A recommended listen by a group I am sure will continue to make waves in the years to come. I for one will be listening.

Players: Alex Munk (g), Matt Robinson (p, syn, Fender Rhodes), Conor Chaplin (b) and Dave Hamblett (d).

Friday, December 16, 2016

Gene Ess, Absurdist Theater

by Jeff Becker

Gene Ess is an award-winning guitarist, who through his many diverse musical experiences draws upon that insight to create a unique sound that is deeply personal and an inimitable imprint of discography.

His new album in a string of memorable offerings takes a deeper look at the philosophy of the absurd.  Absurdist Theater, is a collection of pieces continuing the exploration of voice as an instrument in a chamber setting, featuring a powerful ensemble all from different musical backgrounds but rooted in a like mind of exploration, Thana Alexa (voice), Manuel Valera (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Clarence Penn (drums). 

The album begins with an awakening, “Out of the Ashes.”  The lone sound of Thana Alexa’s voice is the cool water that refreshes your senses, with plush and supportive chords by Ess, he creates a spacious canvas for the ensemble to paint upon.  Ess has an electric sound, uniquely identifiable in the guitar world. A trait only achieved by years and hours with one’s instrument, which is not an overnight process.  It can only be taught through hours of connecting on a deeper level with one’s instrument and inner self. 

A change of texture is achieved with “Circe’s Compassion” featuring Ess on nylon strung guitar, it is a delicate tune, and in the hands of this masterful group, the nuances of the tune come to fruition with staggering beauty.  Alexa utilizes her voice as an instrument and like a horn player its additive is potent. Ess is a passionate and inventive composer and this compelling group conveys the message within the tune with eloquence and respectfulness. I might add, it is refreshing to see a composer of Ess’ stature recognize the voice as a vital instrument and such has written in a way that supports and includes its place in the ensemble. Alexa is certainly a perfect choice in that role. 

The compositions on this album were culminated from a stay in San Jose, located on the southern coast of Spain. “Déjala Que Pase,” is a tribute to this reflective time and is colorized in a hauntingly deep expressive manner, that ponders the meaning of existence. Alexa is featured in a lyric based vocalizing approach, dappled with quick lines and flurries of notes, heightened with robust drums which build to fervor and release. 

Upward and Onward!” is quick paced and a barn burner, filled with interludes and rapid changes. There is no lack for interaction and each musician plays their role well.  

Ess has done it again, creating an interactive listen, with top-notch personnel and creatively complex, yet listenable tunes, that elevate the absurd to that of enjoyable theater.  His collaboration with his working group Fractal Attraction adds a deeper experience of pushing the sonic boundaries into new territory, giving the listener an exciting experience to be savored again, and again.  Highly Recommended!