AMN Picks of the Week

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended. Don’t take the categories too seriously.

Transit – Quadrologues (2009, avant-jazz)
Lucky 7’s – Pluto Junkyard (2009, avant-jazz)
Dresser, Mark / Denman Maroney – Live in Concert (2009, avant-jazz)
Figueras, Nestor / David Toop / Paul Burwell – Cholagogues (2009, electronic experimental)
Provini, Herve – Musique Amour (2002, jazz)
Attias, Michael – Credo (2005, free jazz)
Dirge – Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas (2007, drone / metal)
New Risen Throne – Crossing the Withered Regions (2009, dark ambient)
Fefer, Avram – When the Spirit Moves You (2009, jazz)
Gonzalez, Dennis – Scapegrace (2009, free jazz)
Herculaneum – Herculaneum III (2009, avant-jazz)
Threnody Ensemble – Timbre Hollow (2000, experimental)
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO – Of the Underground: Vishnu and the Magic Elixir (2009, psychadelic)

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Dusted Reviews

From Dusted:

Artist: Gerry Hemingway / John Butcher
Album: Buffalo Pearl
Label: Auricle
Review date: May. 21, 2009

Artist: Elliott Carter
Album: A Nonesuch Retrospective
Label: Nonesuch
Review date: May. 20, 2009

Artist: Cryptacize
Album: Mythomania
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
Review date: May. 20, 2009

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Taylor Ho Bynum and Harris Eisenstadt in London

All About Jazz reviews this recent show.

Convergence Quartet
The Vortex
London, U.K.
April 27, 2009

Last sighted on these shores in the autumn of 2006, the success of the Convergence Quartet ‘s inaugural meeting has now borne the fruit of a further tour for cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, drummer Harris Eisenstadt, and the up-and-coming English pairing of pianist Alexander Hawkins and bassist Dominic Lash.

“All four band members, though, found ample space within the quartet’s shared aesthetic, which was built upon attentive listening and quick witted response.”

Since the band’s first concert, Bynum has moved ever further from the Braxton penumbra to become an active and prolific leader stateside, while Eisenstadt balances bounteous collaborations with leadership dates like the dazzling Guewel (Clean Feed, 2008). Hawkins and Lash have become increasingly sought after, appearing in Evan Parker’s quartet and multifarious improvising collectives. In addition, Hawkins has toured with his own adventurous sextet, and Lash has made his debut on the New York scene. The quartet’s Live in Oxford (FMR, 2007), a memento of the last tour, now looks like it will be joined by a studio album (a recording date is scheduled for the end of this nine date tour).

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Upcoming Ars Nova Workshop Shows

From Philly’s Ars Nova

Sunday, May 24 | 8pm
Sun Ra Arkestra
In celebration of Maestro Marshall Allen’s 85th birthday and the 95th anniversary of Sun Ra’s arrival on Earth

Johnny Brenda’s
1201 Frankford Avenue

Event Description:
Ars Nova Workshop presents a very special performance of the Sun Ra Arkestra in celebration of the 85th birthday of Marshall Allen. Join us for complimentary Moon Pies, a special midnight toast and DJ hi-res spinning classic jazz and breaks. Archival films featuring the Arkestra and Sun Ra will be projected on two large screens throughout the evening. You don’t want to miss this!

As a young musician, Marshall Belford Allen (b. May 25, 1924) performed with pianist Art Simmons, Don Byas and James Moody before enrolling in the Paris Conservatory of Music. After relocating to Chicago, Allen became a pupil of Sun Ra, subsequently joining the Arkestra in 1958 and leading Sun Ra’s formidable reed section for the next 40 years. Marshall, along with John Gilmore, June Tyson and James Jacson, lived, rehearsed, toured and recorded with Sun Ra almost exclusively for much of Sun Ra’s musical career. As a member of the Arkestra, Allen pioneered the Free Jazz movement of the early sixties, having remarkable influence on the leading voices in the avant-garde. He is featured on over 200 Sun Ra recordings in addition to collaborations with Phish, Sonic Youth, Digable Planets and Medeski, Martin & Wood. Marshall assumed the position of maestro in 1995, following the ascension of Sun Ra in 1993 and John Gilmore in 1995. Marshall continues to be committed to the study, research and development of Sun Ra’s musical precepts and has launched the Sun Ra Arkestra into a dimension beyond that of mere “ghost” band by writing fresh arrangements of Sun Ra’s music, as well as composing new music and arrangement for the Arkestra. He works unceasingly to keep the big-band tradition alive.

Friday, June 5 | 8pm
Darcy James Argue’s
Secret Society

International House Philadelphia
3701 Chestnut Street

Event Description:
Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based composer-bandleader Darcy James Argue directs Secret Society, a “powerful and well-stocked ensemble” (New York Times) featuring his “ambitious, sprawling, mesmerizing” music (Montreal Gazette). Secret Society is an 18-piece steampunk bigband that envisions an alternative musical history, one in which the dance orchestras that ruled the Swing Era never went extinct, but continued to evolve with the times, remaining a vital part of the musical landscape straight through the present day. Argue’s compositions bring together “a big, broad musical vocabulary” (New York Times), one which invokes “Duke Ellington and minimalism and Tortoise and Funkadelic and Elliott Carter and much else besides melding into one floating, shifting, dodging music” (

Secret Society includes powerful soloists like Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Sam Sadigursky (saxophones), and Ryan Keberle (trombone), and is anchored by the “scarily good” ( rhythm section of Matt Clohesy (bass) and Jon Wikan (drums). The group headlined a night at the 2008 New Languages Festival, a performance All About Jazz called “the highlight of the evening.” They have performed at a variety of venues around NYC, including Le Poisson Rouge, the Jazz Gallery, the Living Theatre, Makor, Flux Factory, and the Bowery Poetry Club, and recently completed a tour of Eastern Canada. Their debut recording will be released on New Amsterdam Records in May 2009.

Argue has made international appearances at the Cologne Jazz Festival and the International Association for Jazz Education Conference in Toronto. He is also a founding member of the New York composers’ federation Pulse, who have presented projects featuring John Abercrombie, John McNeil, and Pete McCann. He was selected for the Brooklyn Philharmonic Composer Mentorship Program, and his work Body Double, for string quartet and tapan, was premiered by percussionist Svet Stoyanov and members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic at the the Music Off The Walls series at the Brooklyn Museum. Argue penned the arrangements for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s collaborations with jazz-soul songstress Lizz Wright, alt-country artist Shelby Lynne, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.

Argue’s awards and commissions include the Jazz Gallery’s Large Ensemble Commissioning Series, the BMI Charlie Parker Composition Prize/Manny Albam Commission, the SOCAN/IAJE Emerging Jazz Composer Award, the SOCAN Award for Composition, the Down Beat Student Music Award, and grants from Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, and the Canada Council for the Arts. In addition to his own groups, Argue’s music has been performed by the BMI New York Jazz Orchestra, the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, the University of North Texas Jazz Repertory Ensemble, the NEC Jazz Composers’ Orchestra, the McGill Jazz Orchestra, and others.

Argue was mentored by legendary jazz composer Bob Brookmeyer. He has also studied with Lee Hyla, Randall Woolf, Maria Schneider, and John Hollenbeck. He maintains a lively blog at, which features commentary, photos, and live recordings.

Friday, June 12 | 8pm
Odean Pope + Sunny Murray
Odean Pope, tenor saxophone
Sunny Murray , drums

Philadelphia Art Alliance
251 S. 18th Street

Event Description:
Sunny Murray was one of the early avant-garde’s most inventive and influential drummers, doing a great deal to establish the role of the drums in free improvisation. Although Murray could swing as hard as anyone, he often abandoned the drums’ traditional timekeeping role. Born in 1936, Murray performed at first with traditional artists like Red Allen and Willie “The Lion” Smith, but soon branched out into more adventurous territory with Jackie McLean and Ted Curson. His big break, however, came when he joined Cecil Taylor’s group in 1959, which allowed him to improvise at a far more advanced level.

While touring Europe with Taylor, Murray met Albert Ayler, and wound up joining his band in 1964; through 1967, Murray appeared on most of the saxophonist’s greatest free jazz sessions. He also worked with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and John Tchicai, and made his first albums as a leader with 1965’s Sunny’s Time Now (for Jihad) and 1966’s Sunny Murray Quintet (for the seminal ESP), the latter of which helped him win Down Beat’s New Star award. In 1968, Murray traveled to France, where he played with Archie Shepp and recorded as a leader for Affinity and BYG Actuel; returning to the U.S. in 1971, Murray settled in Philadelphia and formed a group called the Untouchable Factor, which he led off and on through varying lineups. Today, he resides in Paris and continues to perform and record regularly.

Grounded in the Baptist spirituals of his youth followed by a musical upbringing in Philadelphia with the likes of John Coltrane and organist Jimmy Smith as mentors, tenor saxophonist Odean Pope is the bridge between hard bop and free. His contributions to jazz are of major historical significance and through his over two decade long fruitful association with drummer Max Roach, groundbreaking saxophone choir, trio and quartet work and educational outreach he has influenced generations of musicians. At the same time, Pope cannot be pigeonholed and he has managed to maintain his creativity by continuing to innovate and perfect his sound.

He remains an incredibly busy and active musician with many recent releases in a variety of settings. These sessions showcase his saxophone choir, Locked & Loaded Live at the Blue Note (Half Note, 2006); his spiritual horn recorded au natural, Serenity (CIMPoL, 2007); an inventive tribute to Max Roach, To The Roach (CIMP, 2006); a deliciously funky hip hop jazz fusion, The Misled Children Meet Odean Pope (Porter, 2008); and an exciting trio date with drummer Sunny Murray and bassist Lee Smith, Plant Life (Porter, 2008).

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Muhal Richard Abrams One of the 2010 NEA Jazz Masters

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced that Abrams is one of its 2010 honorees.

The co-founder and first president of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), pianist Muhal Richard Abrams is highly respected by critics and musical peers as both a pianist and composer in a variety of musical styles.

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