AMN Reviews: Daniel Rosenboom – Book of Storms (2016; Orenda Records)

Maybe there is something in the water or the air in Southern California. Always home to an active experimental music scene (though not as extensive as, say, New York or Chicago), the last few years have seen artists in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas produce a remarkable run of high-quality efforts. And among the emerging leaders are trumpeter / composer Daniel Rosenboom and his Orenda Records label.

Consisting of two tracks, this 37-minute release features, in addition to Rosenboom, Vinny Golia on bass clarinet and gongs, Jake Vossler on electric guitar, Tim Lefebvre on electric bass, and Matt Mayhall on drums. While rooted in jazz (and a comparison to the Electric Miles era would not be inappropriate), Rosenboom and all are more focused on a newer and more original combination of Wadada-influenced creative music and improv-inflected metal.

Envisioned as a pair of “ritual dances for the Shinto demon-gods of wind and thunder, Fujin and Raijin,” Book of Storms is largely focused on the interplay of guitar and trumpet, with the low-end instruments filling in the gaps at times, taking the lead at others. While the pieces appear to be composed, at least in outline form, they provide plenty of room for the players to stretch out into improvisation with varying degrees of freedom. Everyone contributes to the more open-ended sections. Throughout all of this, Mayhall’s capable and idiosyncratic drumming provides not only rhythms, but active interplay with the lead instruments.

The second track, Dance for Rajin, is of particular note. It begins with subtle atmospherics then morphs into doom-metal riffing with Rosenboom and Golia providing harsh blowing on top. Rosenboom leads the group with a solo for a few minutes with Vossler, Lefebvre, and Golia poking non-linearly around the edges, until Golia has an opportunity to say his piece. After a quiet interlude, the group focuses on extended techniques before launching into a guitar-laden rock-oriented break that, in turn, eventually slows into a climax with all players providing walls of sounds.

Recorded live over a year ago, Book of Storms is an example of Rosenboom’s strength as a bandleader. When viewing him as a whole – performer, composer, record label head – it is becoming clear that he is a prime voice in the aforementioned scene. We’ll be keeping our eyes and ears pointed to the southwest.

AMN Reviews: The Claudia Quintet – Super Petite (2016; Cuneiform Records)

A presence in the creative jazz scene for over 15 years, John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet is back with their eighth release, Super Petite. Their lineup has remained unusually static over time. The group currently features, in addition to Hollenbeck on drums, Red Wierenga on accordion, Matt Moran on vibes, Drew Gress on bass, and Chris Speed on clarinet and sax. It is hard, if not impossible, to pigeonhole their sound but for now let’s call it highly-composed chamber jazz with world music influences.

The album consists of ten short to medium length tracks, each one comprising Hollenbeck’s knotty writing, adeptly played by all. As an example, the opener, Nightbreak, features a soft, slow-moving contrapunctal theme of clarinet, vibes, and bass, with accordion and drums on backing roles. But Super Petite really gets moving with the third track, A-List, which starts with a wandering bass line, while the other instruments slow build up tension that breaks into a rather catchy and complex theme. Hollenbeck writes that this piece is a “theme song for an imaginary video featuring The Claudia Quintet strutting down the red carpet. Think ‘Entourage’ meets the ‘Geek Squad.'”

Several of the tracks are based on or influenced by works of the greats – Charlie Parker, Philly Joe Jones, and Doudou N’Diaye Rose – and one (If You Seek a Fox) is even a jab at his “least favorite TV news network.” (The track is quite good regardless of your feelings about Fox News.)

Under Hollenbeck’s leadership there is little showmanship or superfluous flourishes. Each musician plays his part – and plays it well – but is more focused on being part of the collective rather than a soloist. As a consequence, this is a recording that might not jump out at you on first listen. It is subtle, exhibiting a rare depth that may take some time to appreciate. But the investment will be well worth it. Highly recommended.

Damon Smith Upcoming Performances

Source: Damon Smith.

Fielder / Dove / Jackson / Smith
Where: Homecore Performance Space 2010 Commerce St. Unit #B, Houston, TX 77002
When: 2016-07-29, 8pm
Performers: Alvin Fielder – drums, percussion
David Dove – trombone
Jason Jackson – alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones
Damon Smith – double bass
$10 Two sets of improvised quartet music

Alvin Fielder / Joe McPhee / Damon Smith trio
Where: Roulette NYC
When: 2016-09-13, 8pm
Performers: Alvin Fielder / Joe McPhee / Damon Smith