AMN Reviews: Jazz em Agosto Festival Review – Part III

By Irwin Block (
Photo credits: Gulbenkian Música_Petra Cvelbar

LISBON – The final five Jazz em Agosto festival concerts had a sprinkling of improv by European-born musicians, but what most captivated audiences here was the energy, risk taking, creative interplay, and reimagining the music displayed by American bands. The biggest crowd of this ten-day festival, some 800, lined up early for seats in the outdoor amphitheatre here in the Gulbenkian cultural complex, set in a 19-acre urban park, to hear trumpeter Dave Douglas and his High Risk project, which embodies some of these qualities.

eDave Douglas_JazzEmAgosto2017_concert_byPetraCvelbar287.jpgIt’s the same Dave Douglas we have come to know over the years, with his bright tone and lyrical inventiveness, but in this formation he plays with and over electronic soundscapes and a heavy groove. There was a blast-from- the-past feeling, however, to the first three numbers with their funky groove that recalled the 1980s. As one friend suggested, High Risk was a misnomer. But there was something new because of the atmospherics mainly provided by Rafiq Bhatia, 29, playing a Fender Telecaster and controlling a range of electronica. It was his first gig with the group, and he entered the fray somewhat cautiously, integrating lush and variously textured electronica into the ensemble sound. Also key to the groove were regular group members, the virtuosic drummer Ian Chong, 28, and electric bassist Jonathan Maron, 59, co-founder of New York’s Groove Collective.

eDave Douglas_JazzEmAgosto2017_concert_byPetraCvelbar389.jpgThe music became more interesting on the fourth number, a ballad, when we were moved by Douglas’s gorgeous development of the theme, with Bhatia and Maron weaving soundscapes into the mix. Douglas followed with a not-totally successful effort to sound more avant by whistling into his horn, but soon returned to crafting melodious lines with that Miles-Davis sound. Douglas then launched into the only overt political note at this festival, almost apologizing for the election of President Donald J. Trump. “We didn’t vote for him!” he said, adding, “we’re doing our best to end this horrible moment in world history” and he hoped “something energetic, fresh, and different” will emerge.

eDave Douglas_JazzEmAgosto2017_concert_byPetraCvelbar421.jpgAfter a funky piece that had audience members bopping in time with the groove, Douglas called for world unity and peace, warning “we’re living in quite a dark moment.” His final piece was a beautiful and emotional dirge-like tribute he wrote following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer outside Ferguson, Missouri in August, 2014.

ePascal_Niggenkemper_JazzEmAgosto2017_concert_byPetraCvelbar172.jpgOn Friday, Franco-German bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, now based in New York, gave what amounted to a 33-minute improv workshop, where he developed the sonic possibilities of his amplified upright with prepared objects: an aluminum lamp shade inserted between the strings and fingerboard that had its own vibrations, pieces of aluminum and clips attached to each string and an aluminum saucer with the bottom cut out to alter the sound. He placed three small boxes with revolving motorized rotors on the instrument’s bridge to deflect the pitch. He even used an electric toothbrush to alter the sound! He offered some full-note acoustic lyricism, but mostly dissonant and exploratory work, variously intense and fun.

eLarryOchs_TheFictiveFive_JazzEmAgosto2017_concert_byPetraCvelbar325.jpgNiggenkemper later joined the Fictive Five, led by tenor-saxophonist and composer Larry Ochs, a pillar of the San Francisco Bay area avant scene, with fellow bassist Ken Filiano, the great Nate Wooley on trumpet, and Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based Harris Eisenstadt on drums. Working from charts, Ochs got things going with a scene-setting declarative solo, then Wooley responded to the call. It became an avant dialogue of the horns, with the bassists maintaining a constant and solid floor.

eLarryOchs_TheFictiveFive_JazzEmAgosto2017_concert_byPetraCvelbar656.jpgThey followed up with a “two-bass” hit, featuring pizzicato and arco playing, as Ochs directed from stage left, switching to sopranino sax. Most engaging was the way the horn players played off and with each other, with some lovely melodies emerging from the exchange. At one point Wooley was pumped, playing with heart and soul and fire, and Filiano could be heard shouting encouragement.

eLarryOchs_TheFictiveFive_JazzEmAgosto2017_concert_byPetraCvelbar594.jpgOchs outline his kinetic approach to composition, saying, “I’m imagining I’m making a movie with a director I admire, so just sit back.” He then introduced a new piece called The Other Stream and it featured trumpeter Wooley making his horn scream, sputter, and even talk as Ochs joined in on sopranino. It ended much as it began – lovely melodies in an avant setting, with inspired and motivated musicians carrying the music forward with instant and appropriate creations. The crowd loved it, among the most artful and original of the festival.

ePedroSousa&PedroLopes_JazzEmAgosto2017_soundcheck_byPetraCvelbar083.jpgThe Saturday afternoon show featured the Portuguese duo of tenor saxophonist Pedro Sousa and Pedro Lopes with his electronica. Again it had a workshop, with a lot of drone-like soundscapes, as Sousa used the sax to both extract sounds and blow conventionally, repeating phrases and displaying his circular breathing mastery.

eHumanFeel_JazzEmAgosto2017_concert_byPetraCvelbar323.jpgHuman Feel is both title and mantra of the quartet that performed Saturday night. Now in its 30th year, it brings together saxophonists Chris Speed and Andrew D’Angelo, electric guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Jim Black, drummer extraordinaire and the group’s sparkplug. The horns kicked off the proceedings playing in unison and complementing each other harmonically, the guitarist playing a rhythmic role, with Black then shifting the pulse with a polyrhythmic sequence, and the guitarist later playing off and around the main theme.

eHumanFeel_JazzEmAgosto2017_concert_byPetraCvelbar482.jpgThey played ballads and up-tempo pieces, Black often shifting rhythmic patterns and Rosenwinkel, starting with the third piece, using electronica to create cloud-like textures and spacey waves, and following up with chord progressions, until Black changed the pace and power-drummed a sequence. For the rest of the concert, from my vantage point, D’Angelo was cooking with high-octane gas on alto, maintaining a clear, warm tone, with a confident and consistent attack – a concert highlight.

Speaking for the group, tenor player Speed expressed thanks for the group playing “in a beautiful city, a beautiful country with a beautiful language and beautiful people.”

Time Spans Festival Reviewed

Source: The New York Times.

Along with the master provocateur John Cage, Earle Brown (1926-2002) was a member of the mid-20th-century composers’ collective known as the New York School. Yet while Cage was scabrous about the value of recorded music, preferring to issue books that could accompany his written scores, Brown dove with gusto into the world of LP production, releasing 18 experimental titles on his Contemporary Sound Series, from 1960 to 1973. (The complete set has been reissued on CD by the Wergo label over the last decade.)

Brown’s own music appeared on just three of the Contemporary Sound albums, a signal of his interest in providing other artists with opportunities to be heard. This same generous, exploratory spirit survives him — and was alive in New York last week, during Time Spans, a festival curated by the Earle Brown Music Foundation. Over five nights, it offered pieces by 14 musicians, eight of them relatively young composers who recently participated in the foundation’s tuition-free summer academy.

Exclaim! Reviews

Source: Exclaim!

Braen & Raskovich

Controlled Bleeding
Carving Songs

Ben Frost
Threshold of Faith

Ben Lukas Boysen & Sebastian Plano

Alder & Ash
Clutched in the Maw of the World

Schneider Kacirek
Radius Walk

William Ryan Fritch
The Sum of its Parts / The Old Believers

Michael Vincent Waller at the Santa Monica Public Library, September 7

Source: Santa Monica Public Library.

The Soundwaves concert series at the Santa Monica Public Library welcomes three rising stars of new music for a CD release concert presenting Trajectories, the second full-length album by composer Michael Vincent Waller, with pianist R. Andrew Lee and cellist Seth Parker Woods. The performance will be 7:30-8:30PM on Thursday September 7, 2017 at the Main Library’s Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium, at 601 Santa Monica Blvd. Admission is free. The album will be released on September 8th, 2017, on Sean McCann’s Los Angeles based label, Recital, with photography by Phill Niblock and liner notes by “Blue” Gene Tyranny. Copies will be for sale at the show.

Michael Vincent Waller is an American composer based in New York City. His music has been described as lyrical and introspective, drawing inspiration from impressionism, post-minimalism and world music. Waller’s practice has been cultivated through private study with La Monte Young, Bunita Marcus, and with Elizabeth Hoffman as an undergrad at NYU. He has since collaborated with a number of noted soloists and ensembles including S.E.M. Ensemble, Ensemble Dedalus, String Noise, and members of the FLUX Quartet. Compared to Waller’s 2015 debut The South Shore, which offered a panorama of different instrumentation and approaches, Trajectories is more introspective and focused, working only with piano and cello through a personal language that is often intricate and spacious.

Pianist R. Andrew Lee is renowned for his performances of minimalist work. He has released 12 albums, predominantly long-form piano recordings, on his label Irritable Hedgehog — including November by Dennis Johnson, which was selected by Time Out New York as the best classical recording of 2013.

Cellist Seth Parker Woods has established a diverse career that straddles the worlds of classical, contemporary, electronics, and performance art. He has worked with artists ranging from Heinz Holier, G.F. Haas, and Klaus Lang to Peter Gabriel, Sting,and Aldo Tambellini and is on the cover of the August 2017 issue of Strings magazine

Soundwaves is a monthly concert series presenting artists who appear on the DRAM (Database of Recorded American Music) streaming service. The Santa Monica Public Library is the first public library to offer this service to its cardholders. Listings of past and upcoming Soundwaves shows as well as sound and video recordings are at

Boat Burning + Jau Ocean in Washington DC, August 19

Source: Facebook Events.

On SAT 8/19, BOSSA presents an intimate evening of shimmering avant-psychedelia from the nation’s capital, featuring an extended set by maximum minimalists BOAT BURNING plus a rare set by JAU OCEAN, the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Rick Irby (Paperhaus, Den-Mate, Wanted Man) with Davey Hoen on keys.

2463 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Melding elements of classical music and punk, Boat Burning is an experimental rock collective that explores “maximum minimalism,” an intricate hybrid of composition and improvisation for massed-electric guitars where simple passages played by multiple instruments –sometimes 70 or more– produce shimmering towers of densely-stacked harmonics. The result is majestic, evocative music combining the wide-screen sweep of classical with the sheer physical thrall of punk rock.

Boat Burning’s core ensemble includes guitarists
Andras Fekete (Triangle Rhysing: Music for Massed Guitars), Geordie Grindle (The Teen Idles, TONE), Jonathan Matis (DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC)) and Norm Veenstra (TONE); guitarist / keyboardist Robin Diamond (The Probes); and Mark Sherman on drums and percussion.


The solo project of Paperhaus’ Rick Irby (also Den-Mate, Wanted Man), JAU OCEAN features a morphing constellation of collaborators including (in this incarnation) DC music scene veteran Davey Hoen (FeelFree) on keys.

JO’s debut release ICECREAM DAYDREAM reveals a laid-back, near-hynotic ambience with neo-jazz flourishes, chill but always warm and inviting.