AMN Capsule Comments: Mike Eisenberg’s Recent Playlist (July 21, 2021)

From time to time, AMN writer Mike Eisenberg revisits older albums that he has not listened to in a while and provides comments.

Michael Gibbs – “Michael Gibbs” (1970)

This is Michael Gibbs (self-titled album), I believe this was originally released in 1970 but there have been some re-releases. It’s also his first album under his name.

This one really satiated my Brit-jazz big band hankerin! The arrangements are definitely NOT straight ahead, there are moments of Ellingtonian big band blowouts but, for every one of those, there are another 5 skewed, spikey, and quite unhinged chaos drivers…and it’s those moments that make this album work for me. There is a massive amount of British Jazz talent on this release, this is truly a super-band that works! Oh, and it’s loud as hell too. I swear there are moments when the band sounds like it’s going to implode upon itself but…no, they somehow bring it all back together…I love those moments, and it’s a testament to the arranging talents of Gibbs. Highly recommended Brit-jazz release.

Marcus Schmickler – “Wabi Sabi” (1996) 

I like a lot of Marcus Schmickler’s music and this one is no exception. Here he goes under the name Wabi Sabi and this is a 47-minute brain rewiring electronic suite.

The title cut is split into 4 parts and the sound is…well…what exactly is that sound??? Is he channeling early Pauline Oliveros tape splicing? No, this sounds more sophisticated than that, but it does have that vibe in parts. But, the sounds are forever morphing, usually without any awareness until you do become aware, and then realize it’s been evident for a couple minutes already. What’s that unusual low-end mass that seems to support everything? Are those voices in the background? Why yes, now that he mixed them gently to the foreground. What are they saying? No clue, but…it’s kinda f’ed up, Wow…did you hear that? The many-layered electronic pulses just completely morphed into something totally different, and it was so natural. Well, now that you mentioned it, yeah…you’re right. Dayamm…this piece is many-faceted…you know, like a prism. Nah, it’s more like a labyrinth. Like that thing in The Shining…you can really get lost in this thing if you’re not careful. Ok, I’ll make it easy, EM fans should hear this, through phones or buds, and pretty loud too. It’s a…strange trip indeed! 

Tim Berne’s Caos Totale – Nice View (1993) 

This is one (of many) of my favorite Tim Berne lead groups. The players are Tim Berne (as), Bobby Previte (d), Marc Ducret (g), Mark Dresser (b), Steve Swell (trb), Herb Robertson (tp) and Django Bates (piano, keyboards, and e-flat Horn). It has 3 long tracks (one of them clocking in at almost 40min). This is not unusual for Berne as one of his hallmarks are epic avant-jazz build-ups that go through numerous permutations, always very organically with no sudden mood changes, that is till you realize the whole tableau has changed unbeknownst to you.

Other things I really dig about his music is his penchant for writing these long, incredibly complex snake-like melodies that unfold upon themselves, usually played in unison with two, three, maybe even four instruments, many times at breakneck speed. Same can go for the rhythm section with the bass doubling the guitar and the drums just going defcon 5 over it all. Eventually, somebody breaks off and starts soloing over this barrage of rhythm and, this brings me to Marc Ducret. He is given a lot of space to do his thing on this record and…for the love of Mike, he just rips through time and space reducing sound to something with Planck-like dimensions. Listen to the second track on this album, “The Third Rail” (starting around the 21.30 mark) for a taste of this. His playing against the tight backing from the rest of the band is some of the finest noise-based propulsion I’ve ever heard. At one point I thought I heard cartoon voices but came to the conclusion it was part of his processing. It’s jaw-dropping, really….you should listen to it! Berne has played with a lot of really fine guitarists over the years but I think the performance here from Ducret may be the top of the heap. This is getting too long and I haven’t even talked about everybody else’s playing, suffice to say all these pro’s just tear it up. I love this album, actually no, I love many of his albums and he has a huge catalog, but this can serve as an excellent launching pad for the more adventurous jazz listener. 

Michael Eisenberg