COPERNICUS – Disappearance
The longtime musical director of Copernicus’ assemblage is the Irish keyboardist and composer Pierce Turner, long resident in New York City. His fellow countryman, Black 47 leader Larry Kirwan is one of the album’s four guitarists, along with Mike Fazio, César Aragundi and Bob Hoffnar. Other musicians appearing on the album are: Raimundo Penaforte (violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, vocals), Fred Parcells (trombone), Rob Thomas (violin), Matty Fillou (sax), Marvin Wright (electric bass guitar and additional electric guitar), George Rush (tuba, acoustic and electric bass), Thomas Hamlin (drums & percussion) and Mark Brotter (drums & percussion).
Is Copernicus celebrating The Universe, or observing its collapse? This ageless sage orates like a windswept preacher who has just witnessed visions of the apocalypse. Turner is rolling out swathes of Gothic Hammond organ, leading the ensemble in their surging accumulations. A bassline walk begins, a slide guitar floats, a trombone starts up its funereal sway. Copernicus declaims, and almost rants. He’s taking things (matter) to the precipice, as he deals with the nature of subatomic particles. A chorus of voices from the band fill the edges around the congregation’s void. Does Copernicus herald doom or salvation?
BORIS SAVOLDELLI & ELLIOTT SHARP – Protoplasmic
Here are two artists who share a profound facility for refined versatility. Each of them has built up a career around several varied (yet complementary) disciplines, quite possibly ensnaring completely different audiences on different days of the week. The Italian singer Boris Savoldelli teeters perfectly between a true pop sensibility and an anarchic improvisational wildness. He can craft overdubbed layers of sheer melodic charm, forging an experimental approachability, or he can cast off all inhibitions and launch into the completely unshackled heights of free-form spontaneity. This is a man who is comfortable with the advanced avant garde techniques of diplophony, triplophony, flutophony and criptomelody! In Italy, Savoldelli studied operatic vocal techniques with Simona Marcello and, more recently, in New York, he’s refined his art with singers Jay Clayton and Mark Murphy. Savoldelli is also a member of the innovative avant jazz-rock combo SADO, and released the acclaimed solo album Insanology in 2008. This was a feast of inspired vocal-orchestral loop-layering, featuring a guest appearance by US guitarist Marc Ribot. Elliott Sharp is also a multi-faceted player, his guitar masterfully extending along the perimeters of jazz, improvisation, electronica, rock’n’roll, rarefied new music composition and the grime-slogging blues. All of these zones are inhabited with complete confidence and virtuoso wit. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he’s long been identified with the eclectic downtown scene of New York City. Mainly known as an electric and acoustic guitarist, Sharp is also highly articulate on his armoury of reed instruments (saxophone, clarinet), as well as screaming out with the sliding strings of his trusty pedal steel guitar.
simakDIALOG – Demi Masa
This is the fifth album from Indonesian progressive jazz ensemble simakDialog. Led by keyboardist and composer Riza Arshad, the band also features guitarist Tohpati and bassist Adhitya Pratama, working alongside the twinned percussion thrust of Endang Ramdan and Erlan Suwardana. This latter pair are specialists in traditional Sundanese kendang drumming. Arshad’s compositional approach opens up from a jazz-rock palette, but his Fender Rhodes electric piano is clearly influenced by the crisp ring and shimmer of the Indonesian gamelan’s array of gongs, metallophones and double-headed drums. We can immediately hear the similarities between the keyboard’s percussive crackle and the sharp detonations of tunefully struck metal. The percussionists soon enter, clattering out their heavily organic patterns with roundly slapped skins, shaker bells and handclaps. Arshad frequently pushes his solos (or are they ongoing themes?) up to continually higher levels, urging repeated climaxes as each piece steadily amasses intensity. Tohpati is also attracted to resonant trebly zones, journeying from acoustic delicacy to a subtly distorted friction. The guitarist’s presence has a significance beyond his role on this album, as Tohpati is one of the Indonesian music scene’s most successful (and ubiquitous) players. Another element is tipped in later, with the percussionists chanting along to emphasise their dense structures. Arshad might recline in a hazy contemplation, but it doesn’t take him long to develop an insistent pulse, invariably reaching a frenzied state. There’s a clear recalling of the classic moves made by Chick Corea and Terje Rypdal in the 1970s, but this is laced with authentic gamelan elements utilised as part of this jazz-rock vocabulary. The result sounds both natural and fully integrated. This a particular realm that couldn’t be reached either by Western progressives or a traditional gamelan ensemble. The simakDialog involves a unique combination of both spheres, without making the commercially tempting mistake of cultural dilution.