AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Gebhard Ullmann / Steve Swell / Hilliard Greene / Barry Altschul – We’re Playing in Here? [No Business Records NBLP 149]; Kirk Knuffke & Michael Bisio – For You I Don’t Want to Go [No Business Records NBCD 158]

“We’re playing in here?” is something every improvising or experimental musician must’ve said at some point, given the all-too-often unavoidably shoestring-run venues that tend to host the music. It’s also the name of an album of impeccable contemporary acoustic jazz by the quartet of saxophonist/bass clarinetist Gebhard Ullman, trombonist Steve Swell, double bassist Hilliard Greene, and drummer Barry Altschul.

The album’s five tracks, all but one of them written by Swell, strike a balance between free flights of solo improvisation and tightly scored melodies for ensemble. The post-bop swing of the opener Planet Hopping on a Thursday Afternoon leads to La Mariposa, a feature for Ullmann’s vocal-like acrobatics on bass clarinet. Like Ullmann, Hilliard on this track reaches into his own instrument’s upper register, which he plays with a beautifully clear articulation. Sketch #4, the third track, is like the first track driven by Altschul’s propulsive swing, but at a higher velocity. The title track moves from an opening gambit of extended technique for trombone—air notes and other unpitched noises—into a loosely structured, collective polyphonic improvisation that culminates in an unexpected unison melody. The final piece, Ullmann’s Kleine Figuren #1, is a high-energy piece that includes a long-lined melody and a solo for Altschul. Superb music from four superb musicians.

No Business has another release of high-quality acoustic jazz with For You I Don’t Want to Go, a duet of cornetist Kirk Knuffke and double bassist Michael Bisio. The recording consists of a single 37 minute-long track that flows seamlessly from a free improvisation to Knuffe’s composition For You I Don’t Want to Go, back to a free improvisation and then into Bisio’s composition Sea Vamp. The playing is energetic and thoughtful, moving the music along with a momentum that never lags. Knuffke and Bisio complement each other well over the course of the performance’s many evolutions, with Bisio’s rapid pizzicato put on particularly prominent display.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Brian Groder Trio – Luminous Arcs [Latham Records]

One of the traditional attractions of the pianoless jazz trio is the room it allows for harmonic and melodic inventiveness, absent a chording instrument. The Brian Groder Trio, a trio of trumpet/flugelhorn, double bass, and drums, is no traditional jazz trio, but it does take advantage of the format in ways that both recall and go beyond the harmonic freedom of other pianoless trios.

Luminous Arcs is the third release for the group, which in addition to Groder includes double bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Jay Rosen. Their experience together tells, as the tightly integrated playing on display on all eleven tracks gives evidence of a well-developed chemistry. Groder and Bisio work particularly well together and provide fine contrapuntal playing on Spanglin, on the free-fugue introduction to the moody ballad Until Eyes Met, and throughout Smoored. On Bonds of Now, a duet for trumpet and drums, Rosen’s relentless, free-pulse drumming coils tautly around Groder’s line until Groder drops out to let Rosen finish alone. Bisio gets a brief solo piece with Pirr, which balances on strummed chords and tart harmonies.

Adding to the album’s audio pleasure is the verbal pleasure of the vivid imagery and wryly kaleidoscopic observations of poet Randee Silv’s Wordslabs, which serve as an appropriate liner note to this ultimately poetic music.

Daniel Barbiero


Francois Grillot/Roy Campbell/Dee Pop & Avram Fefer Group at RUCMA

From New York’s RUCMA:

Start: 06/22/2009 – 7:30pm
End: 06/22/2009 – 10:00pm

Francois Grillot, bass
Roy Campbell, trumpet
Dee Pop, drums

Avram Fefer Group
Avram Fefer, saxes bass clarinet
Michael Bisio, bass
Warren Smith, drums

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Performances Releases

Stephen Gauci Release and Shows

From Stephen Gauci:

Ensemble name: “Money Jungle”

Ensemble members:

Stephen Gauci- tenor saxophone
Kenny Wessel- guitar
Michael Bisio– bass
Jeremy Carlstedt- drums


“Money Jungle” is a quartet focusing on interpretations of Thelonious Monk compositions. The collaboration between Stephen Gauci (tenor saxophone), Ornette Colman “Prime Time” alumnus Kenny Wessel (guitar), Michael Bisio (bass), and Jeremy Carlstedt (drums) steers the music in a decidedly modern direction with elements of both post and free-bop in the mix, and all members contributing arrangements. The result is hard-swinging, contemporary, thoughtful re-workings of the music of the great master.

Date: Thursday April 23rd 7pm (one set)
Venue: Fat Cat
75 Christopher Street at 7th ave
Cover: $3

Date: Saturday May 23rd 6pm to 8:30 (two sets)
Venue: Puppets Jazz Bar
481 5th avenue, Park Slope Brooklyn
Cover: $6

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