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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.

http://nobusinessrecords.com/

Daniel Barbiero

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AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Recent Releases from NoBusiness Records

NoBusiness Records, the Lithuanian label that specializes in reissues of adventurous jazz from the generation of the 1960s and 1970s as well as new improvised music in the jazz tradition, approaches the year’s end with a clutch of releases highlighting unusual instrumental ensembles.

First is Zenith, the second installment in the label’s essential Sam Rivers archival release series. Zenith is a live recording made at the Jazztage Berliner 1977 with an unconventional quintet of Rivers on tenor and soprano saxophones, flute and piano; Dave Holland on double bass and cello; Joe Daley on tuba and euphonium; and both Barry Altschul and Charlie Persip on drums. The quintet was a subset of the larger orchestra Rivers brought to Europe; this may have been their only performance together as a quintet. And an intense performance it is: a single, 53-minute improvisation that establishes and maintains a high energy level throughout. The two drummers mesh well and don’t overwhelm the rest of the group; Holland and Daley, who developed a finely-tuned working relationship in the Rivers quartet during this period, complement each other well and avoid any redundancy of line or color in the lower registers. Rivers’ playing is explosive and inspired, which is no surprise in light of the rich textures his bandmates weave.

Reptiles is a recording of the Israeli trio Bones, comprising bass clarinet (Ziv Taubenfeld), double bass (Shay Hazan), and drums (Nir Sabag). While the pianoless saxophone trio is a well-established configuration within jazz, the pianoless bass clarinet trio is less so. Bass clarinet and double bass are known for being among the quieter instruments in any ensemble but on this raw, forceful recording they show a more aggressive side. Taubenfeld’s sound tends toward the acerbic while Hazan favors a blunt-edged pizzicato on most of the tracks; Sabag’s free polyrhythms provide the trio with a propulsive push. Odd-numbered tracks are collective pieces, while the even-numbered tracks are solo performances for double bass, bass clarinet, and drums, respectively.

Recorded in an intimate live setting in Yamaguchi, Japan in 1997, The Aiki represents a rare meeting of pianist Masahiko Satoh and drummer Sabu Toyozumi. The two long duets that make up the release are the product of a chemistry that is as deep as it is rarely given occasion to combust, as Satoh’s tightly coiled, knotty lines find a fine foil in Toyozumi’s muscular excursions ranging over the entire drum kit. If the pairing of piano and trap drums implies a relatively restricted palette of timbres, Satoh and Toyozumi compensate by building their improvisations through a sophisticated use of space and dynamics.

Another recording from the 1990s, Blue Cat is a 1991 session for the quartet of cornetist Bobby Bradford, alto saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, double bassist Kent Carter, and drummer John Stevens. The four play a finely crafted free swing especially notable for the mutually supportive, motivic interplay of the two horns and solid playing from the rhythm section.

Finally, Brain in a Dish from the trio of Steve Swell on trombone, Robert Boston on piano and organ and drummer Michael Vatcher is a freely improvised collection of eleven pieces that takes Swell’s extended vocabulary of growls, squeals, air notes and buzzes and situates them within a sympathetic and stimulating setting. Particularly intriguing are the pieces for the timbrally distinctive combination of trombone and organ.

Daniel Barbiero

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Performances

Steve Swell Quintet & Josh Roseman Group at Rise Up Creative Music & Arts

From New York’s RUCMA:

Start: 07/06/2009 – 7:30pm
End: 07/06/2009 – 10:30pm

7:30PM
STEVE SWELL QUINTET
Steve Swell, trombone
Rob Brown, alto sax
Chris Forbes, piano
Hill Greene, bass
Michael T. A. Thompson, drums

9PM
JOSH ROSEMAN GROUP
Josh Roseman, trombone
others TBA

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Ras Moshe Ensemble in Syracuse

From New Thing Productions:

Thank you to everyone that came to the show last night, as usual, Thinguma*jigSaw put on such a nice intimate show that again made me think about picking up the saw as a musical instrument.

So hot on the feet of this last gig, here is another one for you. Free jazz for your head. Come on out and support live music.

May 30th @ 8pm
Ras Moshe Ensemble featuring Matt Lavelle, David Miller, Tor Yochai Snyder, Shayna Dulberger

Ras Moshe has been playing in various groups throughout New York City for almost twenty years, with William Hooker, Sabir Mateen, Steve Swell, Marc Edwards and others. His style has been compared to post-1965 John Coltrane and Frank Wright, among others. Born and raised in New York, and with a family history rich in the jazz tradition, Ras has uniquely positioned himself to bring the lineage of free jazz into the present day.

http://www.myspace.com/rasmoshe

$5.00 to $10.00 donation

Metropolis Underground
615 S. Main St. (backside of building)
N. Syracuse, NY 13212

http://www.metropolisunderground.wordpress.com

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Steve Swell Trio at RUCMA

From New York’s RUCMA:

Start: 02/09/2009 – 7:30pm
End: 02/09/2009 – 10:00pm
Timezone: Etc/GMT-4

Steve Swell Trio
Monday, February 9 @ 7:30 pm
Yippie Café: 9 Bleecker Street, near Bowery
General Admission: $10
Students and Seniors: $7
Jam Session @ 9pm: $5

Steve Swell, trombone & compostitions
Ken Filiano, bass
Andrew Drury, percussion

http://www.steveswell.com

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Garrison Fewell’s Variable Density Sound Orchestra at Cambridge YMCA January 30th

Garrison Fewell’s come to Cambridge later this month.

On Friday, January 30th, Boston-based guitarist/composer Garrison Fewell and his newest working ensemble, the Variable Density Sound Orchestra, will celebrate their forthcoming self-titled debut on Creative Nation Music with a two-set performance at the Cambridge Family YMCA Theater in Cambridge, MA.

The group, which features Roy Campbell (trumpet and flute), Achille Succi (alto saxophone and bass clarinet), Eric Hofbauer (guitar), John Voigt (bass) and Miki Matsuki (drums), will be joined by special guests, Steve Swell (trombone) and Dmitry Ishenko (bass).

Variable Density Sound Orchestra (CNM 014) officially hits the streets February 17th.

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