Friday, October 30, 2015

My Book is Available Today

My book of selected blog posts is available through either as a print book or as a kindle e-book. I used the amazon affiliate Create Space to make the book, so those are the only two publication options. I also had to do all of my own formatting and editing myself, so all of the grammatical errors and dubious leaps in logic that you have come to know and love over the past dozen years are included :-) It has always been a goal in the back of my mind that I would like to write a book, but I never thought I would actually do it. So I had mixed feelings when my copy came in the mail: a bit of pride, but I was also wondering what kind of compete narcissist publishes a book of his ramblings that is 822 pages long! Let me be very clear: this is well and truly a vanity project. All of the blog post that are included in the book are online for free, so unless you are looking for an expensive chew toy for your dog, there's really no need to order this middle aged man's folly.

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Matthew Shipp Trio - The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear, 2015)

Pianist Matthew Shipp is one of the leading lights of the modern jazz scene; he is capable of the farthest out free improvisation as well as the most beautiful melodic lyricism. Both of those aspects of his talent are superbly melded here in the company of longtime collaborators Michael Bisio on bass and Newman Taylor Baker on drums. “Instinctive Touch” opens the album with a very subtle piano, bass and cymbal shimmer gradually building into a more complex section where Baker plays in a beautifully restrained fashion and they all show a quiet mastery of their trade. There is some snappy heavy piano on “The Conduct of Jazz” which the trio develops into a dynamic hard swinging section, which is then balanced by taught quiet interplay. Choppy sections of piano ground the music and clear the way for Bisio to take a well earned and very impressive bass solo. “Primary Form” has very urgent piano from Matthew Shipp alerting everyone of the importance of the music. Baker takes a short drum solo and sets up a pattern for trade offs between strongly percussive low end chopping of piano against short burst of unaccompanied drums which creates a persistent and interesting conception. Shipp leads the trio from the low end of the piano at the end of the piece, like a strongman moving ominous slabs of noise. He takes the deep and repeated figure even further on “Blue Abyss” which finally reaches release in a section of jazzy trio improvisation. This will repeat throughout the song with episodes of insistent and powerful playing switching deftly into light and deft three way improvisation, developing something akin to a call and response structure. The concluding track “The Bridge Across” is nearly twice the length of any other on the album with a lot of complex high wire improvisational conversation taking place between the musicians. There is excellent bass and drum playing throughout this performance while Shipp develops a fine latticework of crisp piano playing. There is a sense of three disparate percussion instruments at play each moving in a fast and precise fashion. The music is wrapped up with a wonderful lengthy stretched out improvised section where everyone gets a chance to shine especially Michael Bisio, who is simply magnificent. This is an extraordinary trio that makes very profound and yet highly accessible music. Undoubtedly, this will be classified as “avant-garde” jazz and that may scare off some people, which is a true shame. The musicians are true craftsmen at the top of their game and deserve the chance to reach the largest audience possible. The Conduct of Jazz -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

John Lee Hooker - Urban Blues (ABC Bluesway, 1967)

The great blues guitarist and songwriter John Lee Hooker recorded for many labels during his lengthy career, but in the late 1960’s he was able to sign a major label deal with the newly founded ABC – Bluesway group. This album is made up of songs with a full band (as opposed to Hooker’s early groundbreaking solo recordings) over the course of a few different sessions. The musical accompaniment is subtle with some very nice bass and harmonica adding to Hooker’s guitar and very deep voice. The album features some of his great boogie tunes “Boom Boom” and “Think Twice Before You Go” which are pithy and buoyant, nothing like the all night boogie albums that would be conjured up by Hooker’s record label a few years later. The snarling “Backbiters and Syndicators” and the witty “Mr. Lucky” are wonderful tunes that Hooker and his producer Al Smith co-wrote and would stay in his repertoire late into his career. Another very interesting development are two great topical protest songs, “The Motor City is Burning” about the riots that erupted in Detroit in 1967 that lead to the deployment of National Guard troops and the deaths of 43 people. “I Gotta Go to Vietnam” is a powerful indictment of a war of folly from the position of a black draftee that knows that the real war is being fought at home for civil rights and against racial inequality. When people think of protest songs they often think of white folksingers but these songs and others by his then colleague J.B. Lenior showed that blues musicians were very clued into what was happening. Just as before, John Lee Hooker’s career would wax and wane until the late 1980’s when he achieved the position of a revered elder for many rock and blues musicians. Several lion in winter albums followed where he was flanked by his admirers (one album was called Mr. Lucky in fact) and he was one of the few musicians with the longevity to see first hand the influence he had over generations of musicians. Urban Blues - John Lee Hooker

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Raoul Björkenheim / eCsTaSy - Out of the Blue (Cuneiform, 2015)

Guitarist Raoul Björkenheim’s second album with his group eCsTaSy, shows them further developing their vision of modern jazz that looks to mix melodic song forms with longer collectively improvised tracks. The remainder of the band consists of Pauli Lyytinen on saxophones, Jori Huhtala on bass and Markku Ounaskari on drums. “Heads and Tails” has and slow and probing opening for sharp and metallic guitar and bass. Drums build in for a nicely developing trio section, and then a saxophone slides in as well to fill out the sound. Lyytinen ‘s saxophone digs in with a raw and gritty sound and the rest of the group responds, building to an excellent cacophony. Excellent free soloing from the saxophonist, reaching for the stars with ample support from the remaining trio, makes way for a shift to a full band improvisation scouring the music that lays before them until they meet the finish line. There is a jazzier feel to “Quintrille” with the music sounding fast paced and knotty, with soprano saxophone swirling and swooping. Björkenheim’s effects laden guitar then takes center stage for a short wild solo, before everyone returns together under some superb saxophone playing. “Uptown” is hot right off the bat, with driving bass and snarling guitar, chomping like a rabid dog. Saxophone gracefully moves in with excellent bass support from Huhtala and then everybody stays hot. There is a very interesting rhythm from Ounaskari on “OLJ” along with smears of saxophone and guitar, making the music ominous and foreboding. Big slabs of electric guitar, building edifies of noise and then suddenly… silence. “Roller Coaster” has swirling soprano saxophone with a fine bass solo inserted. The music is very fast and intricate, with flurries of notes and yearning saxophone against shards of guitar and powerful drumming. The band works very well together, moving through sub-genres of jazz as a cohesive unit. They allow the music to shift dynamically from composed to free, and Björkenheim’s shows his chops in areas from progressive rock to abstract improvisation. And you can’t beat that album cover. Out of the Blue -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sonny Simmons - Reincarnation (Arhoolie Records, 2015)

This excellent archival release was recorded live in 1991, and features a very special family oriented group of alto saxophonist Sonny Simmons, his wife, trumpet player Barbard Donald, and their son Zarak Simmons on drums. Rounding out the group is Court Crawford on bass and Travis Shook on piano. “American Jungle Theme” opens the album with driving drums that are so raw and explosive that they carry the saxophone along for the ride. Zarak seem to be so thrilled to be playing in this setting that he is bringing everything he has, which makes this track very exciting. Donald’s trumpet comes in for a punchy section as the piano comps on the edge and the drums continue to thunder. The rhythm section is given brief solo areas before everyone retunes to the main theme to close this thrilling tune. There is an Ornette Coleman like feel to the setting of “Reincarnation” with Simmons’ freebopping alto saxophone developing a nice lengthy statement goaded and encouraged by his son’s drumming. He makes an assured proclamation here that he had lost none of the powers, making everybody stand up and look, and soon to be rewarded by getting the opportunity to make two albums for a Warner Brothers subsidiary. After thirty years of scuffling and missed chances, Sonny Simmons had truly arrived, with great communicative skill. He pushes forward fervently before backing off and allowing a great exchange of brass and saxophone to conclude the performance. The standard ballad “Body and Soul” slows the pace down considerably, with Simmons showing a surprising tenderness and allowing the piano to frame his playing in a thoughtful fashion. This is a very subtle and restrained performance, while Simmons reaches for the truth, the rhythm team is quiet even using brushes. “Ancient Ritual” has a mighty brass and drums fanfare sounding very tight before Sonny Simmons breaks formation for a solo that that is strong of spirit and pure music. Zarak Simmons is aware of this notion and while his percussion is ferocious, it breathes in accordance to the needs of the music, and they are just killing it with non-stop saxophone and drums improvisation, reaching the “are you kidding me?”state. Sonny drops out and Barbara Donald’s trumpet wades in slowly, testing waters where that former tempest lay. Zarak Simmons has to throttle the drums back a bit for fear of swallowing the trumpet whole. The piano, bass and drums team take over for their section, but Zarak is solo tightly wound that his muscularity overpowers the scene and leads the full group to com back in and finish. The final preface is “Over the Rainbow” which is taken with Barbara Donald as the sole horn in the group. She plays the well known melody with simple accompaniment and achieves a golden glow throughout her improvised section. There is a sense of nostalgia and perhaps that is due to programming this album in such a way we are left with a fitting tribute to Barbara Donald who passed away in 2013. Sonny Simmons is one of the few survivors of the New Thing/free jazz revolution of the 1960’s. His lengthy career has seen him recording with Elvin Jones, Eric Dolphy and McCoy Tyner in the past to putting out releases in the present including project with Indian musicians and an eight disc boxed set! This is a very fine album, which fits right in and is another feather in his cap. Reincarnation -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Made to Break - Before the Code (Trost, 2015)

Made to Break is one of the most recent of multi-reedist and composer Ken Vandermark’s many ensembles. With a mix of electric and acoustic instruments there is a wide range of possibilities for the music to evolve. This band includes Christof Kurzmann on electronics, Jasper Stadhouders on electric bass and Tim Daisy on drums. “Dial the Number (Intro)” is opened by electronics and strong drumming developing into a strapping quartet section, with the electronics stretching space and time while Vandermark’s ripe tenor saxophone leads the group storming forward. They play with the form quite a bit, with Vandermark spitting choppy and guttural bursts while Kurzmann frames him with bursts of static. Fast saxophone and sawing electronics are at the center of “Dial the Number (for Agnes Varda)” with the electronics dropping out briefly to allow the trio to fly free. When Kurzmann does return, he builds a section of scouring noise, pushing the music into post-rock territory, akin to bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Tortoise at their most abstract. It works well through, as all of the members of the band are relentless explorers in their own right. “Off Picture No. 119 (For Joshua Oppenheimer)” has a slow and moody start that gradually gives way to a very nice saxophone, bass and drums section. Electronic noise enters, swirling and shimmering as Daisy slips into a steady heartbeat like rhythm. Electronics take command and reach critical mass sounding like Sun Ra at his freakiest before Vandermark makes his return over surprisingly funky bass and drums. Daisy get a brief solo before locking in with Stadhouders and the rest of the band sounding much like another Vandermark ensemble: the dearly missed Spaceways Inc. as they end the track playing funky, free and awesome. An abstraction of percussion, thick bass and probing bass is the feeling of “Window Breaking Hammer (for Reiner Werner Fassbinder)” where they carefully take things up with some rattling bass and the music building faster and stronger. Things drop out into an ominous and haunting midsection with smears of noise and drones, which are highly pitched and nervous. They pull back to end the very lengthy track beautifully with the acoustic trio playing a medium fast improvisation with electronic frames and shading. The music on this album is quite diverse, running the gamut from jazz to free improvisation to experimental rock music. This is a very exciting group that really thrives on the unexpected and develops their music accordingly. Before the Code - band camp

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity - Firehouse (Clean Feed, 2015)

Drummer Gard Nilssen leads a trio with Petter Eldh on bass and Andre Roligheten on saxophones on their debut album as Acoustic Unity. They play a tight and muscular form of modern jazz with aspects of free improvisation and deep group empathy. The track "Round trip" has a very exciting full throttle drums and probing saxophone, which gives the music a enjoyable sound, and develops into a barreling collective improvisation. High pitched and clipped bass led the trio into a choppier section where they are able to fully occupy the available space with the tight bass and drums supporting the saxophone. The group radiates confidence on "Adam's Ale" where their shrewdness allows them to move in a fast and intact fashion with Roligheten soloing over taught bass and tight cymbals. They carve a clear path through their improvisation, diving right in with muscular and exciting zeal. "Mojo" is a short but thrilling track taken at a blazing speed where sparks of energy erupt into a blast furnace of fire with howling saxophone and battering ram drums. They have a multitude of ideas and use them to create a freely improvised section that is awe inspiring in its ferocity. There is quite a melodic feeling to "The Resistance" where spacious drums and soprano saxophone carve the air at will. The action of the drums slowly picks up along with some excellent bass playing where Eldh displays a wealth of melodic ideas and structural support. Roligheten is a seeker on this track alternating choppy shorter flutters and phrases with longer spiraling tones. "Turtlehead" has Roligheten moving back to tenor saxophone moving briskly along with Nilssen whose drums are straining at the leash. The thick and muscular bass completes the scene and really exemplifies the potent nature of this trio. They hit an excellent grove that is uptempo but vey well controlled where the bass and drums are locked in as one monster duo and the saxophone is able to move in a nimble fashion at will. This is a powerful unit that has a lean and potent sound, exemplified when Roligheten circles ever faster before lifting off into an explosive solo.   Firehouse -

Send comments to Tim.