Wednesday, 23 November 2011

retrospecting (just a little bit): françois carrier @ london _resonance

words _ gian paolo galasi

François Carrier is a prolific   altoist/sopranist/flutist now living in London at the Quebec Artist Residency from the CALQ. 

30 years of activity playing with Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Bobo Stenson, Tomasz Stanko, Uri Caine and Mat Maneri and his own music passed, and on December 6th, 2011 Carrier will be hosted at The Vortex Jazz Club with double bassist John Edwards and drummer Michel Lambert, to celebrate Leo Records' new "In Motion", featuring the Montréal-born multi-reedist and his more recent trio with Lambert and pianist Alexey Lapin.

Final chapter of this year tryptich, to which you can add Ayler Records release of "Entrance 3" with Bobo Stenson on piano, again Lambert on drums and Pierre Coté on double bass, Carrier most enduring collaboration under his own name. It can be embarrassing being in charge to testify about such prolfierating creative renditions, but after pushing "Inner Spire" (Leo Records, 2011), recorded during a tour in Moscow last december, on the player, the feeling of the music let you forget how much insanely such a small business as improvised and avant garde music is filled with so many records every months. 

True as it can be how easy a musician involved in public funding can become so prolific, and obviously starting with no point in blaming Carrier for that - real problem is, how much it is difficult usually for a musician sponsoring such projects - the urge to document this relatively new trio is more than comprehensible. 

What's more, the compositions on this record are so different in mood and substance - 'Inner Square' is a sweet and intense struggle for squeaking horns, lyrical piano chords and drumming barrage, 'Square away' is built on piano heavy clusters, tightroped horns and swirling brushes, 'Tribe' a more meditative weaving, with 'Round Trip' perfectly coupling and preparing while climaxing in order to introduce the last, openly meditative 'Sacred Flow', with almost impressionistic piano statements and more dissonant breaks - that one wonders if, even if being Carrier music more defining that suggesting, it can be correct to put him between two of his most famous partners, Uri Caine, post-modern but straight, and Mat Maneri, less melodically defined but equally committed with stretching sound into space.

The companion CD "All Out" (FMR Records, 2011) recorded during the same tour but in St. Petersburg two days later, is completely different: More relaxed, gentle, in some way less adventurous, but, let's put it as it is. 

I would say a little bit 'manieristic', but in writing so - knowing there's no more subjective statement than that - I'm compelled to specify that this is the risk for every musician who try to deal with a pre-defined musical shape - even such as 'improvised music slash free jazz'. 

I'm just listening again to the record and so the last composition 'Of Breath', my favorite, get me to the point to judge Carrier trio so much good in dealing with the strain of dissonance and its melodic - not harmonic - resolution through the interplay, to seem full of honest, humanistic faith in the aesthetics (of improvised music). The only thing is, you need 75 minutes to get the whole point. 

While waiting to hear the new record so to complete the puzzle, I'd like to add something about François Carrier collaboration with Swiss singer and performer Véronique Dubois on "Being With" (Leo Records, 2010). Conceived as an effort to mix sax and human voice conveying them into one, the good part of it is the widening of Carrier palette so to include flute, voice and objects as percussions/added colors; the interplay so is augmented with an onomathopeic quality that push me, after listening to a record not perfectly on focus, but at least coherent, to ask to Mr Carrier and his closest collaborators, to dare more. 

François Carrier performing @ The Vortex Jazz Club on December 6th 2011 - h. 8.30 pm - Free

Sunday, 20 November 2011

ornette coleman @ royal albert hall 11/20/2011

words _ gian paolo galasi

The Royal Albert Hall is famous mostly to rock amateurs since in 1965 hosted one of the most controversial performances in the music history: Bob Dylan with its 'Hawks' - not 'The Band' yet, switching from acoustic folk to electric music; but tonight the packed audience attended to a likewise brilliant concert by the Ornette Coleman quartet. 

No one called for 'Judas', though, as happened with Mr. Zimmermann: since his 2009 residency and artistic direction at the Meltdown Festival, featuring two performances - with Charlie Haden and Flea, and again with the Master Musicians of Jajouka - and also a couple of movies on him. 

Ornette Coleman needs surely no introduction, being well known both to music lovers and to avant garde readers since his many liaisons with cinema and literature. His soundtrack for the "Chappaqua" movie, the one for David Cronenberg's "Naked Lunch" on William Seward Burroughs creative process misleading paranoia and drug addiction - misleading fixity, and it is probably of help to track a parallel between Borroughs' cut-up and fold-in writing techniques and Coleman harmolodic idea of music.

What we heard tonight is a quartet composed by Ornette at alto, violin and trumpet, with his son Denardo on drums, Tony Falanga on acoustic bass and Al McDowell at the electric bass. Coleman music is uncatchable as it always was. You listen to "Something Else" and you feel that this music is related to bebop, oops, no more related to beebop. Then you go into "The Shape of Jazz to Come" and you feel that a piece like 'Lonely Woman' can be directly related to the blues, but it is not (only?) blues. 

Then you go on listening, and you find that his collaboration with Bachir Attar and the MMOJ was in some way prepared by what he did on 'Broken Shadows', that is somewhere between '"Free Jazz" double quartet and "Dancing in your Head" but you can't tell if it is something like an expansion or a contraction, and that some compositions presented again through different records are more oblique and more straight at the same time under different focuses.

Like tonight, while the second piece was introduced by Denardo playing some maybe funky configuration that actually had the idea of a groove but heavier than funk usually is, just to loose it and generate anarchy in the interplay; but after quite a while you feel that there was nothing wrong in that, nothing really lost. And so, after 'Lonely Woman', 'Focus on Sanity' and other compositions taken here and there in his entire career, you are certain that Ornette music is always driven by instinct and at the same time highly structured, but that it is not a matter of dialectics, as if different pulses, pushes and pieces were finally mixed together on a new, compelling, sound grammar.

henry threadgill and zooid @ queen elisabeth hall 11/19/2011

words _ gian paolo galasi

Everytime I think about Henry Threadgill, the other name that comes to my mind is Eric Dolphy. Both multi-instrumentalists - and both flutists and alto players, both on a fertile middle ground between composition and improvisation, both responsibles for some of the finest music put on record - what about 'Out to Lunch!', 'Just the Facts and Pass the Bucket', 'Iron Man', or 'Too Much Sugar for a Dime'?

The fact is that as far as Eric Dolphy was ahead of his time - he studied flute and composition at Darmstadt in the '50s with Italian contemporary musician Federico Gazzelloni, but more than that, his practice of harmonic resolution was so wider than Charlie Parker's that his faster playing was resulting in fact so slow ... and one really understand why some of his best playing can be heard on his pieces for cello, vibes and bass clarinet, while his approach to group composing as heard on Ornette's 'Free Jazz' was so oblique and spacey that, compared to many big free jazz bands today, you really hear what the sense of instantaneous composition can be - so Henry Threadgill can be considered today one of the best composers you'll ever meet both on record and on concert. 

Few names can be put at his level: Anthony Braxton, Lawrence D. 'Butch' Morris (the only younger composer to reach the peak of this previous generation) for sure. Cecil Taylor. And such undeservedly underestimated composers/improvisers as Anthony Davis and George Lewis. Julius Hemphill, if he were alive and well. Not by chance many young players, the most interesting nowadays - I wrote directly and with great pleasure about them on this blog: skim through it to find them, then enjoy their own music - were working with many of the names I put down there.

And more, there are the musicians on the stage. Stomu Takeishi (bass guitar) came in the US in 1983 as a koto player (an instrument now well known in the avant garde / improvised milieu also thanks to the post-modern efforts of the second 'loft-era' generation, but at that time almost unknown as Japanese music in general), then deeply involved in studying and performing fretless bass guitar so to become one of the most sensitive performers on that instrument as far as sound and timbre - check out Myra Melford's Crush trio on records. 

Christopher Liberty Ellman was born in London in 1971 but studied and started playing guitar in San Francisco, listening to the music of Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and jamming after seeing people like Tony Williams, McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson and, while in NY, playing with Trevor Dunn, Vijay Iyer and Steve Coleman, just to name a few. José Davila played trombone and tuba with Ray Charles and Tito Puente. Christopher Hoffman is a multi-instrumentalist - he plays cello with Zooid - and his range of collaborations deals with Marc Ribot, Marianne Faithfull, Bebel Gilberto, Willie Nile, John Zorn. Elliott Kavee has in his roster Myra Melford, Omar Sosa and Rudresh Mahanthappa. 

If you want an idea of what Zooid sounds like, think first about what the word means - 'an organic cell or organized body that has independent movement within a living organism' - and then imagine the music as made by six musicians dealing with all the sound dynamics involved with the timbre and grain of their instruments and their possible nuances, giving life to a slightly suspended groove coming from the same tradition Threadgill was involved since his first steps as a composer - that is, Scott Joplin and dance music - in which the listener can find suggestions coming from the blues, latin rhythms and flamenco, even if none of them is univocally defined. 

There is no single, leading voice in the compositions, even if sometimes Threadgill's alto can work as a collector of energies with its synthetic statements, but there's no dramatic call up, only a sense of suspended and gentle tenderness and a predilection for dialogue   - guitar and bass, or cello and bass - instead of soloing. Zooid is the more delicate incarnation of Threadgill soul, coming rightly after the extroverted Very Very Circus and  his meditative compositions on 1993 'Song Out of my Trees' and the four cellos and four acoustic guitars 'Making a Move' in 1995. The concert was recorded by BBC Radio 3 for a radio broadcast next saturday.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

reviewing @ london _ resonance [pt. 6]

words _ gian paolo galasi

One thinks about New York and 'the melting pot' is something that truly comes to mind. One of the souls of the Big Apple in the Seventies was Latin for sure: Ray Barretto, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Arsenio Rodriguez and Joe Bataan are truly some of the most famous Nuyoricans. 

But poet, performer and writer Miguel Algarin, co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a multi-cultural artistic venue on the Lower East Side, author of the book of poetries 'Love is a Hard Work' - dedicated to his relationship with HIV+, and the sole translator of Pablo Neruda's 'Songs of Protests' in the United States - in 1976, is truly a preeminent figure - and 'always provocative', as far as Amiri Imamu Baraka. 

In this "Soul to Sol" (Ruby Flower Records), Algarin and Albey Balgochian, a virtuoso bass player committed with the likes of Cecil Taylor - Big Band and Trio, BasseyJane - a duo with poet and storyteller Jane Grenier B. - and Bassentric - an evolving organic involving bassists François Grillot, Hill Green, Lisle Hellis and Ken Filiano, saxophonist Chales Gayle,  and poet and performer Steve Dalachinsky, show how the mix of spoken poetry, performance and music - that is to say, art without boundaries - is far from being a practice of the past. Who knows how much important were for the following developments the efforts of Gil Scott-Heron and the Last Poets, and miss in the present the unique mix of warm human feelings as you could find in Allen Ginsberg and John Giorno, and in their use of music and words, won't miss some careful listening.

Let's move to Italy again, but staying on a similar subject. Alessandro Fedrigo is one of the few specialist on the acoustic fretless bass guitar, an instrument played by few bassists in the past as Dave Holland, Anders Jormin, Miroslav Vitous and Jaco Pastorius. 

The original compositions on "Solitario" ( have been developed following a series of polyphonic techniques, then driven harmonically in three different directions (tonal, modal and serial) trying to give coherence to the dynamics of written music and improvisation, while some standards ('All of Me', 'Autumn Leaves', 'My One and Only Love', 'Blue Monk') are re-enacted following polyphonal procedures. There are also some free improvisations on the record, but don't exspect free blowing, non-idiomatic statements: Fedrigo's music - in the past involved with clarinetist Tony Scott, avant guitarist and composer Elliott Sharp, and featured on Robert Wyatt "Comicopera" (Domino/Self, 2008) - is all coherent with his stylistic choices, and they make sense. 

I regret the days in which the musicians themselves were explaining directly to the listeners their own - but not only their own - music as in the old Resonance Magazine. Many of them, such as David Toop, Alan Licht and Clive Bell, are still using articles and books as devices to portray a wider landscape adding the value of perspective to what they do as musicians. 

I was skimming to the British Library last month, and I found out some of John Butcher's writings right after his performance at Sottovoce with Martin Brandlmayr, during which I also picked up a copy of his last issue on Weight of Wax

A previously unissued session with guitarist Derek Bailey and percussionist Gino Robair, the eight tracks on "Scrutables" give life to an intense set of improvised music, the one that can get rid of the image of Bailey as an ascetic anchorite - how about his collaborations with artists such diverse as singer David Sylvian, guitarist Keiji Haino, bassist Bill Laswell, pipa player Min Xhao Fen? Joy, and a still fresh approach to the interplay after UK improv first wails on 1968 SME's "Karyobin" is what comes out even of a piec of cold methacrylate, another proof of how what was developed out of the idea of 'spontanteous playing' is of vital importance still nowadays.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

reviewing @ london resonance [part 5]

words _ gian paolo galasi

Italy is still a fantastic place if you want to find new music. Nicola Guazzaloca (piano) and Francesco Guerri (cello)'s "Nestor Makhno" (Stella Nera) is a good place to start.

Both teachers at the Scuola popolare di musica Ivan Illich in Bologna and active contributors to the contemporary music / avant garde scene nowadays, they have recorded this album during a series of concerts at the St. Petersburg's Apositsia Art Forum. 

Issued by a label devoted to anarchist ideals, and dedicated to Nestor Makhno (1889-1935), a Russian revolutionary that fought against the Bolsheviks in Moscow and Ukraina strieving for freedom, this duo record is higly recommended to all those who love the music of John Tilbury and Marylin Crispell, just to give a few tips. A record at risk of being highly underrated, that deserves more that one close listening.

Same for Roberto Dani's "Lontano" (Stella Nera), and while the label is growing as far as my consideration - nothing to do with my Italian roots, it is a pure matter of the high quality of the music - and will be highly praised at the end of that year in my playlist, this solo drums record is a perfect balance of sound and silence, aimed at a coherent logic in which Dani's different colors reveal a musician such careful and refined that it is no surprise he played with cellist Erik Friedlander ("Schio - Duemilaquattro", Stella Nera, 2006), and the likes of Michel Godard, Norma Winstone, Annette Peacock and Giorgio Gaslini. 

Intense, meditative, dramatic, quiet, urgent at the same time, this record is another step on a path leading to a relationship with the idea of shape that, after the previous "Drama" (Stella Nera, 2009), shows how the difference between acoustic and electronic music can be thin.

Splasc(H) Records published just last week "Panorami"; Rome-born guitarist Lanfranco Malaguti - between his influences, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and the underestimated Warne Marsh - dedicates his new effort to the paintings of Renato Maurizio. All the compositions, played by Malaguti with Nicola Fazzini (alto sax), Massimo De Mattia (flute) and Luca Colussi (drums) are inspired by his canvas, reproduced in the booklet.

Not an avant/improv musician, Malaguti guitar playing is an attempt to release melody from chords, without juxtaposing to the harmony. The same attempt of the free jazz but with other means, in some ways, trying to connect music, Benoit Mandelbrot mathematics and a statistic approach related to gaussian curves, while Massimo de Mattia, author of a couple of astonishing records this year ("Atto di Dolore" e "Mikiri 3", released by Setola di Maiale) can be considered one of the most intersting musicians now working in Italy both for his tymbrical research on flute and his constructive/deconstructive approach to music. Saxophonist Nicola Fazzini, disciple of Joe Lovano and Bob Brookmeyer and collaborator of Enrico Rava and Peter Erskine, and young drummer Luca Colussi, influenced by Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Fred Hersh and Elvin Jones help in creating a music feeding on different visions, heterogeneous and rich. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

michael garrick @ london resonance

British pianist and composer Michael Garrick died on 11 November 2011, after being admitted to hospital with heart problems last week.

All Music on Michael Garrick
"From straight lines we make curves" - Michael Garrick on Jazzscript.
The Wire on Michael Garrick
Galactic Ramble on Michael Garrick
London Jazz on Michael Garrick
A review of one of Garrick's last concerts on The Telegraph
Dusted Magazine on Michael Garrick Trio "Moonscape"

Friday, 4 November 2011

flow motion @ the dana centre 11/01/2011

words + photos: gian paolo galasi

Forthcoming performances:
Queen Mary’s Octagon room on the 5th and 6th of November 2011, at 7.30pm

Grahame Painting
While listening to November 1st performance of Flow Motion: Explorations in Eleven Dimensions and interacting with the musicians during the following Q&A, one thinks about the usual juxtaposition between improvising and manipulating or processing sound just to come to the conclusion that there is no such difference, and that one of the concepts Edward George put on the table more than one time - interacting with misleadings - is a good zen exercise, in the proper sense of the word.

"An audio art performance of soundscapes and improvisations based on the transformation of string theory equations, produced by Piva and George during their research residency at Queen Mary’s School of Physics."

The use of mathematics and physics in music is a relevant practice in contemporary music - we can put artists as diverse as Iannis Xenakis, Catherine Christer Hennix and Achim Wollscheid on the table -- a trace of the faith in the harmony of nature, of music, through mathematics, while the idea of a creative/aesthetic rendition of mistakes or chance is a common practice in the audio art: the glitch music came entirely from there - a way to look for what's human in his weaknesses, in his mistakes in the digital era.

Edward George and Anna Piva
But what's interesting in the late afternoon discussion after the music is the stress on doing, more than on dealing with concepts. And that concepts is what the audience ask about to the musicians in order to understand the music: emotions, soul, even God. That means obviously that this project, far from being absolutely 'new' -- even since there's no such thing in the world of art, or in the world in general -- is in line with what's going on in every art field since the middle of the last century: a project comprehensible only in their own terms and to be developed with time, with listeners grasping at their own first encounter with it.

'Liquid' music in some way, an adjective I wouldn't spend for most of the audio art / electroacoustic performances I listened in my life -- there is something similar in many, but not at that level, while the articulation is  coherent, and at the same time dealing with it through words is really something slippery. Obviously this is a new project, and some of the players -- Alison Blunt on violin, Chris Cullen on flute and saxophone, Edward George on electronics, Grahame Painting on cello and guitar, Anna Piva on electronics and Mark Sanders on drums -- were playing together for the first time, so it may be worth to listen to the next performances and see what would eventually come out of a record or a follow.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

the thirteenth assembly @ the vortex 10/30/2011

words + photos: gian paolo galasi

Jessica Pavone and Mary Alvorson
I had a very good impression about Jessica Pavone and Mary Halvorson duo I saw in Italy a couple of years ago in a small theatre, and since I told about Taylor Ho Bynum attendance to last Jason Kao Hwang excellent two albums on london_resonance, I was very curious about this quartet. 

The Thirteenth Assembly debuted on record in 2009 while forged two years before after the collaboration of all the four members to the Anthony Braxton's Sonic Genome project, and I must admit that my lack of confidence with Mr Braxton's last productions is leaving me with a real curiosity for this generation of musicians - add people like Matana Roberts and Steve Lehman, the younger NY improvisors trying to develop their own synthesis and vision after 40 years of avant-garde pursuits.

The result is a music that in some way is influenced by what Braxton's vibrational dynamics, but also Henry Threadgill and Jason Kao Hwang circulating grooves and instrumental richness have left as a legacy to contemporary music in terms of harmonic construction, colors and interplay. Tonight show is particularly dense and fluid at the same time, with Thomas Fujiwara carrying on his shoulders the duty of anchoring the sound to a dense and rich groove while the music develops itself in a characteristic 'loft' style, that means individual statements flowing ahead with the music even before it opens to 'solos', to a contemplative, reflective space. 

Thomas Fujiwara
And while the compositions on the two albums - the 2009 debut '(un)sentimental' and the new 'Station Direct', both on Important Records - show how this generation mediated their mentors vision on composition through the more intuitive sensitivity of the middle one - name Matthew Shipp, Cooper-Moore, Rob Brown to get some anchor point, one wonders if having together four musicians coming from different origins, even if without any stress put on it, can be considered in some way another face of the legacy with an era in which consciousness and creativity were actively supporting each other, waiting for a Matana Roberts performance in order to have a more concrete idea on the subject.