Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fabrizio Paterlini: Autumn Stories

Fabrizio Paterlini (piano)
Autumn Stories (FP Records; 2012)

Fabrizio Paterlini has exhibited a unique talent that at the piano that has everyone including me, trying to figure out how to categorize it.

It's not on the same level as Keith Jarrett, although the emotion and ethereal qualities are the same. Yet it is more rooted in the classical tradition of Satie and Debussy with contemporary touches of Harold Budd or Nils Frahm. Modern Classical might be the best way to capture it. But either way you describe it - Paterlini should quickly turn into a household name outside of his native country, Italy.

With his forth solo album, Autumn Stories, Paterlini shows a growing strength in creating structured arrangements which the listener clearly draw their own picture. The album was recorded over a 14 week period and quietly illustrates the movement of the seasons. "Week 1" opens with a soft hushed wind that blows the leaves gently aside. This imagery soon reveals the listener to the subtle, lonely notes of its protagonist. The stillness so opens up to "Week 2," a stripped bare version of Massive Attack's "What Your Soul Sings." Here though Paterlini allows the listener to dig deeper with his or her own thoughts to uncover a meaning. The subtraction of Sinead O'Conner's vocals from the Massive Attack version was hard for me but after a second listen it really does become Paterlini's piece.

"Week 4" has the feeling of rolling emotions at sunset. There is almost a Keith Jarrett quality to this piece that is playful yet well constructed, and soon builds overflowing notes and then elegantly descends. "Week 8" is delicate like Satie meets Glass; singularly focused with brief intersections of improvisation. The closing number for this beautiful journey is "Week 14." A minuet with multiple facets, Paterlini shows you the light at the end of the road. A light that's letting everyone know that life can continually be amazing.

Fabrizio Paterlini has made another beautiful record that I hope more people will find out about. Fabrizio Paterlini is cycle about a brief period in life. But a period which is reflective and constructive. This is one of those solid records that goes upon recommendation for almost every friend you have--no matter what style of music they listen to. Highly Recommended.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lund Quartet

Lund Quartet (group)
Lund Quartet (self-produced; 2012)
Simon Adcock (piano, theremin)
Sam Muscat (drums)
Jake Wittlin (turntables, electronics)
Rob Childs (bass)

A real surprise for me earlier this summer was the discovery of the band Lund Quartet. I first heard the band after a jazz competition in their hometown of Bristol. I didn't hear anything about them again until last month when I stumbled across their name the site Bandcamp. They've been on the scene for about 3 years, but have built a nice following in the UK jazz scene. And finally everyone else gets to find out what they are all about, with their self titled debut.

Combining the raw urban energy of the vibrant Bristol scene with European aesthetics, Lund Quartet explodes in your ear drums like a bouillabaisse of Harold Budd, Portico Quartet, Arve Henriksen and Portishead. It's a mixture that's delicate, dark and industrial. "Sequoia" reflects the band's diverse interests of ambient tones, trip hop grooves and pulsating piano dynamics. Lots of echo treatments and subtle uses of electronics/turntables hitting against Child's tight drum kit. The reverberation soon becomes hypnotic and emotional.

"Loves Madness" adds a playful Latin tinge aided by dark, eerie sampled vocals from the great African singer, Miram Makeba, that float in the mix are almost reminiscent of Beth Gibbons (of Portishead) combined with Ute Lemper. Adcock's performance is strong and holds the piece together with mastery. "Lonn" allows Muscat and Wittlin to carry the weight with a deep funky progression in association with Adcock and Childs' circling notes. Adcock adds in his violin, which sounds so beautiful within the texture of this groove. It really is killer. The soft touch of "Zill Bell" is the absolute perfect way to end this experience, filled with an almost classical reverence but infused with a sense of dark ambience projected through Adcock and Muscat's abraded notes.

Lund Quartet's subtle use of electronics and turntables is brilliant. It helps in the deconstruction of acoustic instruments and allows the group's personality to rise above the notes. The ethereal quality that the quartet emits is exquisite and should be applauded by fans of jazztronica and European jazz alike. Lund Quartet again show that the UK scene is bubbling with creative talent from every direction of the isle. This is an album that I can't stop from its infinite loop. Highly, Highly Recommended!

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Fire! (trio)
Mats Gustafsson (sax, keys)
Johan Berthling (bass, organ)
Andreas Werlin (drums)
(photo: Johan Doden Dahlroth)

Of all the many projects Mats Gustafsson has been involved in, Fire! is probably one of my favourites (outside of his mainstay, The Thing). The Swedish trio put on a mixture of heavy rock overtones, hypnotic psychedelia and free jazz motifs all culminating in unbelievable sound and rhythm. Since their formation in 2009, the group have quickly forge a place in the avant consciousness of this listener and I'm sure many of you. Crossing the various styles previously mentioned--all the while making sound seamless and inviting.

You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago is a great starting point. The performances are intense but the sound low-key and meditative. Berthling plays a big role in "But Sometimes I Am" and "If I Took Your Hand." His playing feels like the heavy heartbeat of dying days. "You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago" is humorous and infectious. Hand claps and two-toned notes from Gustafsson increase and revolve like a haunted carousel ride and quietly fade into the distance.

Unreleased? sees the trio teaming with guitar/sound manipulator, Jim O'Rouke, creating a more muscular yet cerebral sound. Gustafsson and O'Rouke stretch the lines to a breaking point. Berthling and Werlin add depth and a small melody underneath the distortion of the opening piece "Are You Both Still Unreleased?" "Please, I Am Released" and "Happy Ending Borrowing Yours" expands the groups focus with more improvising, yet still coming together solidly at the end to psychedelic effect. Werlin and O'Rouke both lead the charge with blistering lines that come crashing against the screeches of Gustafsson horn. 

A similar tone is taken on the trio third album, In The Mouth - A Hand. This session also filled out by guitarist, Oren Ambarchi. Gustafsson sounding energized and the quartet challenging each other at every turn. Now the trio have been playing together for over 3 years between their own projects. They sound full and ever expanding.

The droning and avalanche of sound on "A Man Who Might Have Been Screaming" and "I Am Sucking For A Bruise" are intense and almost reminds me of mid-period Spiritualized (circa "Cop Shoot Cop") and Can. "He Wants To Sleep In A Dream" sees Ambarchi and Gustafsson repeating one tone for a majority of the piece until the entire group finally gather for a cacophony of sound that is intense but somehow funky in same aspect.

With Fire!, Mats Gustafsson has an outlet for themes that may not work with his other groups. And with his bandmates experience in other more rock-centric outfits makes for challenging and creative sessions. Fire! isn't for everyone but I think you need to really sit and hear it all the way through before you get the full breath of ideas. Great stuff.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Portico Quartet: Portico Quartet

Portico Quartet (group)
Portico Quartet (Realworld; 2012)
Jack Wylie (sax, electronics)
Duncan Bellamy (drums)
Milo Fitzpatrick (bass)
Keir Vine (hang)

With their third album, simply titled Portico Quartet, the London based group has moved ever so slightly from their rhythmic, percussion driven textures of the last few years. The group with new hang (the percussive steel-drum-like instrument the band has become known for) member Keir Vine has evolved even further into a more deeply melodic and atmospheric outfit. The influences of Steve Riech, Brian Eno and other sound manipulators have overtaken and enriched the band for this session.

"Window Seat" and "Ruins" show the group leaning more in an electronic direction. Subtle revolving loops and patterns that quietly become hypnotic typify the opening piece "Window Seat." As the tone begins to settle in an infliction of groovy basslines, whistling sax and hovering drums captures the attention. It's wonderfully paced and sublime on multiple levels. "Lacker Boo" lies deeply in a haunting and sweeping groove of electronics and percussion that holds you entranced and hitting the backbeat at the same time.

"Steepless" features Swedish vocalist, Cornelia Dahlgren, who reminded me of a nice mixture of Syke (ex-Morcheeba) and Anja Garbarek. Her raspy, withdrawn vocals blend perfectly with the electronics and almost  typewriter percussions. "4096 Colours" with its underwater flow, echoing and distant notes from Wylie's sax got me thinking of Aphex Twin's early ambient work. This piece moves slowly but emerges into a heavy almost organ-like pattern that drifts outward toward conclusion.

Moving squarely in a direction that I'm really having trouble defining (which was probably the group's purpose), Portico Quartet has risen above their early beginnings and found a voice on a path that seems ideally suited for them. Portico Quartet is a pulsating gem with swift yet soft patterns that fans of both ambient and cerebral jazz will find very rewarding.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Curtis Fuller: Down Home

Curtis Fuller (trombone)
Down Home (Capri Records; 2012)
Keith Oxman (sax)
Al Hood (trumpet)
Ken Walker (bass)
Todd Reid (drums)
Chip Stephens (piano)

Curtis Fuller returns in a very joyous mood on his new release, Down Home. And he does feel right in place. His last few recordings have dealt with the loss, pain and celebration of his late wife; Down Home shows the resilience and continued brilliance of a musician still at the top of his profession.

Leading off with the joyous title track, Fuller shows an exuberance that is really electrifying. A jumping hard bop number that sees the horn section trading off moments of affability and substance. Oxman and Hood, both of whom have performed with Fuller on his last few records are perfect executioners of Fuller's compositions.

"Sadness And Soul" allows Stephens to step into the lead with lovely agility and grace. Fuller's performance is passionate and resounding throughout. It's a late night piece that works beautifully. "The High Priest" rips along with a cutting edge from Fuller showing strength and superb quality. The sextet is on fire here. Each member rattles off a pattern of notes in quick succession that you really feel the energy and enthusiasm that the session obviously had. 

Down Home is another excellent chapter in a story of a living legend that continues to grow with each note. Curtis Fuller shows in 10 tracks why he is revered by younger musicians (trombone or otherwise). He is the best. And Down Home is a document every jazz fan has to have. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Aram Shelton: Everything For Somebody

Aram Shelton (sax)
Everything For Somebody (Singlespeed Music, 2012)
Keefe Jackson (sax)
Tim Daisy (drums)
Anton Hatwich (bass)

What I've always loved about Aram Shelton is his investigative ethos. He continually challenges himself and his fellow band mates within each composition. This is ever-present on his newest quartet release, Everything For Somebody.

With his quartet, Shelton stays focused on a more traditional sound - a mixture of hard bop and avant garde that works perfectly. The ideas created by Ornette Coleman are here in Shelton's playing but as you move further into the record you fly deeper into the band's vortex.

"Anticipation" opens with beautiful exchanges by Jackson and Shelton. Their performance is really on fire and the addition of the always electrifying Daisy makes the piece a firecracker of an opener. It's fun, challenging and very versatile.

"Everything To Somebody" begins with a slow melodic approach before the group spins into a nice boppish groove carried through by Hatwich and Daisy. Hatwich provides a nice bridge in the middle of the piece for Jackson and Shelton to gather new concepts and rejoin with vibrancy, carrying the tune back to a somber but celebratory conclusion.

I love the freedom Shelton gives the group on "Barely Talking." The main melody and theme are established in the opening lines but from that point on, each musician crafts his own vision. Tim Daisy displays an improvising spirit that for me resembles Andrew Cyrille. Jackson and Shelton apply complimentary notes that flow with aggression and beauty. And there's a great passage in the middle of the piece between Daisy and Hatwich that is simply exquisite...and could have gone on much longer.

While Aram Shelton is pretty much based out of San Francisco now, the distance does not stop this Chicago quartet from sounding as fresh and vibrant as ever. If you were to start your journey into Aram Shelton's material Everything To Somebody is wonderful place to start. Another superb addition to my albums of the year. Highly Recommended.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Martin Kuchen: Hellstorm

Martin Kuchen (sax, electronics)
Hellstrom (Mathka; 2012)

Maybe I get excited by the most primal stuff. But when you experience albums like the newest solo effort, Hellstorm, from multi-reed man, Martin Kuchen, you realize why you enjoy music.

The Swedish born experimentalist seems built from the same cloth as Peter Brotzmann, Roscoe Mitchell or Rashan Roland Kirk. This angular and at times atmospheric sound is present in contemporaries like Ken Vandermark and Colin Stetson. But Kuchen creates haunting melodies through just a few notes and ideas. And that's what we get from Hellstorm.

This is a solo document of Kuchen's family history. And while you are taken on a dark resonate path, its immensely eloquent at the same time. It moves at a much slower intense pace than his pervious solo work, The Lie & The Orphanage.

Taking a long deep pace and creating circular patterns which slowly bend and become more hypnotic, "Allemagne Annee Zero," begins the journey on baritone sax. It's a somber passage filled with tiny little holes and capture your subconscious to hold you there until he says you can go.

The passion, blood and anger can be felt on "Sarajevo." Kuchen's tone is long and spacious. He creates notes that start and stop like a resuscitating heart. The sound soon becomes eerie and enveloping. "Ritual Defamation" is a tidal wave moving slowly but battering against the shores of your brain with a force that will leave you scared. It's modular effects are brief but emotionally powerful.

Hellstorm is a highly personal and emotional work that creates a singular soundscape for the listener. Even without knowing the full personal history, Hellstorm stands alone as one of my favourite Martin Kuchen albums. It will also become one of my top albums of the year. Primal stuff indeed. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Jordan Young: Cymbal Melodies

Jordan Young (drums)
Cymbal Melodies (Posi-Tone; 2012)
Brian Charette (organ)
Joe Sucato (sax)
Avi Rothbard (guitar)

I said last year that Jordan Young had great skill as a leader as well as performer. His group is solid and concise.

Making the jump from his independent self-titled debut to the perfect home of Posi-Tone Records, Jordan Young delivers his newest release, Cymbal Melodies. And it is just as pronounced and confident as his debut. A strong step forward.

The two opening numbers, "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" are killer. Jordan turns "Raindrops..." into a real barn-burning. It's smokin' and really fun. You almost don't recognize it thanks to some crafty and infectious work by Charette and Rothbard. But Young's kit sounds explosive throughout. "...Phoenix" is midtempo with a groovy melody that is set with some clever and understated timing by Young. This while Charette and Rothbard give the tune a real sense of emotional structure.

"Bird Bath" is sneaky in its structure thanks to Charette's hip crunchy styling. The dialogue between Young and Charette (longtime bandmates) is superb. "Mood For McCann" is a funky number where Young unleashes Sucato and Rothbard to exchange some fierce lines that are quite soulful; they might have you reminiscing for Jack McDuff and Grant Green. 

With Cymbal Melodies , Jordan Young reaches the next level in what looks to be a sparkling career. Posi-Tone was the perfect choice for this release, fitting nicely with the label's current stable of artists. But more importantly, a great number of people will and should get to hear an artist who is quickly finding his voice as a composer and performer. Cymbal Melodies is a solid must listen.