Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Soren Dahl Jeppesen

Soren Dahl Jeppesen (guitar)
(photo: Paw Ager)

Young, but with a veteran spirit, Soren Dahl Jeppesen is increasing his presence on the scene. With a solid enveloping tone, Jeppesen has similar qualities to more seasoned guitarists like Bill Frisell and even his contemporary Jakob Bro. But he is finding a growing voice over his highly rewarding three albums as leader.

After two wonderful albums with the band Pauseland as well as through multiple session work, Jeppesen delivered an impressive debut with Route One (2010). A melodic set featuring echoing effects and heavy emotional resonance is exemplified by the exchanges between Jeppesen and saxophonist, Óskar Guðjónsson and drummer, Jakob Høyer. "A Fools Paradise" and "Less" both provide a nice mixture of calm cylindrical rhythmic patterns alongside heavy percussion, which make for a exciting and intriguing experience.

The follow up, Red Sky (2011) is more song based with lots of smooth edges. That doesn't mean Jeppesen went for a commercial sound - far from it. This is just a more mature album. The quartet has more freedom of movement in his new pieces. "In The Loop" weaves small atmospherics in Jeppesen's playing against a backdrop of soulful melodies from the rest of the group. "At Ease" has the Americana vibe that has influenced a large majority of guitarists works. It would be interesting to hear this piece with lyrics. The melody is very lovely and warm.

With the arrival of Pipe Dreams (2013), Jeppesen takes a significant leap forward; a nice balance between the European and American approaches to spacial structures. The addition of Simon Toldam (piano) for the opening "Insomnia," opens the sound for an already steady and collaborative quartet. Toldam's playing is full-bodied and gives the guitar a new challenge. I loved the distancing echoes of Jeppesen's lines.

He maintains a dense and sparse motif throughout but Jeppesen does move into different landscapes as with the Latin-tinged "Fallback" and the very effected and heartfelt "Blinded" and "Broken." Both shoulder strong lyrical passages either from Toldam on "Blinded" or Guðjónsson on "Broken."

"Pipe Dreams" and "Gloom and Doom" while expressing more somber themes, actually lay within some sublime imagery as you begin to peel off the surface. "Gloom & Doom" adds more darker electronics and an almost psychedelic feel thanks to Jeppesen's harmonic delivery. "Pipe Dreams" is slightly more direct but with Toldam and Hoyer being the driving forces.

Soren Dahl Jeppesen has quickly made an impression on the community at large with a solid and growing catalog of maturity with each record - Pipe Dreams being the brilliant gem so far. I say "so far" because history is still not written. Jeppesen may just be the unheard thing at the moment but you and all our other friends now have the chance to spread the word. Pipe Dreams is a highly recommended album for every ear. If not the year.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ingrid Laubrock Anti-House: Strong Place

Ingrid Laubrock Anti House
Strong Place (InTakt; 2013)
Ingrid Laubrock (sax)
Kris Davis (piano)
Tom Rainey (drums)
Mary Halvorson (guitar)
John Hebert (bass)

An incredible second session from Ingrid Laubrock's Anti House. With Strong Place, the ensemble has delivered a solid effort that surpasses the already superb debut.

There's always talk (especially from me) about exploring and finding the melodic path within the free flowing improvised patterns on many projects. That's no different on Strong Place. But the while the origins may be hard to find at first, a quiet listening session later unearths them slowly and uniquely.

Laubrock's horn wraps the quintet in a beautiful tornado of sound on both "An Unfolding" and "Der Deichgraf." With Davis and Halvorson pulling closely side to side on both pieces with a humorous and lovely effect. Rainey and Laubrock also share some nice staccato passages before lending way for a gentle conversation with Halvorson's harmonic delivery.

Scattered patterns fill two-thirds of "From Farm Girl To Fabulous, Vol. 1." This set by Halvorson, Davis and Laubrock; before Rainey and Hebert slowly move in providing additional bit and a chance for the melody to evolve thanks to the bands leader.

When looking for that one song with melody, you just might find it at the end. "Here's To Love" delivers on that idea with a great balance of soft passion and experimentalism. A crisp texture from Laubrock is accompanied by Rainey and Hebert allowing the quintet to express emotions in a somewhat well structure fashion. Slightly different than the rest of the session but a welcome way to close.

All the members of Anti-House play together in various forms. And each record is different thanks to the leaders. But with Anti-House they seems to be able to make expressions and experiment in ways that their other group done allow. Weird, but with creativity like this, it's should be expected. Strong Place is a solid second effect from a blossoming super-ensemble.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ellery Eskelin: Mirage

Ellery Eskelin (sax)
Mirage (Clean Feed; 2013)
Michael Fromanek (bass)
Susan Alcorn (guitar)

Ellery Eskelin is a troubadour. His creative talent has been on display both as leader and member for almost three decades. A warm and enveloping texture to his recordings is always present. On his latest, Mirage, his display an intriguing outback journey that feels like a desert soundtrack.

Susan Alcorn's shimming opening chords on "Rain Shadow" forecast a session that is filled with majestic passages and mysterious undertones. Eskelin's notes weave slow a gently around bass and guitar and accentuate the haunting nature of piece. "Saturation" is an rolling improvised piece that while each member seems be moving in divergent directions by midway, a slight melody evolves and then slowly deconstructs. Alcorn and Eskelin play off one another beautifully.

There are times when Eskelin's tones sound like late period Ornette Coleman circa the Naked Lunch soundtrack. One of those moments for me was the epic piece "Downburst." A slow moving blues style ballad mixed with intrigue and experimentalism. Fromanek and Alcorn have silent and introspective conversation throughout. This, while Eskelin's journey moves across like broad strokes of a small paintbrush. Lovely and lengthy.

Mirage is document that paints a beautiful and luxurious picture with influence of avant garde, blues and Americana. This, all resulting in an excellent soundtrack for a Summer journey. Enjoy a very deep listen.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mikrokolektyw: Absent Minded

Mikrokolektyw (duo)
Absent Minded (Delmark; 2013)
Artur Majewski (electronics, trumpet)
Kuba Suchar (electronics, drums)

Well it's been three years since we heard the dynamic and creative duo Mikroklektyw. They have been working in various forms with their respective collaborative groups but finally we get hear their dense, expansive imagination again on Absent Minded.

Absent Minded delves deeper into the rabbit hole of sound as the duo completely restructure our thoughts on what jazz and sound sculpture can be. A slightly less emphasis on the electronics from it's predecessor, Revisit, Mikrokolektyw are still exploring melodies that burst out of spontaneity than structure.

"Thistle Soup" and "Crazy Idea" a great sources improvisation exploding into melody before you know it. Majewski provides sharp notes that are juxtaposed to Suchar blistering pace and while at first seem completely unrelated slow unravel to showcase a beautiful picture of sound and space.

"Fossil Stairway" is the one track that does hearken back to Revisit's electronic elements. A cascade of sound, almost like air raids. This, all the while, Majewski and Suchar are weaving between the noise with pattens that set a rough but fun path for the listener to follow.

Fun might the other way to describe "Little Warrior" in which the tribal elements of this piece reminded me of Les Baxter, Raymond Scott, Don Cherry shoved in a room with Chris & Cosey (of Throbbing Gristle) and told to make beautiful music. This is what they might come up with. Intriguing, beat-driven, exotic and masterfully executed.

Absent Minded is great follow up to Revisit. And Mikrokolektyw have shown that they are a duo with layers of ideas and will continue to challenge our conceptions. Once again, for me, they have made one the best albums of this year.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rodrigo Amado: The Flame Alphabet

Rodrigo Amado (sax)
The Flame Alphabet (Not Two Records; 2013)
Gabriel Ferrandini (durms)
Jeb Bishop (trombone)
Miguel Mira (cello)

I've come to learn that each Rodrigo Amado record is going to be exciting and a challenge. With his out Motion Trio added by Chicago trombonist, Jeb Bishop, Amado delivers another fun and energetic performance that keeps the ear attuned.

The Flame Alphabet is the quartet's first studio album, following their live debut, Burning Live At Ao Centro.

You would think that in the studio the vibe would be contained and little less vibrant. You would be sorely mistaken. The sound is still bold with lots of urgency. "Burning Mountain" and "Flame Alphabet" both have Amado in fine form. Tearing into notes and undulating patterns like a reincarnated Archie Shepp. Bishop flexibility allows for great interaction between both Amado and Ferrandini which makes for some excellent concentration on the listeners end. But it is extremely rewarding.

"Into The Valley" is a scaled back piece. Amado's horn is sparse, while the rest of group revolves around a small series of improvised tones. This all comes crashing against fierce lines delivered by Mira and Ferrandini as the track moves forward. "The Healing" closes the album with grace. A ballad the drifts gently on the waves of Amado's notes. But Bishop provides a tones that almost feels like a trumpet.

Rodrigo Amado's new ensemble is a spot-on quartet that delivers with every note. Detailed, intricate, electrifying and inventive from beginning to end. The Flame Alphabet is an album that you will come back to--again and again.