Monday, October 28, 2013

Luis Lopes: Live In Madison / Noise Solo

Luis Lopes (guitar)                                         Luis Lopes (guitar)
Live in Madison (Ayler Records; 2013)        Noise Solo (lpz Records; 2013)
Stefan Gonzalez (drums)
Aaron Gonzalez (bass)
Rodrigo Amado (sax)

This year we get treated with two distinct and very inspiring documents from guitarist, Luis Lopes.

Live in Madison features material from Lopes' Humanization Quartet and their two studio albums (Electricity and Humanization 4tet). The live dates as usual brings out more from an already improvisational group of musicians. But this time you can really feel the urgency in the music. In addition the attention to direct and fun in which the musicians would exude throughout the night.

One of the tracks from the original studio albums, "Big Love" has raw and fierce quality in this live setting. Amado and S. Gonzalez riff and explode with notes flying all over the place. Drawing counter to the subdue and quietly quick chords both Lopes and A. Gonzalez are illuminating in the background. While all improvised, they come together in a beautiful crash sound that steadies itself nicely in the closing minutes.

"Dehumanization Blues" has become the bedrock piece of their live performances. And here at the Madison show it's no different. Amado's long staccato notes in the beginning announce the forcefulness of the piece. This plays out well with each demonstration on grand scale how enormous this piece can get. I imagine this could almost be a twenty minute piece on its own. With varying improvised moment of its own.

Look for a new construction of sound, Luis Lopes tends to deliver every time. The intensity of the mid-section of "Dehumanization Blues" is a perfect jumping off point for Luis Lopes second release this year a completely solo project, Noise Solo.

Noise Solo is an experiment in the directions and deconstructions of sound, genre and perception. The vinyl only release is intriguing at its heart. And reflective upon conclusion. While based on the idea of noise, the album keeps a serene calm throughout the evening.

The opening movement is like a broken smoke detector being thrown down a well. There's static. There's chord changes. There's passages that are portraits in rock extreme and finally there's the element of adventure. In a similar notation that you have no idea what will come next, Luis Lopes delivers the unconventional solo album filled with found sounds and passage in progress.

But in the end--Noise Solo is something for the listener to determine on their own. It's an idea but also a free expression which will have a different effect on each listener. Not for the faint and heart. But rewarding for those who take the ride.

With Live In Madison and Noise Solo, Luis Lopes has demonstrated two aspects of his arsenal that I've always enjoyed. The sense of creative musical thought and excellent collaboration. Two exciting new records well worth your investment. Get out there and pick them up.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cakewalk: Transfixed

Cakewalk (trio)
Transfixed (Hubro Music; 2013)
Oystein Skar (keyboards)
Stephan Meidell (guitars; bass)
Ivar Loe Bjornstad (drums)

Precision guitar drones, pulsating electronics and drums make Norwegian trio, Cakewalk's newest release, Transfixed the perfect soundtrack for your subconscious. While their music may bring comparisons or reference points (see my discussion of their first album Wired), Cakewalk are really bringing their sound into their own. And their vision is clear. A simply deconstruction of preexisting thoughts on genre.

"Ghost" and "Dive" are studies in the pushing and pull of sound. The effectiveness of the melodic tones on both tracks draws the listener deeper into the notes. The crashing drums of "Ghost" and slowly stretched out keyboards on "Dive" emotionally pull you in very dark directions. Beautiful and effective.

"Transfixed" is really driven by Meidell's long looping basslines and Bjornstad's heavy but slow pounding on the kits. The electronics are layered in the background and provide atmospherics but the bass really is the haunting force of this piece. "Transfixed slow builds with Meidell adding the screeching guitar chords towards the closing.

The majority of the work on Transfixed is improvised. But you would never know but how well the notes come together so smoothly. And that's when you know you've heard a work of beauty. When the origin is never discernible.

Cakewalk are a growing, working trio that should emerge as one of the most important over the next few years. Transfixed is the perfect document of that philosophy. Highly Recommended.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Jakob Bro: December Song

Jakob Bro (guitar)
December Song (Loveland; 2013)
Lee Konitz (sax)
Craig Taborn (piano)
Bill Frisell (guitar)
Thomas Morgan (bass)

With December Song, Jakob Bro concludes a wonderful trilogy that started in 2008 with Balladerring and then Time in 2011. A beautiful and melodic tribute to one his mentors, the late Paul Motain, December Song is another shinning document in the growth of an very subtle yet expressive voice, Bro has become over the last decade.

"Giant" flows heavy and effectively on the notes of Konitz and Bro. But the addition of Taborn adds a complexity that give the atmospherics of Bro's playing more dynamics and experimentation. "Zygaena" and "Tree House" are similar to compositions from Balladerring and Time yet still show the growing aspects of Bro's writing after all these years. Both consist of lush, gentle tones that highlight the weaving patterns of Bro's guitar and Americana themes laid out by Frisell. But as always, Bro turns both pieces into a kind of journey that is rich and imaginable.

"Risskov" and "Vinterhymne" have folkish qualities that both romantic and dream-like. The compositions are like lullabies. "Risskov" is highlighted by Konitz's bold horn and Bro's subtle yet captivating notes. Quiet and short notes that linger with each echoing tone. "Vinterhymne" is more a drifting piece with images that fade that softly in the distant sunset. A wonderful closing number and longing gesture to one of his mentors.

December Song is again another statement of powerful creativity from a composer and performer who seems to be prime, prolific form at the moment. I try every chance I get to tell as many people about Jakob Bro. I'm hoping that an album such as December Song can do it all without me screaming to the hilltops. It's that beautiful and that good. One of my favourite albums of the year. And I already have a small list of them (Jason Moran/Charles Lloyd, MOPDTK, Sunna Gunnlaugs, Soren Gemmer and Soren Dahl Jeppesen to make the short list). But Jakob Bro always seems to make that list. Highly, Highly Recommended!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Francois Houle & Havard Wiik: Aves

Francois Houle (clarinet)
Havard Wiik (piano)
Aves (Songlines Recordings; 2013)

Another exciting duo session from Francois Houle. This time he collides with versatile stylings of pianist, Havard Wiik. Together they emerge with the sublime, Aves. This is well crafted, well improvised session that melds classical and free jazz into a harmonious celebration.

"Nomenclatural" starts off quietly with a heavy melody that soon builds into a series of rolling counterpoints. Wiik and Houle seem to challenge each other at very turn with improvised notes that both offset and combine for a lovely high energy experience.

"Ged's Shadow" and "Letter for Gregory L" focus more on the simply sparse notes laid out by Wiik. Very emotional and dense, which allows the listener to sink deeply into their own darkness. Houle can be hear deep in the background (except towards the latter passages of Gregory) which makes both piece even more eerie and effective.

"Woodhoopoe" sees Houle playing various notes in a pattern which felt like a mixture of both classical, free form and African. There was beat that develops but more effectively "Woodhoopoe" doesn't feel like Houle on clarinet. It was reminiscent of recent work by Colin Stetson and his rotating breathing effects. A great solo piece.

I am a huge fan of Francois Houle and get excited by each release. With Aves, It feels as though his met another kinder counterpart along the lines of fellow collaborator, Benoit Delbecq that he can bounce ideas off. And the results is another fantastic and invigorating session that is well worth every one's time to seek out. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fred Hersch & Julian Lage: Free Flying

Fred Hersch (piano)
Julian Lage (guitar)
Free Flying (Palmeto; 2013)

For me, this wonderful session between the living legend, Fred Hersch and the future legend, Julian Lage brought memories of the brilliant recordings by Bill Evans and Jim Hall some 50 years ago.

Free Flying is a sensational outing that is vintage fun and sweetly romantic. A duo session similar in dynamics to Hersch's recent collaboration with trumpeter, Ralph Alessi.

"Song Without Words #4" and "Down Home" show the playfulness and agility of the two musicians as they both move classical and early jazz themes. Lage's playing definitely evokes Frisell on "Down Home," but with a younger spirit. And the two bounce notes off each other terrifically in the middle sections of "Down Home."

"Free Flying" originally from Hersch's Pocket Orchestra Live at the Jazz Standard release, revolved around a Brazilian theme and led improvised vocals from Jo Lawry. Here as a duo the piece (dedicated the great Egberto Gismonti) takes on more intimacy and resonance. Hersch and Lage are the improvisers here and it actually is much easier to follow and dig deeper into the notes. The solitude of grandeur displayed on "Gravity's Pull" is all Lage. Rolling melodic keys from Hersch are juxtaposed against gentle and elegant chords laid out by Lage.

Free Flying is an excellent duo session that evokes the past, present and future with lush and vivid artistry.