Tag Archives: Jazz

Album of the Day: Dwight Trible, “Inspirations”

It’s one thing to have a powerful voice, but Dwight Trible has the kind of baritone you tell people about. He can stretch a note, then round it off neat; he enunciates clearly and declaims with range; he is equal parts strength and supplesse, and zero parts smarm. You imagine it comes as the result of great experience, which it does.

He’s worked with late legendary bandleader Horace Tapscott and current tenor-sax torchbearer Kamasi Washington. He sings mantras with Pharoah Sanders, format-breaking compositions with Nicole Mitchell, and electronic cut-and-paste with Mark de Clive-Lowe and Carlos Niño. His new album was made in England with trumpeter and producer Matthew Halsall, far from the fertile musical groundswell of Los Angeles. But it does find him in the taproot of his jazz endeavors—it’s a straightforward, straight-ahead showcase for his earnest interpretations.

It’s called Inspirations, which could well apply to his repertoire choices. Spiritual concerns are considered in “Heaven & Hell” by Dorothy Ashby and “Dear Lord” by Alice Coltrane. A single pedal point on “What The World Needs Now” and a wholly-committed essay on “Feeling Good” chug along at an even pace. The standard “I Love Paris” and Donny Hathaway’s commentary “Tryin’ Times” deliver equal intensity to different ends. Folk song “Black Is The Colour of My True Love’s Hair” and spiritual “Deep River” connect to longer histories. It’s all clearly executed with full-throated investment, which makes it easy to believe he’s inspired.

The setting, however, is more a blowing session than a syncretic collaboration. The bulk of Inspirations takes place at relaxed or slower tempos. The rhythm section of Taz Modi (piano), Gavin Barras (bass), and Jon Scott (drums, chiefly) is tactful and propulsive as necessary, but generally unobtrusive. Similarly, Halsall solos with restraint and ample space—he certainly doesn’t upstage his guest. If you know what else the leading men are capable of, perhaps you’d be looking for a deeper synthesis of big ears. Then again, there’s not really a bad way to hear Dwight Trible meld a familiar song into his own.

Patrick Jarenwattananon

Album of the Day: Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski & John Scofield, “Hudson”

The members of the jazz supergroup Hudson share a language created in cities: by dense hive-minds of musicians, the spaces where they cross-pollinate, and audiences who amplify the buzz. But as with many people who grow older, the four members of the group eventually moved out of town—in this case, up the Hudson River north of New York City.

That happy accident of mutual proximity, and master drummer Jack DeJohnette’s 75th birthday, spurred this new project, which also features John Medeski (keyboard instruments), Larry Grenadier (bass) and John Scofield (guitar). They form a multi-generational crew of improvisers, particularly noted for working at the nexus of jazz, funk, and rock. (See: Medeski Martin and Wood, or Miles Davis c. 1969, or the bulk of Scofield’s discography.) Yet their first album isn’t an overt fusion of a style x + style y. Their mergers are more subtle, gestures from musicians who have lived through a lot, and who now freely supplement their common dialect at their own leisure and discretion.

About half of Hudson is original compositions, with the remainder written by folk and rock musicians connected to their home region: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, and Levon Helm of The Band. The latter portion is read with a deceptive cleanliness, with Scofield clearly stating melody lines; at times, Hudson comes close to being a rather overqualified instrumental cover band. Sensing as much, the quartet attempts to match its musical choices with the lyrics of the originals—see the messy apocalyptic breakdown on “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” or the unsettled wistfulness in “Woodstock.”

DeJohnette takes the vocal mic on the New Orleans-inspired mixed-meter shuffle “Dirty Ground”; his “Song For World Forgiveness” transforms into a rock ballad. The band sounds more conventional on the hard-bop blues throwdown “Tony Then Jack,” or on the Spanish-tinged churn of “El Swing.” All this makes their opener a red herring, as the collective, groove-driven improvisation “Hudson” suggests this meeting of minds might be a loud, high-intensity jam band. But by their closer, “Great Spirit Peace Chant”—literally a group chant, inspired by the native inhabitants of the Hudson Valley—it’s the range of what they attempt which echoes loudest.

Patrick Jarenwattananon

FMP Records’ Free Jazz Legacy is Alive and Well at Destination: OUT

Destination Out

When Jeff Golick and Jeff Jackson started the blog destination: OUT in the mid ’00s, they hoped to show that “free jazz” doesn’t automatically mean “difficult.” “We felt that the most accessible and exciting free jazz albums were unfortunately some of the least known,” says Jackson. “For a lot of music genres that’s not true; the most popular, easy-to-find records tend to be good gateways. But sometimes a free jazz album printed in a run of 200 is more likely to turn you into a fan than something on Impulse or Blue Note.”

After almost eight years of posting free jazz gems, Golick and Jackson stopped updating their blog in 2014, concentrating on their companion radio show on New Jersey’s WFMU. But they wanted to continue their mission to spread free jazz, so they started a Destination: OUT digital reissue page on Bandcamp. The labels they approached at first showed little interest, but then a huge opportunity emerged.

“We randomly sent a query to Jost Gebers at [German label] FMP, not expecting he would agree,” recalls Jackson. “He immediately did and was enthusiastic. We were bowled over by it.” With good reason: FMP, aka Free Music Production, is one of the most iconic and vital imprints in the history of free jazz and improv. Beginning in the late 1960s, FMP released reams of pioneering records by titans including pianist Cecil Taylor and saxophonists Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, and Steve Lacy.

“It’s sort of the Blue Note of European free improv,” says Jackson. Golick agrees: “If you took FMP away, the whole history of that music would be practically empty.” “And they’re the label that encouraged cross pollination between American jazz musicians and European free improvisers,” adds Jackson, citing Tangens as an example, a collaboration between American horn player Sam Rivers and German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach. “They did a great job of bringing that idea to a wider audience.”

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Ken Vandermark’s Indefatigable Drive and Avant-Garde Vision

Ken Vandermark

Photo by Andy Moor.

For more than two decades, the Chicago reedist, bandleader, and composer Ken Vandermark has served as something of a DIY icon, a fiercely independent musician pursuing improvisation with the same rigor and ferocity with which he conducts his own business. Chicago, of course, has a rich tradition of creative musicians taking charge of their affairs. In 1965, a group of iconoclastic, forward-looking musicians, including Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, and Roscoe Mitchell joined the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), taking charge of concert production and programming in order to have full, uncompromised control of their art. Vandermark, a Boston native who moved to Chicago in 1989, adapted many of those concepts for his own work in the early ‘90s, inspired as much by the punk ethos as the AACM’s model. The self-sufficient system he forged has not only fueled his own successes, but was crucial in reinvigorating avant-garde music in Chicago and abroad.

While free jazz and free improvisation have remained his bedrock concerns, his skill as a composer—both for small ensembles and large groups—has steadily grown in sophistication and effectiveness. Over the years, he’s gotten adept at harnessing a wide range of musical interests within his various projects—funk, noise, 20th Century classical music, reggae, African music, and more. For years, Vandermark would track down venues to present his own music, as well as other similarly inclined musicians, establishing residencies to develop new groups in front of youthful audiences.

He later launched an influential weekly jazz and improvised music series with the writer John Corbett at the legendary Chicago rock club Empty Bottle, which ambitiously presented the leading figures of the discipline from all around the world. “During that period, what I learned from seeing the shows and meeting the musicians was priceless, and in many cases led to future collaborations,” says Vandermark. Indeed, some of his earliest encounters with the likes of steady musical partners like Joe McPhee, Mats Gustafsson, and Peter Brötzmann were initiated through performances there. “Musicians from other cities and countries would reciprocate and help with gigs where they were based. I saw that organizing concerts was essential to building the music, for everyone, including me.”

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Suicide’s Martin Rev on Making Music Out of History

Martin Rev

Photo by Divine Enfant.

It’s not easy to summarize the vast musical history of 69-year-old groundbreaker Martin Rev, but his new album Demolition 9 does a pretty good job. Across 34 tracks—most of them less than two minutes long—Rev skates through jazz, classical, doo-wop, R&B, punk, industrial, and the many uncategorizable styles he coined as founding member of pioneering post-punk duo Suicide.

Demolition 9 feels like a concept album—perhaps a score to a musical about Rev’s life—but, for him, there was no concept beyond making new music. “I was just following my ear, which is what I do in everything I work on,” he says, speaking over the phone from his home in New York City. “It’s all about playing around. I’m like a kid playing with toys, assembling his own little arrangement out of stuff that doesn’t make any sense to anyone else but him.”

That playfulness is clear on Demolition 9. Rev will jump from a swelling symphonic piece to a swinging pop ditty, then cut to a jarring blast of noise or a pounding storm of electronics. There are serious moods throughout the record, but there’s also lots of fun to be had. Take “Tuba,” a bouncy piece that could soundtrack a Bugs Bunny cartoon. “The sounds of certain instruments—horns, tubas, bassoon—always have an angelic or innocent humor for me,” admits Rev.

The many modes of Demolition 9 reflect Rev’s lifelong devotion to music. Born in New York in 1947, Rev first fell in love with the doo-wop and R&B songs he heard kids his age playing and singing in the streets. In his teen years he turned to jazz, watching legends like Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane in Manhattan nightclubs, and taking piano lessons from bebop innovator Lennie Tristano.

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