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Album Reviews

ALBUM REVIEWS

Danielle Friedman Trio: School of Fish

Read "School of Fish" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Danielle Friedman is an Israeli-born, Germany-based pianist who offers up her debut recording with School Of Fish. Some musicians take a handful of recordings to find their voice. Friedman and her trio--with bassist Aron Caceres and drummer David Jimenez--have done it coming out of the gate. The album kicks off with “Shalom Ani Danielle," an achingly beautiful ballad that exploits repetition and a dynamic group interplay. “5 Trolls," the second tune of this all-Friedman-originals set, opens with a ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Jason Kao Hwang & Burning Bridge: Blood

Read "Blood" reviewed by John Sharpe

As the follow-up to his Burning Bridge octet's eponymous debut (Innova, 2012), violinist Jason Kao Hwang has created another ambitious and wide-ranging work. As befits the title Blood, it constitutes a personal meditation on weighty subject matter, precipitated by a narrowly-avoided car accident which caused Hwang to consider the wartime experiences of his mother in China. The result is a complex, but gripping, continuous ensemble performance of what the liner notes call “28 staged scenes," tracked in ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Iro Haarla, Ulf Krokfors & Barry Altschul: Around Again: The Music Of Carla Bley

Read "Around Again: The Music Of Carla Bley" reviewed by Jerome Wilson

Although much of her music is imbued with subtle humor, Carla Bley's compositions are serious music. Finnish pianist Iro Haarla is a long-time admirer of the Bley, and on this CD she gives her music an appropriate gravity, while retaining its spirited nature. Haarla is accompanied by her musical partner, Ulf Krokfors, on bass and Barry Altschul on drums. They play Bley tunes that were mostly introduced on record by Paul Bley back in the 60s and 70s, ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Liudas Mockūnas: Hydro 2

Read "Hydro 2" reviewed by Mark Corroto

Hydro 2 is water music, but it's not to be confused with the orchestral pieces composed by George Frideric Handel back in the early 18th century. Lithuanian saxophonist Liudas Mockūnas is headed even further back in time, back to some Darwinian vision of evolution from the murky primordial seas, forward to our bipedal momentum. Note: If you happen to be a follower of creationism, you might want to skip forward a bit here. Mockūnas, who might be best known as ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Hip Spanic All-Stars: Old School Revolution

Read "Old School Revolution" reviewed by Chris M. Slawecki

If you think that Old School Revolution sounds both familiar and new, you're right. In the late 2000s, bassist and singer Happy Sanchez, saxophonist Norbert Stachel (Tower of Power), percussionist Karl Perazzo (a longstanding member of Santana), and drummer Jay Lane (Primus) hooked up, during timeouts from their more regular gigs, in the Mission District surrounding San Francisco with vocalists Shorty Ramos and Vic Castro, and the Hip Spanic All-Stars were born. “We grew up in ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Elia / Dominguez /Verdinelli: Cuando Sea Necesario

Read "Cuando Sea Necesario" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Argentine pianist Eduardo Elia explored the classic jazz tunes on his 2015 release, Solo (Blue Art Records), making the familiar distinctively his own. He shifts gears for Cuando Sea Necesario, bringing on board saxophonist Rodrigo Dominguez and drummer Sergio Verdinelli, for what sounds like a set of loosely-constructed compositions which leave plenty of room for inspired group improvisations that dig deep into making in-the-moment sounds of the highest order. Two thoughts come to mind on an initial spin ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Greg Reitan: West 60th

Read "West 60th" reviewed by Peter Hoetjes

The collaboration of musicians unaccustomed to each other often yields unexpected and occasionally brilliant results. There is no substitute however, for familiarity. Greg Reitan has played with the same trio consisting of bassist Jack Daro and drummer Dean Koba for over two decades, and their resulting musicianship is versatile yet comfortable. It may have been recorded in Reitan's native Los Angeles, but West 60th began its conception in Manhattan, as the pianist gazed out at the city through the panoramic ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Assif Tsahar: In Between the Tumbling a Stillness

Read "In Between the Tumbling a Stillness" reviewed by Mark Corroto

As the saying goes, In Between The Tumbling A Stillness, recorded in 2015 in Tel Aviv, “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." Saxophonist Assif Tsahar, who sticks to tenor throughout, opens “In Between" like a lion, if that lion were Albert Ayler. The 35-minute piece draws from the fire music of the 1960s, propelling forward with an energy that is indefatigable. Credit to bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake. The dynamic duo ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Choi Sun Bae: Arirang Fantasy

Read "Arirang Fantasy" reviewed by John Sharpe

A 1995 meeting in Tokyo between Korean and Japanese proponents of the art of free jazz furnishes another entry in the Chap Chap series of improvised encounters issued by the Lithuanian NoBusiness imprint. From Korea, Arirang Fantasy introduces trumpeter Choi Sun Bae, who also features alongside Japanese trumpeter Itaru Oki on Kami Fusen (NoBusiness, 2017), and celebrated percussionist Kim Dae Hwan, who was also a famous calligraphist, and performed with Butch Morris. Completing the group are the ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

The Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul

Read "The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

It was back in 2012 when the last quartet-only recording Four MFs Playin' Tunes (Marsalis Music) was released. So give more room on the floor to the evil toys dancing their pants off to the pure, wild, free-styling surge of “Dance of the Evil Toys," the killer, lead-off track to the Branford Marsalis Quartet's first full release in seven years, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul. After touring with Sting, and in support of {[Kurt Elling}} ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Millennium Jazz Orchestra: Octopus

Read "Octopus" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Octopus, the tenth album released by the Millennium Jazz Orchestra in its nearly twenty-five years of impressive music-making in The Netherlands, is actually an eight-part suite by composer / arranger Joan Reinders devoted to one of the sea world's more fearsome and enigmatic creatures. The thematic essay spans the whole nine yards, from “Evolution" and “Environment" to “Food," “Procreation" and several diverting stops in between. It was recorded in concert in May 2018 at Theater Bouwkunde Deventer. ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Four Letter Words: Pinch Point

Read "Pinch Point" reviewed by Mark Corroto

What is the difference between unbalanced and off balance? Very little, if you listen to Four Letter Words' Pinch Point, the trio's third release, after Blow (Amalgam, 2015) and Radio Silence (Amalgam, 2015). Unbalanced can mean both “disturbed" and “demented." Certainly the seven improvisations presented here can be a bit disturbing, meaning the music seeks no level nor stable meter. Let's not approach demented yet. Part of the newest of new wave Chicago improvisers, Four Letter Words are ...