Capsule reviews, Jan. 21

January 21, 2009 at 8:33 am Leave a comment

Taken belatedly from the Jan. 16 playlist:

  • More on the Brotzmann/Lonberg-Holm duo.
  • More on Colter Frazier’s quartet CD with viola.
  • A reissue from Bay Area sax man Rent Romus.
  • Belated obit for Prince Lasha.
  • Dokkeman and A Handful of Dust: Pop from Norway, noise from New Zealand.

* Peter Brotzmann and Fred Lonberg-Holm — The Brain of the Dog in Section (Atavistic, 2008 )


    Source: Atavistic

    Stef, who runs an excellent site packed with free-jazz album reviews, didn’t happen to like this one so much, citing a disconnect between Brotzmann’s sax and Lonberg-Holm’s cello. The first track, in particular, is too much an all-out blowing session without much real communication between the players, he says. You’ll find the review further down in this entry. I have to admit I liked this quite a bit more than he did, although I’ll have to re-listen and see if I can pick up his point. Because “Section 1” really is a squealing, brash attack; it’s just that I thought Brotzmann and Lonberg-Holm worked well as a team there, especially given Lonberg-Holm’s heavy bowing near the end.

    “Section 2,” clocking in at 19 minutes, explores a wider range. It’s less direct and more sophisticated, opening up with brash scribbles that still leave plenty of white space. Sad cello tones get the spotlight during a quieter middle section, creating a nearly classical drone. Then, the two players build up to a glorious, tense finish, with Brotzmann blowing full-bore and Lonberg-Holm using distortion pedals to get rock-star guitar sounds out of his cello.

    “Section 3” is a brief conclusion, where I’m picking up a slightly bitter tone that’s not present in the other tracks. Mood-wise, it’s another hard frontal assault, but there’s something a bit different here, I think.

    So, I liked it. But I wouldn’t discount the opinion of Stef, who’s a veteran Brotzmann listener.

* Colter Frazier Quartet — Colter Frazier Quartet (pfMentum, 2008 )

    If you don’t live in a top-tier town for creative music, like, say, New York, you kind of have to create your own scene. Saxophonist Colter Frazier has apparently done that in Santa Barbara, curating the New Music Series back in 2006. You can read a bit more about it here. As that article mentions, Frazier performed in duo with drummer Rob Wallace for a while, and the CD they put out together is pretty good. More recently, though, Frazier has been working in a quartet with a viola, coming up with a sound that’s not so far outside but doesn’t adhere to the usual patterns of jazz. Specifically, the melodies and harmonies trace more of a Euro-classical shape (or maybe that’s just my brain automatically associating strings with classical). The opening track, “Lloyd’s Prayer,” has a definite sidewalk-cafe kind of folksiness to it, while “4 Days and 5 Months” puts a dose of Klezmer into a rapidly rolling 5/8 pulse. Good stuff; I hope I’ll be able to catch Frazier live someday.

Source: Edgetone

Rent Romus/Jazz on the Line, with Chico Freeman — Thundershine (Edgetone, 2008; orig. released 1994)

    Last April, I’d noted how Romus was bringing a dark, sinister sound to his free-jazz group. Here’s the opposite pole: a recording from much earlier in his career, when he was hanging in Santa Cruz and playing creative music that had stronger ties back to the tradition. It was self-released then, and Romus is giving it another lease on life with a CD release now. It’s a very good session with a ’60s feel. Freeman has a lot to do with that, of course; I think it’s him taking a long unaccompanied solo on this track. But Romus holds his own nicely, and Stefano DeZerega’s piano provides a lush, anchoring sound. The solos never get extremely out-there, but they’re plenty creative.

    I first encountered Romus around 1997, leading a Lords of Outland band that included John Birdsong on sousaphone, in lieu of a bass, and John Tchicai on sax. I have to say, I prefer the Jazz on the Line band for its more flowing, more cohesive sound; the early Lords of Outland was more consciously moving outwards, and I’ve found plenty to like there, but the Jazz on the Line material somehow seems to work more effectively.

Prince Lasha Quintet featuring Sonny Simmons — “A.Y.” — The Cry (Contemporary/Fantasy, 2001; orig. released 1963)

    I’d been remiss about mentioning the passing of Prince Lasha in mid-December. Born William B. Lawsha, Lasha and Sonny Simmons were a team in the early ’60s, spreading the free-jazz gospel out to California. They even had a TV show in Sacramento, according to the liner notes of this album — which goes to show how popular jazz was back then, and how much less restrictive the TV industry was. Their musical credentials included some learning at the feet of Ornette Coleman, as Lasha hailed from Coleman’s home town of Fort Worth and was born about six months before Coleman.

    There’s a brief obit here and a mention on Jazzobserver here that prodded my memory about this. On All About Jazz,, Bill Leikam provides a nice description of the funeral here.

Dokkemand — Hans! (Other Electricities, 2008 )

    High-powered electropop from Norway. Heavy on the “electro” side, with lots of electronica beats and sunshiney sounds. Vocals are in there but tend to be faint; I can’t even tell if they’re in English (although there’s no reason why they should be). From listening to the track “Lapp,” I just remember lots and lots of synths and drum machines, and it was fun.

A Handful of Dust — Now Gods, Stand Up for Bastards/The Philosphick Mercury (No Fun, 2008; orig. released c.1994)

    Noisemakers from New Zealand, spouting bursts of feedback, white noise and hints of real instruments (drums, definitely). This 2-CD set collects two of their old albums (hence the double title). The Philosophick Mercury, which is the one I’ve heard pieces of, appears to have been two side-long noise collages. Side 1, “Fama Franteritatis,” includes a lot of harsh electronics tones, while Side 2 (titled “God’s Love to His People Israel,” an even more loaded phrase today than it would have been in 1994), combines noises with live recordings of crowds or instruments.

Entry filed under: CD/music reviews.

Upcoming Shows, Late January Mario Pavone: Ancestors

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