Sunday, February 06, 2011

1 Sem 2011 - Part Four

Eddie Gomez & Cesarius Alvim

by Ann Forster
Plus Loin Music Presents Forever, A Duet Session Reuniting American Bassist Eddie Gomez With Brazilian-French Pianist Cesarius Alvim, 20 Years Since Their First Recorded Encounter
Legendary bassist Eddie Gomez and pianist Cesarius Alvim commemorate the twentieth anniversary of their first recorded collaboration with Forever (Plus Loin). The two masters take on a varied repertoire: from standards such as “Spring is Here” and “Invitation,” original compositions from both Gomez and Alvim, and Brazilian pianist Luiz Eça's piece “The Dolphin.”
Alvim first met Gomez through Bill Evans, with whom Gomez played for eleven years. “Meeting Bill Evans was a musical and human encounter of which the memory is unforgettable,” says Alvim. “He had a beautiful message of love for life and music. Afterwards I met Eddie, a musician whom I had always admired. From the first notes we played together, everything was said. We had the same rhythmic and harmonic sense, and the same passion for melodic phrasing.” Gomez elaborates on their penchant for melody: “The repertoire is very melodic and also rhythmically treated. The melodies are very strong, and are approached in poetic way with a strong sense of the jazz feeling and aesthetic.”
The title track, composed by Gomez, is a tribute to jazz itself. “This music never disappears,” Alvim says. “Musicians all over the world continue to play it and make it evolve, despite all the difficulties present with it.” Gomez concurs: “Our paradigm for any work of art is that it crosses over the timeline and stands up to the test of time and continues to provoke the evocative. Sometimes it becomes better and more fully understood. That's my definition of what I consider to be artistic.” The phrase “Roda Vida,” seen here as the title for one of Alvim's tunes, is a toast to the unpredictabilities of life. The perilous rhythms of this tune characterize this feeling. The standards, as well as Wayne Shorter's “Witch Hunt,” serve as a meeting point and a way for Gomez and Alvim to bridge the gap between their last musical adventure and this session. Eça's “The Dolphin” is the centerpiece of the album, a tribute to the recording made by Gomez with Evans. “It's entered the repertoire of standards, but to my knowledge, remains infrequently played,” says Alvim.
Alvim has led parallel artistic lives. Upon moving to France from Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s, he enrolled in the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris as a classical double bass major. His comprehension of his second instrument is evident on Forever. “Playing bass has helped me greatly, not just in this duo, but in all music. It is very important for a musician to understand how to construct a bass line and how it can evolve through harmony and rhythm.”
Gomez likes the duo context, having explored the setting deeply over the years. “It allows me to be more interactive, to put in a lot of colors that may not be so readily available to use when there are other instruments involved. I like to use the full spectrum of color and sound in a duo context.” Recorded at New York's Systems Two by Joe Marciano in January 2010, this broad palette has been beautifully and accurately represented.

Helen Sung
Going Express

By Raul d'Gama Rose
Whether an artist is performing in a play or playing music, doing so live onstage is one of the most challenging acts. Every nuance is captured by an eager audience and, in the case of Going Express, a sensitive sound engineer. There is no room for error; every slip can be fatal. Pianist Helen Sung makes short work of these concerns, however, navigating the music in spritely fashion and with the delicate touch of slender fingers like feathers on the weighted keyboard. Going Express is a dramatic turnout, and features a fine ensemble that includes bassist Lonnie Plaxico, drummer Eric Harland and saxophonist Seamus Blake.
So spectacular are the musicians' responses to the music that there are surprises at every turn: Plaxico with his masterful, groaning arco playing when least expected, Harland with his delicate brushes and rumbling mallets that suddenly turn the heat on from a cool break in the music, and the wail of Blake's soprano saxophone every so often, to inform short memories of his astounding manipulation of the reed in his mouthpiece.
However, it is ultimately Sung who takes the breath away with her prodigious talent as an instrumentalist, interpreter of music and composer in her own right. The Texas-born, globetrotting Sung has deep roots in fields of the dreamy idioms of classical and jazz. She can sound a blue note with such elemental sadness that her art seems to spring from her very soul. Hers is a decidedly feminine voice, given to softness as well as a breathless excitement when she discovers something that wows her. Her feelings spring forth for all to feel and hear, as she lets fly with a generous ebullience that also puts warmth and childlike wonder in her playing. Sung experiences music in her heart and informs musicians and audiences of this with pulsations and fibrillations that are so real that sighs, gasps and breaths must be held or else emotions will be overwhelmed with utter splendor. Her phrases are short and sometimes she repeats them with dampers on. She plays these as if she were taking a breath, sighing, or jabbering excitedly. Yet she can sustain longer lines too, with leonine grace, stretching and relaxing just as if she were informing the lines with an interminable exhalation.
Sung says that “Going Express” is typical of her character--a racy sense of wanting to swallow the moment whole. However she can also be pensive as her thoughts unfold on “Hope Springs Eternally.” Her interpretations of Thelonious Monk's “In Walked Bud” and “Eronel” are spectacular. Sung never tries to play Monk as Monk, but draws the emotions out of the music, making it her own, before she again pirouettes through it. On this album, however, her finest moments could well be in the manner in which she plays Meshell Ndegeocello's marvelous chart, “Bitter,” which is so filled with pathos that its drama makes Sung's music something to die for every time she plays.
Track Listing: Going Express; Bitter; Love for Sale; Hope Springs Eternally; In Walked Bud; Eronel; Bittersweet; Lotus Blossom.
Personnel: Helen Sung: piano; Seamus Blake: tenor and soprano saxophones; Lonnie Plaxico: bass; Eric Harland: drums.

Mirko Guerrini & Stefano Bollani
Italian Lessons

by Vincenzo Martorella, Jazzit
Italian Lesson è la versione discografica della produzione per orchestra d'archi (I Solisti di Perugia), pianista (Stefano Bollani) e contrabbassista (Daniele Mencarelli), tutti diretti e arrangiati dal Guerrini medesimo, che ha calcato il palcoscenico dell'Arena Santa Giuliana nel corso dell'ultimo Umbria Jazz. E proprio il festival di patron Carlo Pagnotta che produce il disco, bissando quello di Cafiso impegnato nella rilettura del Parker with strings. Le lezioni di italiano di Guerrini sono convincenti, a tratti entusiasmanti. L'abilità del musicista toscano nell'arrangiare per ensemble d'archi, la misura delle sue composizioni (le più belle dell'album, con Walzin' Greta su tutte), l'equilibrio imposto alle cose rendono l'album di grande pregio e respiro. Incontenibile, al solito, Bollani; precisissimo, e di ormai forte personalità, Mencarelli; precisi e sensibili i Solisti di Perugia. Bravo bravissimo Mirko Guerrini, che non sarà femminile come Stacey Kent, ma neanche la Kent è maschile come Guerrini.

Jurgen Friedrich

By Dan McClenaghan
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), the Abstract Expressionist American painter best known for his “drip paintings” produced from 1947 to 1950, loved and was inspired by jazz. The innovative music of that time in the genre was Bird (Charlie Parker), Dizzy Gillespie and the burgeoning bebop sounds that Pollack would listen to while he created. Jazz has loved and drawn inspiration from Pollack, too--in part, perhaps, due to the improvisational aspect of the painter's best known art. The original album cover of Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz (Atlantic Records, 1961) features the Pollock painting “White Light.” Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom devoted an entire CD, Chasing Paint (Arabesque Recordings, 2003), to musical interpretations of Pollock paintings. And now German pianist Jurgen Friedrich tips a hat to the American painter with Pollack.
Friedrich teams with two Americans--bassist John Hebert and drummer Tony Moreno--on this reflective and interactive piano trio outing. The disc's opener, the Friedrich-penned “Drift,” drips to life of a series of delicate piano notes of seemingly random placement before it swells into an energetic rhythm of three-way interplay. Thelonious Monk's classic “Round Midnight” is up next. The trio engages in a spare reading of the familiar tune, not unlike the Bobo Stenson Trio's take of Stephen Sondheim's “Send in the Clowns” on Goodbye (ECM Records, 2005), with no notes wasted in its beautiful exploration of the melody.
Hebert wrote two of the set's 11 tunes, with another penned by the leader in collaboration with Moreno. Five are Friedrich's compositions, and two more are trio improvisations, including the title tune. Throughout there is a sense of subtle complexity, immediacy and discovery, with an often searching quality, to go with a sparseness and refined use of space. Friedrich's “Over” has a feeling of poignancy, while Hebert's “Billy No Mates” goes darkly inward in the beginning, before Freidrich applies some bright colors.
Leaning toward the pensive and cerebral, Pollack is a gorgeously spare and spontaneous work.
Track Listing: Drift; Round Midnight; Ripple; Wayward; I Am Missing Her; Samarkand; Enclosed; Billy No Mates; Pollock; Over; Flauschangriff.
Personnel: Jurgen Friedrich: piano; John Hebert: bass; Tony Moreno: drums.

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