Sunday, March 18, 2012

1 Sem 2012 - Part Fourteen

Tord Gustavsen Quartet
The Well

Cover (The Well:Tord Gustavsen)

by Thom Jurek
On his earlier ECM trio albums, pianist Tord Gustavsen composed in a very spacious and songlike manner that reflected his previous work touring with vocalists. On 2010's Restored, Returned, he experimented with this approach by adding Kristin Asbjørnsen's voice and Tore Brunborg's saxophones to the mix, and showcased his compositions in everything from duo to quintet settings. On The Well, Gustavsen brings back Brunborg on tenor, as well as the rhythm section, bassist Mats Eilertsen, and drummer Jarle Vespestad. The songlike lyricism that has become his signature is underscored on The Well, but opens onto a wider harmonic field held in dynamic check. The album opens with "Prelude," a trio piece, where Gustavsen explores, in haunting minor-key formations, a lyric frame that is as intricate as it is warm and soulful. On "Suite," Gustavsen introduces the tune solo, with a simplicity and lyricism that are deepened when Eilertsen enters playing arco. When the rest of the band joins in, these melodic dimensions become expansive: tones, colors, textures, and dynamics shift incrementally. The trio piece "Circling" is one of the album's centerpieces, literally and figuratively. Its slow, reverential, gospel-like melody shuffles along with Vespestad's brushes and the stately pace of Eilertsen's bass. Gustavsen pointilistically moves around his lithe, graceful, harmonic sketch, playing at its edges and moving inside, exploring the elements he finds there. The title cut, the other pillar of this album, commences with a mysterious, nearly floating lyric figure stated on piano and answered by Brunborg's warm, welcoming tenor before it enters the realm of something approaching drift. That said, the focus on melody is quietly intense, even as the track becomes more abstract toward the middle; bass, piano, and saxophone all trade fours in rotation, answering and questioning further. Brunborg even moves toward blues in his solo. Playing quietly does require tremendous energy and discipline, and often runs counter to the improviser's instincts. On "Communion [Var]," Gustavsen plays almost the entire piece in p and pp. Brunborg's tenor speaks in halting tones that carry a skeletal yet nearly hummable melody accented by occasional entrances by Eilertsen's arco bass. Ultimately, The Well ends at "Inside," where virtually everything that has been previously explored is given (slightly) freer rein, exhibited by the minute-long bowed solo by Eilertsen that introduces the tune. Brunborg's economy on tenor is remarkable; rich and full, he doesn't need to "blow" because he can make it sing. On The Well, Gustavsen has taken his lyric approach to jazz and pushed it into more open and abstract terrain, which is more haunting and mysterious than anything on his previous offerings, yet refrains from ponderousness due to its remarkable restraint and symmetry.

Hal Galper Trio
Trip The Light Fantastic

Cover (Trip the Light Fantastic:Hal Galper Trio)

By Dan McClenaghan 
About eighty percent of the jazz piano players out there can fit into one of two schools: that of the introspective, harmonically rich Bill Evans mode; or the more percussive and gregarious Bud Powell bebop approach. There's also a small slice of the that pie that draws it primary inspiration from bright and splashy Art Tatum/Oscar Peterson pre-bop playing style, along with various subsets. Then there are those who take a foundation of one of those approaches and craft something quite unique, the path that Hal Galper has taken over the past decade.
A veteran of the groups of trumpeter Chet Baker and alto saxophonist Phil Woods, Galper can certainly claim a bebop foundation. But he has taken that foundation and flown free with it, as documented in his recent Origin CDs— Furious Rubato (2007) and E Pluribus Unum (2010)—where he explored the rubato style of playing, an approach that lends elasticity to time and tempo, and often engenders wildness and abandon.
Galper opens the set with Sammy Fain/Bob Hilliard's "Alice in Wonderland," a tune famously covered by Evans on his masterpiece Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside Records, 1961). This is not a floating Evans version, however; Galper and band mates—drummerJohn Bishop and bassist Jeff Johnson—take the tune on a furiously tumultuous ride, full of urgency, pushing in the direction of flying out of control, without ever doing so.
Jule Styne's standard "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" is more restrained, a deeply ruminative and intimate conversation between Galper and Johnson that leads into the ominous Galper original, "Suspension," which puts the trio's edgy interactivity and ability to sustain a prickly momentum on full display. The title tune, another Galper original, has a swaying, fractured grandeur, an off-center, freewheeling beauty full of mystery and intrigue.
The trio wraps it up with "Be My Love," a film tune written for vocalist Mario Lanza. Bishop's drums sizzle and detonate unpredictably; Johnson's bass rumbles; and the piano notes careen with a scintillating, headlong freedom, closing out Galper's finest trio outing to date.
Track Listing: 
Alice in Wonderland; Babes of Cancun; Get Up & Go; Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry; Suspension; Trip the Light Fantastic; Be My Love.
Hal Galper: piano; Jeff Johnson: bass; John Bishop: drums

Peter Madsen Trio
The Litchfield Suite

By Terrell Kent Holmes
Peter Madsen fortified an already solid reputation with a pair of stellar solo piano works in the last decade: Sphere Essence: Another Side of Monk (2003) and Prevue of Tomorrow (2006), both on Playscape. Now he works his magic with bassist Andy McKee and drummer Gerald Cleaver on The Litchfield Suite, a vibrant performance captured live at the Litchfield Jazz Festival and Camp, where Madsen has performed and taught for several years.
The songs on The Litchfield Suite are diverse, touching various styles, with interludes between giving each band member a brief spotlight. On the introduction to the suite Madsen sets the pace by strumming the piano strings to set the atmosphere, supplemented by light and dark single note lines, McKee's low-moan arco and Cleaver's shimmering cymbals enhancing the tension. After this somber opening, though, the trio stretches out on the up-tempo tunes like the Latin-tinged "The Source and Force" and "Fanny Pack Factor." The relaxed Sunday afternoon suburban feeling of "Chillin' at the Cottage" and the lovely impressionism of "Run For Your Lives" provide balance. The trio also shines on hard bop burners like "Cool Camp for Kids" and "Forward Motion."
Cleaver is an anchor who plays blistering, complex drum solos and consistently bold polyrhythms. McKee adds dewdrop-soft glissandi or robust pizzicati and his bowing can sound like a symphony or a buzz saw. But this is Madsen's showcase. He's a solid composer and arranger whose piano mastery is pure dynamite. He plays flawlessly and with rhythmic complexity, applying symphonic flourishes or lightning-fast melodic runs and hammering out passionate block chords. The man is virtually a band unto himself. The musical sophistication and telepathic interplay among this excellent trio makes The Litchfield Suite a triumph.
Track Listing:
Intro; I. The Source and Force; Piano Interlude; II. Chillin' at the Cottage; Drum Interlude; III. Cool Camp for Cool Kids; Bass Interlude; IV. Run For Your Lives; Piano Interlude; V. Fanny Pack Factor; VI. Forward Motion.
Peter Madsen: piano; Andy McKee: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.

Paul Motian Trio
Lost In A Dream

Cover (Lost In a Dream:Paul Motian Trio)

By Ted Gordon
Consider this album a blind date of sorts: Drummer Paul Motian-meets-pianist-Jason Moran, introduced by the matchmaker, saxophonist Chris Potter. Though Motian had worked once with Moran in 2006, this collaboration is a stunning example of the versatility and mastery of Motian's veteran technique. Recorded over a week of concerts at New York City's Village Vanguard, Motian's stomping grounds, this album is held together by the trio's seemingly effortless exploration of slow, melodic ballads. At 79, Motian has proven to be a versatile and thorough player, thriving in any combination of players.
With plenty of elbow room within his compositions, Motian expresses a reserved chaos—just enough beneath the shimmery surfaces of Potter's smooth melodic lines. Evoking Lester Young, Potter often acts as an intermediary between Motian and Moran, a kind of bridge between the latter's subdued, harmonically dense playing and the former's freer cymbal-work. That is not to say that Potter comes off as too slick on this album; on the contrary, his improvisations in both the quieter, more delicate moments, as well as in the louder, raucous instances (such as on "Drum Music") tie the album together, both stylistically and melodically.
The one non-Motian composition is Irving Berlin's "Be Careful It's My Heart," and this ballad fits perfectly with Motian's own; though there is more harmonic movement, Moran handles it in such a way that allows Potter to shine through with free, beautiful, melody. A quick three-minute run-through, this track is a microcosm of the album as a whole.
The track with the highest energy is perhaps "Drum Music," a composition from Motian's 1979 ECM album Le Voyage, showcasing Motian's free style alongside Potter's more harmonically free improvisation. Moran's heavy left hand and Motian's more rhythmic playing on this track synch up in an unexpected way, showing that these players really should get together more often. The next track, "Abacus," also from 1979, features an extended solo by Motian sandwiched between the lead and a da capo repetition, performed smartly with restraint. Small touches—a snare hit here, a Monk-like chord there—elevate this composition to a masterful level, a stacked hand that plays its cards one by one, revealing more and more as it goes on.
Track Listing:
Mode VI; Casino; Lost In A Dream; Blue Midnight; Be Careful It's My Heart; Birdsong; Ten; Drum Music; Abacus; Cathedral Song.
Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Jason Moran: piano; Paul Motian: drums.

Dan Tepfer
Bach/Tepfer - Goldberg Variations/ Variations

Cover (Bach: Goldberg Variations:Dan Tepfer)
By Robert Carraher "The Dirty Lowdown"
Dan Tepfer is one of the most formidable jazz pianists on the international stage and hailed as such by press on every continent you can keep a piano in tune (Antarctica does not qualify). He has owned the spotlight the world over, from his solo work to full orchestra performances, and his improve skills are awe inspiring. His style is more melodic, he's not one to display his technical prowess through big blasts of dissonance and drama. This comes to the listeners ear as playful, fun, sexy and just beautiful. There is such a rainbow of musical colors that it takes you away before you even knew you were packed.
He has chronicled his talents on the solo disc Twelve Free Improvisations in Twelve Keys (2009) as well as the trio sessions Before the Storm (2005), Oxygen (2007) and Five Pedals Deep . Here, he brings that melodic lyricism to JS Bach's Goldberg Variations. To tackle the masters iconic work is a pretty ambitious ideal, but Tepfer is more than equal to the task. This is no popular music take on Bach, so don't expect A 5th Of Beethoven or Hooked On Bach. This is a masterful pianist, a classically trained pianist and a young man who has been praised wherever he has graced the ears of jazz and classical fans giving us a respectful and affectionate interpretation of the complete "Goldbergs" and interspersed are his improv variations on Bach's Variations...did that make sense?
For Tepfer, this was no "romp" through the play ground, no playful process for showing off. He disappears into the music and I am told that he even engineered this disk himself to further immerse himself in the pieces and the project. In between Bach's own variations are Tepfer's improvisation and though true to the original you can feel the kiss of jazz. Wonderful stuff. My advice to you. Grab a good book, and put this album on and get lost in a marvelous disk.

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