Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ken Vandermark solo - Alchemia 29.11.2010

by Krzysztof Penarski

Solo concerts could be considered very demanding. Both for the audience and, especially, for the artist. Nowhere to hide, no distractions, everything stripped to basics, naked.

Ken Vandermark has already a solo recording ("Furniture Music" Okka 2003) on which he presents his various inspirations ranging from music of all kinds (jazz, free improv, blues, classic) to modern visual arts or cinema. On this particular evening he took us to travel with him through all jazz history and it was simply put an amazing lesson.

First piece (tenor) was dedicated to Coleman Hawkins who was the first to record solo saxophone music. And it starts with this soulful, smoky and elegant tone, true spirit of jazz, and you instantly know that this evening will be special. Ken presents the story of jazz through spectrum of his personal inspirations on each particular horn. With third piece he introduces bass clarinet and Eric Dolphy, fifth piece finds him playing the clarinet and is dedicated to John Carter. Each piece is like a portrait, or a nucleon of idea, based on some timbre, or technique, gradually expanded upon, sometimes moving in circles, sometimes very linear. The sitxth piece is slow and solemn and simply beautiful, it makes me think of some old religious songs (could be dedicated to Jimmy Giuffre if not for the fact that Jimmy would get his portrait in 2nd set).  After two pieces on each horn he gets back to bass clarinet and dedicates next one to Peter Brotzmann draws inspiration in Peter's raw, passionate and always full of tension sound. But, if stripped of all the over(under,side)tones, this piece is very melodic (like many Ayler's marches) which is an aspect of Brotzmann's music one so easily oversees. He ends the first set on tenor with "Sweet Dragon" by Joe McPhee.

2nd set starts with dedication to already mentioned Jimmy Giuffre on clarinet. In its course Ken will pay his respect also to Anthony Braxton (bass clarinet), Evan Parker (tenor), Steve Lacy (clarinet) and finish the main part of the concert with a composition that (his words) seems to suit well these 'screwed up times' - "Love Cry" by 'the Jackson Pollock of saxophone' Albert Ayler, who completely changed the language of the saxophone playing and to whom pretty much all the players of the avant-garde are hugely indebted. Ken called on all the spiritual passion and power of Ayler's playing.
Obviously the very attentive and appreciative audience would call him Ken back on stage for an encore piece - an emotional clarinet dedication to Anna "Czarna" Adamska (the spirit-movens of Alchemia for many years, now in Sanok). And after that for another one - tenor piece again by Joe McPhee (missed the title). After which everyone remained silent looking for words for quite a while.

I apologize for this kind of 'listing' so far but there would be no point in describing all of the pieces, nor it would be possible since I stopped taking any notes by the beginning of the 2nd set, trying to follow the music without thinking about what I could write about it after. There was in this music everything one could expect from a player of this stature and this genre. Imaginative soloing, some extended techniques, both solemn and lyrical or wild and out playing. A great, elegant tone, and those moments when you can fell the sound is trying to explode and escape the notion of 'note' in every way possible, packed with all kinds of overtones, sidetones, undertones, body of the instrument clapping and so on. When you try to wrestle with the sound trying to get inside it as deep as possible.
Most of the pieces in 1st set would have some kind of rhythmic pattern or bass-line phrase (or use of breath-cycle as a rhythmic base) that would return, with Ken keeping the time tapping his foot or moving his body (he puts this inner rhythm structure in his playing that makes his duos with drummers such a great listening). 2nd set could be considered more abstract (not very surprising when you re-check the 'portraits'' heroes) although that is obviously a huge oversimplification. But that is all somehow on the surface, on the outside, that was not what this evening was about.

What (I feel) it was about, although I struggle now mightily trying to put in writing, was the deeply emotional and honest playing. The setting was incredible intimate, with audience right beside the musician and the music, the playing heartfelt and full of warmth, the concept of sharing some kind of a musical autobiography so open, true and personal. Never copying or emulating but drawing inspiration from all those great musicians of both past and present. This concert was not about any particular technique or master skills (although Ken has that in abundance). It was about the close and deep relationship with this music, and this place.
Stunning, beautiful and emotionally exhausting. Yet so rewarding.

Thanks a lot to Ken, Alchemia and to Marek Winiarski who pushed Ken to do this (the concert was recorded, members of the audience will negotiate but Ken doesn't want to hear about a double cd :)
Thanks a lot to Jarek who played Coleman Hawkins piece before the concert which ticked the whole concept of the performance. Gil Evans and James Brown after the concert were great too and it was inspiring to see Ken so passionate about the music both as a musician and listener.
Next concert today :)
and after that party with Ken as a DJ, going to be funky :)

birthdays of Johny Dyani, Sylvie Couvoisier and Eivind Opsvik (some links on facebook)  :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jazzowy Alchemik was waiting for You at 8pm CET (28.11.2010) with Billy, Johnny and Ken

Today at www.radiofrycz.pl we'll have another strange mix. We'll start with Billy Strayhorn's classic "Take the 'A' Train" (birthday today), then celebrate late Johnny 'Mbizo' Dyani (birthday tomorrow) with couple of pieces, all of this interlayered with
-Ken Vandermark solo inspirations (Ken is playing solo today at Alchemia)
-two pieces from just reviewed Locksmith Isidore cd
-two pieces by Cukunft (polish answer to Radical Jewish Culture movement, they're plaing in Krakow this friday)
-and 1 improv selected from "Resonance" box  by Tim Daisy, Mark Tokar, Steve Swell, Mikolaj Trzaska (group called "Inner Ear" with Tim, Steve, Mikolaj and Per-Ake Holmlander is playing tomorrow the last concert of this year's Krakow Autumn Jazz Festival, followed by a party with Ken Vandermark as a DJ (!); Mark is playing on saturday with Waclaw Zimpel, Klaus Kugel and Robert Kusiolek).
We'll finish with "now for something completely different" two pieces of Trifonidis Downtown Project which is very much a soundtrack to a not created yet movie about Warszawa (very different project with the same leader - Trifonidis Free Orchestra is playing on saturday as a part of Jazz Juniors festival).
Pollock. The Deep

1. Clifford Brown & Max Roach - Take the 'A' Train
2. Locksmith Isidore - Man or Ray
3. Ken Vandermark - Lines (for Lennie Tristano) (baritone sax)
4. Abdullah Ibrahim & Johnny Dyani - Msunduza (both from "Good News From Africa")
Pollock. Shimmering Substance

5. Cukunft
6. Tim Daisy, Mark Tokar, Steve Swell, Mikolaj Trzaska - improv ("Resonance", day 3, set 1, track 1)
7. Abdullah Ibrahim & Johnny Dyani - Good News / Swazi / Waya-Wa-Egoli
 8. Ken Vandermark - Immediate Action (for Jackson Pollock) (tenor sax)
Mondrian. Rhythm of Black Lines
9. Cukunft
10. Johnny Dyani - Eyomzi (both pieces from "Witchdoctor's Son" with John Tchicai, Dudu Pukwana)
11. Locksmith Isidore - Moor Gone Door Gone
12. Ken Vandermark - Would a Proud Man Rather Break Than Bend (for Mississippi Fred MacDowell) (tenor sax)
13. Johnny Dyani - Magwaza (trad, arranged by Dyani)

14. Ken Vandermark - Panels (for Erik Satie and Piet Mondrian) (clarinet)
15. Trifonidis Downtown Project - Moments
16. Trifonidis Downtown Project - Space Beyond the City

Mondrian. Line and Color

additional birthday notes:
birthday of Fredrik Ljungkvist today :)
1.12 - Jaco Pastorius, Jimmy Lyons
2.12 - Wynton Kelly
4.12 - Cassandra Wilson, Jim Hall
5.12 - Art Davis

birthday of Billy Strayhorn! A great take on "Take the 'A' Train" by Mingus Sextet

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Free Impro Session - Kawiarnia Naukowa

As a substitute for the concert in Bydgoszcz, I went to see a free impro session in Kawiarnia Naukowa (not Eszeweria as i believed yesterday).
The line-up, as usual in those kind of situations, was different than announced - with 2 computers, electric guitar, electro-acoustic guitar (played mostly as a bass, or in electro-acoustic way - using the feedback from speakers) and saxophone (alto and soprano).
Free improvised sessions with ad hoc line-up are a risky business. There's no procedure to make this music work, sometimes it does, quite often it doesn't. When it does, it's wonderfully unpredictable, hypnotic, adventurous. When it doesn't the same musical elements seem random, repetitive, flat and even boring.
I'm not a big fan of electronics, or noise elements, so my perception of this performance (and it is as much 'performance art' as 'music concert') could be bit prejudiced.
1st part, with two improvs was pretty much the example of music not working, electronic drones and quirky rhythmic scratches overwhelming the overall sound, not leaving enough space for the 'live' instruments, and not elastic enough to react in real-time to their playing.
2nd part, one long improv, on the other hand was really good, with more spare use of electronics, great playing by Dymny on guitar (using all kind of different objects on the strings), otherwise very zen - with all the sounds creating a cloudy sphere, loosing their characteristics, dense, shapeless, colorless magma or amalgam of shades. This sort of performance when you have a strong feeling that something actually happened, though you're not sure what exactly.

Free improv music kind of looses its (very unclear and unspecific) identity when it's written about so I won't linger on this session anymore, thanks a lot to Kawiarnia Naukowa (stage for young alternative rock, punk, electronica in Krakow) for giving a place to young improvisers to gain their experience in live confrontations. Keep it up!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bydgoszcz - Mozg (Brain) Festival, Barry & Maya; The Fat is Gone

Because of the conjuncture of some adversary, if very small incidents I wasn't able to get to Bydgoszcz as planned. Still the pics (that would accompany the text written about the gig) were already selected so I decided to post them anyway. As usually, courtesy of Krzysztof Penarski :)

Maya Homburger & Barry Guy (at Alchemia last year)

Also those guys will play - The Fat is Gone : Peter Brotzmann, Mats Gustafsson, Paal Nilssen-Love. (Pics coming from different concerts at Alchemia)

So I would not kick myself too much about missed opportunity to see those musicians play again I'm going to free impro session at Eszeweria which could get interesting and will probably be written about tomorrow.

and additionally:
Birthday of Jimi Hendrix today! No introduction needed. While they're have been few 'jazz' tribute albums or cover versions of Hendrix songs (Gil Evans comes to mind), most of those that I've heard, miss the point and engage in some guitar pyrotechnics and have lost completely the energy of Hendrix performance. Great exception and example how a cover can be successful are Mina Agossi's takes on Jimi's songs, original enough, passionate, groovy and the vocal impressions of guitar distortion solos are fun :).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Locksmith Isidore - Three Kinds of Happiness [Not Two]

Locksmith Isidore - Three Kinds of Happiness

Jason Stein - bass clarinet
Jason Roebke - double bass
Mike Pride - drums

Not Two 2010

I had already in mind couple of other recent cds I wanted to review but couldn't really decide to pick one so something really fresh and new took over.

Locksmith Isidore is a trio led by Jason Stein on bass clarinet, with Jason Roebke on bass and Mike Pride on drums. While many reeds players do play bass clarinet on regular basis and to great effects (David Murray, Ken Vandermark, Mikolaj Trzaska, Gebhard Ullmann, Waclaw Zimpel the ones that would come to my mind first) Jason Stein is the only one I can think of who plays exclusively on this instrument. Thus this recording is focused very strongly on the sound capabilities of the lead instrument, so rarely heard in this role in a reed-bass-drums trio setting. And that is, to begin with, obviously an upside to those who like the sound of this horn as much as I do.

Previous recordings (2 by the trio and 1 solo recording by Jason) would emphasize the various approaches to free-jazz interplay and spontaneous improvisation this one is based very clearly on compositions. And while 'free' is never far away, it's very much, as stated also by Jason (cited in extensive liner notes by Art Lange) a jazz recording, or, to be more precise, bass clarinet jazz recording.

The soloing is tonally loose, but very melodic, and soulful, Jason's sound enriched by a lot of overtones, very round, elegant and 'airy' at times, but he's not afraid of more raw, crying or distorted, or otherwise „expanded” sound while improvising. Themes are very clearly stated, and chord structures very apparent, especially in the great bass walking-lines by Jason Roebke. Some of the numbers are very free-boppish, with fast, syncopated and swinging brushwork by Mike Pride (Crayons For SammyMan or Ray that includes a powerfull drum solo), some lightly swinging ballads (Little BirdGround Floor South) and there's also a great blues piece (More Gone Door Gone with faboulous circling lines by Jason).

It's very much „reappropration of jazz heritage” (once again words by Jason Stein) and the biggest influence traceable would be the man who introduced bass clarinet to jazz music – Eric Dolphy, with his trademark interval and rhythmic jumps (Straight Up And Down comes to mind as a good example) echoed in both composed themes and the soloing (and the bluesy tone) by Jason. Archie Shepp is honored in the Arch and Ship with some wilder playing and more extensive sound explorations (but, more or less in the middle, also this piece gets into the swinging groove). Miss Izzy, which listed as a bonus track, as it comes from live recording in Alchemia, is definitely played more 'free', the sound is also much more 'direct' and 'in front' as the concert recording should be, it shows bit different face of the music played by trio (great playing by Roebke again, deep woody tone and a fine solo on this one) . Jason with great groove and Mike with very modest and elegant yet highly efficient playing make for an extremely good rhythm section.

The music on this cd is not groundbreaking in any sense, nor it's trying to be, It's personal take on jazz history, with great themes and arrangements (intro to Ground Floor South; contrasting fast and slow phrases in Man or Ray), faboulous musicianship displayed, great soloing and whole lot of swinging drive with a highly contagious foot-tap factor. Fun, relaxing, joyful and very enjoyable.

Art Lange in his liner notes does a great job on decoding the name of album and compositions' titles, indicating references to experiences from composer's personal past or some musical ones. I don't know much about three kinds of happiness but this cd keeps me happy for approximately 1 hour each time I put it into the cd-player. 

Locksmith Isidore live playing "Cash, Couch and Camper" (sound quality bit shaky)

great bass clarinet solo by Eric Dolphy with Mingus group

Additional notes:
-yesterday birthday of Paul Desmond and Nat Adderley :)
-since Not Two is based in Krakow I'm very much able to keep track of their new releases on a very constant basis, definitely not the case with all the other labels I appreciate, so it is very probable that new Not Two releases will appear in this section (much) more often that the others although I will try to variate as much as possible.  

Thursday, November 25, 2010

New posts on Impropozycja (polish)

For polish-speaking readers some new texts, originally written for alternative music portal magnetoffon.info
will now re-appear on polish collective blog impropozycja.blogspot.com

so far:
the short summary of the Barry Guy New Orchestra week

and reviews of
Vandermark 5 Special Edition
Rodrigo Amado Quartet

couple of other reviews (Oirtrio, Full Blast, Vijay Anderson) written previously (You can find them now on magnetoffon.info) coming soon.
Also any new material in polish will be published there.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Back on the air :) Jazzowy Alchemik at 8pm (22.11.10) with Coleman, Jimi and Scott

Today, as more or less each monday, at 8 pm jazzowy alchemik is on the 'air'.

We'll cover quite a time distance celebrating birthdays of Scott Joplin, Coleman Hawkins and Jimi Hendrix :).
Obviously something from Barry Guy to get back to the last week and some concert suggestions for the next weekend too.

1. Augusti Fernandez & Barry Guy - Annalisa (the song they played together the 1st of the 1st evening in Alchemia)
2. Coleman Hawkins - Chant (Coleman's birthday on 21st)
3. Ab Baars Trio with Ken Vandermark - Goofy June Bug (Ab Baars birthday also on 21st, Ken Vandermark playing today at Poznan with Free Fall, next week in Krakow)
4. Mina Agossi Trio - 3rd Stone from the Sun (Jimi Hendrix britdhay on 27th)
5. Ray Anderson Pocket Brass Band - The Pineapple Rag (birthday of Scott Joplin on 24th)
6. Thelonious Monk - Ruby, My Dear (Coleman again with smoky tone :)
7. Gato Barbieri - Tango (from 'Last Tango in Paris") (Gato's birthday on 28th)
8. Fredy Studer, Christy Doran, Django Bates with Phil Minton - Manic Depression
9. Mary LaRose, Jeff Lederer, Steve Swell, Dominic Duval - The Wind Cries Mary
10. Air (Henry Threadgill, Fred Hopkins, Steve McCall) - Weeping Willow Rag
11. Barry Guy New Orchestra - Inscape-Tablaux part IV (including a beautiful, upscaled to orchestra arrangament of 'Odyssey')
12. Mina Agossi - Voodoo Chile
13. Peter Brotzmann, Mats Gustafsson, Paal Nilssen-Love - Bullets Through Rain (the trio is playing in Bydgoszcz on 27th - during the Mozg festival, Barry & Maya will also be there)
14. Medeski, Martin & Wood - Hey Joe

Tune yourself to www.radiofrycz.pl at 8 pm CET on mondays for the next program :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Barry Guy New Orchestra day 5 - final concert at Manghha

photo by Krzysztof Penarski
What an evening!
That was an amazing display of musical vision and passion and skills all combined into making this whole project work. I'm still trying to get my head around this concert and probably will never manage to do so. Absolutely incredible display of beauty, rich, even lush harmonies, great melodies, mad improvs and incredible passionate, yet so precise playing with Barry in control of the whole Orchestra in double role of bass player and conductor. Had a chance to see the band rehearsing before the concert and Barry commenting to the other musicians on stage that "You're pretty much know what you're doing now". Incredible to see all those wild and free spirits playing with such focus and precision so strictly written ensemble music, half of them with reading glasses to see the notes clearly. I find nothing really i could say about the music itself, because nothing i could say would do justice to this event. I'd like to give some special recognition to Evan for his soloing (absolutely in top form this night) or Mats, who shared conducting duties at one point (the band had cards used as signals to create a spontaneous composition with "S" meaning a solo part, at one point Mats shows the "S" to Barry so he would have to stop conducting and get into the improvisation with the others).  Still it was very much ensemble playing and a fantastic group sound and every one got a chance to display their individual skills.
The band played "Amphi" a composition Barry wrote for Maya and himself as a duo and expand the arrangement for the whole Orchestra (the first performance of this piece in this setting). The 2nd set piece was "Inscape-Tableux" which was the composition this band was born with, 10 years ago.

Thank You
Barry, Maya, Evan, Trevor, Mats, Augusti, Johannes, Per-Ake, Hans, Herb, Raymond, Paul (in no particular order) for this amazing week and the music You gave us.
Thanks to Marek Winiarski, Alchemia and the whole crew working to make Autumn Jazz Festival and particularly this project such a success!

A reminder:
Monday at 8 pm (CET) at radiofrycz.pl some music coming and it will be impossible to not get back to this week. Stay tuned then, the playlist will be shared tomorrow after the program :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Barry Guy New Orchestra day 4 - small groups at Alchemia

Agustí Fernández - photo by Krzysztof Penarski
1st set
Evan Parker, Paul Lytton
Sax-drums duos are one of my favourites. Could be since probably the very first 'free' recording i heard and was taken by was John Coltrane with Rashied Ali. It's this kind of setting which give you enough rhythmic support in drums but gives you pretty much all the freedom you want in any other department. Paul gets immediately busy and push forward with mad pace. Evan sticks to tenor and does his explorations at ease travelling through some meandering lines. More or less in the around the half Paul gets more into his percussive sounds and the playing is more lyrical, but still pretty dense. Evan stays very much in the middle register and plays with a round and open tone, very post-Coltrane at times. Still i would like to see more changes, more variety in the playing. 'Good' doesn't cut it anymore for these musicians. I will take it as a 'warm-up' session toward the other sets (although with the pace they played Paul would probably disagree with me on that one).

2nd set
Trevor Watts, Herb Robertson, Hans Koch
And the rule of the 2nd set stays valid for the whole week :) . While Hans would provide some eerie bottom to the overall sound, Trevor and Herb go straight up into high register and produce some explosive and blurry lines, sometimes shrieky, with the sounds piercing the air and ear and getting right inside your head. Hans would mainly assume the more supportive role and take care of melodically organized structure. They stop suddenly when they hit the single note together. 3 remaining improvs would contain a lot of fun-to-watch interplay, Herb and Trevor with spiraling lines circling and entangling each other. Herb also adds his showmanship skills to the mix (during the Trevor-Hans duo he shouts and than does the scared and surprised face as if he didn't know where the shout came from). 3rd piece includes some great Rahsaan-like playing with Trevor doing some harmonics with both soprano and alto, and Herb doing the same thing with trumpet and cornet. Probably the first time i heard 5 instruments at once played by a trio. Lot of buzz sounds also by Herb who has his whole set of mutes and toys and also uses his body to alternate the sound, or the room acoustics, playing in all directions, trumpet up, down or side (thanks to some tricky and elastic mouthpiece he puts on the horn). In the last piece they start building up a chord progression, create the momentum and go toward a very clear end. When Herb (who missed the fun of the previous days because of the flight problems) keeps the piece alive with a single note repeated 10 or more times till the other would join him again. After the last one they look each other suspiciously left and right not sure whether to play more or not. Fun and abstract with some laughs in the audience provoked both by music and the performance aspects of playing.

3rd set
Octet (New Orchestra without Barry Guy, Evan Parker, Hans Koch but with the addition of Trevor Watts)
Simply an amazing set. One could fill up the whole volume trying to describe the succession of all the structures, soloing order, relations that would spontaneously appear on stage. Incredible power of sound. With all the horns put together (tuba, baritone, alto, trombone, trumpet - great line-up) one could have expected a complete chaos on stage. Instead it was unbelievable how the whole set was melodic and coherent. With powerful chords appearing from the thin air. After the first discharge of power they get into another sound exploration (some plastic bottles got hurt), gradually commented by some coordinated outbursts of sound from Johannes and Mats (i guess the common experience, also with Per-Ake, of playing together in Chicago Tentet helps). The mood gets pensive, the beat almost meditative. Mats introduces a two-note riff, leaving enough space for Augusti to fill the gaps (his sound would get lost when all horns would play at once), Johannes and Herb start soloing on that base, while Trevor and Per-Ake would join the riff building-up the tension. And suddenly all would expand the riff into incredible beautiful chord progression and melodies over the top.
When they stop this part, Per-Ake gets to do his magic with some Jabba (from Star Wars) kind of a speech, getting than more cartoon-like. Gradually all the others join and the sound gets massive again (no sense in describing this in more step-by step way) till they, yet again, build this massive wall-of-sound and destroy it abruptly.
Obviously the crowd wanted more and we got it. The encore was dedicated to Marek Winiarski and Trevor said "we better make it a good one". All the hell breaks loose in this case untill some structures gradually appear and another powerful chord is found. After the chord dissapears and there is only a slowly dieing sound of a little plate rolling on the Raymond's snare it could be pretty much over but Trevor keeps the encore alive with a klezmer-like dance tune that could pretty much fill a disco frame (as proved by some neat moves by Herb on stage at this moment). To keep his promise Trevor makes them re-do the whole thing 2 or 3 more times. Outstanding set and unbelievable fun.

After the concert and a dinner (during the weekend-night party in Alchemia with some dj's playing bit funk) Trevor would still seem the most eager to party leading tho whole pack of latin-percussion ensemble that would use pretty much all the material available to play - wine bottles, water bottle, glasses, knives, forks, spoons, plates, tables, metal construction of the stage support,  and a chair (some glasses wouldn't survive the test) . To see Trevor Watts and Herb Robertson (who would be two staying the longest) and others or Augusti Fernandez doing some pretty much alternative moves on the dancefloor, and, in general, the whole pack enjoying the time so much - priceless.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Barry Guy New Orchestra Day 3 - small groups at Alchemia

Mats Gustafsson - photo by Krzysztof Penarski
1st set
Evan Parker/Augusti Fernandez/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton
The great thing about this set is that you actually get to hear 3 bands. Quartet, Sax trio, Piano trio. They start off with a lot of angular lines and dense facture. Strong pulse by Paul on drums pushes the dynamics constantly forward. Lots of knotted playing by Augusti. Evan is playing mostly tenor and you get to hear a handful from his array of vocabulary. From some whispering, spare sounds, to the wonderfully mesmerizing lines he does with his so impressive circular-breath technique. There's a wonderful segment where his lines are echoed by Augusti and then Barry. Yet again I find the most impressive bow work by Barry, he also produces some beautiful delicate sounds when plaing with mallet on strings. Very strong intro set to what would be an amazing evening.

2nd Set
Maya Homburger, Paul Lytton
Another baroque violin solo piece composed by Barry - "Celebration" which was dedicated to her father on his birthday. Some pristine passages of intense beauty. Maya would execute 'the hard stuff' and the 'actual notes' (as introduced and shown by Barry) while Paul would provide a complementary background with his small objects percussion playing with lots of crackling or metallic sounds. Very appreciated piece although, yet again, I find myself incapable of saying anything more concrete about this kind of music. It's definitely great though to hear it in such rare context.
Mats Gustafsson, Augusti Fernandez
The rule of the 2nd sets stands so far - again the most abstract one of the evening. Mats starts tongue-slapping, swinging his body and baritone from side to side, bending down, gathering strenght for what would seem like an infinite pause, only to play another single spare sound. Augusti bends over the piano to reach the strings and it seems like he's completely inside the instrument, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Together they create a world of nuanced sounds, organic low drones on piano, strong gutsy yet soulful sound of Mats's vibrato. It's amazing to see the tension and completely wild excitement on Mats's face, with this tongue out in kinda devilish way (contrary, in those rare moments you get to see Augusti's over the piano he's look focused entirely on the strings). This one is all about detail, nuances, various tinges they manage to create. It's like this eerie kind of silence before the storm. All those barely audible sounds, the ones that you're not even entirely sure are actually there. Preparing for the storm, building up the tension. Yet the storm never arrives this time. They keep you on your toes, Constantly posing an imminent threat of a full-scale natural disaster. When Mats gets to play also the fluteophone and produces some wailing sounds, you can feel the whole energy level suprressed inside, boiling under the surface and restrained for this time. They subside suddenly and it feels like the threat of storm never happened. Huge applause from the audience for this magical performance.

3rd set

Mats Gustafsson, Barry Guy, Raymond Strid
Just when you think they can't top that they proove to you they can deliever. This group gets right to the business. With incessant hi-hat drive provided by Raymond whole group just gets into the groove and discharge the energy, realizing the threat posed in previous set. Powerful, intense, deep and  emotional. They do tone it down a little bit, With some almost bluesy lines by Mats, stunning melodic work, they get to very zen passage, with gongs, bowed plates, mallet on bass strings and suddenly they find this almost unisono line that joins together bass and sax, slow, bit mantra-like, or ode, or an anthem, gaining slowly the momentum, till it gets to to the powehouse riff-like melody by Mats that just brings the house down. The 2nd improv contains some more abstract sound plays, bits of splattering and frogging, metal stick between the bass strings, some feverish play and yet another climax. The musicians are rewarded with an ovation and reward back the audience with a short ballad-like encore full with echoing and reverberating sounds.
What a night! So far, definitely the best one of the week

or maybe it was just those couple rounds of mad dogs shots after :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Barry Guy New Orchestra day 2 - small groups at Alchemia

Trevor Watts - photo by Krzysztof Penarski
set 1
Maya Homburger - solo
Maya would begin each set with a solo performance of a piece belonging to a cycle composed by Barry Guy and named (as he had asked to) after Butterflies. I found myself completely incapable of judging contemporary music of this kind. The playing was impeccable, the music was light and mesmerizing. All three pieces created a wonderful kind of diversion and, being strictly composed,  created interesting contrast with the completely improvised parts of the sets.
Trevor Watts, Johannes Bauer
You could expect something very much abstract from a duo of this kind but Johannes has a knack for some very structured lines. He puts out a very melodic line that serves as stairs on which Trevor can jump and run down & up all over with his tenor. At certain point to get to much more rhythm-counterpoint playing and end the first piece on single note. The 2nd piece finds Trevor on soprano and  and Johannes putting on the line some vibrato and distorted notes (two at once) and they build up the tension, till the notes are getting longer and the pauses shorter and the structure much more dense. After a stop Trevor engages in some polyphonic exploration and Johannes joins him rambling through the bone and creating some very strange musical effects, which in the end resemble some kind of ancient beat-box with a lot of hissing and basically the simply function of breathing in and out being utilized as a rhythm machine. Completing it with 3rd short improv they close the set that would be a nice intro to another great evening.

2nd set
Maya Homburger - solo
Hans Koch, Per-Ake Holmlander, Paul Lytton, Raymond Strid
What could pretty much a regular free-jazz ensemble turned to be yet again the most abstract playing of the night (could be the rule of the 2nd set?).  Both drummers (Paul having just the snare and one tom drum, and the whole table of different objects at his disposal, Raymond behind the full drums set and many toys of his own) would and front-line would immediately engage in sonic explorations with little regard for rhythm or melody or even a single note or getting a sound that one 'should' play on their particular instruments. Yet they did take great care of tension and the structure of the first piece. Slowly building up the dynamics, The drummers doing their research like in some alchemy workshop (since we are in 'Alchemia') till they get to point of real madness, Raymond trashing plates with a chain, Paul rubbing a dozen of different objects on the snare, while Hans and Per-Ake create a a 2 r 3 note basis for them (yes - 2 drummers are soloing and clarinet and tuba play the rhythmic structure!). The Volcano stop s its act suddenly with a gesture by Per-Ake. The 2nd piece (can't decipher my notes right now) has the eerie mood, with lot of gongs and drones and bows on the plates from Raymond. And similarly backed-off playing from the reed and brass, very much ensemble sound and great interplay.

3rd set

Maya Homburger - solo
Trevor Watts, Barry Guy, Raymond Strid
Another sax-drums-trio 3rd set and another great ending to the fine music of this evening. They play one extended improvisation. With moods and tensions flowing in and out and infinitely. Abstract yet with some clear jazz-tinges to it. Some bluesy soulful lines from Trevor at times, at one point even some syncopated almost swinging drumming with a lot of rimshots from Raymond (this time sticking mostly to the regular drums set) and great bottom lines by Barry (whom i find most impressive when using his bow, he does play with drumsticks at some point but today, very much in a caring way, no box fighting with the bass). A wonderful interplay with a piece often changing its direction in a never-ending search for a music adventure. Pretty much the same words as yesterday could be used, even though the music was quite different. Which only shows the weakness of the language, or at least my language horizons (polish or english) to not put the blame on the verbal communication itself. They cap the set with a short, but very pleasing encore.

additional notes
- Birthday of Don Cherry!
- Introducing the 3rd set Barry told the short story about how, few decades ago, Trevor was the guy who introduced him to the improvised music. It was great to see the sheer joy of them playing together at stage after so many years of musical friendship. After the concert Barry and the whole group would get back to that saying "It's all your fault Trevor" :)  . Thank You for that Trevor.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Barry Guy New Orchestra day 1 - small groups at Alchemia

photo by Krzysztof Penarski
1st set
Augusti Fernandez solo
Absolutely stunning improvisation by Augusti who plays a long and extended piece on piano barely using the keys! He starts with some kind of wooden block on piano strings and, he's plucking, drumming, tapping, hammering and using all kind of small objects on strings that will jump and reverberate on them adding percussion quality to the sound. First the overall sounds is that of some kind of ominous harp, very deep and dark. Than it gets wilder, rougher and finally Augusti creates some kind of an open ocean storm, very powerful, but with a natural flow to it, with phrases going repetitive in some like ways, yet constantly changing the direction. Hats off
Augusti Fernandez / Barry Guy
The second piece of the first set is a tune entitled "Anna Lisa"  by Barry Guy (originally written for bass solo). The piece starts with a lovely theme, joyful and serene.  But they start digging deeper into the harmony, under the melody, adding slowly dynamics and drive to the them, until they completely abandon it. Only to get back later for a second. They will get back to it a few times, each time to start a completely different journey around the world, and get back, surprisingly,  to the same place. The wildest part include Barry Guy using the bow, than another one (just the wooden part) hammering the strings with passion, and after that sticking some metal stick between the strings and hitting on it with a drumstick, looking very much like a boxer during the fight, jumping constantly on his feet and using constantly his reflexes to avoid the hit. Which is complemented by fast arpeggios by Augusti running all over the keyboard length with both hands. 

2nd set
Mats Gustafsson solo
Mats plays baritone on this one and he's one of the most impressive players on the instrument I had a chance to see or hear. He starts with very percussive sounds of tongue-flapping, instrument's keys clicking. Very imaginative and detailed playing on this part. Than he starts the deep, very bodily baritone sound, and you can feel he is playing right from his guts. Very soulful and passionate sound, highly energetic too. In fact he looks like he is lifting some heavy weight. He plays two, both very impressive, pieces.
Hans Koch (bass clarinet), Johannes Bauer (trombone), Per-Ake Holmlander (tuba)
The one ad-hoc group of the night and most abstract and the less 'jazz' part of the evening. Obviously in big part because of the unusual line-up. They engage in this three-part conversation with some adventurous sound research, often with Johannes or Per-Ake providing more substantial and melodic base for the other two. Uttering strange sounds, whooshing, shooshing, splashing all over the stage. I had this funny image of cartoon monsters which after a while turn out not to be scary at all. It's great not only too hear them playing but also to see them perform. Loved the little dance of Johannes Bauer while he was soloing. Also loved to see the creativity presented by Hans Koch who for a second used his cheek to play on the clarinet! Very abstract yet fun.

3rd set
Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton

It's like you get to have a dessert after a very satisfying meal. This trio is one of the finest in the improvised scene all over the world. And while not so much into it at the beginning, by the end of the mighty improvisation I was all inside this strange world. This set had it all, passionate playing, wild improvisations, solo moments, some sonoristic games, incredible musicianship (Evan Parker circular-breathing technique is amazing) and most of all absolutely masterful interplay between the 3 musicians who played together for many, many years. I can't even find the adjectives i could use here. It's like they str  creating the whole world with the sounds. You see all the shapes, all the colors, you can almost touch it. It's like they are re-playing the process of creation. A beautiful set to close the very first evening of this project. 

additional notes
1 Before the concert, the exhibition of some great photos by Peter Gannushkin was opened. Including portraits of 4 musicians that are playing in the Barry Guy New Orchestra.
2 The first 2 sets were both around 30-35 mins. The last one was the longest - about 40 mins plus a short encore.
3 All the music (very much like the Resonance Project from 3 years ago) was recorded, hopefully, to be released.
4 After hunting down all the musicians to get some cds signed I had a chance to listen to great discussion between Barry and Peter on the topic of flying with the instruments and they ways it can affect music :) Got to know some fun facts.  

Barry Guy New Orchestra week - introduction

The project to which I will refer from now on as the 'Barry Guy week in Krakow" started today and what a start it was!
Barry Guy - photo by Krzysztof Penarski

To introduce the whole thing shortly: Barry Guy New Orchestra is one of the few big groups in avant-garde/free-jazz idiom, and is composed by the true masters of the genre. Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson, Hans Koch reeds, Herb Robertson, Johannes Bauer, Per-Ake Holmlander brass instruments, Augusti Fernandez on piano, both Raymond Strid and Paul Lytton on drums and the leader himself on bass.
The central point of the week and the whole festival is the final concert (Saturday) when the band (with Trevor Watts and Maya Homburger as guest soloists) will perform among others the new piece composed specifically for the festival and the celebration of 10th anniversary of the band existing. Before that though, through 4 evenings, small groups of any number of musicians from the ones listed above (mainly ones with established history of playing together, some created ad hoc) will play music in Alchemia club. Each night divided into 3 sets of music.

As I predicted, these notes will be basically a poor attempt to present some very fresh impressions, not anything overly analytic and thought-over. Mainly to get those out of my system and make space for the new ones to come the next evening.

The whole week was also introduced yesterday (and re-played today) on studenckie radio frycz with following playlist

1 Satoko Fujii Ma-Do - Ripple Mark
2 Maciej Obara / John Lindberg / Harvey Sorgen MaMuGe 3 - T'wixt D and E
3 Maya Homburger / Barry Guy - Annunciation
4 Maya Hombuerger - Celebration (compostion - Barry Guy)
5 Mats Gustafsson / Barry Guy / Raymond Strid - Taku
6 Conrad Bauer / Johannes Bauer - Dialog 2
7 Per-Ake Holmlander - Down and Ups
8 Herb Robertson / Tom Sayek - X-Rays
9 Augusti Fernandez / Barry Guy / Ramond Lopez - Odyssey
11 Hans Koch / Roger Turner - untitled
12 Barry Guy -  Sleep Leaper (solo piece from the duo album with Mats "Sinners, rather than Saints")
13 Evan Parker / Barry Guy / Paul Lytton - Zafiro ID 10 Encore
14 Barry Guy New Orchestra - Inscape/Tableux Part VII

additional note

happy birtdhay to Roswell Rudd and Lisle Ellis :) !

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Satoko Fujii Kaze Quartet - Noise Chopin

THE week starts with Satoko Fujii Kaze Quartet at Manghha with concert entitled Chopin Noise.
Satoko Fujii - photo by Krzysztof Penarski

Kaze are:
Satoko Fujii - piano (played also with drumsticks and small objects directly on the strings)
Natsuki Tamura - her husband and long-time musical partner on trumpet
Christian Pruvost - trumpet
Peter Orins - drums
(two french names i'm completely unfamiliar with).

Two-trumpet line-ups are so rare that you've got to love this band. When they both start the concert with some strange growls and almost electro-acoustic sounds duel you know you're in for a treat. Natsuki Tamura is an absolute master of the trumpet and he loves to utter from the brass very low, growling, quirky and strange sounds. And , even at his most adventourous sonoristic games, he finds a great partner/competition in Christian. And this duo front-line interacts greatly, their intervowen lines put you in this state of trans when you just enjoy the fast flurries of the sound that bond together like dna lines.
Also Peter Orins is a great surprise, very clear drumming, using mostly high-hat, bass drum and snare (i would say he has some drum'n'bass influenced playing experiences) . He's capable of playing with very propulsive drive, some nervous beats, and also rockish and steady and energetic with some nice twists to it. Had an absolutely great duo with Satoko.
And finally the leader of the group and the author (i would presume, although 1 of 3 long pieces played during the main part of the concert was composed by Peter) of the main conception. I think there's a lot written oabout her piano-playing skills while not nearly enough on her band-leader and composer talents. She is an absolute master of alchemy, combining seemingly opposite and oxymoronous elements. Both in linear and simoultaneous way. And the dou with drums was a great example of that - right in the middle of fast and furious improvisation the trumpets enter with sweet and solemn and slow melody. And it all fits! Steady rock beat with impressionistic plays. Powerhouse riffs and delicate lines at the same moment. Fast cascades of notes vs
long and echoing sounds. Free madness of improvisation vs strict rules of composition.
Another note on that aspect - I would say that Satoko and Natsuki are among the most post-modernistic players in the jazz world. They manage to combine a whole bunch of influences and musical traditions, and juggle with them, they play with sonorus and physical aspect of their given instrument, and even at their most abstract, they still having fun on stage. You can almost see them winking at You - "This is a play, a game you know, lots of fun, even if it seems so serious". And their attitude is always that of half serious- half joking. Or to put it better - they are very serious about having fun. 

About the Chopin influence, I'm definitely no expert on Chopin music but, as i would have expected, it was very indirect. Some nocturnal echoes, some impressionistic and romantic parts on piano. None really evident quotes (which is a good thing, because this year they are really overdoing those in a cheesy way) although my word should not be cited as any kind of official statement on that particular issue.
PS.1 The concert was registered so hopefully one will be able to re-live the experience :)
PS.2 Oh man, that is a great start for the whole week.
PS.3 Before the concert there was supposed be an opening of Peter Gannushkin photo exhibition, but it was postponed till the day after (which is today) :)

Natsuki Tamura - photo by Krzysztof Penarski


Hi everyone! This is going to be a crazy week :)

Hi everyone!
So i decided to start a blog.
Not sure yet whether it will be done in english or in polish so i will start with english and see how it goes. Also not sure yet what kind of contents will it be composed of. It will be most probably some musical sketches that are too long to put them on facebook, yet written in those moments directly after the experience of new music on stage or cd when you feel you have to say something about it, even if it won't be well-thought-of and profound as it should be. Longer and proper reviews in polish will still go on magnetoffon . info website which is dedicated to general alternative scene.
(Edit 19.01.2011 - the blog stays english and the url address is changed from jazzowyalchemik to jazzalchemist; the focus is pretty much the same - concerts and cds)

This blog will be dedicated to jazz / free improvisation / avant'garde music. Or at least so i plan to do.

It will be more or less complementary to the short status updates on jazzowy alchemik facebook profile
And the jazzowy alchemik radio program which is hosted on Student's Radio Frycz every monday at 8.00 pm CET (www.radiofrycz.pl music playlist with commentary in polish).
(Edit 19.01.2010 I shoud say now that the facebook profile is complementary to this blog :) )

Last but not least the main impulse to start this blog is the beginning of an amazing week in Krakow - the main project of 5th edition of Autumn Jazz Festival in Krakow - Barry Guy New Orchestra with 4 days of concerts in small groups at Alchemia club, and a final concert with the whole crew on Saturday. And i have a strong feeling that this week should be blogged about. There won't be any time to write some decent article on day-to-day basis, and still facebook status update will definitely not be enough.

So without further ado, the Barry Guy New Orchestra week, started unofficially yesterday with ....
Satoko Fujii Kaze Quartet and the concert entitled Chopin Noise, more on which in the next post :)