Saturday, 9 January 2010

Cold Rain Medley

A small selection of diverse recordings, either relatively recent or from up to two years ago. All of them were examined during one of the most horribly damp, bone-freezing Januaries that I can remember of.

OLD DOG – By Any Other Name

The stunning photograph adorning the inner leaflet of this CD, a group portrait of the entire staff of an olden circus, is only a part – admittedly important - of a generally satisfying package. The rest consists of contemporary jazz, finely executed by Louie Belogenis (tenor sax), Karl Berger (vibes, piano), Michael Bisio (bass) and Warren Smith (drums). The bassist and the saxophonist share the compositional duties, five pieces and four respectively. A precise stability between tradition and modernity is achieved right away, Belogenis’ confident forthrightness taking instant command of the operations. His lines – impenitently prattling one moment, pronouncedly sweet the next – constitute the guide lights that lead the quartet across extensive moments of articulate creativity, both in the extra-tight execution of gaunt themes and in the technical blooming of the solo sections. Bisio and Smith are known quantities, providers of a mannerly pulse that, however, leaves room to several discursive circumlocutions during the episodes in which free will attempts to rule. Berger represents a jolly of sorts, well-placed outbursts explicated through a level-headed-yet-spirited pianism (which is what this reviewer preferred to hear) and rather talkative, though a little more predictable vibraphone flurries. The clear definition of the instrumental details - the consequence of a near-perfect recording - wipes out the sense of humdrum that usually turns the analysis of countless jazz albums into a chore to avoid. (Porter)


These pieces, composed by Sousa (who plays piano, guitars and organ, while Correia only handles the drumming chores) and recorded in a bedroom, are imbued with sadness. This could be OK for starters; the problem – at least to these ears – lies in the fact that they also appear, for the large part, both overly consonant (read: predictable) and permeated by a sort of stretched-out glumness, like if the producers were trying to manufacture a mood that must necessarily emerge as pessimistic - somewhat unnaturally, in a way. Although certain atmospheres, always informed by a dismal temper, would be useful as cinematic commentaries, the playing often sounds quite undeveloped (an exception being Ricardo Ribeiro’s clarinet, when it appears). There’s a measure of “barely tuned piano” infelicity here, a pinch of “long-gone-times” melody there, slow movements and invariable mournfulness all over the place. For my personal inclination, all of the above doesn’t work well enough; however, I’m sure that people less punctilious than myself will love the “poor man’s Tim Story” aura that hovers around during the playback. Since it’s a downloadable album, decide for yourselves. (Humming Conch)


Saxophonist Carrier (here on alto and soprano) is an instrumentalist who gives the idea of having everything under control even in the most liberated sections of his improvisational course, the phrases always flowing effortlessly, exclusive of great surprises yet perennially serene, strongly rooted in some kind of superior ideal. This set with Lambert on drums and Avenel on bass, recorded at the Calgary Jazz Festival in 2007, constitutes a good example of unpretentious jazz that respects the tradition and (carefully) attempts to look beyond certain borders at one and the same time. The trio is not infatuated with unwarranted difficulties and labyrinthine investigations: as Avenel – a splendid arco player, if you ask me - and Lambert create instant junctions and rhythmic diversifications without saturating the aural space, Carrier navigates the waters of creative melody with confidence and inspiration, never affecting the music’s tranquil pacing with unnecessary boisterousness. Overall, this is a hour of well perceptible spiritual bonding, three musicians who let their inner peace prevail upon the obvious technical adroitness, the music – although not reaching the rank of an actual classic – definitely benefiting from this approach. (Leo)


Speaking of spirit, this album sounds more as a celebration than a momentous artistic statement, although the participants (and other presumed experts) might censor what I’m saying - and maybe they’d be right, who knows. But stay with me, please. Lambert was the meeting’s instigator: being the protagonists both drummers and painters, he wanted to see how Moses’ “powerful drum language and expression with his intriguing visual art style would interplay with my sound and images iconographies”. The recording was made in a single torrid afternoon of July 2004 at Moses’ home in Quincy, Boston. That these men are A-grade players is out of the question; this writer’s problem, after seeing the program’s duration of over 70 minutes, was “how am I going to accurately appraise something for which my grounding is probably insufficient?”. Then the music started, the eyes closed and the memory went back at early childhood, where everything found who had some percussive character would become an instant source of beat, to the point that a toy drum set – bought by two desperate parents – became my very first instrument. The secret behind this CD is unveiled at last, the keyword is “go with the flow”. Listening to Meditation On Grace without thinking about the technical aspect of things - merely enjoying the music’s essence, nearly ritual temperament and multiform shapes - rendered the experience positively congenial. Forget drums, Lambert and Moses are great musicians, the strong link they have developed detectable throughout. So, while this record will never be considered as unforgettable here, it is nevertheless a good demonstration of the way in which preconceptions try to obstruct the freedom of the mind. (FMR)

SCISSOR SHOCK – Synonym For The Word Decay

Adam Cooley (vocals, programming, guitars, xylophone, marimba, saxophone) and Aaron Booe (trombone, double bass, keyboards, bells) are nuts, but nice. If I recall correctly, a couple of years ago they had already sent another scribbled CDR like this, which was not reviewed. Perhaps this is better or it made me laugh enough, at least for a while, so here we are. The guys, as (probably) per their name’s intention, make music where the cut-and-paste factor is fundamental. Everything, and I mean everything, is sliced, fragmented, crumbled, disassembled and shaken into a gazillion of snippets characterized by completely spastic rhythms and assorted harmonic/melodic absurdities, with sporadic and basically unintelligible rants “sung” by Cooley with a (modified?) snotty-brat tone. The only defect is that the pieces, on the long distance, tend to sound quite analogous in the basic conception. Yet one benefits from a degree of genuine fun, and some of the titles are alone worth a mention (“Psychic Vision Of A Strangulated Woman Who Is Missing Her Shoe” and “Johnny Merzbow Is Dead” my favourite ones). The real throwaway tracks are “Fahey Ghost” and “Ghost Fahey”: irony aside, that’s not the way to torture a fucking guitar, Adam. (Seizure)