Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake: From the River to the Ocean

Bob Burnett: Saxophonist Fred Anderson and drummer Hamid Drake have had a thirty year relationship in music together in Chicago. On From the River to the Ocean they are joined by Tortoise and Isotope 217 guitarist Jeff Parker, Town and County’s Josh Abrams on bass and guimbri and Chicago legend Harrison Bankhead on cello, piano and bass. From the River to the Ocean is another excellent example of the cross-current of thriving, far-reaching music coming out of Chicago these days—from Wilco to AACM the music is conversant, communicative and alive.

I think an appreciative nod needs to go to Thrill Jockey for being a label open to releasing music that touches on a broad range of artistic directions. This album is a shining example. There are five lengthy pieces on this album; from groove-based to improvisational to introspective. All feature an exuberant level of creativity. The players give each other ample space, listen well and create thoughtful moments of appealing collaboration. I’m reminded at times of Jack DeJohnette’s New Directions group from years back when DeJohnette, John Abercrombie, Lester Bowie and Eddie Gomez had a great thing going. Other moments makes me think of Don Cherry’s meditative masterwork Brown Rice. (Most notably on "For Brother Thompson" a stirring tribute to Malachi Thompson)

Although Anderson and Drake are in the forefront and are exceptional, I want to shine special attention on Jeff Parker’s guitar playing for a moment. He brings great, understated sensibility to this album. I know he’s capable of some moments of rigorous playing—Tortoise offers ample proof—but he also has the gift of knowing how his sound and tone and restraint work to support and benefit the music happening around him. I’m also quite fond of his solo album The Relatives. I especially like his elegant support of Anderson’s soloing on "Planet E" where afrobeat, bop and groove come together effectively.

I read a few reviews on this album and all are enthusiastic. I especially enjoyed Troy Collins’ on allaboutjazz.com. He said:
"The resonant, mature beauty found on From the River to the Ocean proves that contemporary free jazz doesn't always have to burn white-hot to generate emotional heat; simmering intensity can yield the same results."
I think that’s an important message—so often I see “free jazz” gets pidgeonholed as unapproachable, screaming, dead-end music. People who say that have no concept of the important things happening, like this album, that advance musical exploration.


Other Music--NYC

Other Music by Ben Chang

Bob Burnett:
Other Music in New York City has expanded their business to include an mp3 download site called Other Music Digital.
Please read more about it as well as other video and media-based writings on my day job blog .

Anthony Braxton-Mario Pavone Quintet: Seven Standards 1995

Bob Burnett: I offer a special c60 moment to recognize an album ranked past the 300,000th place in popularity on Amazon but is way up my list in listening vitality. Anthony Braxton/Mario Pavone Quintet: Seven Standards 1995 is a look back at the past but play to the future hoot of a time. This band winds its way through a range of choice covers--Thelonious Monk's "Eronel", Charlie Parker's "Dewey Square", John Coltrane's "Straight Street" as well as classic ballads such as "Autumn in New York" and "The End of a Love Affair". Anthony Braxton, the MacArthur "genius grant" winning composer/reed instrumentalist plays on this one--but as the pianist. That's right, piano; an instrument he isn't particularly known for playing. Starting in the mid-'90s he began recording several sets and variations (solo and group) of very interesting albums featuring him on piano. On this particular album he plays along as a fairly straight-forward comp guy in support of the other instruments only to suddenly veer off on rolling, blocky chunks of sound.

Anthony Braxton with Bruce Lee Gallanter--owner of one of the world's finest cd and album stores, Downtown Music Gallery (NYC)

That's the Braxton I know and love--rooted in a strong awareness of the jazz past but absorbed by the wide open range of possibility creative playing offers to constantly extend and evolve music. Braxton, known mainly for his "ghost trance" style of avant playing as well as far-reaching compositions, operas and improvisations is actually a jazz history junky and a lifelong record bin scavenger; he can talk at length and with much awe about players such as saxophonist Warne Marsh and has released a variety of incredible volumes of standards albums over the years.

The other name on this album's title is Mario Pavone, a bassist who has been in the limelight of contemporary playing for decades. His professional music career began in earnest in 1967; he attended John Coltrane's funeral, immediately quit his day job as an industrial engineer and never looked back.

One sad aspect of this album is that it also features multi-reed player Thomas Chapin (alto saxophone, flute, piccolo). Thomas Chapin is why I wanted to bring this album to your attention. March 7, 2007 would have been his 50th birthday; he tragically died of leukemia just past his 41st birthday in 1998. His playing was lightning-fast, exacting, creative and advanced the possibility of reed instruments. He was in the forefront of the "next generation" of reed players rooted in New York City's "downtown" scene as well as a keeper of the jazz traditions of the preceding generations--he served a stint as Lionel Hampton's musical director. He began playing with Mario Pavone in 1980 and along with Michael Sarin on drums made up the Thomas Chapin Trio, a formidable group throughout the '80s and '90s. His playing on this album exemplifies his unbridaled skill and alone is worth the price of the cd. Just this month a special tribute webpage has gone up that offers information about Chapin's life and musical history as well as an abundance of music clips from his wide range of releases. I highly suggest you take a moment and check it out.

Rounding out the ensemble is current trumpet bright star Dave Douglas (Masada and several highly regarded solo efforts ) and the legendary Pheroan Ak-Laff (Henry Threadgill, Wadada Leo Smith and many others) on drums.

Sometimes the popular ranking doesn't come close to holding the special energy an album offers. This album is such an example. Plus, it offers a glance into the playing of Thomas Chapin and what a tragedy it was that we lost such a talent so young.


Richard Crandell: Mbira Magic

Bob Burnett: Today’s journey takes us into music rooted in the culture of Zimbabwe—via New York City’s Tzadik label by a musician who resides in Oregon. Mbira Magic is a release by Richard Crandell where he takes a modified mbira and uses it to create intricate and beautiful sound weavings. I say sound weavings because the arpeggios and currents of sound overlap, blend and evolve in patterns that sound to me like a beautiful weaving looks. The mbira, also known as a kalimba or thumb piano, is the classic instrument of Zimbabwe. According to a great article I found (with information on a few always interesting Nonesuch Explorer Series releases featuring mbira) a mbira is made up of roughly 20 to 24 flattened metal prongs, which are fastened at one end to a wooden resonator body and is best known for its chiming, cyclical sound.

Richard Crandell is also known as a guitarist who has a technique reminiscent of fingerstyle guitar players such as John Fahey and Leo Kottke . To my ears, a deep understanding of fingerstyle guitar playing adds volumes to the scope of these mbira compositions. For Mbira Magic, he created a series of multitracks that rely on themes that feature constantly repeated phrases. There isn’t a classic beginning-middle-end progression happening within the song structures; hence this work relates somewhat to contemporary minimalism. Percussionist Cyro Baptista, who has played with everyone from Paul Simon to Derek Bailey joins Crandell to create a duet on three cuts. Baptista adds a wide swath of color to the compositions “Steelhead,” and “Bells,” and plays hand percussion on “The Island”.

There are subtle, flowing qualities within these recordings that make for a very mesmerizing listen. I found myself slowly drifting in and out of focus on the music and letting it wash into a much larger blending of sound. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m easy prey for slowly changing arpeggios in music such as Lamonte Young’s Well Tuned Piano. Mbira Magic taps into that same realm of music. Peaceful, meditative and deep.

Bob: A quick add-on. A reader suggested I check out out Konono No. 1 Congotronics. Boy, am I glad I did. Man---is it HOT! It has electrified-distortion tinged mbiras, percussion, unbelievable grooves and mesmerizing carnival-like energy. Fela, Manu Dibango, Tony Allen and Mardi Gras second lines all come to mind. They play their own hand-built 'Congotronic' sound system, featuring giant mbira thumb pianos and carved wooden microphones built from scratch with old car alternator magnets.


Andrew Hill: June 30, 1931--April 20, 2007

Andrew Hill
June 30, 1931--April 20, 2007

Funeral Services will be held at Trinity Church, Wall Street on Broadway, New York City, Friday, April 27, 2007 at 2:00 PM.

Howard Mandel says more.

Husky Rescue: Ghost Is Not Real

Kim Kirkpatrick: Husky Rescue is a way cool band from Helsinki, Finland. I love to fall into such pop bands with no clue what they will sound like, and then being tickled by how good they are. Gives me hope for music, keeps me (thinking I am) young, entertains me, etc. In this case their Country Falls (2004) release appeared in CDR form in my life and quickly slid into multiple play in my car. My two girls dug it, their friends dug it, I was happily scooting along to it, and all was right with my commuter world. And now I have another, new full length CD by Husky Rescue, Ghost is Not Real (2007) on Catskills Records. Yip yip, yippee!

Country Falls was big on toe tapping, silly, bubbly, cinematic to the max, and generally fragile, delicate in nature. Songs with titles like, “Sweet Little Kitten”, “Summertime Cowboy” (Human League meets a Robert Fripp solo), and “Sleep Tight Tiger”. Reminds me as being kind of a blend of Lori and The Chameleons (anyone remember them?), Flash and The Pan (or them?), early eighties electro pop bands in general, mixed with early Ninja Tune releases. Whoa, can I get away with that description? Ghost Is Not Real continues the cinematic relationship, literally every song brings to mind video or movie concepts you would want to see. This new release is quite dark, full of atmosphere again, but not necessarily a safe or happy place. It is rocking by comparison, with a tougher attitude overall, and a bigger, wider sound. At times they build songs up with keyboards, guitar and drums to a point approaching early King Crimson, Pink Floyd, or Air. Then they’ll drop a Blondie style bopper on you, have they no limits? I think not.

OK, enough musical cross referencing to try and pull you into Husky Rescue. This band explores so many musical sounds, some soft, others rough, and it is all done with such smoothness that everything just sounds right.

The vocals by Reeta-Leena Korhola shift from shy little girl to ethereal, to a bluesy chanteuse seemingly effortlessly. Much of the atmosphere is created by Miika Colliander’s tonal palette on guitars, including (on both releases) a lot of pedal steel or slide work. Another principal construct for their songs is the various keyboards played by Ville Riippa.

Drop in the solid contributions from the bass player and drummer and
you have Husky Rescue’s lush, thick sound consistently carrying you through clouds, past danger, revealing their (and our) 21st Century world.

(They also have numerous remix CD EPs out which I am in the process of locating and listening to.)

Bob Burnett: After reading your review I downloaded Country Falls on emusic.com and have been really enjoying it. Glad you reviewed this--one of those never to be found on your own type bands that immediately becomes part of heavy, addictive rotation. Would be curious if any friends out there checking in from Finland can offer other suggestions of music in their part of the world.


Bob Burnett: I touched on Antonio Carlos Jobim once before when writing about his duet album with Frank Sinatra as my favorite Sinatra album. Well, here's a little more Tom Jobim-related music for c60. I've recently discovered another album that deserves notice not just because of its loving and gorgeous take on Jobim's music, but because of the unique circumstances in which it was recorded.

Vocalist Paula and cellist Jaques Morelenbaum (husband and wife co-founders of Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum) and filmscore composer and keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto had worked together for more than ten years. After Sakamoto and Jaques Morelenbaum wrapped-up a tour in support of Sakamoto's release BTTB, vocalist Paula joined them in the lobby of London's Great Eastern Hotel in July 2000 and the trio gravitated towards an impromptu jam session of Antonio Carlos Jobim's music. This got the ball rolling for the three to begin earnest discussions about making a collective dream come true; an album of Jobim covers--but not just done anyplace. The three pursued recording the music in the late composer's Rio de Janeiro home, where his own piano could become part of the recording.

"Casa", the Portuguese word for "house", is the result and it is a wonderful audio documentary; beautifully executed and recorded. I discovered this album when a friend sent me a link on youtube to a rather rough, homemade looking video of the song "O Grande Amor". I was immediately struck by the simple and haunting rendition of the song and proceeded to spend the better part of my Christmas vacation humming the addictive melody line and saying to myself "I'm really going to have to buy that album when I get home". I was also further taken to discover via the video that the album was recorded in Jobim's wonderful Rio home.

I recognized the home because of a photograph I had once seen of Jobim, at the piano bench with a flute, while with his young son wanders in the background. I always appreciated the simple and open feel of that home; it looks like Jobim's music sounds--contemporary yet comfortable, simple, elegant and filled with joy.

Just like the Jobim home, "Casa" is a contemplative joy to experience. The renditions of the songs--some familiar and some rarities--benefit greatly from the elegant timbre the piano, cello and rich vocals bring to the music. I never would have thought of Sakamoto as such an amazing interpreter of songs like these given his Oscar and Grammy award-winning work in film soundtracks and rather complex "Neo-Geo" electronic-based compositions. The Morelenbaum's follow suit; Jaques' cello is a perfect lead instrument for Jobim's compositions and Paula brings the same subtle qualities Astrid Gilberto brought to the original Jobim bossa nova releases back in the late '50s. Joining the three in occasional support are percussionist Marcos Suzano, guitarist Luiz Brasil, vocalist Ed Motta, and bassist Zeca Assumpçao as well as Jobim's son Paulo on guitar.


Son Volt: The Search

Kim Kirkpatrick: Son Volt is a band I have skirted around for years, not for any particular reason, just never got around to digging in. The band is an ongoing group exploration for Jay Farrar, who I am quite familiar with through his Uncle Tupelo* days going back to the late eighties. When Uncle Tupelo split up two new groups formed, Jay Farrar with Son Volt and Jeff Tweedy with Wilco. Jay Farrar has released several solo recordings as well as five Son Volt releases.
Like Uncle Tupelo, to some extent, and earlier Son Volt releases, The Search (2007) continues to reflect on Neil Young, and The Byrd’s country rock period. But the first “sounds like” impression I had was R.E.M. The song structures, dynamics, and Michael Stipe’s vocals and lyrics, except you can easily understand these lyrics. The songs have an interesting combination of very tight structure and a looseness of playing akin to Neil Young and Crazy Horse. The Search has lots of fine guitar work, including some nice backwards loops and soloing worthy of Neil’s “head in the clouds” playing. This is especially evident on the track called "Circadian Rhythms". In general the songs are catchy, and immediately enjoyable. For me this raises the question, how long will it hold up for me, and will I grow tired of it?

This initial concern is fading a bit as I get further into the textures of the songs, the use of horns, strings, piano, organ, electric bouzouki, and the diversity of guitar tones and styles. The live recording (to analog tape) is also a plus; I really like the sound and mix of this release. It has great clarity and dynamics (both within the songs and overall). The addition of Derry deBorja on various keyboards is a big part of the expansion in Son Volt’s sound. I also appreciate Dave Bryson’s understated drumming style. Finally, you know I love the guitar playing, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this review. The guitarist, Brad Rice plays various electric guitars as well as baritone guitar, electric sitar, and makes frequent use of an e-bow.
“Slow Hearse”, the first track on The Search is an interesting, slow overture, one that sets the mood for the thirteen songs that follow. It is primarily staccato piano and Farrar singing: “Feel like driving around in a slow hearse”. The next cut, “The Picture”, erupts with horns bouncing, upbeat and is in contrast to Farrar’s cutting social observation. This CD is country, bluesy, rocking, an overall Americana commentary on our lives, right now. Not one song on The Search is about love lost, love found, love sucks, none of that!
One could make a case for plenty of soul searching on Farrar’s part but it is all focused on the greater, universal mess we are in. The more you listen to this CD the more it will mean to you, and the more you will appreciate the contributions made by the band members. Check it out, and be on the lookout for Son Volt on tour, I suspect they are best seen live.

Uncle Tupelo is worthy of your attention, a band I really like, and an essential part of my very small country, acoustic, alternative rock, blah blah, etc., section. They have a fine anthology out called 89/93: An Anthology.


Jimmy Giuffre: Western Suite

Bob Burnett: A few weeks ago I wrote about the Bill Evans Trio, a group of admirable innovation and mind-reading interplay. After writing about the Bill Evans trio I recalled another trio group of that era that made a great album. The group is the second iteration of the Jimmy Giuffre 3, made up of Jimmy Giuffre on clarinet, baritone and tenor sax, Bob Brookmeyer on trombone, and Jim Hall on guitar. One doesn't think of a line-up of this particular instrumentation too often (John Zorn, George Lewis and Bill Frisell's "News For Lulu" trio comes to mind), but they were masters together. There was a quiet perfection within this group. Their interplay was subtle, engaging and witty.

Jimmy Giuffre was an unsung hero of the soft, spacious side of jazz—sometimes limited by the description called West coast "cool" jazz. He made some of my favorite trio music—in this unique group as well as the completely different one that was to follow that featured Paul Bley on piano and a 19-year-old kid named Steve Swallow on bass. Regardless of the line-up his groups were contagiously rhythmic, yet never contained drums. On this album Bob Brookmeyer cleverly twists and turns in support and in lead; Jim Hall takes the traditional hollow body electric guitar sound someplace entirely different; and Giuffre himself leads with great creative clarity.

Western Suite contains three compositions—an original, the title track broken into four movements, and two cover songs, the instantly recognizable "Topsy" and Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk." Giuffre, Brookmeyer and Hall played together for the year preceding this album and became incredibly tight. When the trio played the Newport Jazz festival in July of 1958, Giuffre called it "probably our best public performance—and I wanted to get what we had achieved on record at least once before the trio disbanded." So the results came in December 1958 when this album was captured live in front of an invited audience.

You may wonder why such a talented group would disband. Jimmy Giuffre decided it was just too difficult to sustain a unit that thrived on such subtle interplay in the raucous and generally indifferent audiences of nightclubs, at the time essential to their existence. So, instead of suffering through the anticipated agony of loud conversations, guffaws, and inconsistent club acoustics, they collectively realized they had reached a high point and called it quits at the peak of their skills. "In what we were doing," stated Giuffre in the Nat Hentoff-penned liner notes, "there wasn't a rhythm section sound to cover anything up and it was essential for each player to be constantly aware of the requirements of his own sound that would blend with the group and keep it moving."

The group may have been short-lived. However, this recording is now recognized as a classic. In fact it was one of the 50 albums that Atlantic Records' founder Ahmet Ertegun chose to be re-issued as part of Atlantic's 50th anniversary in 1998.

Sadly, Jimmy Giuffre now suffers from Parkinson's disease and is out of the public view. However, he left an incredible body of work for us to tap into for years to come.

Special note to T.O.P. readers—the cover photograph was taken by Ansel Adams.

For the Amazon link for this CD, click on the picture.

Mike Johnston: Note also that the Giuffre/Bley/Swallow trio's The Life of a Trio: Saturday and The Life of a Trio: Sunday have recently been uploaded to emusic. Very enjoyable. Having never heard Western Suite or anything by Giuffre's Brookmeyer/Hall trombone trio, I'm curious to compare them. I can only imagine how different they are just based on the very different instrumentation.


Wilco: Kicking Television: Live in Chicago

Bob Burnett: Okay, I'll start this one with a personal gripe. I hate "yippy yahooey" audience participation.

I know this album was recorded as a homecoming of sorts for Chicago-based Wilco when they played over several nights in the Windy City. It's a shame that such a tight, well performed effort had to include so much audience participation; there is whistling, woo-hoos, shouts, and parrot-like yelping responses whenever something happens that makes this disposable dixie-cup drinking audience feel like they have permission to yammer along. It's not as if singer-guitarist-frontman Jeff Tweedy is egging this sort of thing on—in fact I think he's incredibly diplomatic in dealing with the situation.

With that said, and if you can hear your way past the distractions, then check this album out. Wilco happens to be practically my favorite rock band going; tight, creative, adventurous, exploring, and engaging, to pin some descriptions on them. I've already written favorably about two Wilco-member solo projects (Glenn Kotche and Nels Cline), and I figured in anticipation of a new Wilco studio album soon to be released, I'd better write about this one before it gets lost in the shuffle.

As I mentioned before in the C60 Kotche review, the inclusion of Kotche, Cline and other members multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and pianist Mikael Jorgenson to the core of Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt has lifted Wilco to a new level. This album spans songs from the band's 10+ year career and makes older songs (for example "Via Chicago") sound very current. I know it's sacrilege to praise the newer iteration of the band which to some diehards seemingly infers a loss of sight of the inspired alt-country roots the band started with—but I'll risk a conflict and take their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and beyond body of work any day—in fact this album features a lot of material from their last two albums (YHF and A Ghost is Born). Both of those albums have moments of layered complexity and on this album the band is able to tap into the beauty of the originally recorded versions and play them live in a way that expands their scope.

I have to think the key to this intense live sound is Nels Cline, whose riveting guitar flames and flurries all over the place. Just listen to "Hell is Chrome" and tap into his rocket launch guitar solo for an example of what he means to Wilco. And of course....as soon as the song ends someone shouts "Kansas City!!!" To which Tweedy replies,"Thanks for coming from Kansas City...now be quiet!" And the band plays on...with "Handshake Drugs" to a shrill whistle greeting just so certain special people in the audience can let the band know they know the song, or some other "lookit me!" motivation. By the way, after Nels takes the rocketship solo on "Hell is Chrome" he goes pure stratosphere on "Handshake Drugs."

Although the crowd sounds make this album challenging, it is ultimately a rewarding experience thanks to Wilco's patient and skilled professionalism.

CLICK HERE to buy this CD if you're in the U.S.

CLICK HERE to buy this CD if you're in the U.K.