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Showing posts from 2013

Top Ten for 2013

1. Matthew Shipp, Piano Sutras, Thirsty Ear 2. Wadada Leo Smith & Tumo, Occupy The World, TUM Records 3. Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd, Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dream Project, Pi Recordings 4. Nicole Mitchell’s Ice Crystal, Aquarius, Delmark 5. Wheelhouse (Dave Rempis, Jason Adasiewicz, Nate McBride), Boss of the Plains, Aerophonic 6. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Brooklyn Babylon, New Amsterdam Records 7. The Convergence Quartet (Taylor Ho Bynum, Alexander Hawkins, Dominic Lash, Harris Eisenstadt), Slow and Steady, No Business Records 8. Adam Lane Trio (Adam Lane, Darius Jones, Vijay Anderson), Absolute Horizon, No Business Records 9. Charles Lloyd & Jason Moran, Hagar’s Song, ECM 10. Lubomyr Melnyk, Three Solo Pieces, Unseen Worlds
Top Re-Issues Joe McPhee, Nation Time, Box Set w/ previously unreleased material, Corbett vs.Dempsey

Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd: Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dream Project, Pi Recordings, 2013

The third collaboration between composer/pianist, Vijay Iyer, and poet/electronics artist, Mike Ladd, Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dream Project, intensifies its subject matter so much so that the music and words seize the heart and haunt the mind with stark and irrevocable truths. 
Originally commissioned and premiered at the Harlem Stage in New York, this provocative work took four years to produce. Two veterans, USMC writer, Maurice Decaul, and USAF service woman, Lynn Hill, contributed directly to the performance of the piece speaking their own words.  Decaul and Hill also linked Ladd and Patricia McGregor (Director of the Harlem Stage) to other veterans of multiple ethnic backgrounds, who had been in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be interviewed on the basis of their post-war experiences, specifically with a focus on their dreams and memories, which evolved into expressions of anguish, solitude, fear and hope. Iyer has said that this musical work allowed “the space” for veterans to be…

Matthew Shipp: Piano Sutras, Thirsty Ear, 2013

What if Matthew Shipp’s Piano Sutras were to appear in record stores and in the catalogs of online distributors out of the blue. And we were to say: Who is this pianist, Matthew Shipp?
Perhaps then, his music could be seen as itself, without history, as a beginning of contemporary jazz and improvised music.  For in this recording, Shipp establishes a new set of formulas, which embody just a mere wisp of meaning behind the Eastern religious word, sutra.
To lift one’s listening into a consciousness not involving what one already knows is difficult, perhaps. But it isn’t, if the piano music travels on a journey that is peaceful, far from arrogant, certain, strong and pure.
That Shipp simply plays straightforwardly, without any flourishes or superficial performance drama, becomes the vehicle for perceiving his language. The way he combines and integrates the notes into instinctively measured phrasing, takes them through shifting repetitions and non-perfunctory rhythm structures present…

Dave Rempis' Wheelhouse: Boss of the Plains, Aerophonic Records, 2013

One of two of the initial releases on Chicago saxophone player Dave Rempis’ own Aerophonic Records, “Boss of the Plains” features Rempis’ trio Wheelhouse. Also including vibist Jason Adasiewicz and bassist Nate McBride, this small group creates a sound to clutch and be with and recognize as exquisitely melodic.
Each song title carries the word “song,” perhaps unusually for improvised music. The songs are sung through Rempis’ reed mostly on his alto, once on bari-sax. They touch a wide spectrum of expression from loving to melancholic, from curious to agitated. Rempis’ playing is pure and bold rather than aggressive; tender and close to him rather than outside, raucous or seemingly uncontrolled. His phrasing demonstrates his sensitivity to rhythm and the invention of language. His playing is unique and reaffirms that growth in the music can occur without holding tightly to predecessors. Rempis is free.
Absolutely the best of contemporary vibists, Adasiewicz intervenes singularly or c…

Ten Freedom Summers: A Folio of Photographs: New York City: May 1, 2, 3, 2013

This folio of photographs was taken over a three day period, May 1, 2 and 3, 2013, when Wadada Leo Smith premiered, on the East Coast at Roulette in Brooklyn, New York, his epic composition Ten Freedom Summers, to which he added one part, "The March on Washington, D.C.: August, 1963." 
The groups Wadada led are his Golden Quartet and Pacifica Red Coral and also, for a special appearance, The Flux Quartet. The Golden Quartet is John Lindberg on bass; Anthony Davis at the piano; and Pheeroan Aklaff on the drums. Pacifica Red Coral  is  Shalini Vijayan and Mona Tian on violin; Andrew MacIntosh on viola; Ashley Walters on cello; and Alison Bjorkedal at the harp; Jesse Gilbert creates the video art accompanying the performance. The Flux Quartet joined these groups on the third night for the premiere of "The March." The Flux Quartet is Tom Chiu and Conrad Harris on violins; Max Mendel on viola; and Felix Fan on cello.
The photographs, where the lighting is whiter than y…

Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers and Me, 2013

A poem by Langston Hughes

As I Grew Older
It was a long time ago.  I have almost forgotten my dream. But it was there then,  In front of me, Bright like a sun- My dream.  And then the wall rose, Rose slowly,  Slowly, Between me and my dream.  Rose until it touched the sky- The wall. Shadow. I am black. I lie down in the shadow. No longer the light of my dream before me, Above me. Only the thick wall. Only the shadow.  My hands! My dark hands! Break through the wall! Find my dream! Help me to shatter this darkness, To smash this night, To break this shadow Into a thousand lights of sun, Into a thousand whirling dreams Of sun!


The followingis a verbal collage of how I have absorbed Ten Freedom Summers by Wadada Leo Smith. Reviewing this composition, having heard both the Roulette performance in May 2013 in New York and the Los Angeles premiere in October of 2011 and a sampling of the entire six hour piece in between is a moot point at this point for me. So much has already been written since it was premiered. I do …