:::Ask the Ages:::

Posted: Friday, 27 March 2009 by jazzlover in Etykiety: , , ,

Although Charlie Christian introduced the electric guitar to jazz in 1939, everyone playing the instrument in jazz kept his sound and ideas embodied in their playing until the late '60s. During this period the instrument became a vital part of the emerging fusion scene. Some of the electric guitar's most memorable work has come from a handful of rock guitarists who embraced jazz, like Frank Zappa on Hot Rats or Jeff Beck on Blow by Blow. But overall, some of the instrument's finest modern sounds flowed from the fingertips of jazzier players like John McLaughlin. Though each of these artists has had an absolute and immeasurable influence on jazz, the one man who really reinvented the jazz guitar from inside is a player who is barely known outside - or inside - of jazz circles: Sonny Sharrock.
Sharrock (1940-1994) is an interesting piece of the jazz puzzle. He was the first and for the longest time the only guitarist working in the area of free jazz. Though his day job in the late '60s was playing in Herbie Mann's band, his work with Pharoah Sanders, notably on Tauhid, found him really cutting loose, showing a certain genius for creating sound sheets of blistering noise with bop-styled runs. At this point in his life, Sharrock used feedback to duplicate the rips from the brass men he played with, before Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townsend would make it fashionable in the mainstream. His early records as a leader are solid, but he really came together in the '80s when, surprisingly enough the players who were influenced by him began to be noticed in the downtown New York scene. The unaccompanied Guitar (1986) and Seize the Rainbow (1987) were shocking in their unabashed genius, but his last record, Ask the Ages, is unquestionably the greatest achievement of his entire career.
Teaming back up with Sanders, Sharrock does not waste a single note on this record. He summons both his forward sonic attack and a beautifully melodic side with equal ease. Sonny also leads this band with his best compositions ever laid to wax. Working within a variety of time signatures and dropping in riffs that work against the grain of the melody, he maintains a high interest level. Certainly the recording represents a change from what even the most intricate jazz players of the time were doing. He takes nods from Coltrane's modal work and provides a solid and eclectic base.
From the opening run in "Promises Kept," Sharrock builds a fusion-esque groove with drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Charnett Moffett, allowing Sanders to churn out some his strongest playing since the '70s. With the tracks "Little rock" and "As We Used to Sing," the record can almost be seen as a single composition broken into six parts in much the same way as Miles Davis' early-'70s work. These two tracks are the centerpiece and are taken from the same single jam. This makes the whole of the record just as interesting as the individuality of each track. Though they are each unique compositions, after playing the disc through a few times it seems evident that there is a central concept being executed.
One of the highlights on this record is the return of Pharoah Sanders to some of his finest playing in years. Whatever the reason for the renewed enthusiasm, it shows itself throughout. Not only is his playing hot, but there is a true spiritual vibe to his choice of notes and riffs, recalling his classic Impulse work. Sanders' freedom to work outside the perimeter while building up bulk mass fits perfect into the individuality of each tune. The reunion of these two free greats seems to have reenergized their sound, making this recording feel that much more special, especially since it was the last one before Sharrock's death.
The other huge input on this record comes from the man behind the scenes of Sharrock's rise in popularity from the mid-'80s onward: Bill Laswell. Laswell's work on multi-tracking helps to add depth and groove the CD. Laswell is one of the most eclectic voices in music. From the underground noise blasts of his work with Sharrock in Last Exit to his remixes of early rap and dub, he has turned his hand to any number of genres and build a solid vibe. His playing and producing plays as much a role of the final output as Teo Macero's work did with Bitches Brew.
Though Ask the Ages may not be the easiest for jazz guitar fans to get into at first, it is extremely rewarding. Throughout the record Sharrock utilizes a variety of sounds and pushes the limits of his playing. The band certainly picks on the vibe and rips the guts the free jazz's ideas and sound while simultaneously pulling right toward Sharrock's jazz roots.
Spending time in the Sharrock world will certainly help newer jazz fans to understand where players like Bill Frisell, Derek Bailey, and Fred Frith are coming from. Sharrock is without a doubt the brightest beacon of early avant-garde jazz guitar. Running across his records is a schematic that NY downtown guitarists are still using. Certainly the experimental forays of records by Frisell and Frith carry on ideology that Sharrock brought using the guitar as the weapon of means. While most players were spending their woodshedding time learning Wes Montgomery licks, Sonny Sharrock was opening up the jazz guitar to a new world of endless possibility.
:::Review by Trevor MacLaren:::

Sonny Sharrock - Ask the Ages (1991)

1. Promises Kept 9:44
2. Who Does She Hope to Be? 4:41
3. Little Rock 6:35
4. As We Used to Sing 7:32
5. Many Mansions 9:31
6. Once Upon a Time 6:30

Sonny Sharrock - Guitar;
Pharoah Sanders - Sax;
Elvin Jones - Drums;
Charnett Moffett - Bass

:::Sky Dive:::

Posted: Wednesday, 18 March 2009 by jazzlover in Etykiety: , , , , , ,

Freddie Hubbard's fourth CTI recording (and the second one with Don Sebesky arrangements) certainly has a diverse repertoire. In addition to his originals "Povo" and "Sky Dive" (both of which are superior jam tunes), the trumpeter stretches out on the theme from The Godfather and Bix Beiderbecke's "In a Mist." The charts for the brass and woodwinds are colorful; there is a fine supporting cast that includes guitarist George Benson, Keith Jarrett on keyboards, and flutist Hubert Laws; and Hubbard takes several outstanding trumpet solos.
:::Review by Scott Yanow:::

Freddie Hubbard - Sky Dive (1972)

1. Povo (12:33)
2. In A Mist (7:04)
3. The Godfather (7:21)
4. Sky Dive (7:40)

Arranged By - Don Sebesky
Bass - Ron Carter
Clarinet - George Marge , Romeo Penque
Clarinet [Bass] - Phil Bodner
Conductor - Don Sebesky
Drums - Billy Cobham
Engineer - Rudy Van Gelder
Flugelhorn - Marvin Stamm
Flute - Hubert Laws
Flute [Alto] - Hubert Laws , Romeo Penque
Flute [Bass] - Hubert Laws
Guitar - George Benson
Oboe - Romeo Penque
Percussion - Airto , Ray Barretto
Piano - Keith Jarrett
Piano [Electric] - Keith Jarrett
Producer - Creed Taylor
Trombone - Garnett Brown , Wayne Andre
Trombone [Bass] - Paul Faulise
Trumpet - Alan Rubin , Freddie Hubbard
Tuba - Tony Price


Posted: Friday, 13 March 2009 by jazzlover in Etykiety: , ,

Even though Bill Laswell was already immersed in numerous projects since the end of the '70s, including leading his loose ensemble Material, he didn't release a solo record until 1984, and Baselines was quite a strange album. On the one hand, there's "Upright Man," one of the most infectious grooves Laswell has ever conceived, boasting ace bass playing and a weird taped sermon as sort-of lead vocals. Then there's "Work Song," which is funky and catchy and features Phillip Wilson's somewhat off-beat drumming (pun intended). The other tracks are more experimental, weird, and don't catch on as well -- although they all reward repeated listening, for at first the listener might get lost between Ronald Shannon Jackson's irate drumming, Michael Beinhorn's acid-drenched synths and snippets of tapes and shortwave, the stuttering horns of George Lewis and Ralph Carney, the undescribable contributions of Fred Frith, and the vocalisms and percussion (rhythmic and non-rhythmic) David Moss provides. It's an interesting record, but it's not essential listening, and beginners or fans of Laswell's less avant-garde music won't get much out of this. If the somewhat comparable Memory Serves by Material left you craving more, you might want to give this album a try.
:::Review by Chris Genzel:::

Bill Laswell – Baselines (1984)

1. Activate (3:22)
2. Work Song (7:13)
3. Hindsight (3:57)
4. Uprising (1:05)
5. Barricade (4:06)
6. Upright Man (3:51)
7. Moving Target (1:52)
8. Lowlands (4:22)
9. Conversation (3:05)

Artwork By - Felipe Orrego , Thi-Linh Le
Bass [Music Man Sting Ray, Fender 6-string, Ibanez 8-string, Steinberger, Fender Fretless Precision] - Bill Laswell
Congas - Daniel Ponce (tracks: 2, 3, 6, 8)
Drums - Phillip Wilson (tracks: 2) , Ronald Shannon Jackson (tracks: 1, 4 to 6, 8, 9)
Drums, Percussion - Martin Bisi (tracks: 3, 6, 7)
Guitar, Violin, Performer [Steinberger String Console] - Fred Frith (tracks: 4, 5, 8, 9)
Mastered By - Howie Weinberg
Producer - Material
Recorded By - Martin Bisi
Saxophone - Ralph Carney (tracks: 1, 2, 5)
Synthesizer, Performer [Shortwave], Tape - Michael Beinhorn (tracks: 1, 2, 4 to 6, 8, 9)
Trombone - George Lewis (tracks: 1, 2, 5, 8)
Voice, Percussion [Non Metric], Drums [Steel] - David Moss (tracks: 3, 9)

:::Destroy All Music:::

Posted: Tuesday, 3 March 2009 by jazzlover in Etykiety:

Still as uncompromising as it was at its release almost ten years ago, The Flying Luttenbachers Destroy All Music Revisited is an amalgamation of so many disparate styles of music that it continues to remain virtually unclassifiable. Formed by percussionist and Hal Russell protA©gA© Weasel Walter in 1994, the group went through numerous personnel changes before arriving at the one that would record this, the group's best conceived and must successful effort.
The album features a line-up that pulled from all corners of the experimental Chicago music scene of the 1990s. Joining Walter is saxophonist Chad Organ (who doubles on Moog synthesizer), reedist and free jazz staple Ken Vandermark (who served as Walter's co-leader as a member of the group), trombonist, bassist and Vandermark 5 member Jeb Bishop, and guitarist Dylan Posa. This unique combination of jazz virtuosity and punk rock aestheticism tore apart the walls between No Wave, noise, metal and jazz to create a sound not unlike saxophonist Peter Brotzmann's Last Exit, though The Flying Luttenbachers may be even more relentless and jugular.
The album opens with the grinding "Demonic Velocities/20,000,000 Volts," whose initial single-note saxophone line leads the way into a percussive onslaught of stop-start rhythms, manic genre switches, and all-out chaos. The chaos continues with "Fist Through Glass," which may have even more punk influence. This is an adrenalin releasing mess, complete with thrash guitars, driving drums, and horns that sound more suited to demolition than music.
The original release signaled a regrouping of the ensemble, and consisted of tracks recorded in the studio, live, and in Walter's garage. The noisy freak-out of "(In Progress)" is an improvised piece recorded to 4-track cassette in a shed behind Walter's apartment, while "Tiamat en Arc" is pulled from a live show. The latter features an opening not dissimilar to the deranged lounge that John Zorn's Naked City treads into, but the sudden instrumental break quickly disavows any allegiances this group has to genre.
The original album closed with "Final Variation on a Theme Entitled 'Attack Sequence,'" a piece the group had already released in various manifestations four times. This particular version contains the broken fragments of speed metal, downtown experimental and, of course, jazz, leaving all of them scorched and smoldering on the floor by the end.
The reissue appends seven tracks, six of which are live performances. All of these add further depth to a recording already unmatched in its relentless destruction of musical conformity. Destroy All Music Revisited still fulfills its title's mission statement, and is an important reminder of a group that, despite its under-recognition, is perhaps more relevant than ever.
:::Review by Henry Smith:::

The Flying Luttenbachers - Destroy All Music (1995)

1. Demonic Velocities / 20,000,000 Volts 3:48
2. Fist Through Glass 3:26
3. Sparrow's Thin Lot 1:32
4. Splürge 5:26
5. (In Progress) 3:34
6. Ver aus den 'Turbo Scratcher' 5:38
7. The Necessary Impossibility of Determinism 4:43
8. Dance of the Lonely Hyenas 4:30
9. Tiamat En Arc 3:46
10. Final Variation on a Theme Entitled "Attack Sequence" 2:53

Bass, Trombone, Keyboards [Casio] - Jeb Bishop
Drums - Weasel Walter
Guitar [Electric] - Dylan Posa
Producer - Flying Luttenbachers, The
Saxophone [Tenor], Clarinet [Bass], Clarinet [B Flat] - Ken Vandermark
Saxophone [Tenor], Saxophone [Baritone], Synthesizer [Moog] - Chad Organ