Dan Rose - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://www.jazzreview.com Mon, 22 May 2017 12:21:41 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Closure by Mark O'leary http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/closure-by-mark-o-leary.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/closure-by-mark-o-leary.html I have a friend, who as much as he loves jazz, refuses to listen to trios. When pressed, all he can do is mumble about how boring they are. Now, my friend’s judgment is …

I have a friend, who as much as he loves jazz, refuses to listen to trios. When pressed, all he can do is mumble about how boring they are. Now, my friend’s judgment is more often than not suspect (he’s an avid collector of Tiny Tim memorabilia), but his discrimination got me thinking. There’s a risk in a trio setting that the more common quartet most often avoids. The key is space. These spaces can be bane or boon. In less successful combos, the listener can be left adrift, anticipating a release that never comes. It’s as if the three parts never mix, never jell into anything greater than those same parts. Worse, in a combo sans bass like O’Leary’s current disc, there’s no bottom end to fill the holes. One can be left with notion that the three are playing separate rooms, that three musicians are speaking through their instruments to a space that cannot be breached. Luckily O’Leary and company avoid any such tragedies. Here’s a disc of beautiful interplay, moment after moment in which space is used with expert ease, throwing into relief the ideas and interplay of the participants.

Mark O’Leary is new to me. I confess no small ignorance of most things, with jazz guitar somewhere on that voluminous list. I mean, I know the big guys in my dark little corner of jazz. I’m constantly wowed by Joe Morris and James Blood Ulmer, who puts me in orbit. I get real misty-eyed thinking about Sonny Sharrock. Heck, Jim Hall makes me feel no small thing. I confess to having received the disc Closure, along with O’Leary’s other Leo release, Levitation. The double dose does much to cure the new.

The disc Closure gives an interesting slice of O’Leary. Joined by Uri Caine on keyboards and Ben Perowsky on percussion, this is a raucous affair. There’s a steel spring tension that pervades the date. O’Leary’s tone seems a bit rough; the sounds seem to come in shards with a less than dull edge. Even the quiet moments come with angles. Caine feeds this. I picture his hands a stabbing dance on the keys. The two often lock together, building a feeding tension. If my ears work right, O’Leary seems a bit bluesy throughout, a little gut driven, with Caine darkening the blue. Perowsky favors a forceful presence. At times, he races ahead of both the other players. This isn't to say that moments of quiet and contemplative drift can’t be found. Though brimming with energy (maybe some anger?), when things slow you can hear the connections. All but two of the compositions come from O’Leary’s head. If Levitation floated on space and quiet, then Closure brings O’Leary to an earth made with grit and no mean ferocity.

My dark corner just got a bit bigger and, dare I say, a bit lighter. O’Leary and company deliver with passion and artistry, reaching across the space between them and the listener through soul felt sonics. Now, if I can just get my Tiny Tim minded friend to listen....
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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Dan Rose) Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews Mon, 22 Aug 2005 19:00:00 -0500
Levitation by Mark O'leary http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/levitation-by-mark-o-leary.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/levitation-by-mark-o-leary.html Seems that for every jazz guitarist there are a hundred horn players. Reasons for such rarity are vague and varied. Maybe it’s the inherent distance between the body and…

Seems that for every jazz guitarist there are a hundred horn players. Reasons for such rarity are vague and varied. Maybe it’s the inherent distance between the body and the guitar, as if fingers plucking strings are less real than breath through brass. Maybe electricity deadens the spirit, keeps the soul in latex so no real fluids get mixed. Heck, maybe it’s just the sheer force of the personality behind the horn, the luck of the draw that Coltrane chose lips over fingertips. This isn’t to say that jazz doesn’t have its guitar heroes. From Django, Jim Hall to Sonny Sharrock, there’s been a guitar in every Jazz faction. Mark O’Leary makes his case in that tradition on this recording.

On Levitation (recorded as early as the end of 2000), the trio is Tomasz Stanko on trumpet, Billy Hart on drums and the aforementioned O’Leary on electric guitar. What first strikes these ears is the depth and level of communication between the three. There’s a sense of pregnant quiet, an often languid dialogue among friends. O’Leary seems to favor a more pure tone on most of these cuts. There’s a clarity and concentration that reminds a bit of Bill Frisell’s every note counts philosophy. Yet, where Frisell favors limpid ease, O’Leary is propulsive and urgent, even in the slower tunes. There’s a feeling he has so much to say, the pressure from all that in his head just rushes through his fingers. In this respect, he has a hint of Joe Morris about him. Unlike Morris, he moves toward melody and away from pure abstraction.

Stanko consistently swings. There’s an earthiness, tempered with sly intelligence and wit, in his playing. It brings a smile and taps the foot. Hart moves from foreground to back, adding color or texture or pushing the O’Leary and Stanko into new heights. The tunes are half written by O’Leary alone and the other half as a group. O’Leary pens starting points and guiding structure, some sticking in the head well after the disc has played through. Overall, these are musical moments filled with quiet, rhythmic tension, sonic scenes that swing on a serpentine groove.

Here for your listening pleasure and critical appraisal is a fine disc chocked full of O’Leary. From focused quietude to energetic overflow, the man moves the guitar forward. To these ears, there’s spirit and swing despite the electricity. The man can sing with his fingers. Whatever the force of his personality, he has much to say and I look forward to hearing more.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Dan Rose) Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews Mon, 22 Aug 2005 13:00:00 -0500
Modern Madness or Tribal Truth? by M.O.T. http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/progressive-cd-reviews/modern-madness-or-tribal-truth-by-m.o.t.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/progressive-cd-reviews/modern-madness-or-tribal-truth-by-m.o.t.html There’s certainly room for quirk and humor in Jazz. Those who push the envelope, experiment, and color outside the standard rhythm section and horns formula have a history,…
There’s certainly room for quirk and humor in Jazz. Those who push the envelope, experiment, and color outside the standard rhythm section and horns formula have a history, albeit one that gets less the kudos than the standard standards. Humor and a skewed individual expressiveness are an even rarer factor. One successful proponent of all just mentioned might be Don Byron. You at least hear him a lot on National Public Radio. Monk had a sense of humor. I don’t hear him all that much on NPR, though. The disc playing on the old Harmon Kardon as I type, one platter by the collective M.O.T., strives for quirk, humor, groove and intelligence. It’s titled Modern Madness or Tribal Truth. Now, taken seriously, that could be heavy (pretentious, too) and, therefore, would have nothing to do with what you’ve read so far. Reading the title and glancing at the black silhouette of the diminutive defecating cow in the left top of the cover, it’s got to be taken with a dash of humor.

The band itself is made of Steven Kamperman (clarinets), Jasper LeClercq (violin), Albert Van Veenendaal (piano, keyboards and samples), Patrick Votrian (tuba), Michael Baird (drums and small percussion) and Ousmane Seye (sabar, djembe and guongoma). Kamperman does all the composing, with two exceptions going to Veenendaal. Just looking at the instrumental line up, you can guess this ain’t your regular jazz outfit. Heck, the tuba’s interesting enough, but what the heck is a sabar? Isn’t that extinct?

The music inside is just as off the path normally beaten. There’s a bouncy percussive quality throughout. Even the slow songs move up and down with the feel of a kid off the Ritalin. The use of tuba as the bottom end reinforces the bounce. The clarinet as lead horn adds an angular, skittering feel also. Violins have a natural angle, so the overall equation moves in a horizontal way. The compositions themselves, by and large, eschew regular jazz trappings. They tend to unfold with one or more instrument until the full palette’s in play, the players bouncing off each other in swirling interplay or just scattering in more directions than you can name . The overall effect is a humorous one. Close the eyes and cartoon ephemera do anthropomorphic acts just below your eyelids. Late Coltrane scraping God from the ceiling, this ain’t. At one point, I swear I thought I heard cats wrestling.

I suspect those fans of the aforementioned Byron, Henry Threadgill (that guy likes tuba!), or maybe some of the projects Han Bennik sticks his sticks into, will find an interest or two. Those looking for something to whistle to while martini sipping should look elsewhere. I take that back. Those are just the sort of people who need a little humor to loosen the old collar.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Dan Rose) Progressive - CD Reviews Fri, 08 Apr 2005 01:00:00 -0500
Flow by Terence Blanchard http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/flow-by-terence-blanchard.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/flow-by-terence-blanchard.html Flow by Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard has composed a soundtrack or three and it shows. Each tune on his new album Flow on the Jazz workhorse label Blue Note could be its own little movie. Clos…

Terence Blanchard has composed a soundtrack or three and it shows. Each tune on his new album Flow on the Jazz workhorse label Blue Note could be its own little movie. Close your eyes on the opening track while Blanchard’s horn and backing slink project a head picture of those mean streets of Noir. The next two tracks, with their African tinged vocalizings, put you in a different film entirely. Maybe endless, dry animal dotted plain instead of grey cityscape? Scenes shift and places are traveled. Bits of drama and cinema find their way throughout the disc. Picture some cool, smoky bar where some bad thing might go down, then find your way to some Paris street where lovers coo.

The album is a fairly seamless exploration of various Jazz tinged styles. It’s seamless in the sense that the players work in telepathy to create a scene. Such is the level of artistry, that, with each change in direction or movement through Jazz history between or even within each song, these cinematic u-turns are barely noticed. The risk in a free roving or eclectic disk is that nothing sticks, since the listener is left with half formed scraps or asides. Blanchard avoids these pitfalls with his obvious respect and knowledge of Jazz history and a keen compositional sense. He reveals the right balance of intuition and artistry in his use of sounds and sidemen.

Tradition past and future breathe in Blanchard’s solos. That’s the brightest gem in this collection. Assurance and poise ring through Blanchard’s measured, fluid tones. There is no sense of aping the past in what he does. It is expression, with respect to both ends of the temporal scale that pulls Blanchard to the stars.

If you weary of Jazz neo-con backward glances and necrophilia, you’ll feel free and home when Blanchard puts the horn to his lips. There’s thrill and chill to be had in this disc’s finer points. Close the eyes and let sound shape the movie sure to fill your head.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Dan Rose) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Sun, 06 Mar 2005 06:00:00 -0600
Big Monkey Swing by Night Skeebo http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/big-monkey-swing-by-night-skeebo.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/big-monkey-swing-by-night-skeebo.html Free Jazz and drum /horn duos go back a long ways. Those galactic jaunts Elvin Jones and John Coltrane went on in the Jazz past are the stuff of no small legend. Coltran…

Free Jazz and drum /horn duos go back a long ways. Those galactic jaunts Elvin Jones and John Coltrane went on in the Jazz past are the stuff of no small legend. Coltrane also took you, the lucky listener, on a whole album of interstellar journeys with drum kit shredder Rashid Ali. Most recently, John Zorn and Milfred Graves stirred up a tasty sonic stew for those lucky to be at Zorn’s fiftieth birthday bash. Those of us not lucky heard the recording of the gig. Now, the duo of Marcus Henderson (saxophone and fife) and Skeebo Night (great moniker!) don’t hit the same highs of the aforementioned (don’t fault them, since there’s only one Mozart, one Ornette, etc.). However, They create a shaggy dog disc that’ll bring a smile to the most jaded of Free Jazz aficionados.

The sounds the two make stay less in space and more on the air between earth and sky. Skeebo (I love typing that) keeps things fairly grounded with his rumbling drumming. There’s a lilting pulse, a bit like a more than tipsy marching band rolled into a single drum kit. Things roll and bounce but never break. The ferocity is directed in that pulse. It goes contained. Where as Graves (remember Zorn and his fifties) can sound like there’s something he wants to kill, Skeebo seems to want you to dance, if only in a fractured way. Over this rolling pulse, Henderson weaves an Ornettey blend of melodic squiggles and jagged melodies. In Henderson’s playing there’s almost an old New Orleans feel, a bit of Dixieland. Together, the two seem like best pals jamming away in some garage. Both seem to be having a blast and it’s contagious.

All in all, a real nice listen contagious fun and affirming camaraderie, if no molds broken or new inner space planets discovered. On a side note, these guys hail from Macon, Georgia.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Dan Rose) Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews Fri, 30 Jul 2004 19:09:40 -0500
The Songwriters Notebook by Denhert KJ and Falcon Adam http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/folk-jazz-cd-reviews/the-songwriters-notebook-by-denhert-kj-and-falcon-adam.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/folk-jazz-cd-reviews/the-songwriters-notebook-by-denhert-kj-and-falcon-adam.html The audience that KJ Denhert and Adam Falcon had in mind when they wonder twinned it for their album The Songwriter’s Notebook, did not have me in it. Se…

The audience that KJ Denhert and Adam Falcon had in mind when they wonder twinned it for their album The Songwriter’s Notebook, did not have me in it.

Seems the two were "destined to meet" (it says so in the liner notes, so’s it’s got to be true) with the flavors of folk and jazz mixing into a nice, sweet confection. For those looking for a sweet tooth to feed, these guys deliver the candy. There may be more folk in the mix than jazz, though Denhert’s vocals are supposed to be the jazz flavoring. It’s more the pop jazz end of things, as she favors a smooth style with occasional inflected grit. Falcon provides the singer/songwriter element. Again it’s more Gordon Lightfoot than Bobby Dylan, marking a more pop path. Together, it combines the light flavors of both, mostly without effort. There’s a heartfelt earnestness here, a real attempt to connect. I imagine this combo would go down sweet at the local coffee shop, taking the 9 to 5 grind out of the minds of the folk gathered about slowly sucking their cappuccinos.

If you like smooth, easy on the ears sounds, this is your gig. To those who enjoy it, particularly those in the Starbuck’s army, the jazzy vocals and folk strumming will be a panacea of sorts. There’s an experience to be had here of soothe balm and sleeves with untattered emotions. Those of us wanting a scorched earth existential kick need look elsewhere.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Dan Rose) Folk Jazz - CD Reviews Fri, 30 Jul 2004 15:09:40 -0500
Passion by rrrrrrRobin http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/world-music-cd-reviews/passion-by-rrrrrrrobin.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/world-music-cd-reviews/passion-by-rrrrrrrobin.html The album is entitled Passion and the composer/violinist goes by the moniker rrrrrrRobin. What’s with all the extra R’s, you ask? Dunno. Maybe it’s a valiant attempt by the…
The album is entitled Passion and the composer/violinist goes by the moniker rrrrrrRobin. What’s with all the extra R’s, you ask? Dunno. Maybe it’s a valiant attempt by the violinist/composer to overcome a shame stained life of stuttering by boldly embracing his pain? Maybe he’s related to Tony the Tiger? One thing is for sure. There were lots of palates taking a tongue bashing in that studio.

Seems rrrrrrRobin had a mighty bad accident before he laid down the tracks on this gig. Apparently, he was told his violin days were history. He proved’em wrong and made this disc. Since he’s pictured shoeless with tousled long hair on the back cover, I’d gather he’s living slightly large.

The music inside is a mixture of pop classical and synthesizer funk. Our rrrrrrRobin plays violin while chunks of light classical bounce of a chugging synth or two. There’s a guest or three, with an addition or two of differing musical voices giving the proceedings no slight variance. Heck, Bill Laswell is on the thing. Through it all, rrrrrRobin does his string thing. This is Passion on a lighter scale. Edges seemed sanded and grooves are stressed.

The music rrrrrrRobin makes will appeal to those who like their classical much sweetened by pop and white funk. Not much in the way of Jazz here. Our man is more Kenny G than Billy Bang. No sin in that, methinks. There’s a major attempt at broad appeal. Broad appeal wins the day. This is music for the winsome masses, something to move coffee patrons to more latte’. Maybe Mr. rrrrrrRobin will break down one day and make that skronk fest with a few Ayler acolytes he’s surely itching to do. Until then, those of us who prefer our angles sharp, our tunes atonal and our musicians miffed, will need to look some place other than Passion. Put it in the machine and take off your shoes.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Dan Rose) World Music - CD Reviews Mon, 26 Jul 2004 23:09:29 -0500
The Vessel by Broadway Project http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/world-music-cd-reviews/the-vessel-by-broadway-project.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/world-music-cd-reviews/the-vessel-by-broadway-project.html Daniel Berridge and selected musical pals, under the moniker Broadway Project, are the source for the album cryptically titled The Vessel. At first glance, the packaging ar…
Daniel Berridge and selected musical pals, under the moniker Broadway Project, are the source for the album cryptically titled The Vessel. At first glance, the packaging art has a little of that 60’s hippie feel, though it’s more of a Lord of the Rings mysterious than a daisies in the hair vibe.

I’m picturing Daniel Berridge in grammar school. He’s sitting in the back of the class scribbling a picture of Frodo on his history book and imagining the music he’ll make when he gets facial hair or at least the long curly hair I expect he’s grown at this point. That music he had in mind has got to be lots like the Enya meets Gollum while cavorting with vampires sounds he conjures in his latest outing as Broadway Project. Aptly titled The Vessel, Berridge and buddies work up a Goth tinged Eastern mood piece that would have set young Danny Berridge a twitter.

The album has a strong non-Western tinge, all dark exotic. Tribal drums and black hued rock make up the bulk of the sounds. A touch of Dub (maybe more than a touch, this guy never met an echo he did not like) and a few Pink Floydish flourishes round things out. Berridge’s vocals remind this humble listener a bit of a mellower Axel Rose, an Axel a bit depressed and minus those annoying vocal tics. Lyrically, there’s much melancholy to be had. Berridge does not shop at Hallmark, I’ll wager.

Though there’s rumored to be Jazz in the mix, these ears did not hear it. This is an album that would fit snuggly in any 60’s survivors record collection, betwixt Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Though not completely conventional, it ain’t Avant Garde either. The point seems to be establishing a mood, possibly a cinematic one, not improvisation or necessarily musical exploration.

In sum, this is an album more geared toward the rock end of the audience. Some may find it’s exoticism a bit forced, a little shopworn too. I suspect the more jaded listener will accuse Mr. Berridge and company of owning too many Bill Laswell albums. To heck with them. I suspect Berridge achieved the sort of music he set out to make. They made an album the young Berridge in all of us was waiting to hear.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Dan Rose) World Music - CD Reviews Tue, 09 Dec 2003 12:00:00 -0600