Glenn Astarita

Glenn Astarita

Renowned vibraphonist and improviser Karl Berger often serves as the centralizing entity on this curiously interesting date. A multinational trio, the music is often patterned with sublime textures, ethereal subtleties, and methodical song-forms, occasionally grounded on succinct pulses and steadily moving waves of sound. Here, Berger is the elder statement via his historic alignments with the crème de la crème of modern jazz stylists and cutting-edge improvisers.

Three veritable jazz heavyweights align for a briskly moving and thoroughly modern program, steeped in galvanizing thematic encounters. Trombonist Conrad Herwig, heralded for his hip 'Latinizations' of jazz standards amid a progressive outline, exercises ample doses of pop and sizzle throughout many of these oscillating pieces. And the lack of a bassist engenders a musical climate that offers a loose, open-air foundation for improvisation, sparked by all-universe drummer Jack DeJohnette's sweeping rolls and polyrhythmic timekeeping.

The second recording by drummer Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up follows the heralded Actionspeak (2010, 482 Music), and continues upon a course, teeming with unanticipated shifts in strategy, but not executed in shock-therapy mode. With a superfine support system of revered improvisers, including guitarist Mary Halvorson who seems to be showing up everywhere these days, Fujiwara reaps the benefits of a distinctly fresh musical climate. With off-kilter patterns, cunning geometric architectures and sudden paradigm shifts, the band merges a search and conquer tactical component with an acutely balanced mix of structure and free-form dialogues.

Trumpeter Bruce Friedman lays out the rules of engagement for these improvisations by setting a limit for sonic resources "to just two elements, sustained pitches and silences." And for Motoko Honda's synthesizer work, "the rules are similar, with chords and timbre shifts allowable." It's an interesting conceptual approach, yet rather unwavering throughout the horizontal plane of ideas, encountered within the three duet pieces. With an air of minimalism surrounding the moving parts, Friedman cites Christian Wolff as an influence. Wolf was associated with avant-gardist John Cage and considered a pioneer of the 1960's expressionistic 'New York School.' He also penned the liners for this release.

Business executive for D\\\'Addario & Company (strings) and drummer, the album moniker and band name emanates from Rick Drumm\\\'s survival and ordeal with non-Hodgkin\\\'s lymphoma. And 25% of all proceeds from the album will be donated to the \\\"Strike A Chord\\\" foundation: A largely upbeat album, featuring prominent jazz artists lending their wares, the program circles back to the infancy of jazz-fusion, performed with a contemporary sound and approach sans any overcooked technical gymnastics.

As a drummer, Drumm focuses on leadership, textural slants and acutely placed dynamics. You won\\\'t hear Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra) type polyrhythmic bombs as the band fuses more of a streamlined jazz element into the picture, abetted by highs, lows and groove-centric pieces. They throttle the flows and pitch amid high-impact solos by powerhouse saxophonist Frank Catalano, for example. With the formidable dual guitar attack of Corey Christiansen and Fred Hamilton to complement the three-man horn section, the production offers a multifarious slant on the fusion genre, containing warmth, climactic opuses and in-the-pocket cadences.

Drumm lays down a firm rock pulse during \\\"Indi Funk,\\\" to set the stage for the guitarists\\\' distortion tinged guitar parts and some blustery trombone lines by Mike Brumbaugh, segueing to the hornists\\\' tight-knit unison choruses, shaped with an Indo-funk topping. No doubt, the musicians project a feel-good vibe, yet get down and dirty on the towering guitar-heavy blues piece \\\"Not Whatever.\\\" However, on \\\"Detours,\\\" Axel Tosca Laugart imparts a Miles Davis fusion era electric keyboard sound, generating memories of either Chick Corea or Joe Zawinul\\\'s darting notes, touched with a rough-hewn shade of darkness.

The musicians receive copious soloing opportunities, including the snaky \\\"Pulled Pork Sandwich,\\\" where Memphis style horns and a peppery New Orleans shuffle beat carve a path for Catalano\\\'s popping lines and Pete Grimaldi\\\'s expressive muted –trumpet voicings. It all culminates in an unfettered sense of optimism. And they close it out on a somber note with the drifting ballad \\\"Return.\\\"

Drumm doesn\\\'t reinvent the wheel. More importantly, he intimates a holistic view of the jazz-fusion genre with a solid track mix that sustains interest, partly due to the artists\\\' emphatic soloing spots, alternating rhythmic currents, and divergent compositional approach. Drumm also utilizes the group-centric methodology to the utmost degree, as everyone gets their day in the sun during the buoyantly moving parts.

Business executive for D'Addario & Company (strings) and drummer, Rick Drumm equates the album moniker and band name to his survival and ordeal with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. And 25% of all proceeds from the album will be donated to the "Strike A Chord" foundation: A largely upbeat album, featuring prominent jazz artists lending their wares, the program circles back to the infancy of jazz-fusion, performed with a contemporary sound and approach sans any overcooked technical gymnastics.

Since the 1980s recordings Fulton Street Maul and Sanctified Dreams for mainstream Columbia Records, New York City alto saxophonist Tim Berne has carved an iconic career as a non-conforming pioneer of the 'new' jazz. A prominent exponent of New York City's trailblazing downtown scene, Berne's numerous alliances, high-impact solo outings and legendary Bloodcount band, featuring fellow woodwind ace Chris Speed, paint a picture of innovation. His work with French guitar stylist Marc Ducret and global presence, consisting of alliances with young upstarts, and proven improvising warriors loom as a continuing saga paralleling his incessant creative sparks.

Versatile alto saxophonist Pete Robbins enjoys recording his ensembles within the live format. His sixth album as a leader also represents his third consecutive live recording, influenced by his residence and subsequent visits to Copenhagen. Moreover, his European band aka the Transatlantic Quartet, imparts the open-air architectures often evidenced by the Scandinavian progressive-jazz contingents amid slight inferences to the breadth and lightness of folk music. However, Robbins' previous outings lean more towards the high-octane strata, including knotty funk grooves and tricky time signatures. And he's a superb technician, possessing a fertile imagination.

One of the more exciting and inventive improvising artists, Slovenian guitarist Samo Salamon's stylistic modus operandi, coupled with massive chops has earned him prominence within global, progressive-jazz circles. He seems comfortable with the flexibility of smaller ensembles, highlighted here with the dual bass-less trio formats, performing with like-minded and revered US and European musicians.

The Italian band names itself after a popular plum brandy, to correlate the refined or perhaps slick components that augment its broad repertoire. With its third album, the artists' continue on a path that integrates memorable storylines within a homogeneous old school/new school line of attack, where Eastern and Western folk melodies, radiant prog-rock, and nods to Jean Luc Ponty era fusion come to mind. Sporting a signature sound, featuring horns, violin, and harmonica coalescing with knotty guitar-driven time signatures, the musicians' fashion a mark of authority that has earned them accolades among critics and prog aficionados.

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