CD

Compact Disc

In Case the World Changes Its Mind

16 Aug 2012
Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood
CD
Indirecto

Medeski, Martin and Wood have been at the forefront of being different for many years now. Their association with John Scofield originally resulted in the by now cherished legend that is the Scofield’s album A Go Go (1998). So fans of the curious and deliberately idiosyncratic trio will no doubt welcome this double album, others may wonder why two CDs where required to highlight the style of the quartet, when a single CD plus two and a half tracks would have been more than sufficient.

The double set is based on (in the main) live interpretations of the aforementioned A Go Go, but unfortunately this association  has been stretched beyond their natural ability to attract or intrigue. In the main this is an album that offers the NY guys another opportunity to just do as they feel. The reputation and style which made MMW and John Scofield a success is in evidence, but only just. The inclination to musically naval-gaze is indulged liberally which is sometimes a blessing but occasionally a curse.

The rhythms are as compelling as ever, the prog/jazz/funk combination resonates appealingly a lot of the time but there also moments when you feel that there is a private joke being shared between the musicians. They are clearly enjoying themselves and it would seem that the audience went home happy but away from the sweat and the darkness the message doesn’t necessarily translate. For those that wish to find out what the fuss is, the A Go-Go album offers a clearer path to the abilities of this undoubtedly talented combo.

Having said all that, there are two amazing tracks included on CD2 and these highlight the potential and offer proof of greatness. The opener Little Walter Rides Again and track three Amazing Grace which serves to remind all of us how great John Scofield is. These will offer the uninitiated as well as the hardcore a reason to listen to the band's other albums.

Listen to: Little Walter Rides Again, Amazing Grace

Reuben Klein

 

 

Formats also available: 
vinyl

Rava on the Dance Floor

14 Aug 2012
Enrico Rava
CD
ECM

Italian trumpet player Enrico Rava must have a pretty efficient shielding system for keeping pop music out of his life. The inspiration for this live concert is the music of Michael Jackson, music which Rava only discovered after the singer's passing in 2009. Equally surprising is that he is of the opinion that the star's later works, History and the karmically challenging Invincible, are his best but maybe that's what comes of approaching the body of work today. He is not immune to the classics however, apparently it was the riff in Smooth Criminal that got under his skin in the first place. The emphasis on later works is probably why the source of these pieces does not become obvious until you hear the familiar strains of Thriller, the third number.
Rava is accompanied by the Parco della Musica Jazz Lab from Rome, an ensemble that focuses on young musicians who were presumably not quite so new to the work. They are eleven strong with a brass section, electric guitar and keyboards among their number. The band features Giovanni Guidi the pianist from Rava's Quintet, a rather good bass player in Dario Deidda and arranger Mauro Ottolini who has worked with Carla Bley and Bill Frisell among others
Having not heard the original of They Don't Care About Us the intro seems more Rava than Jackson but a tune develops soon enough albeit one that the trumpeter makes his mark on in pretty distinct terms. As the album title suggests this is as much about fun as it is about musicianship but contains some outstanding playing from Rava  who steps in for the voice on tunes that are arranged so as to reveal new aspects of their form without losing site of the genius that went into their creation. The band has both energy, dynamics and flair. Despite Rava's obvious enthusiam for his subject this will probably be a too intense for the average Jackson fan, but those looking for a great sounding live band injecting a bit of variety into new standards will find plenty to enjoy.

listen to: I Just Can't Stop Loving You, Smooth Criminal

Jason Kennedy

 

Formats also available: 
MP3 download

Live!

29 Jun 2012
Univers Zero
CD
Cuneiform Records
Univers Zero Live!

Univers Zero was a member of the late 1970s movement ‘Rock in Opposition’, a European collective (instigated by Henry Cow and Chris Cutler of the same) of bands committed to musical excellence and operating, by self-perpetuating accident, outside the mainstream record industry. Ten years before, major labels, as a legacy of the classical record tradition of making art available, had seemed more willing to take a chance on various ‘art’ projects; profits from one venture perhaps offsetting small losses from another. By 1980 and the post-punk era, the major record companies had got the idea that they should be the ones shaping public tastes, with a tighter grip on the profits.

 Of course, ‘musical excellence’ is a debatable concept! That Univers Zero exhibits a high standard of musicianship is clear; highly orchestrated, tight and focused ensemble playing. Its roots are in the ‘70s and the feeling that rock should rise from its ‘low’ origins to the status of a serious art form, surpass the efforts of ‘concept album’ pomp and leave behind the purely American influences that had largely dominated rock music to the early ‘70s. The market fuelled perhaps by the teenagers of the 1960s growing to adulthood, solvency, an appetite for progress, and mass availability of ‘real hi-fi’. I suppose one’s taste for this disc or the band in general will be coloured by the reader’s view of the above observations.

This European centred movement for the advancement of rock integrated classical, folk and jazz forms; this kind of deliberate cross fertilisation – as opposed to merely adopting phrases or the style of other genres – was much more open at the time.

Of course, this is not the 1970s, and this is not a reissue from any golden era of nostalgia. The band, despite a break between 1986 and ’99, is still playing, touring and recording. This recording dates is from 2006. It is a fine recording in the European progressive tradition largely overlooked in Britain. If your record shelves or hard drives contain the likes of Magma, Zappa, Colin Towns, Henry Cow etc this album will sit nicely amidst them without sounding like more of the same.

The recording quality is excellent too, great for impressing your mates with your latest hi-fi upgrade.

Andy Craig

 

Le Pas Du Chat Noir

29 Jun 2012
Anouar Brahem
CD
ECM
Anouar Brahem Le Pas Du Chat Noir

It is possible to describe this album as music by Frederic Chopin written for a kanun (a variation on the dulcimer and zither) and played side by side next to Erik Satie’s music for oud. This album merges east and west in a very melodious and poetic fashion. Anyone looking for a contemplative musical background for the end of their busy or boring day could do much worse than to sink into the very gentle and haunting sounds that this trio is playing. An accordion, a piano and an oud, it’s not a combination of instruments that inspires a great deal of excitement, quite the contrary perhaps. But here they are combined to produce tango laced musical vignettes which are intermingled with Parisian accordion and the Arabic half chords of an oud. Highly recommended to those who never thought that they may one day like classical music.

Stand out track: Pique-Nique Á Nagpur.

Reuben Klein

 

The Cinematic Orchestra Presents In Motion #1

22 May 2012
various artists
CD
Motion/Ninja Tune
The Cinematic Orchestra Presents In Motion #1

This welcome return for Jason Swinscoe and his band of imaginative cohorts starts out with a typically stylish TCO backdrop overplayed with live drum-work that's joined by a string quartet. So far so typical of this London based outfit’s fine work. But then things change and it becomes apparent that this is not just the work of Swinscoe and his band but a series of pieces by different artists who have been given a string quartet and asked to write a piece about a given silent film. Films of the same Ilk as Man with the Movie Camera that the Cinematics produced a soundtrack for a few years back, so the titles here will be new to anyone that isn’t a connoisseur of avant garde 20th century silent movies. Some are vintage classics while others are more recent. Luckily most if not all are on a certain online video site and free to watch in tandem with these new soundtracks.

The musicians involved include pianist Austin Peralta, Austrian dance act Dorian Concept and TCO sax player Tom Chant, alongside Swinscoe and Grey Reverand these artists have produced seven pieces for seven visual experiences. Swinscoe has chosen his musicians and his films well, the result is very strong and quite unlike regular fair from this artist, more than one piece for instance is devoid of a drum beat and there is at least one that is within spitting distance of appearing on a classical radio station. There is also a lot here for those familiar with the group’s early work, the diversity of artists brings a refreshing variety but does not undermine the cinematic feel. Thanks to the presence of acoustic instruments it also sounds good, not quite audiophile perhaps but pretty decent given its intended audience. This collaboration takes us into deeper musical waters than anything previously released by Swinscoe and gets closer one suspects to where he is coming from, and that my friends is no bad thing.

Jason Kennedy

 

Formats also available: 
vinyl, WAV & MP3 download

Duo

16 May 2012
Wesseltoft Schwarz
CD
Jazzland
Wesseltoft Schwarz - Duo

Bugge Wesseltoft has been sampling himself and playing along with the sample, then repeating the process, building up layers of sound so that one instrument turns into a band, for some time now. This latest release from Norway’s most progressive musical conceptualist finds him working with Henrik Schwarz who is credited with ‘playing’ the computer. The result of this is that Bugge’s piano is accompanied by what could be mistaken for an electronic percussionist/drummer/bass player etc, except that Henrik uses distortion in highly creative fashion and works with Bugge to build the groove into something multi-faceted and dynamic.

It feels like another chapter in Bugge’s New Conception of Jazz series but a better one than Film ing which was made with his band and a more upbeat one than his last solo album Im. So an encouraging move if you enjoyed albums like NCoJ’s Moving. Three of Duo’s eight tracks are live and reveal just how the presence of an audience seems to bring out Bugge’s most direct and inspiring work, but the studio pieces here are very good too. Schwarz is a German DJ and producer who manages to nudge Wesseltoft toward what he does best: grooves. The highlight of the album is the studio production See You Tomorrow which has echoes of seventies prog and manages to makes piano derived sounds positively synth like, an unusual approach but it works.

According to Bugge “This duo feels totally organic. We are creating music on the spot, both live and in the studio.” Improvisation is the name of the game but while he comes from a jazz background you won’t hear this on jazz radio. It’s closer to dance music but far more interesting. Henrik’s take is: "the improvisational aspect means freedom and at the same time improvisation has been one of the greatest limitations and challenges in live electronic music for many years now.” It’s a challenge that they have risen to with considerable skill and I for one will be making an effort to catch them live.

Jason Kennedy

 

Formats also available: 
vinyl, FLAC download

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