Sunday, 7 December 2014

Olie Brice Quintet: Immune to Clockwork (Multikulti, 2014)

This is a recording that I've been waiting for since sometime. Hints on Olie's site about the existence of the group, and the probable recording, have been appearing for some time, therefore, to finally see (and hear) the fruits of this group is very exiting. Along with Olie Brice (bass and compositions), there's UK musicians Mark Hanslip, tenor sax; Alex Bonney, trumpet; Jeff Williams on drums, and an interesting addition is that of Polish clarinettist, Waclaw Zimpel on alto clarinet. Fusing a combination of rhythmic and rubato melody lines, the music that Olie Brice writes reminds me, at times, of Ornette Coleman's 1970s Broken Shadows period. The idea of chord-less quintet playing a mixture of free oriented musical styles, makes for interesting listening, and something which suits this approach to making an improvised music which is neither totally free, nor written, but another form of modern jazz which takes its inspiration from all genres.  

Brice's compositions, although strongly routed around free improvisations, also have melodies and chord progressions, which are used as a backbone for the group to develop their own free-er ideas. This helps make the album easily accessible and yet in no way compromises the soloist's own playing. The musicians manage to sustain the high level of group work throughout the album, working around the themes to produce some fine music. Each piece has its own atmosphere, often presenting a melodic motif which the group then dissects as it chooses.

Mark Hanslip's sinewy tenor sound snakes over the compositions, moving happily between dense melodic lines or textured multi-phonics to create some great music. The underrated Waclaw Zimpel, for all that don't know him, is one of the new breed of clarinettists working on the excellent Polish improvised music scene. His playing is always exciting, rooted in melody, yet always looking for new ideas and ways of expression. Check out his playing on the Hera records (on Multikulti), in collaboration with other's, or his own quartet. The other front-line player, Alex Bonney, also deserves a quick word. His playing is definitely understated, yet always perfect for each situation he plays in (he's also a laptop wizard, engineer and producer). Here he uses melody in a way that reminds me of players such as Bobby Bradford.   

As for the music on the album, there are several highlights to be found pasted throughout, here are some which spring to mind:

On the opening piece (The Hands, tk1), Mark's tenor roams around finding lines that work with the original melody which he also manages to incorporate within his solo, something we rarely hear nowadays in jazz.

Crumbling Shyly (tk4) and Tell Me Again (tk7) both hark back to 60s style rubato melodies that lurch forward before opening up to allow the horns to weave lines over the turbulent rhythm section. Tell Me Again, which closes the album, has a particularly poignant melody which the soloists seem to capture perfectly.

What Might Have Been (tk5) a fine ballad feature for tenor sax where Mark Hanslip shows how he is a master of free form and melody. 

The Old Yedidia (tk2), starts with a melancholic theme before giving way to a lilting 6/8 section for the solosits. Alex Bonney's trumpet leads off, playing some lovely phrases which keep within the boundary of compositions original idea. Waclaw Zimpel follows a different path, taking a more open approach to the music. His improvisations although rich in melodic ideas, react differently to the themes. His playing, which reminds me a little of John Carter, goes more for a mixture of sonic textures, sometimes gentle and at other times his searing lines push the rhythm section to follow him.

On Immune to Clockwork (tk3) the ensemble works tightly together, improvising as a group before letting Olie Brice and Jeff Williams take over, leading us to the end of the piece with a mixture of rhythm and melody.

This leads me to the fine work of Olie Brice and Jeff Williams throughout the record. They both work with the front-line in a way that compliments and supports both the front-line and the music throughout, a perfect team in such a situation. It's a pleasure to hear these fine musicians working together, it would be great to see the group live as music such as this benefits from being heard played in front of an audience. However, the music that the quintet makes is strong, manages to remain innovative and truly accessible, what more can one ask!


Try this track "Crumbling Shyly" (track #4):

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Antunes, Wooley and Corsano: Malus (No Business, 2014)

Unfortunately due to a very busy timetable this one has been sitting on my computer for the past few months, however, as they say, better late than never! Malus released by the excellent NoBusiness Records is the first record from the trio of Chris Corsano, Hugo Antunes and Nate Wooley. The trio have been working together for the past few years, and, from the sound of this record, hopefully they'll become a permanent working unit. The music made by the group is something special, using a variety of techniques to create a captivating collection of pieces ranging from dynamic rubato melodic improvisations to more abstract musical outings.

The album's strength is probably its varied approaches to the trio format, which the group explores from all angles. Although the trios sound is the main back-bone of the record, there are two pieces which are built from duo improvisations, and a third piece which showcases the group in an unusual format as an amplifier trio! But the music as a whole is beautifully paced throughout, often leaving plenty of space, both sound wise and musically, giving us a chance to discover details in each of the pieces. The crystal clear sound also helps making the record a joy to listen to, especially as on this recording you are able to hear each instruments individual timbres, due to the excellent work of sound man/wizard Michel Huon (who deserves a credit). 

As for the pieces on the record.... Gentlemen Of Four Outs (tk1), is an energy powered improvisation showing how the trio can combine melody and rhythm in a completely fluid way. 4 Cornered (tk2) continues in the same direction, introducing more abstract ideas and techniques, many of which are developed throughout the record. On this track, by creating space, the trio gives us a chance to really hear the developing process of building an improvisation. This continues on Sawbuck (tk3), the first of the duo pieces - bass and drums. Antunes and Corsano's use of bows at the beginning probably inspired the title (?), but the duo gradually works into a more rounded sound.

The intriguing Seven Miles From The Moon builds from a single bass note, developing gradually into an delightful palette of sound colours. At the start of this piece Nate Wooley uses his trumpet as a percussion instrument, digging into his bag of sound effects to combine with the bass and drums. The trio's work on this piece shows exactly how well they manage to combine ideas without overcrowding each other playing.  

Sandbagged (tk5) continues the duo idea, this time for bass and trumpet. Both players rely on the staccato possibilities of their individual instruments, developing a conversational idea sounding not unlike two birds in a tree. Sewn (tk6) shows the group working with amplifiers, a technique which Wooley has been developing as a musical colour for the past few years. Here, the whole group delves into this sonic landscape to conjure up a distorted wall of sound, bluring the individual edges of each instrument, in a way that makes the music become an impressionist painting.

The last track Gentlemen of Three Inns (tk7) brings us back to the world of pure acoustic sound. Hugo Antunes's crystal clear bass lines opens the track before being joined by Nate Wooley and Chris Corsano. This is again a piece that uses melody as its central idea, Wooley using his muted trumpet in a way that gives the trios sound an intimate feel, not unlike Jimmy Giuffre's late trio sound - with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow.    

This is one of those records that deserves being heard by as many people as possible, and especially those who think of 'free-jazz' as something unlistenable. Its also a fine example of three musicians listening to each other, making music that is truly the sum of three individuals who combine together to produce a music which although probably not ground breaking, remains fresh, inventive and very listenable.

Highly recommended! 

Musicians: Nate Wooley - trumpet, amplifier; Hugo Antunes - double bass; amplifier and Chris Corsano - drums, amplifier (track 6).

* I'd normally put a little excerpt for (or video) to give an idea of the music. However, if you pop over to the NoBusiness site you'll be able to hear some samples of the music on the record company's website.  
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