Saturday, 31 December 2011

Best of list ... for me.

It's fun to see all the best of lists appearing. I sent mine off to the Free Jazz Blog today which as usual Stef asks us to do and which is fun, you have to think through what albums you've reviewed and enjoyed most this past year. Of course it doesn't represent reality at all as you can only say what you've listened to and naturally that isn't the best of anything. However, what's great is that you get to look at lists of albums and take note of those that look interesting. I'll certainly be trying to get hold of quite a few interesting things I've noticed on other peoples lists and you'll notice below a short list of 'I should get hold of this one' which might be just as enlightening.

What I heard and liked (a lot) in 2011.

- The Engines - Brass and Wire
- Peter Evans Quintet - Ghosts
- Twelves - The Adding Machine
- Red Trio + John Butcher
- Nate Wooley - Trumpet/Amplifier
- Peter Evans - Beyond Civilized and Primitive
- Russ Lossing Trio - Oracle
- Noel Taylor & Alberto Popolla - We All Fall Down
- Motif - Facienda
- Jeff Davis - We Sleep Outside
- Peter Evans and Nate Wooley - High Society 
- Fond of Tigers - Continent and Western (didn't arrive at my place until 2011)
- Pikapika Teart - Moonberry (an excellent prog-rock band from Siberia)
- Mark Hanslip and Javier Carmona - Dosados
- Examples of Twelves - Things Will Be
- Ochion Jewell - First Suite For Quartet
- Sam Trapchak's Put Together Funny - Lollipopocalypse 

What I noticed on lists that looked real interesting (take note to get hold of).

- Foton Quartet - Zomo Hall
- Hera - Where My Complete Beloved Is.
- Chris Dingman - Walking Dreams
- Jason Adasiewicz - Sun Rooms
- Scoolptures - White Sickness
- Hopscotch - Hopscotch

There's certainly plenty of stuff out there that I didn't mention or just missed off the list. It's interesting to see how commercial the year has been on other fronts and I must say that much music that I've heard this year is leaning towards the pop vein. The development of the prog-rock, post-rock market is sounding more and more like U2's Joshua Tree album but without vocals and so gone are te days of real melodic (or experimental) exploration as King Crimson or Soft Machine and C°. One look at the BBC's round up of the year shows how depressing things have become when taking into account the X-Factor craze, convincing people that they have some sort of talent rather than understanding they are pale imitations of stars they admire.

Much of the market is geared towards these stars and lists such as Free Jazz Blog (for the full list click here) show there is still a strong following of real exploratory music. Unfortunately I don't know of any blogs (please tell me in the comments section) who are more dedicated towards electro acoustic music and reactions towards this area of the music world. I myself get the chance to see in Brussels the electro acoustic music festivals run by Musique et Recherche and so in recent festivals I've had the chance to discover many interesting composers working in this area. My favourite discoveries - in 2011 - were Suk-Jun Kim, Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay and Monty Adkins, all of whom worked in different areas, musically speaking. Suk-Jun Kim has won many awards for his compositions some of which I heard at the festival, and his work is full of humour whilst fairly abstract. Interestingly enough PA Tremblay and Monty Adkins (both based in the UK) seemed to work in a way that was far more 'musical', so making their work extremely accessible to the average listener- if they ever get a chance to listen.

Anyhow, I will be interested to see what happens in 2012, crisis and all, as often music produced in politically difficult climates can often bring great results. I'll also be keeping an ear open on the Polish Jazz front as this seems to be an area where music is fast developing, but where the general public is still ill informed. Happy listening in 2012.

Friday, 23 December 2011

New news from the OPen Source

As usual it's always great to post an update on work, and in this case one of my favourite projects OPen Source. We had a few concerts throughout this last year (2011) which were very successful. Unfortunately with music such as this finding concerts is not so easy .... bad luck really as the music is such fun to play and actually far more challenging than playing a jazz standard (and believe me i do a lot of that).
 We've been talking about putting together a recording for some time now, but as always there's always not enough time or whatever. The other problem we have is not having a permanent drummer. Our first drummer Antonio Pisano had to head back to Sardinia for a change of lifestyle which he hadn't foreseen. I liked his playing very much as he often approached the music from a very interesting 'rhythmic' area. He also had the possibility to play percussively, or with swing, in fact an all round great drummer. Since then we have been working with the great Joao Lobo who also happens to live in Belgium and so happens to work often with our bass player Hugo Antunez. However, after a long pause we started working again and recorded a new session. Here it is (or at least the first part) with drummer Jakob Warmenbols doing a great job on the drums.

Here's '1st Part' which if I remember correctly is about 17 minutes.

  1st part - December session

I'm waiting for Augusto (Pirodda) our pianist to send me the final parts - not sure how many there are - so I hope to post these up before the end of the year. If you have 17 minutes to spare sit down and enjoy the OPen Source session from early December 2011. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Peter Evans - Beyond Civilized and Primitive

It seems the solo trumpet is coming back into it's own. In the past year I've reviewed two new releases (and this is the third) containing solo trumpet music. Granted one was a trumpet duo, and both records had the same musicians on them. The first record (an LP) this year was from Nate Wooley, a great rethink of the trumpet as a sound source. The second was the duo from Nate Wooley and Peter Evans called High Society, an equally interesting take on how two trumpets can make a coherent (and interesting) trumpet record, yet never fall back on the trumpet as we imagine it. And so here we are again with a solo trumpet record, this time from Peter Evans. In a way these three albums could almost make a 'triptych' when considering the two trumpeters (*) three albums between them.

Anyhow, what about the record :

The LP (the product) -
Normally you wouldn't discuss album covers in a review but in this case it seems an important part of the 'whole', a beautifully produced LP from Dancing Wayang records. In this day and age where in general we get cheaply produced CDs with nothing in/on them, it's a pleasure to buy records that are filled with first-class music, but are also works of art in themselves. The LP is beautifully packaged, if only simply, with (see above) a wonderful screen printed cover which folds out. There's a lovely inlay card which  has the details of the music on it, printed on high quality card (like a wedding invitation) with close attention given to layout, fonts, and all the rest. To add to that the first 100 LPs (**) get a free mini CD with various out-takes or more likely extra material.

The LP (the music) -
On the earlier - solo/duo - records mentioned, the emphasis seems to have been on the trumpet but not as a trumpet. On this release the trumpet is recognisable as 'itself'. However, you don't get any Dizzy Gillespie licks or Lee Konitz solo type improvisations, the music is probably very much influenced by the works European sax improvisers such as John Butcher or Evan Parker, I'm sure one could site such trumpet masters Leo Smith and Bakida Carroll as people who have also worked in the solo area producing very interesting and influential works like this one. One thing that connects us to the Euro sax tradition is Evans use of the circular breathing technique in a way that enables him to produces hypnotic lines - such as Evan Parker - that can continue ad infinitum. Of course, that's not the whole record, Peter Evans has produced a well balanced program of 6 pieces (three per side) using a multitude of techniques and ideas. The titles are all taken from Ran Prieur's 'Beyond Civilized and Primitive' and read like titles from a Charles Mingus album. In what way Evans (and the music) connect with Prieur's ideology is unknown but the titles conjure up images questioning what we perceive as conventional.

The first track 'complexity, change, stability, giving, freedom, and both the past and the future' is (in fact) a very simple and peaceful statement which develops into longer lines. Evans use of re-shaped sound makes one think of a trumpet played backwards, a technique he's used on other records (albums). On 'History is Broken' (Tk 2) the trumpet may be used as we expect but Peter Evans use of circular breathing makes this piece into a hypnotic soundscape that is punctuated by the sound of air being drawn in as the phrase/line grows blurred as it becomes frantic. Once the (long) line  -  a sort of contemporary flight of the bumble bee - is started (there are no breaks) one wonders how it will end, an abrupt pause only ends up heightening the tension as draws to it's conclusion. 'What is possible?' the last piece on side one returns to a relaxed and meditative state, using over dubbing to produce a large organ like chord drone bringing us back to the first idea (Tk 1) of melody and re-shaped sound.  Side two brings new elements to the table and works mostly with re-shaping the sound of the trumpet. The long titled : 'We like hot baths and sailing ships ......... we get eaten by roving gangs.' (there are 59 words all in all) being an experiment in multi tracking and re-shaped sound whilst the second track develops what is considered as trumpet playing by using anything but notes. The last piece of this excellent release 'our nature is not a location' reminds us of the peaceful simplicity of a solo trumpet, yet as anyone who knows Evans playing will know purity, projection and extremes are never far as we a caught out at the closing notes.         

The Mini-CD (if you bought one of the first 100 records) -
4 tracks make up this mini CD. Although it may be unintentional, it seems the mini-CD has a more abstract direction. The music on here takes (to my mind) a different direction to the accompanying LP, and in a way it's a perfect compliment, giving us a different style of music which is constantly probing and fascinating. 

Photo triptych of Peter Evans taken and created by C. Neil Scott.

Anyone who is curious to see how the trumpet and contemporary improvisation is developing will be more than satisfied by this release. I will certainly be following other releases on this label to see what other goodies they bring out next.
* = Is that 'trumpeters' or 'trumpetists'?
** = Limited edition of 500 ..... buy now or regret, it seems they sell out of most of their pressings!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

24 hours - Mingus on Mingus

Last 24 hours!! "Mingus on Mingus" can be real because of you.
Thanks to all the support we are receiving. We still need to make the last sprint.
Help us by pledging to the project and spreading the word to everyone around you.
Let's get on the Big Screen!

This is the link:

All my best,
Valeria Rios

Thursday, 15 December 2011

3 days to go - Mingus on Mingus

Here's the latest mail from Kevin Mingus. As you can see they nearly have the money to make the Mingus documentary to become a reality. Spread the word, who knows maybe you know someone who can help? 

I know Valeria has been the one to be in touch with you all while her
and I worked side by side this month. I wanted to let you know how
moved I am by your openness to support this project.  I could not
think of a more fitting context under which to present Mingus on
Mingus than that of the dedication, love and drive you have for this

Your posts have connected us to a community which is now in support of
the project.

We have 3 DAYS LEFT and I graciously ask you for one last push. We
need you to reach out once more to let folks know we are in THE FINAL
PUSH! Please let your readers know how far we have come, what we have
accomplished together and the bit we need to go.

Thank you very much

Kevin Ellington Mingus


You can also go directly to the Kick Starter site here.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Sam Trapchak - Lollipopocalypse

As always some things just drop out of the air as a big surprise, and here Sam Trapchak's Put Together Funny - Lollipopocalypse CD is one of those. As I mentioned in an earlier blog posting it's always nice to get new music sent on to you by musicians that enjoy your music articles. Along with Free Jazz Blog (which I also write for), the amount of new musicians and styles that I get to hear is quite astounding, free jazz, grunge jazz, books and all sorts. Of course the time taken to listen to and write about these little treats can sometimes take up much of your spare hours, and of course sometimes the music is not always so interesting .... but I must say that so far I've been lucky on that count.

The album in question ..... Lollipopocalypse is one hell of an album, introducing me to new players and also to a new writing talent (and naturally strong compositions). In fact it was this aspect that jumped out at me when I started to listen to the album. Something that often takes a while to 'get into', or get used to, was quite immediate on this record. Sam's tunes are instantly attractive but also have a complexity that makes the music very interesting. One can't help but notice Dave Holland's  influence (or style) over the tunes, different rhythmic figures and time signatures combined with contrapuntal melodies, and also the groups sound concept. However, the playing of the musicians is certainly not a pale imitation at all but a very mature sounding band with their own voices.

 Long Live/Less Say (tk3)

The guitar work of Tom Chang and the outstanding Greg Ward (on alto sax) make the album a real pleasure to listen to with strong solos throughout. I particularly enjoyed Greg Ward's sound which conjures up the history of the saxophone, on 'Losing You' (tk5) he plays with a maturity that brings to mind Johnny Hodges' vibrato, slurring, and sound concept in general, however, on the other tunes Ward's sound (and concept) is very modern. The tunes 'Long Live/Less Say' (tk3) or the opening 'Different Dance' (tk1) have lurching odd meter melodies and grooves which provide exciting rhythmic territory for Greg Ward to really shine on. Tom Chang's guitar playing on these tracks provides an image of a completely mature player. 'On the Cusp of Cancer' (tk2) is probably the only 'rocking' tune on the album and here Chang opts for an out and out raunchy style which suits the music very well. Other treats are 'Tongue and Groove' (tk4) a simple melody filled with rhythmic surprises, the lovely ballad (already mentioned) 'Losing You' (tk5) , the surprise ending of the title tune 'Lollipopocalypse' (tk7), or 'Precious Few'  (tk6) a brooding tune with  one of the few bass solos nicely featured. In fact the quite presence of the leader Sam Trapchak sometimes makes you forget whose date this is until Sam finally takes a solo! The rhythm section of bass and drums with drummer Arthur Vint keeps this music swinging and relaxed on (often odd meter) tunes that are never showy, just tasteful.  

Sam Trapchak fits nicely into the 'CDs that drop out of nowhere' category, as new CDs (or LPs) mean new names to discover. On Sam's CD the only name that seemed familiar was that of Greg Ward (alto sax), the other musicians Sam (on acoustic bass), Tom Chang (guitar) and Arthur Vint (drums) didn't ring any bells - adding to the albums discovery value! Greg Ward, already a name on the jazz streets in the US, certainly helps this record to be a successful project. His cutting alto sax with a sound that moves between Johnny Hodges and Steve Coleman is quite infectious. Having said that the other musicians on this album all come through with the goods needed for this music and a very high quality at that. Certainly an album that I would recommend to anyone interested in mainstream modern jazz who likes their jazz music served up with melody, swing and a modern edge that makes the music contemporary.


Footnote : To save any confusion ...... the group is called (if I understand correctly) 'Sam Trapchak's Put Together Funny'. The album's title is 'Lollipopocalypse'. I didn't get any details of the record label but the disc is available via Sam's website or through CD Baby.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

More from Mingus on Mingus.

The documentary team have received many inquiries concerning relationship between Mingus on Mingus and Sue Mingus:
- Is Sue affiliated to the Mingus on Mingus project?
- Why is Sue not supporting the project?
- Why there is no information on the project on the Official Charles Mingus Website and Facebook page?
- Why is Sue not listed as an interviewee?
To that end Kevin Ellington Mingus have written the following Open Letter (see below).

We have 10 days left and we've got some support from you, please, we need to push harder and as you'll notice from the letter we are working quite independently. Now more than ever we need to spread the word to make this project real.
Open Letter


I have never had access to or financial benefit from the Estate of Charles Mingus. Throughout the years, I have made many attempts to forge a connection. All have been rejected.

The love and joy with which Charles has been presented to the world was central in my understanding of him. However, his image and memory have been closely guarded and controlled. One voice cannot define the legacy of a man who touched millions.

Feeling resistance to reach into this side of my heritage led me to discover a better way of understanding my grandfather and my own lineage. This belief is realized in this documentary, collecting different perspectives that all together shape a more complex and genuine figure of Charles Mingus as a man and as an artist.

While the lack of support from the Mingus Estate is disheartening, the warmth and encouragement I receive from Charles’ children and the jazz community is what makes this journey so special. Their faces, voices and all the intangible power of what they share are the greater part of the fabric I am weaving into my story. The story of jazz, Charles and me.

Kevin Ellington Mingus
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