Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up, Actionspeak

482 Music, 482-1071
Danton Boller-bass
Mary Halvorson-guitar
Brian Settles-tenor saxophone
Jonathan Finlayson-trumpet
Tomas Fujiwara-drums

Actionspeak is like a forward-thinking ‘60s Blue Note release with a twist. The Blue Note influence is accounted for by Fujiwara’s admiration for the compositions of Wayne Shorter, and that “cinematic” quality is evident here. The twist is provided by Mary Halvorson’s guitar, which is given ample room to wind in and around the structures of the songs. She plays it straight occasionally, but her unique sensibilities give Actionspeak a left-of-center edge. Like many contemporary jazz recordings, it’s difficult at times to tell where the composition leaves off and the improvising begins. Settles is the new name here, at least for me, and his hoarse upper register and terse statements remind me of Frank Lowe.
This release has really grown on me with repeated listens, and successfully navigates between inside and outside sensibilities.

My Top 10 for 2010

Here are my Top 10 recordings for 2010, in order:

Ashcan Rantings – Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra (Clean Feed)

 Paradoxical Frog – Davis/Laubrock/Sorey (Clean Feed)

 Day in Pictures – Matt Bauder (Clean Feed)

 Royal Toast – The Claudia Quintet (Cuneiform)

 Summer Works 2009 – Riviere Composers’ Pool (Emanem)

 Three – Gauci/Davis/Bisio (Clean Feed)

 Actionspeak – Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up (482 Music)

 Ground Rush – Julian Arguelles Trio (Clean Feed)

 Live in Lisbon – Peter Evans Quartet (Clean Feed)

 The Rub And Spare Change – Michael Formanek (ECM)

 And my Honorable Mentions, in no particular order:

 Searching for Adam – Rodrigo Amado (Not Two)

 Transmit – Ideal Bread (Cuneiform)

 Desert Ship – Satoko Fujii ma-do (Not Two)

 The Horse Jumps & The Ship is Gone – The Vandermark 5 Special Edition (Not Two)

 Saturn Sings – Mary Halvorson Quintet (Firehouse 12)

 All is Gladness in the Kingdom – Fight The Big Bull (Clean Feed)

 Dual Identity – Mahanthappa & Lehman (Clean Feed)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Claudia Quintet, Royal Toast

Cuneiform 307
John Hollenbeck – drums/percussion
Ted Reichman – Accordion
Chris Speed – Clarinet/Tenor Saxophone
Matt Moran – Vibraphone
Drew Gress – Acoustic Bass
 Guest: Gary Versace - piano
Every once in a while, a recording really grabs your attention and is a powerful reminder of why we love this music. And even though Jazz is the “sound of surprise”, let’s face it: We’ve all listened to a lot of records over the years that were well crafted and well played, but didn’t offer anything new.
Right now I’m listening to Royal Toast by The Claudia Quintet, a group led by John Hollenbeck, and it’s energizing my morning. Hollenbeck composed all the pieces excepting some brief overdubbed solos from various group members, and he gets an amazing amount of textures from such a small group. The compositions themselves don’t follow a theme-solos-theme format, but seem to cycle with variations of instrumentation and rhythm. Gary Versace is a guest on the CD, but he’s so well integrated it’s hard to imagine how the groups sounds without him.
I also recently received Hollenbeck’s large ensemble recording, Eternal Interlude, and I can’t wait to spin it based on what I’ve heard on Royal Toast.