Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tastes Like Chicken

Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet, Frog Leg Logic
Clean Feed

Marty Ehrlich – Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Flute
James Zollar - Trumpet
Hank Roberts - Cello
Michael Sarin – Drums

Marty Ehrlich is one of those unsung heros of modern jazz. He’s been a great player for years, but doesn’t seem to enjoy a consistently high profile. Other alto players, most notably Steve Lehman and Rudresh Mahanthappa, have gotten a lot of press in recent years. Ehrlich made a series of excellent albums for Enja in the nineties and early aughts, but I sometimes yearned for him to break loose a little more; he could be tasteful to a fault.

I’ve lost track of what he’s been up to the past few years, but he’s made a strong statement with Frog Leg Logic. The record is a perfect balance of memorable melodies, all by Ehrlich, with solos that straddle the inside and the outside. Ehrlich being Ehrlich, the blues is never far away in his sound. James Zollar is another under-recognized player who is excellent throughout, and it’s great to hear Hank Roberts' funky cello again. Michael Sarin is another name I don’t see quite as often as I did a few years ago, but he provides the drive and the nuance as needed.

If you’re a fan of mainstream-modern playing, you’ll like this. If you’re a fan of the avant-garde, you’ll like this.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Cecil Taylor Live Recording

The Destination Out boys are making available, through FMP, a previously-unreleased concert by Cecil Taylor. From the site:

"Almeda (To Matie) features a previously unreleased concert by Cecil Taylor’s band from November 3, 1996. His large ensemble work has never been documented enough, so this is an especially welcome addition to his discography. The first three tracks feature different permutations of the group essaying musical variations of the theme. Although Cecil doesn’t play on these tracks, they offer a prime opportunity to focus on his skills as composer and bandleader.

The entire piece pulls together in the 36-minute final track, featuring Taylor at the piano, along with five horn players, Tristan Honsinger on cello, Dominic Duval on double bass, and Jackson Krall on drums. "

My week just got a little brighter...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Fitting Tribute

Clare Fischer Orchestra, Extension
International Phonograph

Clare Fischer - Compositions, Piano, Organ
Various Musicians

This reissue of the 1963 big band date by Fischer, who died in January of this year, has been the topic of considerable conversation on the Organissimo forums. It's been lovingly remastered and released by Jonathan Horowitz of International Phonograph, the same label that has reissued Julius Hemphill's Dogon A.D. and Bill Dixon's Intents and Purposes. The debate has centered on whether this is a work of arranging and composing genius, or simply a well-crafted effort in line with other recordings of that period. I've listened to Extension about 4 times now, and I agree with the person who posted on Organissimo that it rewards patient listening. It sounded pretty "loungy" the first time through, partly because of the organ, which is probably my least favorite instrument. But repeated listenings reveals depth to the arrangements and some interesting voicings. I hear echoes of Gil Evans, but Fischer had his own style, based on this one piece of evidence. It's also interesting because the music draws me in, but I feel an emotional distance from it, some sense of remove. I think aspects of the recording, especially the closing "Canto Africano", mark it as a period piece. And I take points off for the organ. But overall, I like it and I'm glad I bought it.