Amorphae by Ben Monder, Pete Rende, Andrew Cyrille, and Paul Motian.
This album of solos, duets, and trios from Mr Monder &Co has been on my “to listen” list for quite a while. On this release, Monder operates in roughly the same reverb and chorus drenched wide screen universe as players like Bill Frisell and David Torn. Not quite as “folksy” as Frisell and using more “classical music” inspired melody and harmony than Torn, Monder seldom “shreds”. Instead building his solos to curtains of shimmering abstract sound.
ECM has always been eclectic in it’s releases. This atmospheric mashup of Jazz, Classical, and UK Folk music isn’t exactly the exception, as the rule. June Tabor is a great folk vocalist and her partners in Quercus are Huw Warren and Iain Ballamy, Piano and Saxophone, respectively. If I had any complaints, it might be that Nightfall is just a tad too pleasant.
Most people trace the modern Soprano Sax tone, flute-like, mellow, and largely without vibrato, to the playing of Lucky Thompson. Eschewing the harsh tone and wide vibrato of early players like Bechet, Thompson set the stage for immensely commercially popular players like Grover Washington Jr and the much maligned Kenny Gorelick. Also, as far as I know, just about the only Bebop Soprano player.
A pretty strictly Bebop affair, great work here from the whole group. I think, especially, the expressive cymbal work from Connie Kay stands out.
Another perspective from EXEYE on the intersection between rock-ish concepts/players and improvisation. With the influence of Vandermark and Nilssen-Love, this skews more towards Free/Energy playing than EXEYE’s dark metal infused scree. Lean Left is definitely skronkier, but the woodwind players in both ensembles face similar problems of being heard over loud guitars and drums. Though, on this release, the guitars manage to restrain themselves and play quietly on a couple tunes. Invigorating way to start the morning.
Solo (-ish, some overdubbing,) pieces for Soprano and Tenor Sax. Not a lot of conventional Sax playing here. In fact, on some of the “Numbers”, Butcher seems to avoid producing “normal” sounds from his Sax entirely. What I like, though, is that there is a light heartedness and humor about it, you often don’t get in improvised music . If anything, it reminds me of the surreal music from the British tv show “Clangers”.
The defining feature of this release by Æthenor is the drumming of Mr Noble. Guitars, vocals, and keyboards shimmer in and out of phase, Calder-esque, while Mr Noble’s propulsive drumming rumbles on underneath. Enjoyable.
This record starts with a few moments of natural sounds. Birdcalls, muffled conversation, sound of the breeze, remote traffic, livestock. Slowly the musicians come in, imitating the background sounds and playing as elements in the larger soundscape. I love this idea. That music is part of nature and the environment, not separate from it. Or maybe, nature IS art.
A Colin Stetson solo concert a couple years ago was one of the loudest concerts I’ve ever seen, and he was wearing a Liturgy t-shirt at the time, so Ex Eye’s direction isn’t exactly a surprise.
However, the challenge of fitting Stetson’s sax concept of extended arpeggiation into more traditional heavy metal frameworks is apparent on some of the tracks. That is, no matter how loud he plays, harmonically, he fades into the background under the weight of guitar, keyboard, bass, and drums.
Less traditional tracks, like “Anaitis Hymnal; The Arkose Disc” are where Ex Eye, and Stetson, shine.
In any case, an excellent album, and I’m looking forward to seeing Ex Eye next week at The Chapel here in SF.