East by Northwest

East by Northwest by Nate Wooley & Ken Vandermark.
Bandcamp Link: East by Northwest

An album of duets from trumpet player Nate Wooley & reed player Ken Vandermark, who will be playing together at @sfjazz tomorrow, Saturday, June 9, 2018.

A mix of composition and improvisation, which they dedicate to influences as diverse as Ranier Werner Fassbinder, Edward Burtynsky, and Christian Marclay. (I had to look Edward Burtynsky up, too, but he’s a photographer who is interested in documenting man’s impact on the planet.) But the primary influence on these duets was the long time partnership between woodwind player John Carter and trumpeter Bobby Bradford.

John Carter holds a special place in my heart, as well, as his work in the 1980s, from Dauwhe through Shadows on the Wall, were what inspired me to take up the clarinet.

In any case, the delicate interplay between the trumpet and clarinet, with their similar registers and expressive tonal qualities, are at the heart of this album. That and the interplay between passages free improvisation and written segments.

If you enjoy clarinet or trumpet, you should listen to this album, and you should be at SF Jazz on Saturday night.

#KenVandermark #NateWooley #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #EastByNorthwest #SFJazz

Rara Avis

Rara Avis by Rara Avis.

I picked this album because I wasn’t familiar with it at all and Ken Vandermark will be playing in duo with Nate Wooley this Saturday at SF Jazz.

Rara Avis is Ken Vandermark with 4 Italian musicians, Simone Quatrana (piano), Luca Pissavini (double bass), and _SEC (Revox tape recorder and sound treatments). The last couple of “free jazz” releases this week have been pretty easy going, (Again by the Thing and Featuring by WLSFW). Rara Avis is pretty hard going, at least in terms of the energy of the performance and the expressive palette used by the musicians. This is not free jazz for beginners. Sometimes it sounds like the musicians are pulling their instruments apart by the strings. Or the mouthpieces.

It is abrasive, fast, cacophonic, and more than a little crazy. 
Musica Pazza.

You know, just the sort of thing I enjoy.

#KenVandermark #SimoneQuatrana #LucaPissavini #SEC_ #RaraAvis #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #SFJazz


Again by The Thing.
Bandcamp Link: Again

If there is anyone who has enthusiastically carried forward the technical aspects of Albert Ayler’s playing into the 21st Century, it is Mr Mats Gustafsson. “Again” is something like the 20th album from Gustafsson’s trio, with Paal Nilssen-Love and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, The Thing.

And, while Gustafsson’s playing sounds a bit like Ayler, The Thing doesn’t really feel like Ayler. There’s a sort of macho, athletic, gymnaticism, to The Thing’s playing, where Ayler was more spiritual, even when he was trying to be commercial.

So, if you need another The Thing album to add to your collection, or maybe you aren’t that familiar with them, “Again”, is a fine place to start for some invigorating free-ish jazz for your morning commute.

#TheThing #Again #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #TrostRecords


Featuring by WLSFW.
Label Site: Featuring

Phil Wachsman, Paul Lytton, Sten Sandell, Floros Floridis, and Nate Wooley recorded live in May of 2016. Violin, drums, piano, clarinets, and trumpet, respectively.

The reason I picked this album is that Nate Wooley is going to be at SF Jazz this week Saturday, June 9th, in duo with Ken Vandermark.

I really like Mr Wooley’s playing, his command of the variety and textures of sound he can coax out of his trumpet is truly astounding.

In the context of this group, he is given a particularly good foil in Mr Floridis on Bass and Soprano Clarinet. Oft times, I was puzzling over which sound was coming from Mr Wooley’s trumpet or Mr Floridis’ clarinets. Well, everyone in this group is pretty amazing, actually, and they seem to have been quite “on” this night in Austria.

A stellar example of free improvisation at its best.

#Featuring #WLSFW #PhilWachsman #PaulLytton #StenSandell #FlorosFloridis #NateWooley #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack


Messthetics by Messthetics.
Bandcamp Link: Messthetics

I was kind of excited by this album when I heard about it. A propulsive instrumental trio. Two of the members had been in Fugazi.

It starts off promising, the first song reminds me a bit of the band Massacre, (Frith, Lasswell, Maher,) or of some of Joe Baiza’s groups.

But, I dunno, the album just doesn’t sustain that level of creativity or interest. Kind of devolves into prog-ish, instrumental, pop-music. There’s a Focus-esque song. There’s a metal-ish song. There’s the obligatory nylon string, folk-rock song.

Plus, there are too many guitar solos.

By the end, instead of sounding like a great instrumental record, it sounds like the demo tape of a band looking for a lead singer.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #Messthetics


Hell-On by Neko Case.

Neko Case has had a series of great albums, from “Blacklisted” through “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You”. Her last project was the trio including herself, k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs.

We saw Case/Lang/Veirs perform and it was obvious that playing with a performer like k.d. lang and a songwriter like Laura Veirs was making Neko a little insecure about her own art and performance strategies.

On Hell-On she is stretching herself in every possible way. As a songwriter, these are some of her most literary songs every. As an arranger, these are some of the most complex arrangement she has ever written. As a singer, she is stretching to do new things with her voice.

The risk of stretching that much, however, is that you might break.

While Hell-On has its moments, a lot of the time it feels a bit broken.

I would say, if there is a touchstone here, it is her cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me” from Middle Cyclone. It feels like she is channelling a bit of that dissolute 70s songwriter’s spirit on “Hell-On”. 

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #NekoCase #HellOn