Ours by Thumbscrew.
Bandcamp Link: Ours

Thumbscrew is Michael Formanek, Bass; Tomas Fujiwara, drums; Mary Halvorson, guitar.

Formanek is probably best known for his work in the sphere of Tim Berne and from his own ensembles. Fujiwara and Halvorson have spent time in the circles of Anthony Braxton’s recent ensembles.

Halvorson’s work is often prickly and angular, trad jazz folks complain it doesn’t “swing” or “rock”. She plays with largely dry tone on a big hollow body that is almost as tall as she is. Her main thing seems to be balancing between electric sound of the amplified guitar, the acoustic sound of the plucked guitar strings, and discreet use of a looper/delay.

Formanek is a very melodic and flexible bass player, despite his involvement in Berne’s often full contact ensembles. I feel it is his often bowed sound that is the heart of this ensemble.

Fujiwara, I would describe as a lithe and nimble drummer, one second he is playing swing time, the next he is tick-tacking along as if he were playing percussion in an orchestra, the next he is dragging the surprising sounds out if his kit, and the next he is playing a rock beat.

Anyway, for musicians who have spent a lot of time playing “difficult” music and who play in an ensemble called “thumbscrew”, this is a very accessible and pleasant album. Even lyrical in places! No one will mistake it for a Jim Hall or John McLaughlin trio, but there is a lot of variety here and a surprising amount of swinging and rocking.

It seems like the ensemble is very democratic, with three songs composed by each member. Certainly, everyone is pulling their weight. My favorite tunes are probably “Smoketree”, “Cruel Heartless Bastards”, and “Words That Rhyme With Spangle (angle bangle dangle jangle mangel mangle strangle tangle wangle wrangle)”. I even picked one tune from each member without knowing beforehand who had written them!

They are all at the top of their game.

#Thumbscrew #Ours #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #MichaelFormanek #TomasFujiwara #MaryHalvorson

sextet | quintet

sextet | quintet by Polyorchard.
Bandcamp Link: sextet | quintet

Polyorchard is North Carolina bassist/composer David Menestres’ (@abstracttruth) ensemble.

His music is, as is much of the music I listen to, improvised music heavily influenced by modern composed music. Which is to say, there aren’t a lot of traditional “Jazz” idioms or forms floating around in this music.

From what I can tell, the musicians in Polyorchard vary from album to album and concert to concert, depending on the feels Mr Menestres is going for (and I assume which musicians are available). This edition of Polyorchard is heavy on lower pitched acoustic stringed instruments and acoustic brass instruments.

The sextet portion is trombone, cello, trumpet, double bass, tuba, and viola. The quintet portion is trombone, cello, double bass, viola, and trumpet.

It is a live concert, but it is recorded very well.

OK, with all that out of the way, this is a fantastic album!

Heartfelt, moving, adventurous, and eclectic. At this point I’m going with “0733” as my favorite tune of the bunch, but they’re all good. Sonic adventures into what sounds are possible, (and some that seem impossible,) to make with these instruments.

And all that sounds kind of stuffy, but the music doesn’t feel academic. The album feels and it breaths, and pulls you along with the musicians.

New favorite album of the year!

#Polyorchard #sextetquintet #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #DavidMenestres #JebBishop #ChrisEubank #DanRuccia #JacobWick #BillMcConaghy #DavidMorris #Calandriniaspectabilis

Schizophrenic Blues

Schizophrenic Blues by Noah Howard.
Bandcamp Link: Schizophrenic Blues

Picked this up as an impulse buy from Destination: Out’s bandcamp site a while ago.

This is in the neighborhood of Albert Ayler or Ornette Coleman, but, despite the title, lighter in tone than most of either of those men’s work.

Howard was born in New Orleans and grew up playing music in the Church. You can hear it in his harmonies. Great work all around, especially notable are the trumpet and alto sax interactions between trumpeter Itaru Oki and Howard.

Also, there is an ear catching double bass solo from Jean-Jacques Avenel which opens the song, “Creole Girl”. For what it is worth, both bassist Avenel and drummer Oliver Johnson would go on to play in Steve Lacy’s groups in the 1980s.

#SchizophrenicBlues #NoahHoward #ItaruOki #JeanJacquesAvenel #oliverjohnson

Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois

Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois.
Bandcamp Link: Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois

Venetian Snares, aka Aaron Funk, is an electronic musician who is best known for his love of his cats, punishing tempos, eclectic samples, and odd meters.

Daniel Lanois, of course, is best known as the guitarist in the Canadian 1980s new wave band Martha + The Muffins. Chuckle, no, of course not, I’m probably the only person in the Western Hemisphere who remembers that piece of trivia. Daniel Lanois is best known for being part of the producing team that resurrected moribund, overserious new wave band U2 and rode their coat tails to fame and fortune after Steve Lillywhite, sick of their pomposity and god bothering, kicked them to the curb.

Anyway, Daniel Lanois is something of an expert on chiming, shimmery guitar sounds. Venetian Snares is the master of the hyperactive beat.

Such an odd pairing is interesting enough that I gave it a listen solely on its unlikelihood.

However, this album is sort of like putting a Venetian Snares album on in one room and a Daniel Lanois album on in the other. There really doesn’t seem to be a lot of intersection of their interests. There is the odd moment where it seems like Mr Funk is almost ready to slow down enough to intersect with Mr Lanois’ trajectory, but those moments are too few and too far between to sustain the whole album.

#VenetianSnares #DanielLanois #VenetianSnaresXDanielLanois #TodaysCommmuteSoundtrack

To The Animal Kingdom

To The Animal Kingdom by Rasmussen / Dorji / Damon.
Bandcamp Link: To The Animal Kingdom

Mette Rasmussen, alto sax; Tashi Dorji, guitar; Tyler Damon, drums.

Recorded live in Toronto in 2017, the sound on this isn’t great, but the content is FIRE!

Free Jazz in the Free-est, most energetic, sense. Rasmussen and Damon do slow down a bit on the second song, but then Dorji starts doing something that sounds like taking his guitar apart string by string, with extreme prejudice, and they get rolling again, building momentum, only to collapse back in on themselves. Destruction, creation, all that fun stuff. 
Just great.

#MetteRasmussen #TashiDorji #TylerDamon #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #TrostRecords


Lageos by the London Contemporary Orchestra.

I guess these guys are kind of the London equivalent of San Francisco’s Magik*Magic Orchestra. They’ve done a lot of film work and a lot of collaborations.

This album is a collaboration with the electronic artist Actress.

So often classical music influenced dance music goes so horribly wrong. Well, as well, dance music influenced by classical music.

And while the classical bits of this aren’t probably going to win over the Brahms and Beethoven crowd, it is pretty legit, at least in terms of 21st Century acoustic music. And the electronic bits are surprisingly abstract and sometimes atonal. I think only one song “Hubble” really employs what could be considered a dance music type beat.

So if classical people won’t probably like this and it’s not danceable, who is going to listen to it?

I guess people interested in cool 21st century music which sits comfortably under no banner or label.

#Lageos #Actress #LondonContemporaryOrchestra #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack


Both Directions at Once

Both Directions at Once by John Coltrane.

John Coltrane died some 51 years ago, in 1967, before I turned 3 years old.

He has loomed large in my choice to play music, the Tenor Saxophone, and my listening habits.

How cool is it that, now, when I am reinvigorating my interest in music and the Tenor Sax, that new studio recordings turn up of his classic Quartet?

Priceless, I guess, is the answer. “Untitled Original 11386” is the gem of the album, especially on Take 2, where the band is really hopping.

That said, not everyone is going to dig listening to the band playing 2 or three versions of the same song just to hear the subtleties of the solos or coloring.

I, myself, could have done without either version of the rather bland ballad “Villa”. But, that’s really just a quibble, and this is new, old music by The John Coltrane Quartet near their prime.

Required listening. (Don’t ask me why I’m commuting on Sunday. It is a long, and really boring, story.) #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #JohnColtrane #JimmyGarrison #ElvinJones #McCoyTyner #BothDirectionsAtOnce

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.

After “Coltrane”, the second indisputably great album from this period is “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman”. I am not much of a one for Jazz Vocalists, especially male Jazz vocalists, but, man, Mr Hartman has a way with a phrase. If anything, his voice, intonation, vibrato, and enunciation are almost too perfect. Too Beautiful, to borrow a phrase from Lorenz Hart.

Not only that, but after all the fumbling around for the “Ballads” album, the band arrives at something really great here in its accompaniments. Sensitive to the vocalist and subtle in its inflections. It’s hard to believe it is the same band. A perfect album.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #JohnColtrane #JohnnyHartman #JimmyGarrison #ElvinJones #McCoyTyner

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane.

A bit like “Money Jungle”, this is Ellington challenging himself and playing with some of those young whippersnappers.

It’s an interesting matchup, because Ellington, especially as a pianist, is the master of subtle harmony and the light touch. While Coltrane is the master of the grand gesture and is not particularly known for playing quietly. Ahem, to say the least.

And indeed, while Coltrane does run his modes over Ellington’s light moods, it is Ellington’s sophisticated and advanced chord harmonies that take the day and provide the highlights to this session.

To me, the song that best exemplifies a cooperative spirit of give and take between the artists is Ellington’s “Stevie”. Though, “Take the Coltrane” is pretty great, as well, I really enjoy the two of them mirroring each other in the head. And it’s great to hear Coltrane playing in a lighthearted mood on Big Nick and The Feeling of Jazz.

In any case, a thoroughly enjoyable album.

#DukeEllington #JohnColtrane #DukeEllingtonAndJohnColtrane #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #JimmyGarrison #AaronBell #ElvinJones #SamWoodyard #McCoy Tyner