Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Flute Music for People Who Hate It

The Ali Ryerson Jazz Flute Big Band‘s album, just out from Capri, is titled Game Changer. And it is, both in the sense of advocacy for an instrument that’s still considered esoteric in jazz, and for its unexpectedly stunning sonics. Don’t think of this as a flute album – consider this a wind ensemble playing big band jazz, and when you realize that except for the piano, bass and drums, it’s all flutes, you”ll realize how brilliant it is. Ryerson was clearly fed up with being castigated for her choice of jazz instrument, so she rounded up eighteen (18!) other jazz flutists for ten long, lush, nebulously epic arrangements of classics, a couple of Neal Hefti tunes plus a modern bop number and one pilfered from the late Romantic canon. With their Gil Evans-esque colors, these imaginative, ambitious arrangements span the entire spectrum of the flute (the presence of many alto and bass flutes here has a lot to do with the lush sonics), creating a sort of a big band jazz counterpart to famed multi-recorder avant-garde ensemble QNG.

The album’s charts are expansive, pillowy, balmy, and often swoony: intentional or not, much of this is boudoir jazz. Bassist Rufus Reid (whose first solo is way up the scale, wryly consistent with the album theme) and Akira Tana on drums and percussion join with pianist Mark Levine to keep this big pillow on the bed. They open with a scampering Levine arrangement of the Clifford Brown classic Dahoud, with a solo from Paul Liberman; with its many timbral contrasts, it’s amazing that there are no saxes on this. Mike Wofford’s Gil Evans-inspired arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s Ana Maria is moodily orchestral: flute soloist Marc Adler sneaks his way out of a syncopated thicket, choosing his spots as the rhythm section crashes.

Another Wofford arrangement, Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments has the best of the solos, from Hubert Laws, who keeps it cool and mentholated as band swings. Steve Rudolph’s chart for Herbie Hancock’s Speak Like a Child has the orchestra doing it as translucent clave, soloist Jamie Baum’s alto flute tersely dancing, Levine tiptoeing over the cloudbanks into unexpected and welcome darkness. A Bill Cunliffe chart for Dizzie Gillespie’s Con Alma alternates between light and lustrous, waltz time and clave; it’s true to its era, with a lively Nestor Torres solo.

Neal Hefti’s Girl Talk is reinvented via a subdued Michael Abene chart with an unexpected moodiness: there’s considerable irony in how all these flutes give this otherwise rather lightweight tune plenty of gravitas, soloist Holly Hoffman maintaining the mood, then handing off to Ryerson (on alto flute) and then Reid. The other Hefti tune, also arranged by Abene, is L’il Darlin, Bob Chadwick’s bass flute seamless with the ensemble on the lower end through a series of clever rhythmic diversions.

Andrea Brachfeld’s long, energetic solo on Coltrane’s Impressions evokes the ebullience of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. There’s also a terse, bolero-ish Wofford arrangement of Tom Harrell’s Sail Away with Ryerson on alto flute, and an imaginative Billy Kerr arrangement of the famous Gabriel Faure Pavane with some nimbly shifting banks of sound throughout the ensemble. One glaring omission: nothing from the Dave Valentin book. Now there’s a guy who transcended any perceived limitations on his instrument! But that’s a minor quibble. Play this for someone who doesn’t like the flute and watch their jaw drop when you tell them what it is.

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September 10, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carlo Costa’s Crepuscular Activity – Play This with the Lights Out

Whether you might consider Carlo Costa’s Crepuscular Activity to be free jazz, minimalism, horizontal music, indie classical or just plain creepy, it’s a GREAT late-night album, a must-own for devotees of dark sounds. It’s short, 27 minutes and 54 seconds of Costa on drums and glockenspiel and Yukari on flute and alto flute along with a little ambient noise courtesy of the “city of Brooklyn.” Their slowly shifting soundscapes balance suspenseful stillness with slightly more animated passages, best experienced as a whole with the lights out.

The first of the three tracks, Sea Breezes begins with what appears to be random background noise – traffic? – Costa’s drums a distant wash, mysterious flute atmospherics floating in and out of the mix. A slow, skeletal alto flute tune begins to emerge over Costa’s distantly sepulchral timbres. The darkness lightens a little, like a clearing in a drizzle as Costa begins coloring it with gentle reverberating fills. The second track, Black Pond is a fourteen-minute suite, a series of slowly divergent motifs on glockenspiel and alto flute. Both instruments grow increasingly rubato – it’s an utterly eerie, hallucinatory effect. The glockenspiel eventually takes on what could be a water droplet pattern, and later a wind chime effect, flute holding it together, steady and wary.

The final piece, Snow on Trees is somewhat more energetic. Costa’s funereal, insistent, boomy rhythm anchors an only slightly less somber flute, then the two go off on an unexpectedly scraping and scratching tangent, Costa eventually rising to meet the flute’s agitation; and then the two switch roles. That’s the play-by-play version of this album. If you have no fear of losing control of your dreams, put this on as you settle in for the night.

August 10, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Billy Bang and Bill Cole Improvise Raw Adrenaline

The new Billy Bang Bill Cole album makes a good segue with Dollshot, just reviewed here. Recorded live in concert at the University of Virginia in 2009, it’s a series of duo pieces and improvisations between the iconic jazz violinist and the pioneering reedman. It’s not the most accessible album ever made – it’s intense, sometimes apprehensive, even abrasive – but for fans of a good jam, it’s pure bliss.

The concert kicks off with an improvisation, a study in low/high contrasts: Cole holds down a drone with his digeridoo while Bang moves slowly, judiciously and hauntingly against the murky wash of sound. Eventually, overtones begin to waft up from the depths, violin swooping warily, Cole eventually taking it down as low as he can. The audience is stunned. The next tune, Shades of the Kia Mia, is a variation on an earlier Bang composition from his acclaimed Vietnam: The Aftermath album. Playing the midrange Indian nagaswarm flute, Cole rises and falls like a siren underneath Bang’s Asian-tinged blues phrases. The violin crescendos to a brief explosion of white noise, then circles down nimbly; the duo wrap it up slowly with a long series of morose, conversational phrases. It packs a punch.

Cole plays supersonically wild, Balkan-tinged doublestops on sona on his composition Poverty is the Father of Fear, a vivid portrayal that moves quickly from a surprisingly triumphant march figure to a crazed sense of desperation, the musicians exchanging roles, by turns calmly rhythmic and completely unhinged. They follow Cole’s pyrotechnics with a repetitive violin hook, a trick ending and a graceful wind down to where the piece began. The next improvisation starts as a ghostly march; Bang holds down the rhythm while Cole runs a circular phrase on his flute and then hopscotches over Bang’s long, sustained pedal note.

Jupiter’s Future, another Bang composition, is a thinly disguised funk song with tasty, bluesy violin and a blistering climb to the uppermost registers led by Cole that kicks off even more frenzied riffage. They close with a final, intense improvisation, Cole imploring, Bang refusing to let up. For anyone who likes powerful, adrenalizing music and isn’t scared off by a lot of upper midrange, this is a treat – you’ll see this on our Best Albums of 2011 list at year’s end.

March 6, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 10/4/10

This is sort of our weekly, Kasey Kasem-inspired luddite DIY version of a podcast. Every week, we try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone: sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. We’ve designed this as something you can do on your lunch break if you work at a computer (and you have headphones – your boss won’t approve of a lot of this stuff). If you don’t like one of these songs, you can always go on to the next one: every link here will take you to each individual song. As always, the #1 song here will appear on our Best Songs of 2010 list at the end of the year.

1. Norden Bombsight – Never to Be Seen Again

Noir backstreet 4 AM menace, backup alarm on the garbage truck and all (turn down your headphone volume!) from the Brooklyn rockers’ excellent new cd Pinto.

2. LJ Murphy – Imperfect Strangers

Live at Theatre 80 St. Marks – a newly rearranged version by the king of NY noir rock.

3. Mike Rimbaud – Got to Sell Yourself

Characteristically edgy, catchy, sardonic new wave-tinged rock from a more underground version of Graham Parker or Elvis Costello.

4. Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk – MT2

Noisy dub/drone/downtempo stuff via thefmly, thanks bros.

5. The Listeners – Driving Without Lights

Dark minor 80s style janglerock- good stuff.

6. El Opio – Ella

A psychedelic chicha classic from Peru circa 1972. Peruvian surf music is the best!

7. Sarah Kirkland Snider – This Is What You’re Like

Moody art-rock from her Penelope song cycle. She’s at le Poisson Rouge on 10/18 at 7. Free download.

8. Rachel Rodgers – Summer After 7

Caught the 14-year-old jazz flutist playing on the street the other day and she’s badass. Not that there aren’t other deep, smart 14-year-old people out there, but she’s the real deal. She knows her way around Bird, and Miles, and more and plays piano, and composes, and has Ron Carter on her cd. Go Rachel.

9. Darker My Love – Split Minute

Bizarre catchy 60s folk/psych/pop like something that was so underground even Lenny Kaye didn’t catch on for the Nuggets compilation.

10. Carl Wayne with ELO – Your World

A blast from the past: the former frontman of the Move tries his hand at soul music.

October 4, 2010 Posted by | jazz, latin music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment