Tag Archives: Free Jazz

Paradoxical Frog – Union (2012)

Paradoxical Frog - Union (2012)

Paradoxical Frog are a New York based jazz trio, consisting of German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, and Americans, pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tyshawn Sorey.

Straight away it is evident that this isn’t going to appeal to the casual jazz listener, it is pretty intense stuff. Opener, An Intermittent Procession and following track, First Strike, are a fairly good indication of the album as the whole, it’s fairly dynamic, running across many different moods, with the trio interplaying and improvising masterfully. While First Strike is a particularly dark brooding track, An Intermittent Procession highlights more of the dynamics of the group, as melodies are picked up, picked apart and discarded and the piano intermittently takes the helm and then takes more of a percussive role, with almost random abandon.

Third wave was a term coined in 1957 to describe the cross over between jazz and classical forms, and there is something about this album that make me see it as something of a crossover between free jazz and modern minimalist composition. I think it may be the extremely rhythmic nature of the piano throughout, which evokes Cage’s prepared piano works.

An interesting release that requires some deep listening to get the most out of, but worthwhile nonetheless.

Favourite tracks: Fear The Fairy Dust, Union

Spotify link: Paradoxical Frog – Union


Shatner’s Bassoon – Aquatic Ape Priviledge (2013)

Shatner's Bassoon - Aquatic Ape Priviledges (2013)

I think that there is something about the dreary wet cold British weather which lends itself to a few things, including certain avenues of innovation in music. I envisage groups, coming in out of the wet, soaked through, huddled together bashing out songs about how dull it is, trying to innovate in response to the dreariness outside. Another thing the weather provokes in the British is a certain sense of humour; well, you’ve got to laugh, otherwise you’d cry.

While jazz is a predominantly an American genre, there is a certain experimental British jazz sound, typified by the likes of Led Bib, TrioVD, Roller Trio, Acoustic Ladyland, etc., that Shatner’s Bassoon nestle into really well.

The British sense of humour comes through strong as well. Firstly, the band name themselves after a fictitious part of the brain stimulated by the “made-up” drug “cake“, a reference to cult British satirist Chris Morris’s Brass Eye programme. Next, just look at some of the track names; the almost cynical This Is How You Make A Buck; as well as 50 Ways With Danny Glover, Someone Killed My Panda and Ballad Of Boghead.

The music itself is manic, out there and cacophonous improvised noise-jazz. Opening track, This Is How You Make A Buck begins with electronics with an ominous guitar break before you are hit full in the face by intense sax, bass and drums, frenetic passages follow until you reach a smooth twilight jazz outtro. Altered Beast begins with blaring sax, reminding me of John Zorn, battling with electric guitar a la Mary Halvorson, before settling down into a more bebop style, but one cannot rest on one’s laurels; this is quickly followed by a quiet sax and guitar interlude, before all hell once again breaks loose and tape effects close. 50 Ways With Danny Glover is a minimalist piece, electronics just on the outskirts of hearing, with some guitar string scrapes, with organ joining the party later on and urging the rest to follow as the tension builds.

Overall, this album is a glorious glorious noise. You are not going to be hearing this on Jamie Cullum’s radio show very often if at all, but it is well worth a listen if you are into to this new British wave of experimental jazz.

Favourite tracks: Altered Beast, Breakfast With Boghead, Someone Killed My Panda

Bandcamp link: http://shatnersbassoonband.bandcamp.com/
Spotify link: Shatner’s Bassoon – Aquatic Ape Privilege
Sneak peak: 

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten New York Quartet – Now Is (2012)

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten New York Quartet - Now Is (2012)

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten is a bassist from Norway, and here is working with Americans Joe McPhee, Joe Morris and Nate Wooley in his New York Quartet.

This is an improvised free jazz album and is mostly enjoyable; a rich aural tapestry is woven through these pieces, which are all of a relatively short length, especially for the genre.

Pent is a lovely piece beginning with Flaten on a teetering walking bass line, almost like a tentative walk across a mountainous ridge. Indeed the sense of danger is increased as the horns come in like side winds that could topple him at any moment, and then the safety of the descent, accompanied by guitar as the horns abate, before finally reminding of their danger.

Another outstanding track is As If, which begins with an interplay between the bass and the trumpet, weaving together in a floating dance, increasing in intensity before finding respite in a steady bass rhythm and guitar solo.

In all, I find the album approachable and enjoyable, it may not be a good starting point for someone just discovering Jazz, but it has inventive texture and is constantly on the go, a very dynamic album.

However, I do have some criticism of the album, it all feels a bit loose, raw, and, at times, undirected. Also, there is no drummer; Flaten does do an amazing job in the rhythm section, but I fear that the absence of a drummer leads partly to this occasional lack of direction. It also has the effect that in some tracks (for example in Rangers), someone is tapping out a rhythm, which on the recording, I find highly distracting.

Favourite tracks: As If, Pent, Giants

Spotify link: Ingebrigt Håker Flaten New York Quartet – Now Is

Michaël Attias – Spun Tree (2012)

Michaël Attias - Spun Tree (2012)

I’ll start this review with a truth: if you don’t like free jazz, I don’t think you are going to like Spun Tree.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to it. Israeli-born, but well migrated, Attias is an alto-saxophonist and composer, here leading a quintent across eight compositions/improvisations.

Spun Tree is predominantly a modern/free jazz album, but in all a rather more restrained, melodic and inventive free jazz album than you might expect. One thing that can be said, though, you can’t put this on in the background; it requires active listening.

The opening track, Bad Lucid, finds itself in the middle breaking down to a droning single note on the bass, as the drums and piano add mystery and intrigue and the horns work their way back in. Question Eight starts with a downplayed drum solo, before the bass picks up the rhythm and leads the rest into the piece. In the middle of Calendar Song, the piano picks up a chord and won’t let go, like a dog with a toy, banging out the same chord while the drums take control and mould the rhythm, before the hook is picked up again by the horns. Arc-en-Ciel is a slow considered piece which leads to the more piano-led Ghost Practice, which has unusual sections that sound more structured, but are, at the same time, rhythmically complex, before letting it all go in some loose freer sections.

In all, this is a very good album, but I think it doesn’t give without being asked; it requires the listener to work for the payoff, which it is all the more satisfying for. It is lot more melodic than lots of free jazz, and rather than feeling like the players are battling, they are restrained and very respectful of each other’s territory, which leads to a very balanced sound.

Favourite tracks: Bad Lucid, Calendar Song, Ghost Practice

Spotify link: Michaël Attias – Spun Tree