« 17/04/2009 : Anaya dans JAZZMAN (mars 09) »

« 17/04/2009 : KUNTU dans JAZZMAN (mars 09) »

« 17/04/2009 : Maison hantée dans JAZZMAN (mars 09) »

« 17/04/2009 : ANAYA in All About Jazz »


« 17/04/2009 : MAISON HANTEE dans JAZZ MAGAZINE (mars 09) »

« 17/04/2009 : Spiller Alley review in All About Jazz (Fev 09) »


« 27/08/2008 : A review of "Off the Road" by Kurt Gottschalk in All About Jazz New York and All About Jazz »

Off the Road

Published: August 26, 2008


Peter Kowald
Off The Road
Rogue Art


Pretty much anyone who ever met the German bassist Peter Kowald has a story to tell. His commitment to community, to creative spirit, seemed to provide him with a charmed life. Laurence Petit-Jouvet's 2001 documentary Off the Road doesn't get into the many stories get told about Kowald—it isn't quite a biopic—but it does serve as a window into the persona that, along with a deep understanding of communicating through music, made him the embodiment of the creative spirit.

Petit-Jouvet followed Kowald on an unbooked tour across the United States in 2000, two years before his untimely death at 58. The film—now available as a part of a three-disc set from the French label RogueArt—opens with Kowald buying a used car in New York and setting out across the southern states, to the West Coast and then to Chicago, meeting people and setting up ad hoc gigs en route. Needless to say there's plenty of great music along the way, meetings with Kidd Jordan, George Lewis, Rashied Ali, Pamela Z and many others. But the best parts of the film show Kowald without his bass: engaging a panhandler on the street, talking to people and learning about Martin Luther King and Native American culture, even seeming bemusedly curious about why his old station wagon broke down.

The 72-minute film doesn't include a lot of music, just passing scenes along the journey. But it's wisely packaged here with another Petite-Jouvet film from the same tour. Chicago Improvisations documents Kowald in the studio and at the Empty Bottle Festival. If the music is secondary in Off the Road, here the performances stand out against the brief interview segments. He's seen in trios with Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake and with Floros Floridis and Gunther “Baby” Sommer, nicely shot with multiple cameras and good quality sound, and in the studio playing solo and with Ken Vandermark. And if the savvy listener still seeks more sounds, the set comes with an audio CD, also recorded along the 2000 trail.


Production Notes: DVD 1: 72 min, color, in English, French subtittles; DVD 2: 83 min, color, in English, French subtittles; CD: William Parker/Peter Kowald duo; Kidd Jordan/Peter Kowald/Alvin Fielder trio; Peter Kowald solo; George Lewis/Peter Kowald duo; Anna Homler/Peter Kowald duo; Marco Eneidi/Eddie Gale/Peter Kowald/Donald Robinson quartet; Fred Anderson/Peter Kowald/Hamid Drake trio.

This article first appeared in All About Jazz: New York.


« 25/08/2008 : An article on RogueArt in AllAboutJazz NY by Kurt Gottschalk »


Published: July 24, 2008

Historians differ on the origins of the French flag. The theory that the tricolor banner simply combined the colors of the Parisian coat of arms (red and blue) with the color used to connote French royalty (white) is probably the simplest, but a competing claim—one perhaps taught more often in schoolrooms in America than France—has it that the colors were chosen in homage to the US flag, France's revolution coming some 50 years after America's.

Flag-waving and nationalism likely have nothing to do with the bold cover design used by the French record label RogueArt, but the stripes do still suggest a parallel. Rogue's distinctive white covers, with stripes and basic text in black and red, are a proud announcement of intent and if the flags of the two countries suggest a kinship, the label too shows a devotion to the United States. RogueArt had an auspicious beginning in 2005 with the release of percussionist Hamid Drake's first album as a leader and has since released 14 more—by and large major releases by major innovators in American jazz.

”My personal opinion is that most CDs don't have a nice look,” Rogue founder Michel Dorbon said of the distinctive cover design. “I wanted the RogueArt layout to be original, sober, noticeable and beautiful. I asked the great artist Max Schoendorff to propose something. Max came back to me few weeks later with a design. I didn't change anything about it. A recording of music cannot be just an electronic file; it has to be an object that music lovers want to keep.”

The Rogue catalog does include some European names. An excellent 2007 set featuring two DVDs and one CD by the late German bassist Peter Kowald (including the excellent 2001 documentary Off the Road) was a welcome release and upcoming titles include two French players: flutist Michel Edelin and bassist Joelle Leandre. But for the most part, the label has reflected Dorbon's own love for American, and particularly New York, jazz.

Dorbon first came into contact with free jazz in the '70s at an Archie Shepp concert. At the time he was a fan of rock bands that incorporated improvisation: Henry Cow, Soft Machine and Cream. The Shepp show hooked him. He spent the next two decades exploring the music before finding himself on the business end. By the '90s, he was producing records for the French label Bleu Regard by Matthew Shipp, Rob Brown, Sabir Mateen and Cosmosamatics but—perhaps with a bit of his own revolutionary spirit—soon found himself wanting more autonomy.


“To produce without a label, however, is a bit frustrating,” he said. “I decided to start my own label to have more freedom, more space.”


“'RogueArt' is a natural name for a label that provides shelter for music that is outside the mainstream.”
– Michel Dorbon, Rogue Art founder

”When I decided to make my first production for Bleu Regard, I wanted a project with Matthew Shipp, who I had heard in the Davis S. Ware Quartet and solo,” he said. “It was my first direct contact with musicians from New York. The project proposed by Matthew included Rob Brown and William Parker.

Little by little, I started to know other musicians and the musicians started to know me, to know my way of working. New York is definitely a place where a lot of things happen for this music and it's difficult to be involved in this music and ignore New York. I work also regularly with Chicago musicians such as Roscoe Mitchell and Hamid Drake, who I was introduced to by poet Alexandre Pierrepont. Chicago is another very interesting place with a lot of young and great musicians.”

While many labels are content with the latest live session or one-off meeting by a group of players, Rogue releases seem infused with intent. Mitchell's Turu, with Corey Wilkes, Craig Taborn, Tani Tabal and Jaribu Shahid, links his Note Factory to the new lineup of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Rob Brown's Radiant Pools and Steve Swell's Swimming in a Galaxy of Goodwill and Sorrow present well-honed but underdocumented groups with long associations among their members. And Shipp's Salute to 100001 Stars and Parker's Alphaville Suite find inspiration in the work of French writer Jean Genet and filmmaker Jean Luc Godard respectively.

Perhaps the nicest surprises to come out under the Rogue flag have been the two Drake releases. Both feature fluid mixes of jazz and improv with African- and Arabic-tinged playing and set vocals against an array of great musicians. Dorbon said he worked extensively with Drake to create a strong premiere for the percussionist as bandleader.

”The shape of the band changed a couple of times from our first talk to the recording,” he said. “Hamid started with a proposal, we spoke, he come back with a slightly modified proposal, we spoke again...it can last weeks and months like that up to the recording. We have already started this process for a third CD. I want to be sure that Hamid arrives at the band he feels comfortable with before we start recording.”

RogueArt has also moved outside the realm of audio releases. A second DVD is in the works, with Mitchell and electronic music composer David Wessel and the first book bearing the imprint was just released. Logos and Language: A Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue is a collection of writings by and between Shipp and poet Steve Dalachinsky. A second book by Dalachinsky and photographer Jacques Bisceglia is already in the works, as well as new recordings by a trio of Larry Ochs, Miya Masaoka and Peggy Lee, a big band led by Pierrepont and Mike Ladd and Edelin's trio with guest Steve Lehman.

All of whom could qualify—must, presumably, by their categorization—as “rogue artists.” The word refers to a vagrant or dishonest person, but could also refer to the members of the British colonies rebelling against King George or the leaders of the French revolution or the organizers of the Underground Railroad. Or perhaps simply those committed to their art despite the dictates of the market.

”Jazz is not only the music of African Americans,” Dorbon said. “It is the music of any people who had to struggle to be themselves, to free themselves. It is not by chance that a gypsy who lived in France, Django Reinhardt, selected jazz as a means of expression. It is not by chance that jazz welcomed the gypsy musicians. In a certain way, all the musicians who selected jazz to tell what they have to say, wherever they originally came from, never found a place in the economic and political systems imposed on them. 'RogueArt' is a natural name for a label that provides shelter for music that is outside the mainstream.”

Visit RogueArt on the web.

This article first appeared in All About Jazz: New York.


« 25/08/2008 : "Un Piano" review by Ed Hazell in "Point of Departure" »

Matthew Shipp
Un Piano
Rogue Art ROG-0014

Matthew Shipp Trio
Multiplication Table
hatology 656

Matthew Shipp-Un Piano Alone with his instrument, Shipp carries on a conversation with silence on Un Piano; silence is an active participant in many of the pieces. On “Enter In” he lets both single notes and chords decay slowly and disappear before putting another in its place. On “Spike” sudden sharp notes prick glittering holes in silence. “Cloud Chamber 6” is held together by the slenderest of threads, lines dissolve in mid air, round chords chime and melt away, riffs that should propel the music forward expire. Shipp’s reluctance to resolve these gestures, or gather them into a false symmetry creates an aura of mystery and sense of an infinite music without beginning or end. A few of the tracks fill the silence more completely. Long garlands of notes periodically jabbed at by fists of chords create a darting and weaving “Linear Shocks.” The melodic thread of “Harmony of Apollo” stands out in glittery relief against a dark and busy background. “Geometry” works hard at avoiding the obvious or conventional. Shipp’s abrupt mood swings send it swerving in different directions; he uses the sustain pedal to reshape notes; he opens sudden gaps in the middle of his lines, letting silence fill the air before resuming. It’s as if he’s stripping everything else away and starting fresh, waiting to hear what his piano has to tell him. Shipp has always had a huge chunk of the piano literature at his fingertips and he’s shaped it to his own ends with exceptional skill in the past. But here, you’d be hard pressed to point to “influences” or antecedents; on this album, Shipp is chasing a pure piano sound.

Multiplication Table, recorded by Shipp’s working trio with bassist William Parker and drummer Susie Ibarra in 1997, finds Shipp often dipping into a deep well of musical traditions and refashioning them in his own image. It’s not as if he is building a pastiche or working out influences before finding his voice. It’s more like he finds phrases or passages reminiscent of Debussy or Andrew Hill or Chopin or Cecil Taylor as he searches, molds them into something of his own and continues digging. The music sounds beyond individual style, or category, as if it was plucked from an infinity of sound that is free for the picking. Parker is an intensely focused presence, zeroed in on his own lines, wrestling with sounds and tossing out energy. Ibarra disperses the beat into a generalized web of sound and rhythm. She lets the different sounds of the trap kit suggest melodies, hints at fixed beats momentarily, circles round and round a center that only she sees. All the activity masks how deliberately Shipp works, how closely and without effort the music grows together into a single entity. “Autumn Leaves” gets blown from the trees in a gale of thundering chords and rapidly shifting musical references, but the melody resurfaces frequently throughout the storm, providing an anchor for the improvisations. “C Jam Blues” and “Take the ‘A’ Train” also provide touchstones for group expositions that venture far from their starting points. The freedom with which this band worked is best heard on the exhilarating “The New Fact,” on which Shipp and Parker play with marvelous confidence, each secure in the knowledge that whatever he plays will work with the other. There’s a similar boldness to the sound pieces, “ZT 1–3” scattered through the album, with bowed bass rasps, piano-string pings, washes of cymbals and other timbres and textures paired up with or played off against each other to dazzling effect.

These are two very different albums, and it would be wrong to think of the earlier one as in any way immature. Shipp is a pilgrim and these two albums are signposts along the road.
–Ed Hazell


« 30/05/2008 : Red Morocco review by Luca Buti in Jazz Magazine Italia »

Per la prima volta ci occupiamo in maniera specifica della produzione dell’etichetta francese Rogue Art. Lo facciamo prendendo spunto da Red Morocco, album dello sperimentale e frastagliato largo ensemble guidato dal sassofonista Joe Giardullo.
testo di Luca Buti
JAZZ MAGAZINE - marzo 2008

“Il jazz è in crisi? (Y/N)”. Non ci interessa (nel senso che non vogliamo parlarne ora…). Ci interessa piuttosto dire che, se il jazz non è in crisi, merito è (anche) di etichette come la RogueArt. Se invece il jazz fosse in crisi, etichette come la Rogue Art sono in grado di risollevarlo. Detto questo, a confermare la bontà discografica, della produzione recente di questa label, arriva l’ultimo album dell’ensemble G2 del sassofonista newyorchese Joe Giardullo intitolato Red Morocco. A fronte di un organico di derivazione classica (14 elementi, con sezioni di ance, ottoni, archi, percussioni, pianoforte e chitarra), quello che propongono è però uno scarto deciso verso una personale sound innovation. Lavorando in un territorio, quello della musica per big band appunto, dove le innovazioni storicamente arrivano per dosi minime, una domanda naturale potrebbe essere: “Quanto è innovativa la musica di G2?” Rispondendo per paragoni, potremo definirla tale, come lo sono i lavori più celebrati di due grandi innovatori, specializzati nella conduzione di ampi organici che rispondono ai nomi di Carla Bley e Gil Evans. Che sia allora l’orchestra classica del futuro questa di Joe Giardullo? Può essere. Anzi, è addirittura possibile che, nel periodo post-stravinskyiano di un ipotetico anno 2094, questa musica qualcuno (che difficilmente saremo “noi”) potrebbe ancora definirla “contemporanea”, oppure “creativismo orchestrale”. Red Morocco è anche il nome di una pianta velenosa esotica e la sua musica parte proprio dalla dicotomia universale del suo titolo. È la dicotomia della tentazione. La dicotomia della suadente bellezza contrapposta a una certa dose di pericolo tentatore. La musica di G2 è contornata da una certa quantità/qualità se non di pericolo, di rischio. C’è una componente di velenosa-bellezza-tentatrice nelle loro frastagliate costruzioni musicali. Altra domanda: “La diversità, così come “diversa” è una sostanza velenosa, dov’è?” La diversità risiede, si libera, luccica, reagisce stridente in una band che genera un lavoro tendenzialmente introverso, di suoni solo apparentemente rigidi, ma dall’alta espressività e che lasciano alla musica il trovare la propria strada per vie naturali. Il rischio musicale di quest’orchestra è quello della deliberata rinuncia al cliché dell’estetica standardizzata. Vince la “voglia di…”. L’ascolto è provare a mordere, masticare e timorosi a irreversibilmente inghiottire una “foglia musicale” da schemi cromatici anticonvenzionali e potenzialmente letale. La curiosità dello scoprire un sapore diverso vale il rischio dell’intossicazione, dell’allucinazione o della vertigine. Difficile sapere a priori quello che si vorrebbe e quello che non si vorrebbe.

« 01/06/2008 : Hamid Drake & Bindu "Blissfull" review by Lyn Horton in All About Jazz »

Hamid Drake and Bindu | Rogue Art (2008)
By Lyn Horton

For every musician, music is a serious endeavor and one that has no equal. Yet, music also means something different for each musician and it is this difference that generates vitality of the art. For drummer Hamid Drake, music links him to an explicitly spiritual world.

The name of his group, Bindu, finds its source in Yoga practice. Bindu signifies the turning point from one plane of mediation to another, where all Yoga meditation practices converge. That point marks the density and complexity, the simplicity and subtlety of time, space and mind.

Blissful is the second recording for Bindu. The group has changed personnel, but the power of the music has not. Drake and his fellow improvisers create the music for all of the songs; any lyrics sung by vocalist Dee Alexander were written by the 18th century Indian poet, Ramprasad Sen.

On “My Blissful Mother,” a monotone opening from the shenai and voice, soon joined by a feathering of the banjo-like guimbri and bata, rolls out a sonic carpet where focus can sharpen. The improvised instrumental passes through about eight minutes before Dee Alexander breaks into an a cappella section where Drake shapes a rhythmic pattern on the frame drum to lock the ensemble into a ceaseless chant. The guitar snakes in and out of the musical line. The rhythm undergoes several changes. By the conclusion, the guimbri and the frame drum fade out into nothingness.

But something re-enters. Joe Morris and Jeff Parker interlace a two-guitar microtonal conversation. Drake picks up the sticks to play his drum set and yet another realm of sound is explored. The guitar lines transform and overlap into string bass lines. The arco and pizzicato skillfulness from William Parker and Josh Abrams bounce through an upbeat, quick-paced vibrational field. The full complement of instruments joins together to resolve “Playful Dance at Soma.”

The balance of the recording is nothing less than inspirational. In every song, long or short, an intricately diverse instrumentation conveys a sacred message of Kali, the Hindu Mother goddess. Alexander's high- pitched often syllabic vocals become instrumental in themselves (”There Is Nothing Left But You”). The doson ngoni expresses the pulse as much as the drumming does. The shenai communicates a dissonance suggesting a dance-like character to the singing and recitation of the poetry.

Because Drake's musical life is defined by rhythm, the rhythmic influence naturally affects how the music is spawned. The drum set inserts a rapid insistence that describes straight-ahead 4/4 count sensibilities, whereas the exotic tabla, bata and frame drum speak highly regulated cyclical rhythm lines which are penetrating and inviting. Drake's miraculous infallibility as percussionist and drummer can never dissolve; he blazes his path into the bandleader position with no less acuity.

When Drake springs off the tabla on “The Beautiful Names” and sings the final song, his male voice grounds a spontaneous musical connection to serenity, and appeals to the raising of consciousness, above materiality, into a realm of pure experience, musical or otherwise.

Track listing: My Blissful Mother; Playful Dance at Soma; Visions of Ma; Supreme Lay Victorious in Battle; Only Longing of My Soul; There Is Nothing Left But You; The Beautiful Names.

Personnel: Hamid Drake: drums, frame drum, table, bata, vocals; Dee Alexander: vocals; Joe Morris: guitar, banjo; Jeff Parker: guitar; William Parker: bass, guimbri, shenai, doson ngoni; Josh Abrams: bass, guimbri.


« 01/06/2008 : Logos and Language: A Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue Review By Lyn Horton in All About Jazz »

Logos and Language: A Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue
Published: May 31, 2008
By Lyn Horton

Logos and Language: A Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue
Steve Dalachinsky and Matthew Shipp, Photgraphs by Lorna Lentini
Softcover; 97 pages
ISBN: 978-2-9531508-0-3
Publisher: RogueArt, 2008

Getting to the bottom of things requires stamina and focus. The medium for this process is crucial in distilling the essence of the pursuit, and when it comes to music, words often pave the way to penetrating its whys and wherefores. But because words can act as musical entities themselves, words and music have a unique bond. What both imply can fit into the narrowness of definition or explode into the breadth of a spiritual universality, simultaneously. It is simply a matter of point of view.

Pianist Matthew Shipp has produced a manifesto of sorts to contextualize the music he makes and the person he is, a venture he mounted with poet and longtime friend Steve Dalachinsky. The transcript of their discussion, some of Shipp's writings, as well as poetry that Dalachinsky wrote while listening to Shipp play constitute a book issued in 2008 by Rogue Art entitled Logos and Language: A Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue.

This book is not about jazz; it is about how the creation of musical language is inseparable from everything else. To grasp the heart of the book, the reader needs to absorb the meaning of the “Logos Chart” (designed by Shipp) which appears on the first page. This chart is simple, encapsulating both the book's total thrust and the entirety of Shipp's cosmogony: universal mind intercepts and becomes human reasoning and expression, which intercepts and becomes the infinite.

To interpret Shipp's cosmogony is hazardous; to align with it is mandatory. The point of verbalizing Shipp's musical language is to create a reference. Going back to read the book is similar to, but not the same as, listening to a recording of his music. Every time the reader returns, something new will come forth. Every time the reader returns, the closer the dissolution of the constrictions of language.

In his discussion with Shipp, Dalachinsky offers springboards for the musician to elaborate on specific evidence that supports his beliefs. There is no subject that Dalachinsky mentions that does not trigger fervent responses from Shipp.

The poet initiates the conversation with a description of the park the two are sitting in and, with that, the concept of nature becomes the metaphorical backdrop for plugging into Shipp's creativity. The dialog moves through one idea after another in a constant flow: from invisible connections between the physical and the ethereal, on to biology, musicians, religious belief systems, mysticism, the Bible and life - to cite only some of the threads in their consideration of universality. At times, the discussion breaks into humorous digressions—digressions intended, ironically enough, to straighten out confusion in the two-way communication.

Placed at the end of the book, three pieces of Shipp's writings serve to peel other layers away from the mystery that feeds his music. He writes on the concepts of “flow” and the genetics of mind; he even analogizes boxing to improvisation.

Dalachinsky's poetry provides another verbal frame for perceiving Shipp's music. One poem carries an essential message: ...”if you're gonna tell what the music is talking about say what the music is saying say that the music has something to say that it's telling a story even if you gotta search your imagination...” Indeed.

This book does not pretend to be a substitute for (or to explain) Shipp's music. This book links his music to readily accessible points of view through words and pictures. This book provides a means for minds to converge. This book is a means to everything else.


« 18/05/2008 : Off the Road par Grisli »

The English version of this review is not available. We are sorry for that


« 18/05/2008 : "Off the Road" dans l'Humanité du 23 février 2008 »

The Englis version of this article in French is not avalable. We are sorry for that.


« 18/05/2008 : Off the Road review on Free Jazz »

Peter Kowald & Laurence Petit-Jouvet - Off The Road (RogueArt, 2007) ****

Hurray for the courage of the French label RogueArt for releasing this superb double DVD + CD in one package, documenting a visit by Peter Kowald to the United States in 2000. And not only their courage is laudable, also the unbelievable quality of the two DVD's. The first one is basically "On The Road", giving a kind of chronological overview of Kowald's trip, visits, car problems, meetings, street dialogues, snippets of performances with artists across the US, including Kidd Jordan, Marco Eneidi, Alvin Fielder (not "Fidler" as the cover announces), George Lewis, Assif Tsahar, Rashied Ali. There is music to be heard, for sure, but the overall impression of a musician on the road is the main theme, and Laurence Petit-Jouvet's documentary is so rich in content and so well filmed, that it could stand on its own, probably even of interest to people not interested in Kowald himself. The second DVD gives basically four performances, one live at the Empty Bottle with Floros Floridis on reeds and Günther Baby Sommer on drums, the second with Ken Vandermark in a studio, the third with Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake, and the fourth, the grand finale, approx 10 minutes of Kowald solo in the studio. Some of these takes can be viewed on YouTube, but they are not available for download. Apart from the sometimes great performances, the short interviews in between with the artists are often interesting and even enlightening, talking about cultural interaction, freedom (in music and society), universal language, emotional rapport, transcending one's own self-created limitations, etc.

Some of the most interesting performances (but unfortunately not the one with Floridis and Sommer) are to be found on the CD : a bass duet with William Parker, the trio with Jordan and Fielder, a duet with George Lewis on trombone, a duet with vocalist Anna Homler, a quartet with Marco Eneidi on reeds, Eddie Gale on trumpet and Donald Robinson on drums, and then the trio with Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake, and another magnificent solo bass piece, this one performed live.

The frustrating thing about this package is that you know that much of it remained unrecorded (or recorded yet unreleased). And on the other hand not everything is successful either, or at least not always to my taste. Yet for those interested, some of the performances were released by other labels, such as "Illuminations" with Gino Robair and Miya Masaoka or "Deals, Ideas and Ideals" with Tsahar and Rashied Ali and "Ghetto Calypso" with Marco Eneidi, Damon Smith and Spirit.

A great document on a great bass player.


« 18/05/2008 : Hamid Drake & Bindu "Bindu" By Derek Taylor in One Final Note »

Hamid Drake & Bindu


Hamid Drake has long kept heavy company. Whether girding Peter Brötzmann’s geysering reed ejaculations with precision snare and cymbal accents or supplying plump dub beats in a trio like Spaceways Incorporated, he always seems to have the right range of rhythms for the job. With all the plenteous sideman work his own opportunities as principal have come at a cost, prompting the perennial question: “When is he going to release a record as a bandleader?” Bindu rights the score by featuring him at the fore of an eponymous ensemble composed of major league colleagues and friends.

Several things about the disc are striking on paper. Firstly there’s the length: eight tracks occupying nearly one and a quarter hours of music, a generous program by any measure. Next there’s the band, a flotilla of formidable reeds (a total of eleven in the arsenal) balanced against the fulcrum of Drake’s drums. Levied against a lesser man, the phalanx of Daniel Carter, Ernest Dawkins, Sabir Mateen, and Greg Ward might seem a no-contest proposition. In Drake’s case it’s an even bet. Down Beat polls continue to barely register his presence, but there are legions of listeners who wouldn’t hesitate at placing his name at the top of the pyramid.

The true surprises arrive in the music. Drake’s compositions emphasize confluence over competition, melody and restraint rather than flossy extended techniques and empty intensity—an apropos extension of his own philosophy toward percussion as a supportive force rather than aggrandizing source for prestige and gain. What charts there are unfold relatively frills-free, stressing limber spirited improvisations and loose anthemic harmonies that play to the horns’ strengths. All allow the drummer plenty of room to move, each limb laboring in reciprocal solidarity with its counterparts to ensure the superfluousness of a formal bass presence start to finish.

“Remembering Rituals” features guest flautist Nicole Mitchell (who’s returned Drake’s favor by featuring him regularly in her Black Earth Ensemble) in a meditative and occasionally meandering conversation with frame drum that sets an abiding mood for much of the remainder of the record. Subsequent pieces pay overt tribute to several of Drake’s mentors. The rippling, riff-driven “Bindu #2” is for Fred Anderson, while a pair of funky Second Line shuffles, both dubbed “Bindu #1”, are dedicated to Ed Blackwell. The second features wild glossolalia from Mateen and slinky hand percussion by Dawkins.

The clarinet-heavy “Prayer for the Bardo” evolves as a funereal processional with someone (probably Dawkins) supplying slide whistle comic relief. On “Meeting and Parting”, Drake shapes an undulating tabla line while the horns launch solos in measured succession against a back-weave of legato tones. Sections of collective aggression arise periodically, but the album sticks mainly to the province of meditative moods. The sustained contemplative cast requires patience in places, and the craving for more frequent dust-ups becomes somewhat difficult to suppress. Still, it’s a program that demands repeat spins to uncover the full number of nuances and layered traits stitched into the canorous fabric of the band’s interplay.

I’ve long pined for the advent of a solo Drake record, even going so far as to seriously entertain starting a label to help facilitate its fruition. The colorfully and enigmatically titled closer “Do Khyentse’s Journey, 139 Years and More” partially sates that long-standing need with a 13-minute strong showcase for leader and kit sans any sort of accompaniment. Gliding with leonine grace across his sound palette of stretched and tempered surfaces, Drake sculpts an overarching structure rich in both rumination and supple drama that is downright orchestral in scope. Ground has finally been broken: the future for forthcoming releases from the Man with the Smiling Forehead looks very bright indeed.


« 18/05/2008 : Red Morocco review by M. G. Nastos in All Music guide »

RED MOROCCO  Joe Giardullo   (RogueArt)

All Music Guide Review

Joe Giardullo's 14 piece band dubbed the Open Ensemble is named for good reason. Unlike many other groups that feature improvisation as their centerpiece, Giardullo demands a spacious precept that emphasizes tacit space as much as the notes, de-emphasizes counterpoint, al allows the music to breathe deeply. He also is not big on personal interactive listening skills as much as listening to one's self, and ensuring that each individual contribution has the utmost meaning and depth. What you hear, on a completely different level than usually conceived, is a string of snippets that at times coincide, flow and ebb like an easy running river, and never congeal to the point where they blend the vast color palate employed into any one darkened or discernable hue. The group features heavyweights like Joe McPhee on pocket trumpet or valve trombone, guitarist Dom Minasi, and the leader on flutes, bass clarinet and soprano saxophone. Rising stars Steve Lantner on piano and Lori Freedman are included, as well as students of Giardullo. Not only is the ensemble open stylistically, but also instrumentally, as there are at least two of everything, especially emphasizing strings, save the piano, xylophone played by David Arner, and sole percussionist Brian Melick. Opening with "OPB" and OPG," this feeling of democracy is clearly stated, as Giardullo's concept seems fully accepted by the ensemble. Everyone takes turns, a spontaneous, proportioned rotation is established, respect and pace are recognized, and that's about it. By the end of "OPG," everyone is comfortable with role-playing and the simplicity of openness. What is most amazing is that no single voice dominates, and because the player are in a circular set up, must be quite entertaining to hear live. Not that strong musicianship doesn't come out, as the bass clarinets dominate on "Hikori," Arner's xylophone shimmers during "Q-26(e)" and chatters on the title track, while electric guitars go steely and pronounced on "Q-26(e)" and "OPD" with an introductory tick tock track and pulse being the most discernable rhythm. "2T(m)" is a beautiful display of pure democracy at work, with tandem melodies and soaring sounds, the flute lead of "Memory root" is a bit spooky, and the quicker chatter of "NFRTT-1" suggests dialogue. The strings as a united front are strongest during the brief but elongated "Calabar." This is an idea, fronted by Giardullo's always active mind, that is different from what everyone else in modern creative music is doing. There may be visual cues or inspiration from physical or spiritual objects, but certainly no written music. It's a fascinating display of what still lies ahead for challenged musicians and listeners who believe conventional wisdom needs to be questioned and vagaries expounded upon. ~ Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide


« 10/05/2008 : Hamid Drake & Bindu "Blissfull" review by Ed Hazell in Point of Deprture # 17 »

Hamid Drake & Bindu
RogueArt ROG-0011

For nearly half a century, an important strain of avant garde jazz sees music-making as both a form of worship and a path to spiritual enlightenment. Hamid Drake’s new album is firmly in that tradition. Near the beginning, vocalist Dee Alexander sings, “Use any method of worship you please, or be free of method.” Under the circumstances, the line, from a book of Tantric verse in praise of the Hindu goddess Kali, applies equally well to worship and music. Through the centuries, Kali has been worshipped as a destructive deity, a mother-goddess, and a redeemer. Drake selects poems that address all these aspects of Kali so that the work converges in a vision of universal female spiritual energy. On “There Is Nothing Left but You,” he also invokes the names of female Santeria deities Yemaya and Ochun, and African American women liberators such as Harriet Tubman and Alice Coltrane as manifestations of this same spiritual power.

The music is of a piece with the spiritual vision. It draws on from Indian, African, and African American musical culture, and improvisation is the method which unites the sounds in a unified vision. The band, which includes guitarists Joe Morris and Jeff Parker and bassists Josh Abrams and William Parker re-enforces non-Western associations by doubling on African guimbri and doson ngoni, banjo (a descendant of the guimbri), Indian shenai, tabla, and bata drums. Alexander has a rich, gospel-tinged alto voice, with dark undertones and bright highlights and a fine command of extended techniques. Initially the instrumentals seem fraught with tensions, the texture of the shenai rasps against Parker’s rounded jazzy chords, Morris’s banjo cutting across the beat. But as Drake sets a tight, medium groove on “Playful Dance at Soma,” Morris’s thorny lines fit neatly into the weave of basses, Parker’s arco soars in a trio with Drake and Abrams and the band takes flight. The interlocking riffs and drum patterns on “Supreme Lady Victorious in Battle” and “There Is Nothing Left But You” generate escalating excitement that practically achieves levitation at times. The concluding “The Beautiful Names” is infused with genuine serenity and joy. This album is like one of Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, a very personal work that moves from a particular religious basis to a universal message. You don’t have to be a believer to get it.
-Ed Hazell


« 30/04/2008 : Red Morocco review in All About Jazz »

Red Morocco

Joe Giardullo Open Ensemble | Rogue Art (2008)

By Marc Medwin


In an interview broadcast on Taran's Free Jazz Hour last November, New York reedman Joe Giardullo likened the music on this new large ensemble disc to the collective improvisation emerging from early 20th century New Orleans. His point was that those musicians were more concerned with their own parts rather than with the act of listening so often associated with improvised music. Giardullo also likened his titles to those of early Anthony Braxton.

Indeed, the composer paints a strangely beautiful line between, say, Baby Dodds and Braxton with his open forms, presenting the players with much fewer parameters than freedoms. A clarinet gliss here and an interregistral leap there bespeak multiple histories; such are the expressive devices encouraged by Giardullo's quasi-aleatoric approach. Those elements that are fixed exist mainly in the pitch domain and, as Giardullo observed in the extensive interview, if the players maintained his pitch sets, desired occurrences would pervade the music.

Even before hearing the interview, there seemed to be certain ineluctability about the way lines converged, diverged and reunited. From the disc's first moments, microgestural polyphony emerges that never seems overactive, though events delineate themselves in quick succession. The title track may be an even better point of entry, marimba and strings providing a busy but transparent and surprisingly spacious glimpse into Giardullo's methods.

He calls it G2, or Gravity music and its first manifestation came in 1979. This is G2's second generation and the Open Ensemble is lean, sleek and yet somehow full-bodied. The recording is extremely vivid, each note and gesture allowed to breathe in just the right way to foster clarity and impact, as this music thrives on both. Savor the augmented triad that ushers in “Calabar,” full but sweet, or the lush counterpoint that informs much of “Q-2G(e).”

This is an unexpected, but rewarding listen, elucidating another facet of this fine musician's soundworld and the playing is highly committed throughout. It will be extremely interesting to see if subsequent large-scale projects follow similar paths.


« 01/05/2008 : Right Hemisphere review on freejazz-stef.blogspot.com »

MONDAY, MARCH 17, 2008
Matthew Shipp - Right Hemisphere (RogueArt, 2008) ****½

Matthew Shipp (piano) and Rob Brown (alto sax) have played a lot together before, and released some great duo recordings, and Brown, Whit Dickey (drums) and Joe Morris (bass) have performed a lot together too (and recorded at least on all Dickey's albums), but they never released an album as a quartet. That's what we get here. The title itself is a paradox of sorts. Shipp explains in the liner notes that the right hemisphere is "the intuitive side of the brain, the god part of the brain, the part that processes in wholes not in linear sequences, the part that is out of time and rooted in eternity". Now, saying that, and claiming that as the underlying process for the album is very much a left hemisphere thing to do, rooted in the rational, part of the conceptual. Hence the paradox. And the music reflects that paradox. The concept for the 11 tracks are pre-discussed, abstractly without rehearsal, yet the performance results from the musicians' improvisation on it, interacting and creating the concept together. In most of the tracks, Shipp is one of the most decisive factors in the overall direction of the piece, setting the tone and the atmosphere, yet without taking leadership, easily offering the lead voice to Brown, whose unbelievably strong emotional playing is a pleasure to hear. Shipp is a true master in getting the best out of his band-mates, and not only on this album, even to the extent that he is absent on two tracks. And that works well too : Brown, Morris and Dickey unleash all their skills on "Falling In", and then you think you've heard some strong emotinal playing, until you hear the short piano solo ballad on which Shipp demonstrates his sensitivity. But the quartet goes way beyond pure emotions, creating art for the sake of art, searching novelty and pattern-breaking approaches in order to get this new expressiveness, this new sound. It's avant-garde in that sense, but with a high emotional component, as can be heard on "Hyperspace", but especially on "Lava". The last track "Red In Gray" is an absolute beauty, a mid-tempo improvisation, still agitated, but less nervous, more coherent, more soulful too, than some of the other more abstract tracks on the CD. "Pent-up pensiveness erupting like into volcanic tides of overflowing Lava smothering breathing swinging hot drum solo deep within the core where always this earth is alive slipping ever so gently Red In Gray elegantly reuniting us with the flesh where one barely feels the blood as it flows thru the ashes back into our hearts warming our bones", that's how Steve Dalachinsky describes those two tracks, and that's pretty close to what I thought, yet a little more right hemisphere.



« 10/05/2008 : Red Morocco review in Cadence Magazine April-June 2008 »

RED MOROCCO (RogueArt Records)
Joe Giardullo
Cadence Magazine
April-June 2008 Edition

John Dewey once contended (and I’m paraphrasing heavily) that the classroom was a laboratory in which the democratic spirit could be cultivated. The same can be said, of course, of improvised music. Indeed, Ornette Coleman and Anthony Braxton (among others) have suggested that this music’s dialogic character and the way it demands respect/restraint from players can work together in a similar way.

Giardullo’s experimental ensemble-everyone seated in a circle, facing each other, and working from minimal (but highly suggestive) notated materials- aims for commitment not only to musical idea(l)s but between the musicians. I love the fact that Giardullo organized this date around the importance of restraint, asking musicians not to push, not to fall back on “that thing you do”. These are by far the most difficult challenges in large ensemble playing, and this wide-ranging, colorful, resourceful group does a spectacular job at meeting them.

Timbre is rich everywhere, with flutes, muted brass, and tasteful percussion melding together for a provocative mix (Lantner impressed me throughout, gently punctuating the proceedings). And the music really comes alive in canny groupings: a bubbling cauldron of strings on “Memory Root” heats things up for the first time, with Allen and McPhee darting here and there above the brew; or elsewhere, there’s a beautiful passage in “Q-2G(e)- for cello, violin and xylophone-that opens into a sort of muffled sound bed, on top of which Minasi picks out some wonderful slow-moving lines.

Fine moments like these abound on this record. Most of the time it is difficult to pick out precisely who is playing since this isn’t an expressionistic music focused on hot solos and licks, rather it’s a true group music that-even as specific instruments are audible-creates a swirling mélange of sound. At times I reminded of some of Scott Rosenberg’s large-group materials (the puckish “OPG”, for example); and at times I hear a cross between mid-period Boulez and Simon H. Fell.

It’s really fine stuff, and Giardullo is to be commended.

Jason Bivins Cadence Magazine