Let Us Go To The Banks Of The Ocean

Michael Formanek Imperfect Measures at Soapbox Gallery Tonight

I fell hard for Am I Bothering You? when it hit on Screwgun back in ’98. Engineer Tom Mark captured Michael Formanek’s performance with a clarity that made you feel his bass was in the room with you. Of course, a big chunk of that victory is due to the veteran improviser’s skill at communicating emotions. His solo recital milked melody, fucked with texture, and took a glide on the various propulsive tacks he’s developed through the years. The new Imperfect Measures, another solo bass affair new on the Intakt label, does something similar. Formanek doesn’t waste a note. From the way he connects his phrases in “On The Skin” to the gravitas he injects into the arco drones of “Airborne,” his strength at climate control makes for gripping listen. It’s been my coffee soundtrack for a couple weeks now, tricking me into thinking I’ve been out for a morning constitutional around the nabe when I’ve never even left the house. His CD release party show TONIGHT at the Soapbox Gallery starts at 8 pm.

Soapbox Gallery

Michael Formanek Bandcamp

Intakt Records

Gerald Cleaver’s ‘Griots’ Arrives June 4

The maestro follows up last year’s Signs with a new program of electronic music. It’s rich in textures, provocative in ideas, and a nod to several of Cleaver’s artistic inspirations. It arrives from 577 Records on June 4.

Joe Lovano Trio Tapestry   Garden of Expression (ECM)

Never let it be said that Joe Lovano isn’t open to change. Throughout his run on the Blue Note label, the 68-year-old reed player shifted through a series of ensembles and programming concepts, his catholic interests often pairing him with a parade of equally talented mates, such as Bill Frisell, Enrico Rava and John Abercrombie. Discovery is key to his trip. 

Trio Tapestry is Lovano’s latest adventure, and their 2019 debut set the tone for the music’s bespoke character: hushed, cryptic, fetching. Their second ECM outing doubles down on that template, creating a suite of nuanced episodes whose collective nature is obvious. It’s a distinct step away from the leader’s more trad persona – that of a bold and earthy soloist. 

The interplay between Lovano’s genteel sax lines, pianist Marilyn Crispell’s fanciful glisses and percussionist Carmen Castaldi’s textural ruminations is deep. Garden of Expression is an introspective affair that charms even when the musicians pause to sniff around an idea, even when their dawdling threatens to mar their flow. That’s because the group has mastered a subtle form of momentum that sweeps things along while maintaining an ethereal slant. Castaldi chooses poetry over pulse. A tom-tom thud here, a cymbal rustle there. It’s a leeway gambit, developing open spans for his partners to fill. Each of their thoughtful phrases manage to gracefully entwine the other. 

At certain points the pianist creates brocades of notes that signify radiance and prompt a gust of animation from the horn player – “West Of The Moon” has a dreamy brio. Their chemistry, guided by the lithe trajectories Lovano maps out, is hale enough to power the calm of Trio Tapestry’s explorations. When they close with a seductively static piece called “Zen Like,” and show us how suspenseful it can be, they’ve told us everything we need to know about their ambitions. 

Tone Audio

ECM Records

Jazz Radio Tonight!

Been doing a Lament For a Straight Line radio show every Wednesday night of the month (except the SECOND Weds of the month) for several weeks now. It continues tonight, March 5. 9 pm, streaming on WRIU.og. Best to listen via TuneIn, Simple Radio, Online Radio Box, Sonos etc. If you like what I write about, you’ll prob like what I play.

What do I play? Here’s the opening of recent set list:

Young Tiger   Calypso B

Duke Ellington    Blues for Jerry   Piano in the Foreground

Marty Ehrlich   Eloi Lament   Relativity  

Kevin Hays  Lionel Loueke    Aziza   Hope  (Edition Records)

Coleman Hawkins Maria     

Miles Davis    Black Comedy    Miles in the Sky

Allison Miller’s Boom Tick Boom   Malaga   Glitter Wolf (Royal Potato Family)

Tom Rainey’s Obbligato    Long Ago and Far Away    Untucked in Hannover (Intakt)

Dave Holland Quartet   Conference of the Birds

Rez Abbasi   Isabella Olivier    Road Movie    Oasis    

Anthony Davis   Suite for Another World – Graef     Of Blues and Dreams   Sackville

Bill Carrothers   Say It Isn’t So   Keep Your Sunny Side Up (Pirouet)  

Check the link on this post to hear how last week’s show SOUNDED:

Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo El Arte Del Bolero

You can be seduced by the lines an improviser plays, or you can be seduced by the sound of their instrument itself. Virtuosity has marked saxophonist Miguel Zenón’s work for the last two decades – the Puerto Rico native with the genius grant, Guggenheims and Grammy noms in his pocket has sounded like a prodigy from the get-go. Back in 2002, the solos on his first album made critics’ jaws drop; no one has ever questioned his skills as a soloist. 

Those talents are front and center on this duet with longtime piano partner Luis Perdomo, but it’s the sound of Zenón’s horn that has made me continually return to this record. Working through a book of poignant boleros (a trad Latin form with folkish origins that’s occasionally been deemed “ballads with black beans on the side”), Zenón dedicates himself to the art of expression. Key to that tack is his instrument’s timbre. As ballads by Benny Moré, Aresnio Rodriguez and Bobby Capo float by with heart on sleeve, Zenón’s luminescence amplifies their romance. Aching trills, sentimental phrases, motifs that blow kiss after kiss – recorded live at New York’s Jazz Gallery last fall, the duo captures a warmth that has always been hinted at in the saxophonist’s work, but never presented so revealingly. Here, his playing is prettier than ever; each of his notes feels like it’s being vocalized. This is family music, tunes hummed and sung and played on guitars and parlor pianos by abuelas and tíos during informal family gatherings. In the liner notes, Zenón calls the tunes “beyond familiar.” Live with El Arte Del Bolero for a stretch, and they’ll become the same for you.

<a href=”http://<a rel=”noreferrer noopener” href=”http://&lt;!– wp:paragraph –> <p>https://miguelzenon.bandcamp.com/album/el-arte-del-bolero

Tone Audio magazine

Stephanie Nilles I Pledge Allegiance To the Flag – The White Flag (Sunnyside)

A background in classical piano, a yen to flag the inequities surrounding race and class, and knack for lining sardonic lyrics with wisdom and whimsy – Stephanie Nilles comes to the challenge of interpreting Charles Mingus with a handful of tools that should help her animate both the maestro’s deep appreciation for melody and the sizzling wit that drives his indictments. 

The singer-songwriter, deemed by some as a purveyor of barrelhouse punk, aint a purveyor of deep improv per se, but she does have insight, imagination and a knack for dynamics. ‘I Pledge Allegiance’ rises and falls as those attributes reveal their strengths and limitations.

An occasional NOLA resident with a love of dive bars and the gritty wisdom that can be garnered within, Nilles laces up Charles’ boxing gloves to throw a few punches here. A decade ago, on record entitled Fuck Off, Grizzly Bear, she romped through a duet of “Fables of Faubus” with a requisite smirk and sneer, tickled to ride its caustic cascade. She kicks off the new disc with the same tune, only this time it’s awash with dramatic exposition that veers toward Rachmaninoff rather than a Bywater barroom. 

When she unpacks “Devil Woman” or “Pithecanthropus Erectus,” Mingus’ grit has been usurped by a novice’s sense of grandeur. Her blues moves are a bit too rote to match the material’s depth. Nimble romps through “O.P.” and “Remember Rockefeller at Attica” are filled with pluck, but they’re more charming than chilling. Nilles has done a good job reminding us just how radiant the composer’s themes remain, but in the large I Pledge Allegiance feels like she’s bitten off more than she can chew.


Sunnyside Records

James Francies’ AfroHoustonism

Spent the week with James Francies’ Purest Form (Blue Note), a kaleidoscopic ode to the 713’s yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It’s got LOTS of bases covered. It drops on May 21.

Claudio Roditi’s Gentle Fire

Missing Claudio lately. He was my next door neighbor in Carroll Gardens for a long stretch. DownBeat recently surfaced this profile I wrote in 2010.

During a performance you usually see Claudio Roditi adjusting a mic to position one of his brass instruments—the trumpeter is particular about the way he sounds on stage. But here at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in Manhattan, Roditi’s bending over to bring his mouth to the mic, and the results are tickling the packed house. “Choo-choo-cha-cha, choo-choo cha cha,” he sings, blending in with the shakers of drummer Duduka da Fonseca and the percolations created by the other band members. The Music of Jobim ensemble, co-led by da Fonseca and pianist Helio Alves, stresses rhythm. They’re in the middle of a tune’s gentle fadeout, and everyone, especially Roditi, is assisting in the syncopated farewell.

Backstage, before the show, the musicians were talking about the art of vocalizing and composers who have turned to singing by default. “Several Brazilians have become vocalists because the only way they could have their tunes heard was if they themselves sang them,” says the trumpeter. Accordingly, he makes a case for one of his heroes, the songwriter Johnny Alf. Maucha Adnet—a real vocalist who’s also part of the evening’s ensemble—nominates Tom Jobim as a nonsinger who nonetheless had a sweet voice. And Toninho Horta pipes up with his choice: “Even Billy Higgins tried to sing!” Everyone laughs.

All this chatter is generated by the fact that Roditi takes a shot at a vocal on his latest disc, Simpatico (Resonance). No, the acclaimed brass player isn’t working a new career path; he just enjoys wearing his heart on his sleeve now and again. “Waltz For Joana” is a nice novelty—a heartfelt move.

“I’m no singer,” says the 64-year-old. “It’s just something I like to do. But it’s frustrating. I know I have good intonation on the trumpet, so when my vocal intonation fails, it ticks me off.”

There’s more laughter as Roditi recalls the first time his singing was appreciated…

Read the rest on Downbeat.com

Michael and Peter Formanek DYADS (Out Of Your Head)

Dyads | Michael and Peter Formanek | Out Of Your Head Records

There’s something to be said about keeping it the family. If jazz is about communication and communication is about rapport, it’s little wonder that Michael and Peter Formanek are speaking the same lingo on their debut, DYADS. The bass/reeds duo is a father/son team built on the concept of give and take, and these 13 performances have a spry demeanor. As the moods shift from track to track, buoyancy and momentum triumph, each piece nudging you into the next. The veteran bassist has made valuable contributions as both a leader and sideman, and these days he’s as active as he’s ever been. There are five fierce drummers in the digits of his right hand; the bass lines arrive with a disarming drive. His tenor sax partner is a 20something on the come-up who acquits himself with both authority and daring. The measured growls he provides his dad on “How Was the Drive” illustrate his skills at fashioning fluid push and pull tactics.

Michael Formanek Bandcamp

Tone Audio magazine