Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Martin Wind's "White Noise" w Philip Catherine and Ack Van Rooyten : A Sound Oasis.

White Noise Martin Wind, Philip Catherine & Ack Van Rooyen, Laika Records

There is a beautiful warmth and sonorous resonance to the work of bassist Martin Wind. I have heard Wind’s playing musically enrich work performed with saxophonist Scott Robinson, the drummer Matt Wilson, the guitarist Ulf Meyer and the pianists' Bill Cunliffe and Bill Mays. The soloist/accompaniest has composed, played, and recorded on over ten of his own leader /co-leader releases including Get It (2010), the orchestral Turn Out the Stars, Music Written and Inspired by Bill Evans (2014), and Light Blue (2018). 

Flensburg, Germany born Wind graduated from the Cologne Music Conservatory in 1995 where he studied with orchestral bassist Wolfgang Guettler. He placed 3rd in that year’s Thelonious Monk Bass Competition in Washington. At the age of seventeen, Wind was exposed to the work of Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine in a duo with the iconic Danish bassist Niels-Henning ├śrstead Pederson on their album The Viking and the Dane’s bass work left a lasting impression. Wind came to the US in 1996 where continued studies at NYU earning a Master’s degree in jazz performance and composition. His bass work has a distinctive orchestral influence. His large, warm sound and inherent sense of rhythm deftly anchor any work that he performs, and he can employ a gorgeous arco technique at will. 

Philip Catherine, Ack Van Rooyen and MArtin Wind

Wind realized his wish to play with the respected guitarist Catherine in 2013 when the duo recorded their first album the duo New Folks. The latest release White Noise is an attempt by Wind to create a “Kind of sound oasis.” His goal “In a world where silence is becoming more and of a luxury, I wanted to create a little acoustic opposite pole.” The album succeeds and it is in no small part due to his two seasoned bandmates. Wind is the youngest of this trio at fifty-two, with Catherine at a sprite seventy-seven and Van Rooyen as the elder master at the age of ninety! 

Wind opens a Kenny Wheeler composition “Canter” with a vibrating arco opening that resonates with overtones and emanates with a visceral yearning. A gorgeous melody, Catherine’s gentle touch, and Van Rooyen’s mellow-toned flugelhorn lead the listener to this magical world of calm and beauty, as Wind sustains the gentle rhythm of a canter. A rewarding respite to another world of tranquility and beauty. 

Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love” captures a nostalgic time when a good song and some swing could take you to a less strenuous time. Van Rooyen's horn is mellow and bubbly, and Catherine’s guitar adds some offbeat licks that surprise. Wind’s bass solo is buoyant, cheerful, and swinging. 

Wind wrote the title song “White Noise” with his bandmates in mind. Catherine utilizes some subtle and effective echo and electronics to create the opening that leads you into this unknown territory. The music has an ethereal ECM feel to it with Van Rooyen's searching horn work floating over the soft accompaniment of his bandmates. Catherine’s guitar work here reminds me of some of guitarist John Abercrombie’s atmospheric outings. Despite being able to lose yourself in the clouds that these guys create, you never lose the beauty of the melody that sustains you throughout. 

Van Heusen and Burke’s standard “But Beautiful” is one of two duo features on the album with Catherine and Wind taking it slow and demonstrating a sense of familiar simpatico. Catherine’s playing is just beautiful and a modicum of artistry.

“The Dream” is a moving ballad that Wind wrote for his first meeting with guitarist Pat Metheny when they played together at Jazz Baltica in 2003. Catherine’s gorgeous strumming and Van Rooyen’s plaintive horn work are at top form and Wind’s plucky bass solo work is superb.

Ack Van Rooyen's composition “Autumn Bugle” is a searching, blues-based ballad that features the Dutchman’s warm tone and Catherine’s sensitive accompaniment. I’ve not heard this artist before, but the man's articulation and expressive emotional delivery are especially noteworthy. In the liner notes Wind called Van Rooyen an angel and the nonagenarian jokingly admits to being maybe an aging angel.

Wind wrote the “Genius and a Saint” for a friend and fellow bassist Bob Bowen who had sadly been the victim of a fatal bicycle accident. There is a somber, deliberate sense to this tune initially. Soon Catherine and Wind change the feel enlivening it with more hopeful approach. Catherine's inventive approach offers strumming his guitar like a mandolin, adds some rapid arpeggios, utilizes some beautiful fingered chording, and includes some modulated volume. Wind buoys the rhythm with a more aggressive pace that energizes the mood behind Catherine's expressive adventures.

Wind opens up with a bellowing bass solo on Styne and Kahn’s poignant standard “I Fall in Love Too Easily.” Van Rooyen's flugelhorn spells out the melody before Catherine’s guitar harmonizes the music with his own improvised ideas to end the set.

Van Rooyen and Catherine have lived through a period of time that has given them a sage's perspective of history's vagaries. With Wind, these gentlemen lend their maturity and sensitivity to this project with this music and their artistry. Martin Wind’s White Noise is a welcomed celebration of music that soothes, entertains, and delights in today’s age of uncertainty and tension.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Jeff Cosgrove's "History Get's Ahead of The Story": The Music of William Parker


Jeff Cosgrove's History Gets Ahead of The Story Grizzley Music 

My familiarity with the work of the prolific free-jazz bassist and composer William Parker is admittedly limited. When I heard some of Parker’s compositions recently assembled and so enthusiastically played by drummer Jeff Cosgrove and his bandmates, organist John Medeski and saxophonist Jeff Lederer on his latest cd History Gets Ahead of the Story, I was both impressed and intrigued. I had to find out more about this bassist who The Village Voice once claimed as “the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time.”

Double bassist William Parker is now sixty-eight years old and has had a career of many creatively inspired musical endeavors. The double bassist/composer has recorded over forty albums as a leader and a countless number of important collaborations with other artists. Parker’s fierce attack and unfailing pulse, whether using his arco or pizzicato technique, is a constant source of grounding stability. His exploratory expressiveness and willingness to promote a collaborative approach keeps his music both fresh and interesting.

Parker studied with such bass luminaries as Richard Davis, Jimmy Garrison and Wilbur Ware. Over his career, he has contributed his artistry to the music of pianists Cecil Taylor, Craig Taborn, and Mathew Shipp. He has worked with the trumpeter Don Cherry and saxophonists Dave S. Ware, Anthony Braxton and Peter Brotzmann to name a few. Parker created an impressive repertoire of original music and has penned several books. His artistic breadth is diverse and inclusive, utilizing crossbreeding aspects of spiritualism, world music, dance, opera, blues, gospel, soul, jazz, free jazz, and poetry as elements into some of his inventive musical creations.

Jeff Cosgrove (photo credit unknown)

The apt textualist, Jeff Cosgrove, a generational disciple of the Paul Motian’s school of percussion, has played with bassist Parker in a contemporary trio with the pianist Mathew Shipp. Their first album was Alternating Current from 2014 and the last album from the trio was Near Disaster from Feb 2019. With this history in mind, it was only fitting that Cosgrove would choose seven compositions from Parker’s repertoire to both pay homage to the bassist/composer’s influence and to use these songs as a vehicle to explore the possibilities.  To my delight, Parker’s music not only provides inspiration to these adventurous musicians, but the band skillfully manages to somewhat make it their own.

Jeff Lederer ( photo credit unknown)

The group is notably without a bass and the only bottom anchor here is provided sparingly by Medeski’s left foot on the B3.  Song’s like the bluesy opener “O’neals Porch” seems to be tailored to raise the spirits with Medeski’s probing organ,  Lederer’s frolicking saxophone, and Cosgrove’s delicate percussive pace.

The gospel-inspired “Corn Meal Dance” employs a churchly sound from Medeski’s organ and a roiling rhythmic treatment from Cosgrove. Lederer, whose saxophone prowess is a marvel, seems to wail like a possessed preacher wailing to the heavens from his pulpit.

John Medeski ( photo credit unknown)

"Gospel Flowers” is one of two Lederer compositions on the album. This blues-based song has a memorable, lightly swinging melody. Medeski always seems able to find a way to liberate his B3 playing from expected pathways, often bringing excitement to the musical journey. The music elevates you, as Cosgrove’s subtle and textured accompaniment maintains your altitude. Lederer rides the airways with a strong powerful tone and mellifluous sonority, as he also accents the music with more piercing dissonance that claws back to some of Parker’s free jazz roots.

“Little Bird” is a playful musical spar originally on William Parker’s Petit Oiseau from 2008, and here features Lederer on flute, Medeski on keys, and Cosgrove on drums. The music is joyous, invigorating and a testament to these three gentlemen's ability to create a musical conversation that just captivates the listener. Cosgrove offers a short solo that demonstrates his astute percussive inventiveness. There is a Dolphy like feel to Lederer’s flute work here that seems to be a tip of the hat to the music’s history.

 “Ghost,” the only composition on this album by Cosgrove, creates an otherworld-like mood. Here using a modulating organ, splashing cymbals, soft toms and a resonant clarinet, the band creatively conjures up the presence of a looming specter.

Parker’s “Moon” is just a delight. The music is jaunty and joyful. Lederer plays a soprano lead that grabs you with its prance-like feel and brash proclamations. Medeski’s organ lightly keeps the rhythmic drive going as Cosgrove lays down a roiling flow of percussive accents.

“Things Fall Apart” is a free-flowing exchange that has no perceivable melody and is an improvisational banter between the three musicians.

“Wood Flute Song” comes from Parker’s 2005 album Sound Unity and Cosgrove open with a short drum introduction. Lederer and Medeski enter in, one with a muted left-footed bass line and the other with a robust clarinet.  When Medeski takes a solo on the organ he is accompanied by circular drum work by Cosgrove giving the music a buoyant and enlivened flow.

Lederer’s gorgeous “Purcell’s Lament” opens with an impassioned Soprano intro that is accented by Cosgrove’s delicate cymbals and toms. Medeski’s swelling organ adds to the ballad’s moving feel. The music seems to bloom in front of you like a flower that opens on an inviting spring morning. Lederer can evoke spirituality in his playing that reminds me of some of Pharoah Sander’s work of time past.

The album ends with Parker’s jaunty “Harlem” from his 2005 Sound Unity. Medeski, Lederer and Cosgrove coordinate brilliantly, tracing each other’s lines -tenor, organ and drums-like a synchronized swim team’s motion at an Olympic competition. There is a beauty as to how well these three moves in each other’s space.  The three separate instruments are handily utilized to operate as one breathing entity, three minds meeting as one impressive expression of the music. Take the time to hear this work and to enjoy the inventive music of William Parker.