Thursday, March 31, 2016

Starlite Motel - Awosting Falls (Clean Feed, 2016)

This is a very interesting band that has a wide open range: combining free jazz with progressive rock and brief brushes of psychedelia to make for a very alluring and original sound. It is only a quartet that makes the music on this album, but it sounds much larger because of the instruments they play, and they are constantly swapping different versions of their instruments to get different sounds. The band is Kristoffer Berre Alberts on alto and tenor saxophones, Jamie Saft on organs, moog, and lapsteel guitar, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on basses and Gard Nilssen on drums and electronics. “A Beautiful Nightmare” opens the album with raw and dense saxophone, heavy organ and drums wailing hard. The music is played with a great deal of focus, and the relentless peals of sax coming from Alberts is very impressive and make him someone I hope to hear more from in the future. Of course Saft, Nilssen and Haker Flaten are legends in their own right and they set the stage on “The Art of Silence” with scalding tremors of feedback and ominous groans of organ, bass and drums. The music becomes a fast and propulsive dark dance, like EDM from another dimension, with enthralling tenor saxophone soloing over the shimmering drum work. “Suspended Veil” is the anchor of the album, with the band spooling out a twelve minute improvisation that allows them to begin slowly and then harness the collective power of their musical ability to unleash a lethal collective improvisation that swirls with a kaleidoscope of colors and rhythms before Berre Alberts drops out for the remaining trio to have a riotous section of madly spinning excitement. “A Thousand Thousandths” ends the album in a rousing fashion, with an excellent rhythm from the percussion and guitars, aided by some rambunctious saxophone. The band ducks and feints with some great subtle moves before turning up the heat and blasting red hot to the final conclusion. Despite flying in the face of any genre convention, this album was quite a success. The music has the cosmic and atmospheric sound of the great Impulse! recordings, but it also is moving relentlessly forward into the future of progressive jazz. Awosting Falls -

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Larry Young - In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance Records, 2016)

Larry Young is credited as being the musician who moved the Hammond-B3 organ from being an instrument solely used for blues and gospel tinged jazz into more modern and forward thinking musical concepts. Young made three albums in the earlier vein for OJC while he was starting to make his breakthroughs, but it was when he signed to Blue Note Records in 1964 for an extraordinary five-year run that he truly revolutionized the instrument. The music on this two-disc set comes from the French ORTF archives, and while Young is the lynchpin that ties all of this music together he is only the nominal leader on a very few selections, but on every one his contribution is outstanding. The small group recordings are of The Nathan Davis Quartet with Davis on tenor saxophone, Woody Shaw on trumpet, Young on organ and Billy Brooks on drums. This is a fantastic group and the collection leads off with the blistering Davis original “Trane of Thought" which makes their modernist case beautifully and also alludes to the Young/Shaw combination which would work so brilliantly shortly thereafter on Larry Young’s classic 1965 Unity LP. It is a shame that this this group couldn’t have been recorded more, but Davis was firmly established recording and supporting fellow expatriates in Paris while Shaw and Young had commitments in the States. The three remaining performances of the quartet on disc two of this album give a further taste of what might have been as they powerfully swing through Woody Shaw’s “Beyond All Limits” in the studio and then there is a live recording of the band playing a dark and moody version of Wayne Shorter’s “Black Nile” before launching into an astonishing twenty minute performance of Shaw’s “Zoltan.” The sound quality on these two cuts is a little rough, but the playing is so fresh that it is easy to overlook. For radio broadcasts, the quartet was joined by the Jazz aux Champs-Élysées All-Stars, making for an octet that relied on mostly jam session material, although something must have clicked, because the group records a near fifteen minute blowout of Young’s “Talkin’ About J.C.” that had been recorded for Gran Green’s Talkin’ About album in 1964. The music on this re-issue is fantastic and definitely makes for a first rate re-issue. There is a lengthy booklet of essays and interviews with Nathan Davis, Dr. Lonnie Smith and John Medeski that helps to put things in context. But it is the chance to hear Larry Young playing at the peak of his musicianship that it the real gift here, his career was very brief so this is something to be cherished. In Paris: The ORTF Recordings -

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord - Bring Their 'A' Game (Hot Cup Records, 2016)

Jon Lundbom’s Big Five Chord will release four digital EPs over the course of 2016, later to collect them into physical and digital boxed sets. This is actually the second in the series featuring Lundbom on guitar, Jon Irabagon on alto saxophone, Balto Exclamationpoint (Byran Murray) on tenor, prepared tenor, and balto! saxophones, Moppa Elliott on bass, and Dan Monaghanon on drums. “Wrapped” opens the album with a free-bop feel, akin to the sounds that Eric Dolphy and Jackie McLean were exploring in the mid-1960’s. Lundbom’s guitar has an exciting and tightly wound sound accentuated by taut bass and drums. The horns twist and swirl playfully adding an excellent sly tweak of humor to the proceedings. The band improvises collectively in excellent fashion before slowing the pace slightly to conclude the performance. There is a swing sensation that is filled with longing and yearning on “Worth.” Low temperature guitar and drums boil gently underneath the surface of the music biding their time while on top there is there is dark raw ballad saxophone baying in a hurt fashion against brushed percussion. Lundbom’s subtle guitar then edges through the understated thicket of bass and percussion with in an impressive dark toned solo that stays low to the ground and guides the music to an expressive ending. Finally the Ornette Coleman composition “W.R.U.” lifts of at a blasting pace with strong tight bass and deft swinging drums, with a saxophone entering making for some thoroughly modern jazz improvisation. The second saxophone and Lundbom’s guitar come rippling in and the music becomes very fresh and hot with the horns soaring and the guitar, bass and drums sizzling. The remainder of the track is a thrill ride featuring shimmering guitar and burning saxophones pushed forward by excellent rhythm. The album clocks in at twenty seven minutes and keeps you riveted throughout. This is an excellent group and the music that they play is both high energy, and emotionally engaging, which works well in these short compact bursts of music. Bring Their "A" Game -

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balazs Pandi - Strength and Power (Rarenoise Records, 2016)

It is hard to believe that this is a collectively improvised album, because everything on it is so taught and well connected. The four musicians on this album, Roswell Rudd on trombone, Jamie Saft on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass and Balazs Pandi on drums entered the studio with no preconceived notions of what music they would create, and relied on their wits and talent to weave fascinating music where nothing had existed before. The focus may be on Rudd, who’s lengthy career has stretched from playing the innermost Dixieland jazz to the outermost free jazz, but Saft and Dunn have long played their own original music and performed on many projects for the Tzadik label, while Pandi is a percussionist with experience in music as diverse as free jazz, noise rock and metal. The massive slab of music “Strength & Power” is true to form with storming drumming from Pandi igniting the music, and Rudd even sneaking in an Albert Ayler like snippet of “John Brown’s Body” during the midsection of the piece. This and the other very long form performance “Cobalt is a Divine” have excellent dynamic shifts of tone and balance, from Rudd’s growling caterwauls at the beginning of “Cobalt” with it’s rolling piano and drum accompaniment that becomes more manic as the piece proceeds. “The Bedroom” gets a wildly propulsive percussion and bass opening to launch Rudd out of the gate like a rocket, powering his way forward as splinters of piano (inside and out) fall by the wayside, and it is an absolute blast to listen to, free jazz at a rock ‘n’ roll tempo, volume and attitude. “Luminescent” is more spacious, with the group patiently letting the music grow organically. Gentle piano and bass and subtle percussion are a fine backdrop for Rudd’s spare lines of trombone. The bassist is the center of “Dunn’s Falls” with his stoic and proud playing and Saft’s piano experimentation making things very interesting, and he remains the pivot point throughout, even when Rudd enters to punch and smear his delicious tone aided by Pandi’s occasional rapid fire burst. “Struttin’ For Jah Jah” is a very tight group conversation with everyone in top form, and playing from a deep well of strength. Everyone is encouraging each other on, and the music gets even deeper, with Saft driving the piano even harder, and Rudd sending squalls of sound over the top of it. Jamie Saft said of this recording session, “All the music was completely improvised in the studio. No predetermined compositions at all. No hand signals, no charts: nothing but trust, deepest intuition, and mutual respect.” This is exactly what they achieved from start to finish. This is state of the art free jazz, and very highly recommended. Strength & Power -

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Michael Blake - Fulfillment (Songlines, 2016)

Saxophonist and composer Michael Blake might be better associated with the downtown New York jazz/improv scene, but he still retains close ties to his hometown of Vancouver, which has a very impressive group of musicians in its own right. He returned there to record a group of songs he wrote about the plight of refugees; those turned away from British Columbia in 1914, and those looking to flee to safety in 2016. “Sea Shanty” is an interesting way to open the album with vocalist Emma Postl and guitarist Aram Bajakian sitting in. Acoustic guitar and prominent drumming set the stage for the singing, with the horns backing and then Blake stepping forward for an excellent raw tenor saxophone solo amidst thick bass and tumbling rhythm. Fast speed and strong rhythm are also in effect on “Perimeters” with Blake working the core music is the thick of things while spacey guitar and electronics swirl. They develop an interesting electro/acoustic sound that builds in speed and gives Blake an interesting thicket to solo over and through. “Arrivals” has a spooky sensibility with a huge drum sound with reverberating horns and cello developing a very ominous sound. The music belies its small group nature to get very loud, with massive slabs of saxophone and processional sounding drums encompassing the whole performance with a deep sense of dread. Chris Gestrin’s piano playing is the centerpiece of “Departures” with his fluent playing leading the group on a fun, lurching adventure. Dylan van der Schyff’s powerful drumming is another part of the performance’s success but the whole band takes Blake’s composition and runs with it, blasting forward in a blizzard of notes and a keyboard and drums section of crashing fun, before Blake’s horn jumps in to bring things to a close. Bajakian sits in again on “Battle at Baj Baj” which lowers the tempo, enveloping the music with reverent horns along with shimmering drums and cymbals. Sad strings develop an emotional quality to the music along with foreboding percussion, which builds like an incantation while Blake’s powerful tenor saxophone becomes super intense as he cries and wails over the top. There is very cool tabla from Neelamjit Dhillon and more excellent guitar from Bajakian on “Exaltation” which makes for pleasant rhythm, which Blake takes hold of on soprano saxophone and he moves delicately through with an excellent solo. Bajakian will not be denied however, and builds a solo of sculpted noise that frames the music, and allows it’s inherent dynamic nature to come to the forefront, as the rhythm moves to its own internal forces and currents. This was a very good album, and an excellent glimpse of Michael Blake as a composer. He plays very well as always, with several good solos, but it is his writing for the ensemble that is the key for the album’s success that is what keeps the music continuously exciting and interesting. Fulfillment -

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Kenny Barron Trio - Book of Intuition (Impulse, 2016)

Pianist and composer Kenny Barron has had a very successful career as both a leader and a sideman on dates stretching from the mid-1960’s to the present. He recorded often with Stan Getz and was a regular at the legendary Bradley’s in New York City before striking out on his own with a series of well received albums as a leader for Verve in the 1990’s. On this album, he is playing with his working trio of Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Jonathan Blake on drums. “Magic Dance” opens the album with a peaceful tone, and Barron has a very graceful way of approaching his instrument, so he is able to move the trio forward in a classy manner with medium paced tempo and rhythm. Barron then takes a more muscular approach to the piano; building and developing a more percussive feel with a downpour of notes before deftly moving back to the melody and slowing to a calm conclusion. Since the following song is seemingly dedicated to Bud Powell, it is appropriate that “Bud Like” is lightning fast, with cascading waves of piano notes rippling along with fastidious bass and drums boiling underneath. Everything simmers and the music is tumbling and spiraling, under great control of these excellent musicians and it is a blast to listen to. Barron and Blake break out to play longer sections of improvisation against each other as the music rolls on to the end. The highlight of the album was a wonderful version of the Thelonious Monk composition “Shuffle Boil.” It opens with that chunky Monk like feel, and builds to a melody that the musicians clearly love to play with. They use the wonderful rhythm inherent in Monk compositions to move in separate directions allowing fresh sounding bass and drums to support Barron’s spritely piano as he moves through the thicket of his improvisation. The trio are all witty and charming on this performance conversing as equals like when Kitagawa takes an excellent bass solo, which is supported by subtle piano chords and drums before there is again a trade off of piano and drum snippets to end the performance. “Lunacy” was a blast to hear, with an unrelenting full trio opening where they put the pedal to the floor and seriously lift off. But there is method to their supposed madness and everyone is in complete control of their musical faculties as Barron’s punchy piano notes ripple across the top of the tumult provided by the bass and drums. You can really hear the result of all of the years these men have spent playing on this piece. Despite the daredevil speed, they are all pulling in the same direction and that is what makes this so impressive and thrilling to hear. This is a very good mainstream jazz LP. Barron is one of the esteemed elders of the music at this point, but he is not resting on his laurels. His passion for making great music remains undaunted, and his accompanists share his vision. Book Of Intuition -

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dan Weiss - Sixteen: Drummers Suite (Pi Recordings, 2016)

Drummer and composer Dan Weiss transcribed specific rhythmic passages of some of his favorite drummers and used them as the basis of each part of this suite, also imagining the lives of each drummer and taking that into account when developing the compositions of this suite. He then used sixteen-piece big band with wide ranging instrumentation to bring the music to life. “Elvin” opens the album, with not only bass and drums, but synthesizers as well. Synth and electric keyboard rebound around the music, before Weiss asserts himself with a polished and firm drum solo. Worldless vocals soar, and horns begin to fill the musical space, and even handclaps are added to the rhythm. The synth and drum opening of “Max” is met by a colorful swirl of winds, vocalese and more electronics. The palate that Weiss can draw from is vast and he uses it very creatively, with his drums underpinning squalls of electronics and voice that can become discomforting at times but works well to serve the overall nature of the music. There is a thick solo bass opening to “Tony” before further instruments are able to build in and fill out the sound. Percussive piano reverberates throughout this performance that is like a piston pumping and it serves to lift the horns and voice into a powerful combination of music, followed by a deep and confident saxophone solo. “Philly Joe” has a nice combination of tablas and drumming serving as bedrock while the horns and female voices build momentum. The pace builds with the larger instrumentation and voice building urgently with pounding dark piano and probing organ. The album is concluded with the very lengthy “Ed,” which develops as a mini-suite of its own, with one saxophone and then several building further with bass and vocals. The piano builds in to develop a complex rhythm for the music and the full band comes together to create a very majestic sound that goes beyond jazz to encompass avant-garde classical and progressive rock as well. In a sense you could say that this is a tribute album to the great drummers of the past, but it is a very exciting and unusual one. Instead of a re-hashing of the honoree’s music, Weiss uses slices of their in the moment improvisations, and adds the research into the lives and careers of these musicians he has conducted to create highly original music that serves as a tribute to their accomplishments as well as his own. Sixteen: Drummers Suite -

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Matana Roberts - Always (Relative Pitch, 2015)

Saxophonist and composer Matana Roberts takes a break from her extraordinary Coin Coin series of episodic albums to release an album of solo alto saxophone. There are no loops or effects or any other technology to fall back on – just her extraordinary talent and the legacy of solo saxophone performances running backwards from David S. Ware to Sonny Rollins and all the way back to Coleman Hawkins. She knows this all, and has assimilated their triumphs and used them as a stepping-stone for her own unaccompanied performance. Roberts’s spontaneous improvisation is broken into two parts, with “Improvisation 1” being the longest, clocking in at over thirty-three minutes. If you were expecting a full out free jazz blowout, you’re in for a big surprise because Roberts’ music deals with thoughtful subtlety and unveils its mysteries slowly. The tone she achieves on her instrument is alluring, but it also serves to keep you at a discreet distance, as she spools out tones of long quiet yearning and the patience with which she it willing to develop her ideas are very impressive. She is comfortable being out on a limb by herself, quietly confident in her abilities to tell a story with deep honesty and lyricism. During this lengthy improvisation she is able to explore the ample space around her and to use it at some points as a duet partner since there is no need to fill out all of the silence with cascading waves of shrill sound when well placed beats of silence can say just as much or even more. It is her authoritative mastery and control of her instrument and her complete focus on the task at hand that allow the music to flow out from her at such an unhurried pace and maintain a coherent narrative where nothing is repeated or recycled and the ideas seem boundless until she alone decides that it is time and brings the performance to a close. “Improvisation 2” is much shorter, a shade under ten minutes, and serves to show another aspect of her music. The raw and scouring sounds are a bracing jolt after the meditative nature of the prior improvisation. She is able to move dynamically from an anguished wail back to a more centered state where swirls of stoic waves of sound bring the program to a close. This was a very well done and thoughtful recital by a profoundly talented saxophonist, who had a clear idea of what she was looking to accomplish with this project and completed all of those goals. This was not some stop-gap off the cuff album put out in-between her larger projects, it is a definitive statement that stands on its own and announces to the world that Matana Roberts is truly a saxophonist to be reckoned with. Matana Roberts - Always - Relative Pitch Records.

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

King Crimson - Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre November 20th, 2015 (DGMLive, 2016)

Since its surprising return to touring in 2014, the most recent incarnation of King Crimson has become a bruising septet consisting of leader Robert Fripp on guitar and keyboards, Jakko Jakszyk on guitar and vocals, Mel Collins saxophones and flute, Tony Levin on basses, Chapman Stick and backing vocals and the three percussionist lineup of Gavin Harrison, Bill Rieflin and Pat Mastelotto on drums and electronic percussion. The group has been touring regularly and this “official bootleg” has been released as a download with a physical release to follow. While much of the discussion about this version of the band has been about the percussion heavy three drummer lineup, there is quite a bit more going on, and the music has subtlety and grace to match it’s frenetic power. The playlist is a mixture of the old and the new, with warhorses like “Easy Money” and “Starless” getting their first public performances in quite a while. Jakszyk has his work cut out for him singing those songs as well as “The Court of the Crimson King” and “21st Century Schizoid Man” which fans will so strongly associate with earlier vocalists John Wetton and Greg Lake respectively, but he throws himself into the challenge and does a fine job conveying the majesty and malice of “Starless” and “Court” as well as the sly humor of “Easy Money” and sheer lunacy of “Schizoid.” The band opens the concert in a quiet fashion calmly building “Larks Tongues In Aspic Part I” which features excellently shifting rhythm and flute from Mel Collins, who plays to the home crowd by touching on “Oh, Canada” in his solo. Quite a bit of disc one is instrumental with muscular versions of the powerhouse “Red” and a full throttle “Vroom” but “Pictures of a City” is one of Jakszyk’s finest vocals with the band in full flight around him, and there is an appropriately moody version of “Epitaph” to conclude disc one. The second disc is equally dynamic with a sly “Easy Money” early on and then a devastating finale/encore of “Starless” > “The Court Of The Crimson King” > “21st Century Schizoid Man.” The band is really a finely tuned machine at this point and this is an excellent release, especially welcomed by those who were not able to attend a concert on the 2015 tour. The group is white hot, and the setlist choices and band performances are continuously interesting. King Crimson - Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre on November 20th, 2015 - DGMLive

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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Julian Argüelles - Truth Be Told (Basho Music, 2015)

On this album, saxophonist Julian Argüelles collaborates with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band to play arrangements of compositions by South African musicians, many of which are associated with the legendary Blue Notes band, which fled apartheid ravaged South Africa for England in the early 1960’s. “Mra Khali” opens the album with a happy rhythmic sound; as the music takes off into a joyful swing feel with hard riffing horns and rippling piano and percussion. Argüelles solos nicely, with his saxophone sounding bright and beaming as the surrounding horns lift him ever higher. This is followed by “Mama Marimba” which opens with a freer sensibility before coalescing into a coolly funky beat with punchy horns and subtle bass clarinet bubbling underneath. There is a medium tempoed trumpet solo with a mellow feel which then makes way for horns to build in their riff patterns and launches a majestic saxophone solo into the air to end the performance. The bouncing township feel continues on “Diamond Express,” which has a jaunty danceable feel with jagged horns and powerful trumpet and a very cool rhythm. Another bright and shiny saxophone solo moves the music forward and keeps everything on an even keel. “Amasi” has thick, strong percussion with deep saxophone playing developing a raw feel before the rest of the blustery horns muscle their way in and develop a kaleidoscopic swirl around which the music can revolve. Riffing horns and boiling percussion ratchet the tension even higher making for a very fast and fun section where short bursts of percussion and horns play off against one another. Finally, “Come Again” has monstrous percussion and horn interplay making for a very infectious performance, and Argüelles is able to stretch out for a very impressive saxophone solo before making way for some snarling guitar and then a full band blast off to end things with a rousing conclusion. This was a very interesting album, as the compositions and the arrangements lend themselves to some very accessible playing. The music was exciting, emotional and very well done. This is the kind of album you can give to someone who says they can’t get into jazz because it is too staid and serious, because this is anything but. Let It Be Told -

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Sunday, March 06, 2016

Mette Rasmussen / Chris Corsano Duo ‎- All The Ghosts At Once (Relative Pitch Records, 2015)

This very interesting album is a duet performance featuring Mette Rasmussen on alto saxophone and Chris Corsano on drums. Recorded in Brooklyn in 2013, the music is for the most part freely improvised, but still quite accessible and well rounded. “Train Track” opens the album with raw saxophone and spare percussion as the duo begins to probe the open space around them. They move the pace of the music up several notches to make way for squalls of saxophone and strong pummeling drums. The speed and power with which the musicians play on this selection make it hard not to make (favorable) comparisons to John Coltrane and Rashied Ali’s Interstellar Space album. Crosano opens the short and exciting “Contester” with a blast of percussion before Rasmussen’s saxophone comes in with a wailing and powerful attack, and the music carries on from there, with a brief burst of powerful thrilling music. “How Many Of These Things Do We Need Anyway?” has a tight duo setup, opening with the musicians playing off against each other in a way that works very well. They are deeply engaged with each other and open to exploring the freedom that is available to them musically, eventually building to a section where the improvisation builds to a scalding tempo. There is a quiet conversational opening to the wonderfully titled “Exploding Foods” where the musicians are calmly circling and patiently looking at the nature of the music they are making and their relationship to it. Rasmussen develops long tones of saxophone while Corsano’s drums roll on underneath and they develop a fine series of tension and dynamic release. “Dots......(for Paul Flaherty)” has ratting free and open drumming with brief hints of saxophone ducking and weaving around them. Their dynamic acuity is at play here as they are able to stretch the space and time of their dynamic meeting, juxtaposing milder sections against faster and more complex ones. Rasmussen’s saxophone is the centerpiece of “O Space Heater! My Space Heater!” where she spends much of the performance unaccompanied or with minimal support, developing raw scrawls of noise and tone and long peals that sound like warning sounds in the night. This was a meeting of the minds that worked quite well. The spontaneous performances here are well integrated between the musicians who work very well as a team but also take the imitative to make their own individual statements heard. Mette Rasmussen and Chris Corsano ‎- All The Ghosts At Once - Relative Pitch Records

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Saturday, March 05, 2016

Book: The Clash (Grand Central Publishing, 2008)

The Clash was one of the most important bands in rock 'n' roll history, moving from scuffling for gigs in the squats of London to fame and accolades and then finally the inevitable fall from grace. This is a coffee table book that charts the band's career with an overview and a wealth of photos and illustrations. They begin with providing brief biographies of the four main band members with anecdotes about their upbringing and their path toward music and the eventual formation of the band. Then there is a year by year narrative of the groups activities, whether recording, playing gigs or getting into various forms of mischief. This is an "official" history of the band, so the scurrilous gossip is kept to a minimum. They slowly gain momentum during 1976-1977, building into a protean live band and beginning to record singles and EP's that were getting noticed in the press. The infamous Anarchy in the U.K. tour with The Sex Pistols and The Damned really put them on the map as the chaos and attention grew and led to the release of their explosive first self titled LP. As with each album, the book annotates each song with quips from band members. The first album sold surprisingly well, and when the label elected not to sell it in the USA it became one of the best selling import LPs in America. Then it was wall to wall touring to take their message all around England and Europe as a whole, culminating with a trip to Jamaica and an explosive Rock Against Racism performance. The follow up album Give 'em Enough Rope was controversial since it was produced by Sandy Pearlman and gave the album a bit of a hard rock sheen. The record had an epic side one, but nothing could prepare people for the band's next release, the epochal masterpiece London Calling, one of the greatest albums in rock 'n' roll history. They weren't a punk band any longer but folded that influence into a batter that included reggae, blues and beyond. The band's reach exceeded their grasp on the following album Sandinista! which was a three album set (at a budget price that scalped their royalties) where they threw everything including the kitchen sink into an unruly mess that nevertheless contained some absolute gems. The band had been working non-stop and the book chronicles this with quotes from each member about touring and recording and the tensions that were beginning to build up amidst the immense pressure of playing sixteen straight nights at Bonds Casino in New York City or opening for The Who in gigantic stadiums. Cracks had started to show in the band as they had to fire drummer Topper Headon due to his out of control heroin addiction. Despite the problems, their 1981 album Combat Rock was a huge popular hit: number two in the UK and number seven in the USA. They were experimenting even more, adding influences of the nascent hip-hop movement and Jamaican dub to their music, surprisingly scoring a top ten single with "Rock the Casbah." Unfortunately it was all downhill from there, as Joe Strummer and Mick Jones had a falling out and a rotating drummer replacing Headon. Eventually Jones left and Strummer was left to stumble to the finish in 1984 with the final album Cut the Crap and with single "This is England." So this book works very well as an overview of the band, the members, their albums and tours. The pictures and press cuttings are fascinating as are the glimpses behind the scenes at of the most influential bands that ever lived. The Clash -

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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Dikeman/Paker/Drake - Live at La Resistenza (el NEGOCITO Records, 2015)

When the DOEK festival in Amsterdam invited him to put together a group for a concert, John Dikeman seized on his opportunity to ask bassist William Parker and percussionist Hamid Drake to join him in a trio. Parker and Drake are perhaps the most empathetic musicians on the jazz scene, and it is clear on this recording: you’d think they’d been playing with Dikeman for years. “Gratitude” opens the concert with his huge and brawny toned saxophone and Drake’s rolling drumming developing a fast and powerful performance. The trio builds an open and dynamic sound that is tremendously exciting as Dikeman’s saxophone slices through the air leading an unfettered improvisation with an open throated howl. He lays out to allow Parker and Drake to develop an even deeper rhythm before returning and leading the band back into “Invocation” with his Pharoah Sanders/Charles Gayle like saxophone tone. They slow down momentarily, allowing for rumbled percussion and long tones of saxophone and a gentler more open feel to develop before ramping up to the power level of the music that had preceded it. They are a storming unit that moves as one, with the bass and drums always moving as demonstrated during a short solo spot for William Parker’s bass, which is deep, thoughtful and very in the moment. Drake’s drumming joins back in and powers the group into “Bad Uncle John!” with a massive rhythmic blast of limitless potential and Dikeman’s saxophone returns with bright peals and shrieks of coruscating sound. There is a collective improvisation with a massive concussive block of drums and like the previous two sections; it ends with an area for bass and drums. “WY Funk” is the last part of the improvised suite, with deep and resounding saxophone playing in an upbeat and joyous fashion backed with nearly swinging drums. They do move back into a stronger and more dynamic section, playing with heavy ferocity featuring taut bass and powerful drums. This was a great album of boundless free improvisation with the great Parker/Drake team a perfect match for Dikeman’s charismatic and imaginative playing. The format of the music allowed for sequences of trio and solo sections that were all impressive and triggered a wide array of frenzied performances. Dikeman/Parker/Drake - Live at La Resistenza - el NEGOCITO Records.

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