Long time since I blogged, but very little to report recently. Just finished a stack of reviews, including William Parker's new Curtis Mayfield compilation on AUM Fidelity, the new Mike Formanek (ECM), Bill Frisell's Savoy Jazz debut, Christian Muthspiel's surprisingly successful Yodel project, and best of all the new disc by Scott Colley (which has prompted this post).
Along with the new one by Phronesis (which I was also fortunate enough to review), the disc is definitely a contender for jazz CD of the year. Heavily featuring Bill Frisell, who heads straight back to his ECM years for inspiration and is in magnificent form, none of the slight reservations I had about Architect of the Silent Moment apply. In liberating himself from the interesting-but-done-to-death late '60s Miles sound, Colley has come into his own as a force.
Not much live jazz to get excited about round here, although I did miss the Mujician/Aki Takase double bill in Gateshead last week. Missing Eugene Chadbourne caused less anxiety, but I'll probably check out Kenny Wheeler's 80th Birthday tour next week as I have fond memories of seeing the Music For Large & Small Ensemble's CMN tour in the late '80s.
We really enjoyed the 'Way To Blue' Nick Drake tribute at The Sage last Sunday, and I suppose Danny Thompson and Zoe Rahman added some jazz cred (if that's important). With a well balanced cast of singers ranging from too quiet (Vashti Bunyan) to too loud (Krystle Warren), the middle ground was safely held by Green Gartside, Robyn Hitchcock, Scott Matthews and Teddy Thompson, who consistently struck the right notes. With some of the most beautiful songs ever written at their disposal, this show was a real treat. Having a full string section playing the original arrangements certainly helped, and we have a clear contender for gig of the year.
With the new David Sylvian disc as my listening of choice at the moment, I think you can safely say I'm sympathetically disposed to this sort of thing right now. Here's a thought to close with - is David Sylvian now the only acceptable face of UK improv?
Architect Of The Silent Moment
Usual Illusion; Strip Mall Ballet; El Otro; Architect Of The Silent Moment; Masoosong; Feign Tonal; From Within; Smoke Stack; Window Of Time.
Ralph Alessi (t); Craig Taborn (ky); Scott Colley (b); Antonio Sanchez (d).
Guest appearances by Dave Binney (ss); Jason Moran (p); Gregoire Maret (hca); Adam Rogers (g).
Recorded December 2005.
Scott Colley is a busy man. Notable associations include Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall and the late great Andrew Hill. Rather less frequently than providing the backbone to a host of top-flight groups, he steps out as a leader. As you’d expect, it is at the helm of his own vessel that his musical bent can best be gauged, and quite an expansive bent it is too. Complex and contemporary, structured but loose, appreciative of the past but always open to influences from other genres.
The core group is the quartet featuring Alessi and Taborn, though guests appear at choice moments to expand the music’s palette. Colley’s choice to open out into an electro-acoustic world is certainly voguish, though it has to be said that Taborn’s superb Thirsty Ear projects take the aesthetic a lot further. Save for the free passage in ‘Feign Tonal’ and the percussive rubato of ‘El Otro’, this is recognisably music from the tradition. Colley is nevertheless an astute musical Janus, his group sound spanning late ‘60s Miles (on the cusp of going electric), and looking as far ahead as M-Base for its off-centre rhythmic schemata. The opening ‘Usual Illusion’ introduces the quartet and foreshadows a lot of the tumultuous music that follows. Alessi’s fiery trumpet shimmers above Taborn’s fractured electronic textures, Colley’s forceful lines bringing direction while Sanchez’s busy percussion often skirts tastelessness but keeps things edgy. Next we get a walk on from extraordinary harmonica virtuoso Gregoire Maret. The delightfully titled ‘Strip Mall Ballet’ sees his oblique and fleet phrasing making a mockery of an instrument not normally noted for its improvisational agility. Maret’s contribution to the spacious ‘Masoosong’ provides a welcome break to Sanchez’ pummelling attack on the title-piece and is certainly the disc’s melodic high spot. Binney plays some slick modal soprano on ‘From Within’, while Jason Moran steps forward to accompany Taborn for a fascinating intro to Andrew Hill’s ‘Smokestack’.
The clash of acoustic and electronic keyboards casts the music in a new light, one that Moran’s recently departed mentor would probably have appreciated. All of the remaining compositions are Colley’s, and though not as accomplished a writer as exceptional bassist/bandleader Dave Holland, his music goes well beyond the utilitarian. The closing ‘Window Of Time’ deserves a special mention - its open-ended form, rhythmic displacement, and echoes of Americana providing an intriguing closure, as well as hinting that Colley has a lot more music inside him for the future.