Thursday, February 20, 2014

Floros Floridis - F.L.O.R.O L.ow O.der R.oll O.ver

Floros Floridis - alto saxophone;
Pandelis Stoikos - trumpet;
Vasilis Komatas - clarinet;
Vangelis Tsotridis - electric guitar;
Nektarios Karatzis - bass;
Nikos Psofogiorgos - drums;


01. Pustseno [10:02]
02. Sarki [09:45]
03. Lahana [09:43]
04. Seriani [09:05]
05. Stergios [09:27]
06. Pavlos Melas [08:08]
07. Tis Fotias [07:33]

Recorded in Magnanimus Recording Studios, Thessaloniki on March 21,22 & 23, 2002
j.n.d. re-records 002

Greek Jazz? The phrase itself sounds like an oxymoron, even though over the past decade, it’s been acknowledged that master musicians can come as easily from Germany (East and West), Italy, Canada, Brazil, Cuba and South Africa as from either side of the Mason-Dixon Line. Still, any one of those countries was known to have a long, classical or rhythmic history. But most North Americans’ only association with Hellenic sounds was what they heard in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Never on Sunday or the overwrought pop symphonies of Yanni and Vangelis.

Floridis, who with pianist Sakis Papadimitriou made Greece’s first Free Jazz record in 1979 [!], has dealt with his isolation by writing for film, theatre and dance performances and by spreading his talents among many bands, including a German trio with the late bassist Peter Kowald and drummer Günter Sommer, the Inter-Balkan Orchestra, the Florina Brass Band and the two combos here.

OUR TRIP SO FAR, matches up the Hellenic musicmaker with two foreign heavy hitters, American-Greek guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, best known for his work with fellow guitarist Sonny Sharrock, bassist Bill Laswell and tenor titan Peter Brötzmann; and to show how music transcends political boundaries, Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz, a longtime associate of cornetist Don Cherry. The results meld Greco-Turkish and rock influences with improvised sounds.

F.L.O.R.O. on the other hand, finds Floridis plus a quintet of little-known --outside of Greece that is -- local musicians. Rejuvenation of some traditional Greek songs, all arranged by the saxman, takes place, with jazz, Balkan, rock and free music added to the jaunty, curvaceous themes. Balkan influences aren’t that odd, since geography places Greece and its Balkan neighbors in close proximity. They share some of the same melodies and many of the same instruments.

An example of what you can do with this blend of instruments is demonstrated most clearly on tunes like “Seriani” and “Stergios”. The former, a uncomplicated andante line, finds guitarist Vangelis Tsotridis picking out muted, Johnny Smith-type chords as drummer Nikos Psofogiorgos rumbles from his kit, while the horns -- trumpeter Pandelis Stoikos and clarinetist Vasilis Komatas as well as Floridis on alto saxophone -- blend into a reedy squeeze-box sound. As the horns work off one another in counterpoint, woody clarinet tones and trilling alto lines mix with distorted guitar reverb and a walking bass line. By the end, though, intimations of the folkloric theme have been subverted by a stop-time ending with echoes of Ornette Coleman’s compositions.

Coleman’s Prime Time band and Miles Davis’ electric period bands appear to be the models for the later tune. In it, legato clarinet lines mix with guitar fills that sound like they migrated from BITCHES BREW. As growling, gritty resonances from the alto man give way to deeper trills and split tones, the piece picks up Klezmer-Balkan overtones even as Tsotridis leans into his wah wah pedal and Psofogiorgos’ press rolls are more Baker (Ginger) then Blakey (Art).

Taking to heart the lesson fellow reedist Julius Hemphill expressed in several of his longer compositions, Floridis knows that as long as the rhythm is catchy and constant, the soloist has freedom to do as he wishes. Thus, there are times the guitarist produces the sort of effects with his pedals that sound as if they belong on a Headhunters’ session, while the honks, snorts, trills and drones from the horn section make the tunes appear to be an admixture of Free Jazz and Greek wedding ditties.

The tightness, but reticence of the other horn men leads you to speculate that they may be part of the Florina Brass Band, which is thanked in the booklet notes. And it must be admitted, that after a while to non-Virgilian ears, as with pieces built on reggae or raga scales, a certain sameness does creep into the sounds here.

Whether melancholy or exhilarated, the guitar and percussion work here is also a bit faceless, with the rhythm partners doing more decorating and backing then idea contribution. That changes enormously on the other CD, since Skopelitis and Temiz are anything but shy.

Running through 10 improvisations in about 48 minutes, OUR TRIP SO FAR’s emphasis is on exhibition as well as improvisation. Plus there are plenty of percussive colors to choose from since Temiz shows up with a cembe, an electric berimbao, a guica and an electronic pyramid as well as his regular kit. All the instruments seem to be played through electronic processing as well, with certain tracks even featuring Floridis on both bass clarinet and flute or clarinet at the same time. Overdubbing definitely took place in the studio, unless of course the reedist has the powers of a Greek god rather than a mortal.

Floridis is most impressive in non-doubled human form, though, such as on “Stars”, where his deep-toned, woody clarinet tone is mated with Skopelitis’ treatments that inflate guitar tones into massed, room-filling organ chords. Meanwhile Temiz has come up with sounds that appear alternately to be dice rolling or conga drum whacking. Adagio, “Greetings from overseas” finds Temiz shaking a bell tree to mix it up with what appears to be an acoustic guitar pealing out space-filling dissonant tones. On bass clarinet Floridis moves up and down in pitch as he plays, from chalumeau register to screech mode.

Queer, elf-like voices, ringing bells, what seem to be literal bubbles and electronic wiggles that could come from the pyramid or bow-and-gourd berimbao don’t seem to faze him at all on “Kula Baba” Imperturbably he calmly plays his clarinet even when Skopelitis lets loose with a screaming electric guitar solo.

Most of the time as well, the overdubbed reed lines give Floridis a chance to add glissandos and other extended techniques to the traditional Greek-influenced melodies; he even sounds as if he’s playing a melodica at one point. But there are also times where the rhythm team combine for sounds that seems to owe more to ProgRock than the Penloponnisos peninsula, and you start to remember that Vangelis got his start in the band Aphrodite’s Child with histrionic Greek vocalist Demis Roussos.

Despite these minor drawbacks, either of the CDs can serve as a memorable introduction to Floridis’ unique work, with the more overtly Greek F.L.O.R.O having a slight edge. Remember, you don’t have to be wary of the gifts that this Greek bears.

-- Ken Waxman

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Atman - Ovoo

ATMAN: Piotr Kolecki, Marek Leszczynski, Marek Styczynski - various acoustic instruments from Asia, Europe & Australia, for example: dulcimer, singing bowls, didjeridoo, Slovakian fujara (wooden flute) and also instruments created by members of the group

#1 & 15: Atman & Tomasz Gulinski -vocal; Anna Nacher -vocal; Tomasz Radziuk -el. Kramer bass.


01. Natural Landscapes [02:57]
02. Angklungs [02:39]
03. The Party [05:14]
04. Dance I [05:52]
05. Free Space I [00:59]
06. Fly - Why Not [02:44]
07. Dance II [03:14]
08. The Platform [02:46]
09. Free Space II [01:53]
10. Dance III [03:24]
11. Epilogue [03:46]
12. Ovoo [01:36]
13. Forest of Karma [09:54]
14. Wild Way [08:46]
15. The Talking Meadow (story) [16:12]

Tracks 1 & 15 recorded at Polish Radio Krakow, Poland in 1996.
Tracks 2-11 recorded at Polish Radio Gdansk, Poland in 1992.
Tracks 12-14 recorded at Private Studio, Krakow, Poland in 1993.
Fly Music

Perhaps the most creative world-music ensemble in the world was the Polish ensemble Atman, whose Personal Forest (1993) and Tradition (1999) were collages of surreal blends of Eastern and Western music, in the vein of the Third Ear Band and the Incredible String Band. Atman's multi-instrumentalist Marek Styczynski and vocalist Anna Nacher started a new project, Projekt Karpaty Magiczne, or Magic Carpathians Project, devoted to an ambient, cosmic, jazz version of Atman's pan-ethnic music on Ethnocore II (2001)
...The album's tour de force is The Talking Meadow (15 minutes), a shamanic act which develops in a breeze of tibetan drones and native american rattles. Through ghostly echoes of didjeridu and buzzing of insect-like trumpets, an eerie melody on the dulcimer takes shape.
Tensegretty, with its bored, "new wavish", vocals and its heavy metal riffing, may represent a more rock-oriented direction (albeit still light-years away from your average alt-rock band).
Atman (often Theatre of Sound Atman) was founded in 1975 in Cracow (PL) by Marek Styczynski and Jacek Zadora, from 1982 it was basiclly a trio: Styczynski, Marek Leszczynski & Piotr Kolecki but many musicians, dancers were invited to perform together with group. Atman was not only a band but a kind of alternative movement with their own label – FLY Music, workshops and festival Music in Landscape. Their sound is defined by using traditional, sometimes exotic, instruments, many flutes, different small percussions, violin, mandolin, cimbalom, didgeridoo, acoustic guitars and vocals also. Apart from obvious “ethnic” attitude Atman also didn’t forget about spontaneity of improvisation.

* in Italian:
Atman e` un gruppo polacco costruito attorno alle personalita` di Marek Styczynski, Marek Leszczynski e Piotr Kolecki. In passato hanno collaborato con diversi altri musicisti polacchi, in particolare la cantante Anna Nacher, a cui e` accreditato Tradycja (Freak Living Yourself). Atman e` fondamentalmente un gruppo di musica etnica strumentale, ma l'approccio e` alquanto diverso da quello della world-music. Il tono pacato e austero con cui dozzine di strumenti esotici (e alcuni costruiti dai musicisti stessi) vengono amalgamati ricorda semmai le partiture ambientali o le suite di Steve Roach (senza l'elettronica, ovviamente).

Atman sta proponendo la world-music piu` intellettuale di tutti i tempi; sebbene radicata nei ritmi e nelle melodie del mondo, la musica folk di questo gruppo appare tanto austere, tanto complessa, tanto sofisticata e in definitiva tanto ambiziosa quanto la musica d'avanguardia.

...Wild Way cerca la trance con il suo strimpellio meccanico, le sue nuvole di flauti, le sue piogge di campanelli, i suoi barriti di trombe...
...Il tour de force dell'album e` rappresentato da The Talking Meadow (15 minuti), un atto sciamanico che si sviluppa in un abrezza di droni tibetani e rantoli amerindi. Attraverso echi spettrali di didjeridu e ronzio di trombe, il dulcimer da forma ad una lugubre melodia in Tensegretty, che e` caratterizzato da annoiati vocalismi new wave e da un riffing heavy metal e potrebbe rappresentare un orientamento piu` verso il rock (anche se lontano anni luce dal tipico gruppo alt-rock).


#14: Wild Way

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Janusz Szprot - Na tureckim dywanie [On The Turkish Carpet]

Janusz Szprot - keyboards, Hohner melodica ( #1,4), Fender Rhodes piano (#5);
Tomasz Szukalski - tenor sax (on # 1-3, 6-9);
Tuna Ötenel - keyboards: Fender Rhodes piano ( # 1,4) alto sax ( # 6);
Sibel Köse - vocal (# 7-9);
Kamil Erdem - bass guitar (# 4,5);
Adam Kowalewski - bass guitar (# 1-3, 6-9);
Krzysztof Dziedzic - drums;


01.Na tureckim dywanie (Polonezkoy) [On The Turkish Carpet] [07:20]
02.Sanktuarium w Adampolu [The Adampol Sanctuary] [06:43]
03.Solilokwia [Soliloquies] [04:11]
04.Jarek w ogrodzie [Jareczek's Garden] [08:53]
05.Slodkie polskie sny [Sweet Polish Dreams] [08:30]
06.Bilkent Blues [06:12]
07.Velvet Mist [05:54]
08.Bossa at Sundown [04:18]
09.Lonely Avenue [05:11]

Recorded at Ankara Sound Centre on November 2000.
Selles SNFP 0013 (2001)

Janusz Szprot – pianist, composer, arranger, musicologist, and educator – is an experienced musician who shared a rich background as a professional jazz pianist, soloist, sideman and the leader with various ensembles. He grew up and was educated in Warsaw, Poland, where he received a Masters Degree in Musicology. While completing his studying in 1972, Janusz began to play jazz and earned his living as a musical practitioner but also as a jazz critic and educator as well. He is well known to European audiences as a pianist and arranger for an ensemble called SAMI SWOI. During his stints with this little big band he performed with numerous jazz giants such as Wild Bill Davison, Budd Johnson, Beryl Bryden, Maxine Howard, Big Bill Ramsey, Simeon Szterev, Birger Sulsbruck, Ethiopian Mulatu Astatke, and some American blues singers. He has made successful appearances at the PORI (1982), NORTH SEA (1983) and many other international jazz festivals; toured Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and his native Poland. In addition, Janusz Szprot led a sextet called AMALGAMAT, which recorded for the Polish Radio and POLJAZZ recording company. In January 1986 he founded the BLUES DUO “SZ – SZ” (together with the top Polish reedman, Tomasz Szukalski), which became sensation on the Polish jazz scene and performed worldwide. Since 1990, when he began working at Bilkent University, Ankara, he is maintaining a busy schedule, performing concerts either in accompanying role with numerous jazz vocalists (including Sibel Kose, Liliana Rodriguez and American jazz star Joe Lee Wilson) or as a leader of his various jazz and blues ensembles. In June 1983 he founded the POLISH-TURKISH JAZZ FORMATION, a super group composed of the best Polish and Turkish musicians, which performed to enthusiastic audience response both in Ankara and at the 21st International Istanbul Festival. He has been for in partnership with Turkish musicians for many years. His longtime musical friends are Sibel Kose, Kamil Erdem, Tuna Otenel, to name but a few. The number of his students is also impressive and is still growing. As a pianist Janusz Szprot is conversant with many styles of jazz piano. His flexibility and versatility are clearly in evidence in his discography which consist of over 15 records. His last CD “POLONEZKOY”/ “NA TURECKIM DYWANIE” has been released in 2001 by ADA MUZIK (Istanbul) and SELLES RECORDS (Poland). Janusz is still very active as a composer, arranger, Hohner melodica virtuoso, musicologist, adjudicator, and educator. At present he serves as Director of Jazz Studies at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. (


#8. Bossa at Sundown -live: Sibel Köse & Dante Luciani & Janusz Szprot Group

Tomasz Szukalski is one of the most important but probably most under appreciated Jazz musician in the history of Polish Jazz. He is multi-talented artist who has contributed to the numbers of most important milestones of Polish and European Jazz, including albums by leaders like Zbigniew Namysłowski, Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski and Tomasz Stańko. His charisma on those recordings is always very distinct and always present, in many cases he almost “steals” the record from the leader (just listen to Szukalski on Edward Vesala’s “Satu”)

Tomasz was playing with Arild Andersen, Albert Mangelsdorff, Palle Danielsson, Rashied Ali, Terje Rypdal, Palle Mikkelborg, Tomasz Stańko, Edward Vesala, Dave Holland, Michał Urbaniak, John Surman, to name but a few, and was recording for the famous ECM label as well. In the late 70’s together with Sławomir Kulpowicz, Janusz Stefański and Paweł Jarzębski he founded The Quartet - one of the best european jazz bands.

Szukalski is a graduate of Warsaw Music College PWSM, where clarinet was his main instrument. Performing musician since his high school days, he self-taught himself to play tenor and soprano saxophones. After early collaborations with pop group Partita, Big Band Stodoła and bands of the leaders like Janusz Muniak, and Tomasz Ochalski; in 1972 he joined Zbigniew Namyslowski group with whom he extensively toured and recorded legendary albums “Winobranie” and “Kujaviak Goes Funky”. He quickly established himself on Jazz scene in Poland and collaborated with Włodzimierz Nahorny, Tomasz Stańko (“Balladyna”, “TWET”, “Almost Green”, “Live at Remont”), and Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski (“Sprzedawcy Glonów”).

In 1977, Szukalski joined probably the most important band in Polish Jazz of 1980s - The Quartet. In 1984 along with Czesław Bartkowski (drums) and Wojciech Karolak (keyboards), Szukalski co-leaded another “band without a leader” - Time Killers. The group recorded only one self-titled album but it marked the history of Polish Jazz. Jazz Forum’s critics survey in 1990s found “Time Killers” to be the Best Polish Jazz Record of 1980’s, and in many critics opinion probably the best example of exciting adaptation of Weather Report’s language into Polish Jazz idiom.

During the rest of the 80s, 90s and to the present time Szukalski has remained active and productive on Polish Jazz scene. He is continuing many fruitful collaborations with old musical friends (Stańko, Namysłowski) as well as with many new ones: Janusz Szprot, , Józef Skrzek, Piotr Wojtasik, Apostolis Anthimos, Jarek Śmietana (

Tomasz Szukalski Quartet - Body & Soul:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Theodosii Spassov - Bratimene

01. Horo with Kaval [05:53]
02. Rhodope Song [04:30]
03. Old Wives' Tales [06:57]
04. Paleontologomania [02:59]
05. Satin Doll [05:57]
06. Pendata [02:32]
07. Song about the Couscous [06:22]
08. Samba Rachenitsa [04:46]
09. Gyurkata [05:06]
10. A Little Something out of Nothing [02:06]
11. Rada [04:15]
12. For Nicky [04:42]
13. Christmas Eve with Bells [02:52]


# No 1:Theodosii Spassov - kaval( Bulgarian wooden flute), Vesselin Koichev - guitar, Docho Panov - bass guitar;
Recorded in February 1983.
# No 2:Theodosii Spassov - kaval; Simeon Shterev - flute, Roumen Toskov - piano; Vesselin Vesselinov-Eco - double-bass, Stoyan Yankulov - drums;
Recorded in July 1995.
# No 3:Theodosii Spassov - kaval, vocals; Stoyan Yankulov - percussions;
Recorded in January 1998.
# No 4: Theodosii Spassov - kaval, vocals; Milcho Leviev - piano.
Recorded in June 1993
# No 5: Theodosii Spassov - kaval; Peter Petrov - tenor sax; Ruschuk Trio: Boris Petrov - keyboards, Nikolai Georgiev - bass guitar; Marian Antonov -drums;
Recorded in March 1996.
# No 6: Theodosii Spassov - kaval; Peter Petrov - tenor saxophone;
Recorded in March 1996.
# No 7: Vesselin Nikolov Sextet: Vesselin Nikolov - soprano sax; Yildiz Ibrahimova - vocals; Theodosii Spassov - kaval; Vesselin Koichev - guitar; Docho Panov - bass guitar; Radoul Nachkov - drums; Boris Dinev - percussions.
Recorded in November 1985.
# No 8: Theodosii Spassov - kaval; Yildiz Ibrahimova - vocals; Ognyan Videv - guitar;
Recorded in January 1988.
# No 9: Theodosii Spassov - kaval; Stoyan Yankulov - percussions;
Recorded in January 1998.
# No 10: Theodosii Spassov - kaval; Acoustic Version: Antony Donchev - piano; Hristo Yotsov - drums;
Recorded in March 1992
# No 11: Theodosii Spassov - kaval; Anatoly Vapirov - soprano sax;
Recorded in October 1993.
# No 12: Theodosii Spassov - kaval; Roumen Toskov - piano; Georgi Donchev - double-bass; Stoyan Yankulov - drums;
Recorded in February 1997.
# No 13: Theodosii Spassov - kaval; Stefka Onikian - vocals; Nikolai Dragnev - guitar; Dimiter Shanov - bass guitar.
Recorded in February 1997
"St. Alexander Nevsky" Cathedral bells recorded during the Christmas Liturgy in 1992.

Gega New (1998)

Various video:

This is a compilation of Theodosy's best work from 1983 to 1998. Best described as Bulgarian ethnic jazz, this features Theodosy accompanied by some of the finest jazz musicians in Bulgaria: Yildaz Ibrahimova - vocals; Stoyan Yankulov - percussion; Milcho Leviev - piano; Vesselin Nikolov - sax; Simeon Shterev - flute, Peter Petrov, Stefka Onikian.
Theodosii Spassov invented a new musical genre. The American magazine is absolutely right. The Bulgarian genius developed a completely new style of playing the KAVAL, which is a shepherd’s flute consisting of wood and one of the oldest instruments in Europe.
Theodosii gets everything out of his KAVAL when playing his unique compositions. They include elements of traditional folklore music as well as jazz, classical music and even pop. His very own way of playing has not only impressed audiences during his concerts and festival appearances, but also fellow musicians, who cooperated with THEODOSII SPASSOV in the past years. Among them are Dave Liebman, Andy Sheppard, Yldiz Ibrahimova, Ennio Morricone, Jamey Haddad, Albert Mangelsdorff, Mark Johnson, Kazumi Watanabe and many others.


Theodosii Spassov was born on March 4th, 1961. He began his early training on the kaval at the Kotel Music School and The Academy of Music and Dance in Plovdiv/Bulgaria. The kaval, an eight-hole wooden “shepherd” flute, is one of the oldest Instruments in Europe, rich in tone and technical possibilities. Theodosii Spassov has developed his own unique style of playing the instrument by synthesizing traditional folklore with jazz, fusion and classical music.

For over 20 years, Theodosii has toured all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Canada and United States. In 1994, he performed with Sofia Women’s Radio Choir which was awarded with a Grammy award for “Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares”. In April of 1995, “Newsweek” magazine recognized Theodosii Spassov as one of the most talented Eastern-European musicians in its “best of the East” article, noting that “Spassov… is not merely surviving the post-communist cultural wasteland. He has actually invented a new musical genre.”

Theodosii Spassov has contributed to 20 CDs, four of his own, which have been noted worldwide. He has composed and performed numerous film scores including a French-Bulgarian feature film “Granitza”, (”The Border”) 1993. Also he recorded themes for films by Italian composers Carlos Siliotto and Ennio Morricone, entitled “An Italian Story” and “The Breakout of the Innocent”. At the fourth European Jazz Night, Theodosii Spassov was a featured performer along with other jazz musicians, including Winton Marsalis.

At home in Bulgaria, Theodosii Spassov is national figure and musical hero, and was recently honored with the”Music Artist of the Year” award. He is the Artistic Director of the world-renown “PHILIP KOUTEV Ensemble Of Music, Drama And Dance”.

Theodosii is currently member of the company of the Irish music and dance “Riverdance”-(1998-2001). Now hi is a soloist of Bulgarian National Radio.

The Special Prize of Detroit Flute Festival, 1994
The International Academy of Arts in Paris Award, 1996
“Music Artist of the Year” at the National Music Awards, 1997 and 2002
Apollo Toxophoros for sparkling contribution to Bulgarian music, 2001
National Film Centre Annual Awards-”Best film music composer”, 2006
“Artist Of Salon Des Arts” , 2007
“Dobri Chintulov” for culture activity, 2009
“Golden Age” for contribution to Bulgarian culture, 2011

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mihály Dresch & Archie Shepp - Hungarian Bebop

Archie Shepp: soprano, tenor sax., piano.
Mihaly Dresch: soprano, tenor sax., flute.
Ferenc Kovacs: violin.
Matyas Szandai: double bass.
Istvan Baló: drums (Duban drums -model Baló).
Kalman Balogh: cimbalom (#5)


01. Lily Of The Valley [07:59]
02. Búzai Song (based on traditional folk tune) [11:43]
03. I Was Beaten Because [10:02]
04. Steam [06:32]
05. Sorrow, Sorrow [08:48]
06. Hungarian Bebop [09:59]

Recorded at the Roxound Studio, Budapest 2002


Saxophonist and composer Mihaly Dresch is one of the most influential nurturers of a fertile fusion between Hungarian folk music and jazz, and this attractive set features him in the company of that grizzled veteran of the 1960s American free-jazz avant-garde, Archie Shepp. There are strong contrasts between Dresch's clearer, more precise, yet Coltrane-pungent tenor lines and Shepp's raw and bleary smears and lurches, and they dance some ruggedly elegant improvised counterpoint together on soprano saxes too, as well as providing haunting textural blends with violinist Ferenc Kovacs' deliciously fluttering tone and sudden surges of intensity. Shepp's famous Steam (taken surprisingly slowly, and suggesting a dance in monochrome between a solitary couple in a vast, empty ballroom) is the only non-Dresch track, and most of the melodies mingle boppish lines with gracefully weaving Hungarian folk themes. Shepp sounds unusually engaged in the whole enterprise, and though there's a melancholy flavour to it, it's a very distinctive mix. John Fordham The Guardian

This summit meeting between the Hungarian saxophonist and composer Milhaly Dresch and avant-jazz elder statesman Archie Shepp is an interesting and frequently beautiful experiment that demonstrates both how gracefully Shepp is aging and how fully developed the jazz scene is in that former Soviet satellite country. The mostly pianoless arrangements (which feature violin and, in one case, a cimbalom) recall the harmolodic excursions of Shepp's old boss, Ornette Coleman, but without Coleman's willful harmonic chaos. On the contrary, these are well-crafted compositions, all but one written by Dresch, and they give the players plenty of structural support on which to base their sometimes wide-ranging improvisations. Highlights include "Buzai Song" (which is based on a Hungarian folk tune and features some stunning duo improvisation between the two saxophonists) and the playful "Hungarian Bebop," which is only vaguely bop-flavored but shares bebop's flavor of complex but high-spirited fun. Recommended.
Review by Rick Anderson

Editor's Info:
Dresch's music touches on both areas using Afro and Euro-American idioms, also incorporating their own folk traditions. Within the area of instrumental music it's rather like what the Beatles were able to do using Negro-blues to create a new form. What we did was combine Hungarian folk and European academic music with afro-jazz elements in a way that really swings. The overall feeling of the recording is nice and fresh.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bela Szakcsi Lakatos Trio - Na Dara!

Béla Szakcsi Lakatos - piano
György Orbán - double bass
András Peczek Lakatos - drums

Mónika Rostás - vocal
Csaba Rostás - vocal

01. Red caravan [08:09]
02. 8th district [10:23]
03. Peace of the stars [06:11]
04. Little gipsy song for you [09:01]
05. Gipsy groove [01:57]
06. Bell of my soul - tribute to Péter Eötvös [11:43]
07. Django [03:46]

Recorded at Aquarium Studio, Budapest on December 2003


"I believe that what we have on this album is world music in the truest sense of the word. To my mind, world music is not when a Cuban musician or a Gypsy plays the tunes of his own people but when various musical cultures and styles merge into one. Here you have the Hungarian and Gypsy elements fusing with the strains of Oriental music, occasionally straying into the blues while phrases crop up even from Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and there is the undeniable influence of twenty-first-century contemporary music. But all through this pulses the underlying current of jazz."
Béla Szakcsi Lakatos


"Pianist Béla Szakcsi Lakatos has a lengthy history that includes playing classical music and jazz standards as well as being the first in Hungary to explore fusion. As a member of Special EFX, he toured the world and appeared on many recordings. He has also worked extensively at exploring his Hungarian heritage and turning gypsy-flavored melodies into jazz. Although one can hear a bit of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett in his playing, much of the time Lakatos plays the piano like the folk instrument the cimbalom, a bit out of time yet swinging in its own fashion. Lakatos' originals are full of rich melodies, and the lengthier pieces on Na Dara!, particularly "8th District," are episodic, unpredictable, and intriguing. The occasional wordless vocals of Csaba Rostás and particularly his wife, Mónika Rostás, are haunting and authentic, giving this music an even stronger flavor of Eastern Hungarian music. Lakatos wraps up this continually interesting set with a stately reading of John Lewis' "Django." Recommended!" by Scott Yanow

Szakcsi Lakatos Trio [is] led by Rom pianist Lakatos with Gyorgy Orbán (bass), András Peczek Lakatos (drums), plus a pair of superb vocalists, Mónika and Csaba Rostás. Not Django, but an utterly contemporary, cosmopolitan sort of gypsy jazz. At the keyboard, Lakatos hard bops with the very best; the ideas come fast and furious, he plays with a riveting precision, and the groove he carves out carries the entire project forward with overwhelming energy (Randy Weston and Rodney Kendrick come to mind). He's literally all over the piano, reaching deep inside the box to pluck and stroke the strings like a grand cimbalom, as the bass dances and the cymbals shimmer, easing into a down-and-dirty strut to wake the dead (hear "Eighth District"), or loping up and down the track with a percussive joy that defies time itself ("Gipsy Groove"), while the John Lewis ballad "Django" closes out with what an affecting interpretation that calls down the spirit of Bill Evans. Lakatos (winner of the Lizst Prize and Hungarian Artist of Merit Award) has talent to burn, and he deserves a far wider hearing. - Michael Stone, RootsWorld

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Asian American Jazz Orchestra - Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire

Anthony Brown: drumset w/timbales and pedal tom, shime daiko [7]; Mark Izu: bass, sheng (mouth organ) [7]; Jon Jang: piano; Qi Chao Liu: sheng [7], suona reed trumpet [1, 10], dizi (bamboo flute) [4, 6, 8, 9, 10]; Hafez Modirzadeh: soprano and tenor saxophones [2, 6], ney (end-blown flute) [4, 8]; Wayne Wallace: trombone; Francis Wong: tenor saxophone [2, 5], flute [1, 6-10]; clarinet [5]; John Worley: trumpet.

PJ Hirabayashi: taiko, percussion, waterphone [8]; Michelle Fujii: taiko, percussion, shekere [10]; Yumi Ishihara: taiko, percussion, cowbell [6], clave and palito [10]; Crissy Sato: taiko, percussion, triangle and cowbell [10].
and special guests BRENDA WONG AOKI and GEORGE YOSHIDA

01. Executive Order 9066 [03:12]
02. Camp Life, Tuxedo Junction, Polka Dots and Moonbeams [04:38]
03. Jerome Camp, Buddhahead Blues [04:41]
04. The Photograph [02:58]
05. The Last Dance, In a Sentimental Mood [03:00]
06. Kiryoku [07:32]
07. Ichikotsu-cho [02:59]
08. Prelude (Truth be Told) [04:54]
09. Intro to Rhymes [01:22]
10. Rhymes (For Children) [08:58]
11. Redress/Blues [05:29]
12. Reparations Now! [04:09]
13. Ikiru [06:50]

Recorded at San Jose Repertory Theater, San Jose, California on August 18, 1998
Asian Improv Records AIR 0045


Anthony Brown’s Liner Notes to “Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire”

In 1997, the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF) awarded federal grants to individuals, organizations, and projects to promote public education about the Japanese American internment experience. “Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire” was a national multimedia multidisciplinary consortium project funded by the CLPEF to create dialogue and increase public awareness about the internment experience through the vehicle of jazz. Concert programs of the Asian American Jazz Orchestra with members of San Jose Taiko and guest artists performing original works inspired by the internment experience, symposia involving former internees, musicians, and members of local communities, a traveling photo exhibit “Reminiscing in Swingtime,” of how jazz was part of life in internment camps were major components of the project.

This recording consists of excerpts from extended compositions performed in concert as “Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire.” Following a weekend of concerts at the San Jose Repertory Theater, the full program was recorded in its entirety. The selections included on the CD are first or second takes with no overdubs and reflect essentially what the Orchestra sounds like in performance.

E.O. 9066 is a collaborative commissioned work by Anthony Brown with San Jose Taiko, commemorating the courageous spirit of those unjustly imprisoned during World War II. The introductory Executive Order 9066 is an adaptation of a Chinese melody entitled, “The General’s Order,” co-arranged by Anthony Brown and Qi Chao Liu. The music heralds the abrupt upheaval and forced incarceration of over 120,000 people precipitated by Executive Order (E.O.) 9066. Qi is featured on suona, the Chinese reed trumpet, even playing two together (2:04-2:14)!

LAST DANCE is the collaborative multimedia work by Mark Izu and George Yoshida commissioned by the “Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire” project. George played alto saxophone in the Music Makers of Poston Camp, Arizona in 1943 (front, center in the cover photograph), although he later chose drums as his instrument. He tells the story of the camps from his heart and soul; you can hear his seasoned timing in his adroit phrasing and delivery. George’s musicality prompted recording him as another instrument rather than how a singer typically would be. Adaptations of the original big band arrangements of Tuxedo Junction, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, and In a Sentimental Mood are by Wayne Wallace. Consummate performance artist Brenda Wong Aoki contributes haunting reminders in song and poetry of the nightmare World War II was for Japanese Americans. As Mark said, “Kiryoku represents the vital, ever-changing Japanese American community, the spirit of ‘keeping on,’ moving forward, creating, and celebrating.”

E.O. 9066 continues with Ichikotsu-cho, an arrangement of an 11th-century Gagaku composition (ceremonial court music), dedicated to the Issei, the first generation of Japanese in America. It features Qi and then Mark Izu on shengs, Chinese mouth organs, before other winds join in a free round. The Prelude (Truth be Told) creates an ambiance of timelessness, transporting the listener through the musical themes of the suite. Rhymes (For Children) commemorates the injustices suffered by Japanese Latin Americans, and celebrates hope for a future that will not see the imprisonment of children.

Jon Jang composed REPARATIONS NOW! inspired by the historic Day of Remembrance celebration in San Jose in February 1987 and his experiences in the Asian communities. In his liner notes for Never Give Up! (Asian Improv Records, 1989), Jon wrote, “In this music, we are trying to express the pride and sentiments of Asian peoples’ struggles in America for equality and justice.” The excerpts include Redress/Blues (for Akira “Jackson” Kato), Reparations Now! (for the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations, Nihonmachi Outreach Committee, Black Congressional Caucus, and 40 acres and a mule for African Americans), and Ikiru (inspired by Akira Kurasawa’s 1952 film). Taiko composed and arranged by Jose Alarcon and PJ and Roy Hirabayashi.

Day of Remembrance

“In the camps, we identified ourselves as Americans through our music.”
— George Yoshida, jazz musician, former internee and author of “Reminiscing
in Swingtime”

“Music helped us keep our sanity, it gave us hope.”
— “Sox” Kitashima, former internee, spokesperson, National Coalition for Redress
and Reparations

On February 19th, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry. Two-thirds were American citizens; the rest were aliens ineligible for citizenship due to discriminatory naturalization laws. Under the guise of “military necessity,” persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast — including infants, the elderly and the frail — were taken to internment camps located in the most desolate areas of the Western states.

They were never charged with any crime; there was no due process; massive violations of Constitutional rights occurred; incalculable personal suffering and loss was sustained. In 1981 the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, a federal commission, determined that the internment was not justified by “military necessity” and the broad historical causes which gave rise to the internment were “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”

Since 1978, Japanese American communities across the nation have observed this historic date as a Day of Remembrance through a variety of ceremonies, educational and cultural programs. This year (1998) marks the tenth anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided an official governmental apology, individual redress to surviving internees, and a public education fund.