Monday, December 7, 2009

Jon Jang Sextet "Two Flowers on a Stem"

Jon Jang - piano
David Murray - tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
James Newton - flute
Santi Debriano - bass, daluo (Chinese large gong)
Billy Hart - drums
Chen Jiebing - erhu


01. Two Flowers On A Stem [04:12]
02. Meditations On Integration [18:21]
03. Eleanor Bumpurs [05:22]
04. The Procession/Woman Shaman Of Alishan [11:19]
05. Variation On A Sorrow Song Of Mengjiang Nu [15:56]
06. Butterfly Lovers Song [07:09]

Recorded in NYC on June 08, 09 & 11, 1995
Soul Note 121253-2, 1996.


Pianist/composer Jon Jang has long created music that combines advanced jazz with aspects of his Chinese heritage. For this superb disc of inside/outside music, Jang utilizes a sextet also featuring the remarkable flutist James Newton, David Murray on tenor and bass clarinet, bassist Santi Debriano, drummer Billy Hart, and Chen Jiebing on a haunting cello-like instrument called the erhu. Strong passionate melodies give way to straight-ahead jamming, free sections, and other themes. As with Charles Mingus (one of his influences), Jang's pieces are sometimes quite political, and his music often unfolds like an episodic suite. Performing Mingus' "Meditations on Integration," four Jang originals, and "Butterfly Lovers Song," the sextet's many colorful voices somehow blend together as one in service to the consistently powerful music. This highly recommended set deserves and rewards repeated listenings.(Review by Scott Yanow)

The story of the making of "Two Flowers on a Stem":
On a warm evening in April,1994. I had return to my home in San Francisco from Berkeley where I spent another long and exhausting day of rehearsal for the dramatic adaption of Maxine Hong Kingston’s book,"The Woman Warrior" which was to be premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. I was in the final stage of refining the score for "The Woman Warrior." I was not content with the score because it contained too many Chinese traditional folk songs. I wanted more of my music. Like a filmmaker who temporarily selects pre-existing source music during pre-production period before the composer becomes part of the process, the idea was for me to use pre-existing music to give the director a sense of the musical feeling and then later replace the pre-existing source music with my original music. However, the director became very attached to the pre-existing music, particularly "Kang Ding Love Song" which was used during a romantic scene of two young lovers.

Beginning with the first three pitches (3-5-6) of The "Kang Ding Love Song" as a point of departure, another melody began to "blossom" in me like a new petal from the same stem and I began to compose a new melody. Somewhere in the process, I had just remembered that I left my score in a bag inside the trunk of my car which was parked three blocks away. After retrieving the score, I was half a block away from my home when I heard a voice shouting,"Give me your money!" I turned around and there were two young Chinese men with a gun facing me. I gave them all the money in my wallet. Unfortunately, they saw my gold wedding ring which was custom made in Hawaii and removed it from my finger. After telling Joyce, my wife, about the mugging and filing a police report, I finish composing the A section of "Two Flowers on a Stem," which became the final version for the play.

The dramatic adaption of "The Woman Warrior" was staged at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre in Boston and the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles duirng 1994-95. In December 1994 one month before the Los Angeles premiere, Joyce and I learned that we could not conceive a biological child. Our dream of having a son, who would have been named James after my father, was not going to happen. Reality sadly sank in. I suddenly realized that I became the last male member to carry the Jang family name. I began to raise questions to myself: "Who am I? What am I doing here?"

With "The Woman Warrior" production running in Los Angeles the next month, I took the opportunity to visit Steve and Ella Leong, who were close friends of my father. After my father died, it had been almost forty years since I remember them.. On June 30, 1956, two commerical airplane carrying 128 passengers which collided and crashed over the Grand Canyon on June 30, 1956. There were no survivors. My father, Dr. James Joseph Jang, was one of the victims. My mother was left to single-handedly raise my older brother Dana, myself and my sister Deeana who was not yet born. "Uncle" Steve told me the story about the Glendale Cemetery denying funeral services to my family for my father because he was Chinese American - even though he had been burned to ashes. Two years later, my mother suffered a nervous breakdown and had to take electroshock treatment in Belmont, California. Despite these hardships, my mother survived and courageously raised three children by herself. "Two Flowers on a Stem" is about the lily that can endure in the swamp.

During the 90s, I had been listening to Chinese folk songs, from both northern and southern regions of China. When I was creating "Two Flowers on a Stem," I composed a melody for the erhu that had characteristis very similar to Chinese folk songs, but I placed it in my own context. I wanted to compose a love song that would allow conflict to become tenderness, to express a desire for beauty and strength. When I heard Jiebing Chen’s erhu performance in the fall of 1994, it was the voice penetrating the heart of tragedy and transforming it into the embodiment of beauty. There is a strong connection in the relationship between tragedy and beauty that can be traced to the works by early composers for the erhu. Hua Yan-Jun (aka "Blind" Abing) began his early life as an orphan and lived in a life of poverty. When he began to lose his sight, he composed "Moon Reflected Over the Autumn Lake" as a way to remember the beauty of life.

"Two Flowers on a Stem" was fated for Jiebing Chen. I added a bridge which featured the somber and melancholy sound of the inside string or the lower D string. In June 1995, Jiebing and I joined James Newton, David Murray, Santi Debriano and Billy Hart to record "Two Flowers on a Stem" under the name of the Jon Jang Sextet in New York for Soul Note (121253-2), a record company based in Milano, Italy. We recorded "Two Flowers on a Stem" in one take. It was one of the greatest gifts given to me by these artists and the Executive Producer Flavio Bonandrini. Frank Tafuri, a record producer and founder of Omnitone, was also present at this historic session.

Three months later in September, my daughter was born in China.My wife and I adopted her in January 1996. Xiao Mei, the Chinese name given to her by the orphanage, means "small beauty." My wife and I also named our daughter, Mika, which means "beautiful scent" in Japanese. One of the personal meanings behind "Two Flowers on a Stem" is about adopting Chinese music in my musical language and a daughter from China in my life. This period in my life showed how tragedy can turn into beauty, "when sorrow turns to joy" -Jon Jang(

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jean-Marc Padovani - Jazz Angkor

Jean-Marc Padovani -saxophones;
Geoffroy de Masure -trombone;
Francois Thuillier -tuba;
Ramon Lopez -drums;
Alain Bruel -accordion;
L'Orchestre de Universite Royale des Beaux-Arts du Theatre National de Phnom-Penh.
Yun Khean: 2-string trebble violin;
Tuy Sovannara: 2-string bass violin;
Ing Wanna: 3-string crocidile citara;
Kao Dorivan: flute;
Soy Sareth: percussion;
Keo Sonan Kavei 21-bar trebble xylophone;
Suo Somali: flute, oboe;
Meas Sambo: 16-bar bass xylophone;

Recorded in Phnom-Penh, Cambodia from April 27 - May 04, 1997.

01. Solo flute [0:01:23.12]
02. La longue nuit [0:08:22.48]
03. Au bord du Toulé Sap [0:07:29.47]
04. L'écho de la foret [0:02:22.13]
05. L'eau dans la mare [0:05:44.37]
06. La danse des Lumas [0:05:01.05]
07. Samara [0:01:39.20]
08. Moi Pi Bei Boum [0:06:18.40]
09. Bay Khon Tchang Day [0:02:40.28]
10. L'image du park Khmer [0:03:47.57]
11. Hom Rong [0:05:54.05]
12. Soam Poong [0:02:27.40]

Saxophonist and major French Jazz composer, Jean-Marc Padovani, born at the start of the 1960s in Villeneuve-Les-Avignon and living in Nîmes, has always nourished his love of Jazz with southern feeling – incandescent lyricism, brassy tearing, melancholy, sensuality.
It was through the guitar, which he started playing when he was twelve, after 7 years studying the piano at the Conservatoire, that Jean-Marc Padovani took his first steps with southern music. For four years he devoured the scores of the greatest Brazilian composers and plunged into Flamenco. However a passion for Jazz steadily growing in him he decided to take up the saxophone. He did not however repudiate his taste for sunny music, for straight away he decided to join the group Cossi Anatz, which brings together twelve musicians and blends jazz and traditions from Africa and Occitanie.
The early 1980s saw the start of his personal experiments. In 1982 he formed a quartet with Philippe Deletrez (ts), Claude Barthélemy (gt) and Denis Fournier (dms). With this quartet he recorded a first album in 1983 with some choice guests: Henri Texier, Jean-Louis Ponthieux and Siegfried Kessler. The atmosphere was warm and joyful, the record peppered with feverish rhythms and spirited improvisations. In 1986, he recorded with Michel Godard, who had just been revealed by Marc Steckar’s Tubapack, for an intense tribute to Mediterranean music. The following year the two of them formed a quintet with Bobby Rangell (as, fl), Bruno Chevillon (b) and Jacques Mahieux (dms). For this formation Padovani wrote compositions linked to the Mediterranean universe and even went to Algeria to record One for Pablo.

Following his inspiration, as ever, he created in 1987 Tres Horas de sol, a show for “Banlieues Bleues”, which was subtitled Jazz-Flamenco and was a great success. Based on the rites of the Corrida, this show mingled texts by Picasso and Lorca, read by Enzo Cormann, playwright and director. He renewed this experience in 1989 with Le Rôdeur, based on a text by Enzo Cormann, and accompanied by a trio bringing together Gérard Marais on the guitar and Youval Micenmacher on percussion. The experience was completed by the homage that Padovani decided to render to Mingus with his album Mingus Cuernavaca (Label Bleu, 1992) where Enzo Cormann recounts the last hours of the brilliant double-bassist-composer.
From 1993 Padovani directed a Brass Band, the Minotaure Jazz Orchestra, in a creation born in September at the Arles Feria: ten brass instruments revisit the paso-doble and recover the luminous accents of Feria (annual fairs in the south of France) music. He then came back to the quartet and recorded Nocturne in 1994 on Label Bleu.

Interview (in Italian):

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hazmat Modine "Bahamut"

Hazmat Modine:
Wade Schuman - lead vocals and harmonica
Randy Weinstein - vocals and harmonica
Joseph Daly - tuba
Pamela Fleming - trumpet
Steve Elson - saxophone
Pete Smith - guitar
Michael Gomez - guitar
Richard Huntley - drums
Huun-Huur-Tu on # 2, 8, 14
01. Yesterday Morning [05:08]
02. It Calls Me [03:10]
03. Bahamut [06:03]
04. Fred Of Ballaray [01:28]
05. Broke My Baby's Heart [07:20]
06. Almost Gone [03:25]
07. Steady Roll [05:34]
08. Everybody Loves You [06:16]
09. Lost Fox Train [03:39]
10. Dry Spell [04:44]
11. Ugly Rug [01:24]
12. Who Walks In When I Walk Out [04:47]
13. Grade - A Gray Day [03:36]
14. Man Trouble [11:11]
15. bonus # [00:15]
This long-awaited debut CD is a uniquely intercontinental sonic collage encompassing a tremendous range of instrumental, vocal, and conceptual originality--all with a lot of soul and groove. Like the mythological beast of its title track, HAZMAT Modine's BAHAMUT holds the world in it's eye. Its fourteen songs are steeped deep in American roots but merge influences as diverse as Romanian brass, Middle Eastern fable, Jamaican Calypso, and Tuvan-Mongolian ballad…

"…HAZMAT MODINE is surely one of the most remarkable musical groups that has made one of the most remarkable records I’ve ever heard… My ears turned inside out in every direction to hear all of it. What fantastic music!” Bengt Eriksson – Roots, Denmark

"Hazmat Modine is the kind of ensemble that could have come only from New York. The core group consists of harmonica virtuosos Wade Schuman and Randy Weinstein, tuba player Joseph Daly, drummer Richard Huntley, guitarist Pete Smith, and Pamela Fleming on trumpet and flugelhorn. The fifteen-track CD presents an ensemble with a Sybil complex of multiple musical personalities. "Yesterday Morning" resembles a New Orleans funeral dirge with a reggae beat. "It Calls Me" melds the Mississippi Delta with Huun-Huur-Tu's Asian-born Tuvan throat singing. The exotic array of instruments includes the Romanian cimbalon, zamponia, Hawaiian steel guitar, electric banjitar, contrabass sax, claviola, and bass marimba. In the hands of lesser musicians this stuff would sound like a mess, but these guys make it work, with dancing diplomacy that would put the U.N. to shame. If this isn't world music, I don't know what is." -- Eugene Holley, Jr. -

More reviews:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hasidic New Wave "From The Belly Of Abraham"

Frank London: trumpet, flugelhorn
Greg Wall: tenor and soprano sax. clarinet
David Fiuczynski: guitar
Fima Ephron: bass
Aaron Alexander: drums

Yakar Rhythms: Alioune Faye, Ousmann Sall, Abdoulaye Diop: sabar, djembe, dun-dun.
Special Guest: Jamie Saft: organ (on Yemin Hashem)

Tracks 1,4,7,8: was recorded on April 10,11, 2001 in Brooklin
Tracks 2,3,5 was recorded on November 04, 2000 in Weehawken,New Jersey
Track No 6 was recorded February 26, 2001 in Jersey City


01. Waaw-Waaw [05:18]
02. Yemin Hashem [08:52]
03. Bread Of Affliction [11:26]
04. Sea of Reeds [06:57]
05. Frydginator [05:31]
06. The Sacred Line [02:34]
07. Bo-Peep [06:50]
08. Spirit of Jew-Jew [08:23]
Following a wave of klezmer revivalism that happened in the '80s (ushered in by Andy Statman's Klezmer Orchestra, the Klezmer Conservatory Band and Klezmorim), a number of renegade klezmer units began popping up on the alternative music horizon, including the Klezmatics, Naftule's Dream, David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness and the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars. One of the brightest and most fiercely uncompromising alternative klezmer band to emerge in recent years is Hasidic New Wave. Formed by trumpeter Frank London and clarinetist/saxophonist Greg Wall, this renegade bunch has combined the signature scales of Jewish music with the fatback grooves of James Brown, free-jazz leanings and plenty of freak-out electric guitar work courtesy of David Fiuczynski, perhaps the most original and audaciously talented plectorist on the scene today.

After a string of solid recordings as a working quintet, drummer Aaron Alexander came up with the novel idea of grafting African drummers onto the group's uniquely Jewish sound. The result is this inspired collaboration that at once harks back to shtetls (villages) of Eastern Europe and mother Africa; a brilliant Afro-Semitic fusion best represented here by Alexander's "Bo-Peep" and London's cleverly named "Spirit of Jew-Jew."

Another standout track is "Yemin Hashem," where tenorman Wall wails with muscular authority on top of a Fela Kuti-esque groove created by bassist Fima Ephron (of Lost Tribe and Screaming Headless Torsos), drummer Alexander, guest organist Jamie Saft and a phalanx of drummers from Dakar collectively known as Yakar Rhythms (Abdoulaye Diop, Ousmane Sall and lead drummer Alioune Faye). For a change of pace there is Wall's noirish ballad "The Sacred Line," the only piece that is performed sans African drummers.

One of the most provocative tracks is "Bread of Affliction," which is underscored by a tightly woven interlocking cadence set up by Yakar Rhythms. Both Wall and London unleash with free-jazz abandon on this deeply hypnotic groove (with London showing his debt to Don Cherry) while Fiuczynski follows up with some of his patented jazz-punk stylings (heavy on the whammy bar and wah-wah). London's minor-key "Sea of Reeds" carries an early '60s Blue Note flavor in its muted trumpet and tenor sax harmony theme (somewhat reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island") while the battery of drummers and bassist Ephron bring an Afro-reggae sensibility into the picture. Fiuczynski manages to use his whammy bar to good Middle Eastern effect here.

The giddy "Frydginator" is an uptempo, authentic-sounding klezmer romp than might go over well at a Jewish wedding, although the blistering trading of fours between London's trumpet and Wall's tenor sax might be frowned upon by the elders, as no doubt would Fuze's Led Zeppelin-meets-Holdsworth guitar solo. Oy! No less exhilarating, though decidedly darker, is Ephron's "Waaw-Waaw," which conjures up latter-day Miles Davis through its sparse, repeating bass figure and its insistent groove underneath London's excellent muted trumpet work.

The energy this ensemble emits is extraordinary.
By Bill Milkowski (

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Michael Blake "Kingdom Of Champa"

Michael Blake - tenor & soprano sax, bass clarinet;
Steven Bernstein - trumpet, cornet, slide trumpet;
Thomas Chapin - flute, bass flute, piccolo, baritone sax;
Marcus Rojas - tuba;
David Tronzo - slide guitar;
Tony Scherr - electric bass, acoustic bass, moonlute;
Rufus Cappadocia - cello;
Billy Martin - percussion;
Scott Neumann - drums;
Bryan Carrott - vibraphone.

Recorded at Sorcerer Studios in NYC on August 20 & 21, 1996.


01. The Champa Theme [08:05]
02. Dislocated In Natrang [07:04]
03. Folk Song [05:56]
04. Purple City [10:03]
05. Mekong [07:37]
06. Hue Is Hue? [04:06]
07. Perfume River [03:214]

"Vietnam is a mystical and strange place. After centuries of rule by Chinese, French, and Americans, the Vietnamese have become an independent nation and the people have begun to rebuild their lives. The spirit, beauty and hardship of these people would be the foundation for a suite of music I call Champa. To a certain extent this documentation of my experience living with my wife and her family in Vietnam is a metaphor of a journey into the self. In this place I encountered an infinite sadness that forced me to reevaluate many ideals I had established and conditionally accepted. It also brought great joy to me and an opportunity to realize my potential. My mind and soul were awakened by the extremes of the culture, no matter how I resisted to adapt to it."
Michael Blake (1997)

Kingdom of Champa is the debut album from saxophonist and composer Michael Blake, whose work with the Lounge Lizards has gained him recognition everywhere that band plays. He is joined on this recording, produced by master Teo Macero, by his band Free Association, augmented by several musicians with whom he has played, both in and out of the Lounge Lizards. A well-known member of what has been referred to as the second generation of Knitting Factory musicians, Blake composed all the material on Champa, basing it on his experiences in Vietnam. The permanent members of Blake's band are fellow Lizards David Tronzo (on guitar) and trumpeter Steven Bernstein and former Lizards' percussionist Billy Martin and vibraphonist Bryan Carrott. On this recording, the ensemble is rounded out with flautist Thomas Chapin, Marcus Rojas (tuba), Rufus Cappadocia on cello, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Scott Neumann. As band leader, composer, and saxophonist, Blake's talents are wonderfully showcased on this recording.

The idea for Kingdom Of Champa came to Blake while he was travelling from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue (listening to Miles Davis's Sketches Of Spain). The emotions engendered by that journey, the music, the people, the food, the smells of Vietnam, as well as the music of his own life in the United States, all blend together on Champa to create an exciting compositional hybrid. The album is named after the Cham people, who despite their small numbers are an important part of Vietnamese history. All the compositions are Blake's, with the exception of Folksong, a traditional Vietnamese song Blake heard being played by a blind guitarist in Ho Chi Minh City, for which he did the arrangements. Champa is a very immediate and emotional musical travelogue of a country both well known and extremely foreign to North Americans.

Kingdom Of Champa is saxophonist Michael Blake's first opportunity to perform completely in an environment of his own creation; in conjunction with Free Association, producer Teo Macero, and engineer Scott Harding, he has come up with a moving and exciting debut. (

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ya-Sou featuring Tomasz Stanko & Osjan "Tribute To Don Cherry"

Ya-sou: -
Milo Kurtis - percussion, vocal
Horatio Altan - percussion
Peter Apfelbaum - saxophones, flutes, percussion, vocal
Jai Uttal - dotar, guitar, charango, percussion, vocal
Tomasz Stanko - trumpet (2,3)
Osjan: - (3)
Jacek Ostaszewski - recorders, kaya-kum, vocal, percussion
Wojtek Waglewski - guitar, vocal, percussion
Radosław Nowakowski - percussion
Milo Kurtis - percussion
Recorded: February 2nd, 1996 at Theatre "Maly", Warsaw, Poland.
Gowi Records

01. Ya-Sou Suite - Tribute To Don Cherry (Ya-Sou) [26:42]
02. Rumba Multi-Kulti (Don Cherry) [09:16]
03. Malinye (Don Cherry) [09:00]


Music belongs to all of us. Music has no borders, and the Earth should have no borders, because were made by people and not by nature.
The band Ya-sou was founded and created with these ideas in mind.
In 1973, Dimitrios Milo Kurtis formed Ya-sou to play and make music based on different cultures from all over the world. Its music is a mixture of jazz, contemporary, classical, folk and ethnic music as well as being influences by music from continents of Asia, Africa, North and South America. Indeed, a performance by Ya-sou is like a trip around the world. Many times we visit a region for a while, sometimes we pass quickly through. We meditate somewhere, dance in the mountains, get thirsty in the desert, float like a leaf on the ocean wave and arrive happily back home.
Furthermore, Ya-sou's sound is natural. The band uses only acoustic instruments including dotar, acoustic guitar, charango, mandolin, saxophones, flutes digirdu, congas, Arabic percussion, gongs, kalimbas, talking drum and many others. Some people call Ya-sou's music "ethnic jazz", some call it "avant-garde". And some simply refuse to categorize the unique sounds of this remarkable band.
Ya-sou stopped performing when Mr. Kurtis became a member of the legendary Polish band OSJAN. This band, like, Ya-sou, created the music influenced by different ethnic cultures and had already established a position within the Europe market, as well as collaborating with the famous trumpet player Don Cherry, sadly recently deceased.
Milo traveled with OSJAN allover the Europe performing with other bands and musicians and resided in Switzerland from 1985-87, than moved to the Francisco Bay Area. Deciding to come back to his musical roots, he re-established Ya-sou in 1994. Milo, on various percussion instruments and vocal is joined by fellow percussionist Horatio Altan from Guatemala, a student and researcher of Pre-Columbian and Native American people's musical forms. Horatio also performs with jazz groups and collaborates with dance and theatre companies. The other members of Ya-sou are: on saxophones, flutes, percussion and vocals, the Grammy Award nominee, Peter Apfelbaum; on dotar, guitar, charango, percussion and vocals, Jai Uyttal. Both musicians play in Jai's Pagan Love Orchestra and Peter's Hieroglyphics Ensemble, as well as having performed with Don Cherry's Multi-Kulti and one or another of Don's musical configurations. The members of Ya-sou are hoping you will be joining then soon on a musical journey. (Original line notes of this album)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Don Pullen "Sacred Common Ground"

1. The Eagle Staff Is First (Auld/Pullen) 3:47
2. Common Ground (Kenmille/Pullen 10:22
3. River Song (Kenmille/Pullen 7:30
4. Reservation Blues (Kenmille/Pullen) 6:42
5. Message In Smoke (Kenmille/Pullen) 8:20
6. Resting On The Road (Kenmille/Pullen) 7:47
7. Reprise: Still Here (Kenmille/Pullen) 1:40
Don Pullen, piano
The African Brazilian Connection:
Carlos Ward, alto saxophone
J. T. Lewis, drums
Mor Thiam, African percussion

Joseph Bowie, trombone
Santi Debriano, bass
Chief Cliff Singers:
Mike Kenmille (lead)
Clifford Burke
Arleen Adams
Gina Big Beaver
Clayton Burke
Kenny Lozeau
Francis Auld
Native American songs meet African-Brazilian jazz

It is fitting that in Don Pullen's final complete recording he leaves us with a unique combination of multicultural sounds representing the culmination of his life in music. With "Sacred Common Ground", Pullen combines the African-Brazilian Connection, with whom he recorded and toured for much of the 1990s, with the Chief Cliff Singers, Kootenai Indians from Elmo, Montana. Jazz always seemed far too restrictive a term for what Don Pullen gave to the world, and in this parting contribution he demonstrates the universality of music, culture, and spiritual roots.
...The result is a rich collection of Native American chanting built upon the soft, dynamic and soothing sound of Pullen's Afro-Brazilian style of jazz. Joseph Bowie's trombone brings out a strong bluesy feel to "Reservation Blues", which starts off with the singers chanting and then abruptly switches to a more traditional twelve-bar blues. Bowie and alto saxophonist Carlos Ward weave back and fourth, then give way to Pullen's rolling, percussive playing. Throughout the CD, the combination of J.T. Lewis' Latin-tinged jazz drumming and Senegalese Mor Thiam's African percussion, combined with the indigenous Americans' steady pounding, make for a rich and soulful sound...(Mark Craemer)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Randy Weston “The Spirits of Our Ancestors”

CD 1:
01 - African Village Bedford-Stuyvesant 1
02 - The Healers
03 - African Cookbook
04 - La Elaha-Ella Allah/Morad Allah
05 - The Call
CD 2:
06 - African Village Bedford-Stuyvesant 2
07 - The Seventh Queen
08 - Blue Moses
09 - African Sunrise
10 - A Prayer for Us All
All compositions by Randy Weston exc. CD1 No.4 (traditional).
Disc 1:
Randy Weston -piano (exc. 4); Idrees Sulieman -trumpet (on 2,3,5); Benny Powell -trombone & bass trombone (on 2,3,5); Talib Kibwe -alto sax & alto flute (on 2,5); Billy Harper -tenor sax (on 2,3,5); Dewey Redman -tenor sax (on 2, 3-left channel, 5); Alex Blake -bass (on 2,3,5); Jamil Nasser -bass (on 2-5); Idris Muhammad -drums (on 2,3,5); Big Black -percussion (on 3,5)); Azzedin Weston -percussion (on 2-4), karkaba (on 4); Yassir Chadly -genbri, karkaba, clapping & vocals (on 4).
Special Guest: Pharoah Sanders -tenor sax. (on 3-right channel).
Disc 2:
Randy Weston -piano ; Idrees Sulieman -trumpet (on 1,2,4); Benny Powell -trombone & bass trombone (on 1,2,4); Talib Kibwe -alto sax & alto flute (on1, 2,4); Billy Harper -tenor sax (on 1,2,4); Dewey Redman -tenor sax (on 1,2,4); Alex Blake -bass (on 1,2,3,4); Jamil Nasser -bass (on 1,3,4); Idris Muhammad -drums (on 1-4); Big Black -percussion (on 1-4); Azzedin Weston -percussion (on 1,4), karkaba (on 3); Yassir Chadly - karkaba (on 3).
Special Guests: Dizzy Gillespie -trumpet (on 4); Pharoah Sanders -gaita (on 3).
Recorded in NYC on May 20, 21,22, 1991.
Reviews (
-This 2 Cd Set revisits many of Weston's Classic compositions with some new arrangements by Melba Liston. Along with Weston's excellent "African Rhythms" band and Dizzy Gillespie and the great Pharoah Sanders sit in on a couple of tracks. All cuts are very strong but "African Cookbook" is on fire!
This is probably the definitive Weston. A good place to start if you unfamiliar with this musical "Giant." -Stephen

-Randy Weston and Melba Liston collaborate once again, bringing us one of the most interesting jazz albums I've ever heard (and I've heard my share). It has a perfect mixture of free form jazz with subtle touches of African influences (particulary percussion). The highlight of the album is 'Blue Moses'. Hearing Pharoah Sanders solo using the gaita along with 2 bass players playing at a ridiculously fast speed is just amazing. A must own cd! -Larry S. Boles Jr.

-...And you get Dizzy Gillespie and Pharaoh Sanders to boot! Randy Weston is a fantastic pianist and a true original. He started over 5 decades ago with a heavy Monk and Ellington influence. Since the early 60's Weston has traveled extensively throughout Africa and has worked all kinds of African elements seamlessly into his style, along with free jazz, to come up with a totally unique style. These influences are most obviously evident in the percussion instruments, but they are also present in his piano style, though you have to listen for them. -Andreas C G

Friday, January 23, 2009

Akosh Szelevenyi (Akosh S.) "Kebelen"

Akosh Szelevenyi - tenor & soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, metal clarinet, gardon, flute, bombarde, kalimba, vocal, trombone, trumpet;
Joe Doherty - violin, viola, alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute;
Bertrand Cantat - vocals;
Nicolas Guillemet - soprano saxophone;
Mokhtar Choumane - flute ney, kaval;
Quentin Rollet - alto saxophone;
Bernard Malandain - doublebass;
Philippe Foch - drums, percussions;

Recorded at Studio Limoges, France, 2000.
01. Korai [06:05]
02. Magvak [11:29]
03. Tán [17:02]
04. Ota [15:16]
05. Ék [04:19]

Since the ECM label opened its jazz doors to improvisation based on European folk forms as much as on African-American traditions, other labels have followed suit. Saxophonist Akosh Szeleveny is Hungarian, his partners French, Irish and American. The resulting music blends wailing, minor-key melodies, literally off-beat timing and furious, whirling-dervish crescendi. But unlike the confined jazz/Balkan fusions of dance-band king Ivo Papasov - the only near parallel I can think of - Szelevnyi moves his music out towards free jazz, Indian raga and modern classical forms, creating a fascinating album with much more than curiosity value.

Akosh Szelevenyi is the best thing that has happened to French jazz, and consequently European jazz, in twelve years; The words are those of journalist Serge Loupien, writing in the daily Libération (October 5th, 1998) about the multi-reed-player and multi-instrumentalist Akosh S., who was born in Debrecen, Hungary, on February 19th, 1966.
The story of Akosh is the story of a man with a taste for freedom. The story of a citizen of the world who could never bear to be locked away in a single school of thought, a man who never swore faith, nor admitted to the slightest illusions based on the official, dominant line. As a child in his native Hungary, he learned to play the recorder, the clarinet and the bassoon. At 16, the adolescent opted for the saxophone, and attended classical and jazz classes at the Budapest Academy; in secret, he listened to the new sounds coming from America, the cries of passion thrown out by Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Dewey Redman, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and his Liberation Music Orchestra... an authentic revelation. Akosh's quest is alive and burning, his music a genuine geyser.


The torrential breath and branding-iron heat in the sound of Akosh Szelevenyi has been radiating over the Parisian scene for fifteen years now. Ever since he arrived in the French capital, the young Hungarian, a saxophonist, clarinettist, multi-instrumentalist and composer, has been associated with the genuine (and jubilant) rebirth of the avant-garde – after the lengthy hegemony shared by fusion and neo-bop – as well as many other alternative movements; and in 1991 he formed his own little variable-geometry band (from four to nine musicians) and began making his own records. From the mid-Nineties on, the group (Akosh S. Unit) opened for Noir Désir and then, in 1997, the man hastily called a “free jazzman” by those fond of convenient qualifiers signed with Barclay Records (then a PolyGram label, today Universal). There followed a magnificent series of albums that were equally fiery, stirring and thrilling, and the final three (“Vetek”, “Kebelen” and “Lenne”), which mixed ‘live’ pieces with collages, formed a triptych that established a kind of inventory of that first “Unit”.

Then came the discovery of the new ensemble led by Akosh, a group now comprising Quentin Rollet on alto saxophone, Marseilles bassist Christian Brazier, drummer Gildas Etevenard and narrator Andras Wigh, a vocalist and specialist in all matters relating to the hurdy-gurdy, an instrument with almost-orchestral functions belonging to the string-family, albeit with a wind-up handle and keyboard. Its sound here reminds you of the sheets of sound that might come from a synthesiser coupled with a swarm of humming bees, or a violin with the distant scents of the Orient…

In 2003 the release of the album “Nap Mint Nap” marked a turning-point in the saxophonist’s career.

Recorded in a tiny country church at Vàmosszabadi in Hungary, AKI is Akosh’s most melodic album to date. For some years the saxophonist had been nourishing the idea of a solo album recording. All that was missing was the guiding line that would give the project form. Having finally opted for an almost ascetic sobriety, Akosh now gives us this album, a pure, fifty-minute improvisation that is a genuine raw diamond.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ensemble Ambrosius “The Zappa Album”


01 Night School
02 Sofa
03 Black Page #2
04 Uncle Meat
05 Igor´s Boogie
06 Zoot Allures
07 Big Swifty
08 T´Mershi Duween
09 Alien Orifice
10 The Idiot Bastard Son
12 The Orange County Lumber Truck
13 Echidna´s Arf (of You)
14 Inca Roads
15 G-Spot Tornado


Josu Moisio - baroque oboe, baroque d' amore, glockenspiel.
Matti Vanhamäki - baroque violin.
Jonte Knif - chamber organ, melodica, harpsichord, dulcimer.
Ere Lievonen - harpsichord, chamber organ.
Tuukka Terho - archlute, baroque mandoline.
Jani Sunnarborg - baroque bassoon, oboe da caccia.
Olli Virtaperko - baroque cello ,violoncello piccolo.

Recorded in Helsinki, Finland on August 9-13, 1999.


Ensemble Ambrosius is a group that concentrates in contemporary music, using mostly Baroque instruments. Ambrosius was formed in 1995 and from the very beginning the music of American composer Frank Zappa (1940-1993) has been one of our main focuses.

The members of Ensemble flmbrosius have all gone through extensive studies of the performance practice of early music and have at some point studied in the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki. I myself became interested in contemporary music and Zappa in high school - up until then I had only been involved with classical music. However, as I continued my classical studies, I met the multi-instrumentalist Jonte Knif, who shared my Zappa-enthusiasm. With harpsichordist Ere Lievonen we eventually performed Uncle Meat with 2 harpsichords and a Baroque cello in 1995. This occured

at the final concert of an early music summer course where the oboist, Jasu Moisio, was present in the audience. Soon after that Jasu joined us, and what was originally in tended as a one-time musical joke led to the forming of Ensemble Ambrosius.

As we started to play Zappa's music, it became evident to us that the most demanding thing was to be able to retain the rhythmicality and metric pulse of the music. How to simulate the smooth co-operation of the rhythm section of the rock group -particularly the drums and the bass -was the crucial question.

However, before being able to play a single note, we needed to notate the music somehow. The arranging of "The Zappa Album" followed the good old Steve Vai - method: every note of the album was first transcribed from the tape and then arranged to the ensemble. Of the 15 pieces selected for this disc, Ere Lievonen arranged 5 pieces, the remainder having been completed by myself. Ere prefers to be extremely detailed in his arrangements, whereas I try to write down as few notes as possible, leaving the keyboard instruments, lute and cello a plentiful of liberties. In preparing my own arrangements I found it extremely useful having also toured with a big-band-sized Finnish rock group for the past five years, thus getting the vital first-hand knowledge of how the music of a large, amplified group functions. This knowledge has been very important in learning how the "styling" of FZ's music can be adopted for a classical combination.

As the musicians of Ensemble Ambrosius ore professionals in the field of Baroque music, it was natural for us to also apply the concept of the Baroque basso continue group to our interpretation of Zappa. In a basso continue group of the Baroque period, various musicians accompanied the melody with chords, improvising contrapuntal material. The desired chords were specified in scores with numbers above the bass line. As we played Zoppa, we soon learned that in a large Baroque basso continue group the liberties and rules of accompanying the melody rhythmically and harmonically are pretty much the same as with the rhythm section of a rock group. That made it possible for us to arrange Zappa's music for a non-amplified ensemble, and still retain the rhythmicality and metric pulse.

Olli Virtaperko, Ensemble Ambrosius