Boston Phoenix: The Year In Jazz

December 23, 2009

The Boston Phoenix‘s resident jazz aficionado Jon Garelick reflects on his 10 favorite moments of the year in this week’s issue.

Two of those moments are related to Garrison Fewell’s Variable Density Sound Orchestra (Creative Nation Music) and the Darius Jones Trio’s Man’ish Boy (AUM Fidelity).

“Call what Garrison Fewell does composition or simply strategies for improvisation,” Garelick writes. “Whatever, the guitarist formerly known as one of Boston’s most eloquent inside players has become one of its leading experimenters. On this year’s Variable Density Sound Orchestra (Creative Nation Music), Fewell gathered some superb improvisers—among them frequent guitar-duo partner (and CNM honcho) Eric Hofbauer, New York trumpeter Roy Campbell, and Italian bass-clarinettist Achille Succi—and they, following his spare instructions and often graphic scores, created a suite of ‘variable density’ and unforced lyricism, all with compositional integrity.”

“Alto-saxophonist Jones, 31, now lives in Brooklyn (natch),” Garelick continues, “but he hails from rural Virginia, and he likes churchy old blues, boogie-woogie, and the kind of folkish tunes that Albert Ayler used to write. On Man’ish Boy (AUM Fidelity), his music sounds older than old—ancient, in fact—but also completely up to the minute. Working with Boston drummer Bob Moses and New Yorker Cooper-Moore (who plays piano and his homemade diddley bow), Jones delivers forceful melodies with a just-discovered freshness. The trio’s show at Outpost 186 in October was a standout.”

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Boston Phoenix: Darius Jones Trio At Outpost 186

November 5, 2009

Photo by Joel Veak

Jon Garelick reviews the Darius Jones Trio’s October 19th CD release concert at Outpost 186 in this week’s issue of the Boston Phoenix. The group, which features alto saxophonist/composer Darius Jones, multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore and drummer Rakalam Bob Moses, was in town celebrating Jones’ recorded debut as a bandleader, Man’ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) on AUM Fidelity.

“To call Darius Jones’s music avant-garde seems almost beside the point,” Garelick writes. “In its way, it’s older than old—it’s ancient. Jones likes churchy old blues, boogie-woogie, and the kind of folkish tunes that Albert Ayler used to write. He also shares Ayler’s moaning, wide-vibrato tone, if not the sainted saxophonist’s taste for single-minded, iron-jawed shrieking. But Jones has his own dignified way of testifying—big, long tones that patiently build to skirling figures and ululating shouts.”


New CD From Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings Coming September 15th

June 17, 2009
Photo by Scott Friedlander

Photo by Scott Friedlander

On September 15th, Firehouse 12 Records will release Madeleine Dreams (FH12-04-01-011), the second recording from cornetist/composer Taylor Ho Bynum‘s improvising chamber ensemble, SpiderMonkey Strings. The seven year-old group features Kyoko Kitamura (voice), Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Jessica Pavone (viola), Tomas Ulrich (cello), Pete Fitzpatrick (guitar), Joseph Daley (tuba) and Luther Gray (drums).

The centerpiece of this release is Bynum’s titular composition, a six-movement secular oratorio inspired by Madeleine is Sleeping (Harcourt), a 2004 novel written by his sister, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, and its theme of the logic of dreams. The piece, which the band has performed on tour since its March 2008 debut at New York’s Roulette, draws text from the book, a magical-realist fable of a girl’s coming of age that moves between dreams and reality in 19th century France. Madeleine Dreams also documents Bynum’s distinctive arrangements of music by Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington and Sun Ra.

“Dreams, and the literature of dreaming, including the work of such authors as Borges, Murakami, Okri, and Calvino, are an ongoing artistic inspiration for me,” writes Bynum in the liner notes. “The logic of dreams shows how radically yet naturally one’s subconscious can transform known elements into the surreal, seamlessly moving between the mundane and the fantastic. The remaining pieces are by three of my musical heroes, each of whom embraced dreams, mythology, and fiction in his own way. I also like the idea of SpiderMonkey Strings as a most unusual kind of repertory band.”

Named after two mythical tricksters, Anansi the Spider of West Africa and the Monkey King of China, Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings has performed a diverse range of extended suites with a genre-defying spirit and an amiable sense of humor since 2002. The band first took shape as a string quartet with cornet and guitar created to perform music Bynum wrote for a short film score. He later added tuba and drums and began writing eclectic long-form works for the group, which he documented on its 2005 debut, Other Stories [Three Suites] (482 Music). The recent addition of Ms. Kitamura furthers the evolution of the group’s sound by bringing the implicit narrative elements of Bynum’s music to the forefront.

Critics have called Bynum “a young brass master and compelling composer” (Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix), “a remarkable writer, improviser and bandleader” (Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz.com) and “one of the most exciting figures in jazz’s new power generation” (Steve Dollar, Time Out Chicago). “Over the past decade,” wrote Kevin Le Gendre in Jazzwise, “Bynum has shown himself to be a worthy addition to the canon of maverick trumpeters that includes such illustrious names as Wadada Leo Smith, Ron Miles, Cuong Vu and Arve Henrikson.” The Chicago Reader‘s Peter Margasak adds, “Taylor Ho Bynum cemented his reputation as one of the most compelling and progressive trumpeters and bandleaders currently active, at home in every corner of the creative-music map.”

Bynum’s expansive resume includes collaborations with both his contemporaries and legendary figures alike, most notably the iconic saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton, with whom he has performed and recorded extensively over the past decade. His most recent releases as a leader/co-leader include Positive Catastrophe’s Garabatos Volume One (Cuneiform Records), The Thirteenth Assembly’s (un)sentimental (Important Records), and the Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet’s Asphalt Flowers Forking Paths (hatOLOGY). He is also a member of such groups as The Convergence Quartet, Jason Kao Hwang’s Edge, the Joe Morris Bass Quartet and the large ensembles of Bill Dixon and Cecil Taylor. In addition, he is a curator and board member for the Festival of New Trumpet (FONT) Music and a partner in Firehouse 12 Records.

Learn more at http://www.taylorhobynum.com


AAJ + The Boston Phoenix Review The Fully Celebrated

May 20, 2009


Two new reviews of the The Fully Celebrated‘s forthcoming AUM Fidelity debut, Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones, to report so far this week.  

“[Jim] Hobbs, the leader and primary songwriter, is one of his generation’s most gifted altoists,” writes AllAboutJazz.com’s Troy Collins, “his ability to effortlessly glide between pitches and microtones enables a boundless capacity for tonal expression. Filled with memorable melodies, stirring interplay and a wealth of sonic variety, Drunk On The Blood Of The Holy Ones is a welcome return from one of the most resourceful saxophone trios working today.”

In his review in this week’s Boston Phoenix, Jon Garelick added, “After two albums with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, and now dropping ‘Orchestra’ from their name, this venerable Boston avant-garde street band are again a trio—and they’re still a virtuoso ensemble. There’s no one with a more individual sound and conception than Hobbs—strangled and crying one minute, soft and bluesy the next, or just plain Johnny Hodges purdy.”

The disc officially hits the streets May 26th, to be followed by CD release shows at Barbès in Brooklyn on May 28th and Ryles Jazz Club in Boston on May 29th.


AUM Fidelity To Release New CD From The Fully Celebrated May 26th

March 18, 2009

AUM054
On May 26th, AUM Fidelity will release The Fully Celebrated‘s seventh recording, and label debut, Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (AUM054). 

Led by saxophonist Jim Hobbs, and formerly known as The Fully Celebrated Orchestra, the group has been a fixture on Boston’s jazz scene for more than two decades.  For its first release in four years, the founding line-up of Hobbs, bassist Timo Shanko and drummer Django Carranza returned to the studio to document eight new quintessentially eclectic compositions. 

CD release concerts are scheduled for May 28th at Barbès in Brooklyn, New York and May 29th at Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Jim Hobbs and his Fully Celebrated Orchestra combine vast musical prowess and playful, irreverent intelligence,” wrote AllAboutJazz.com’s Paul Olson in his review of the group’s most recent release, 2005’s Lapis Exilis (Skycap Records). “No one today is playing the alto better than Hobbs—the vast range of tones he summons from the small horn is altogether remarkable…Carranza and Shanko are a devastating rhythm section…a powerhouse group.  Jim Hobbs and the Fully Celebrated Orchestra play virtuoso jazz music with a marked eclecticism.”

“The FCO first gained notoriety in the rock clubs—or, at least, it was the rock crowd that first created the buzz,” recalls longtime Boston Phoenix arts writer Jon Garelick.  “Maybe that’s because the band are proponents of old-fashioned avant-garde inclusiveness: funk, Latin, blues, Balkan, and any number of ‘world’ melodies, scales, and rhythms show up in the FCO book, with plenty of free-jazz-collective chatter.  Other reference points are Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and Thomas Chapin, but the band’s personality is its own.”

Founded in 1987, The Fully Celebrated Orchestra began as the Jim Hobbs Trio, a group that mostly performed on the streets of Boston.  It recorded its debut, Babadita, under that original name for Silkheart Records in 1993, but by the time the label released its follow-up later that same year, the ironically over-sized new name was in place. 

Four more records, most capturing the band in the live setting, would follow over the next dozen years, including two as a quartet with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum in 2002 and 2005.  Following a period of relative inactivity following Bynum’s departure to New York, Hobbs reconvened the band’s original line-up in October 2008 to record a new collection of original material, which they recorded live and mixed utilizing the latest Dub technology.

Learn more at http://celebratefully.squarespace.com


The Michael Musillami Trio + 3’s From Seeds Coming May 19th

February 24, 2009

Playscape Recordings is proud to announce the May 19th street date of the first release on its 10th anniversary schedule, the Michael Musillami Trio + 3’s From Seeds (PSR#020109). 

The follow-up to 2007’s The Treatment (PSR#050607), his trio’s critically acclaimed collaboration with renowned violinist Mark Feldman, this release finds guitarist/composer Michael Musillami augmenting his seven year-old trio, featuring bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller, with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, multi-instrumentalist Marty Ehrlich and vibraphonist Matt Moran. 

The full group will tour the Northeast U.S. in support of the record in May and the core trio will tour Western Europe in late March.

“Composing and arranging all new music for a cohesive group that combines vibes, trumpet, and alto with a guitar trio meant taking things to a whole new level,” explains Musillami in the From Seeds liner notes. 

“Joe, George and I have come to trust each other completely on the stand.  The drama and constant shifts in environments can be both frightening and beautiful, and I didn’t want to lose any of the close interaction we’ve developed over the past seven years.  I needed three players with the sound, experience and confidence to not only play this music, but also put their stamp on it without taking away from what the trio does best.  Marty, Matt and Ralph were perfect choices.”

“Guitarist Musillami is really on a roll lately, documenting a number of high quality sessions on his Playscape label,” declared Cadence reviewer Jason Bivins.  Critics called his most recent, The Treatment, “scintillating and provocative” (Bill Milkowski, Absolute Sound), “an intensely rewarding and conceptually promising avenue for the future of jazz” (Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz.com) and “as convincing a statement of what’s still possible with the instrumentation as anything I’ve heard in years” (Brian Morton, PointofDeparture.org). 

It was also included in best-of-the-year lists in AllAboutJazz.com, Cadence, Coda, the Hartford Courant, Jazz Review and the Village Voice.

Musillami has been called “a superior guitarist” (John McDonough, DownBeat), “an adroit and creative musician” (Michael J. West, JazzTimes), “a fine composer of notable original music” (Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide) and “a modern-day jazz master” (Roger Levesque, Edmonton Journal). 

“His compositions develop in leisurely style from quiet simplicity to intricate complexity,” explained Jack Massarik in Jazzwise, “and the ensemble playing is civilized, sophisticated and clean.”  The Boston Phoenix‘s Jon Garelick adds,  “Musillami sounds familiar—this is swinging jazz guitar, after all—but not quite like anyone else.”

In a career that spans more than 25 years, Musillami has worked extensively as a performer, bandleader/composer and educator.  In addition to his flagship trio with Fonda and Schuller, which has performed in the U.S., Canada and Europe and released three CDs since 2002, he has earned critical notice as the leader of groups ranging from duo to octet featuring such prominent collaborators as Cameron Brown, Thomas Chapin, Drew Gress, Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin and Matt Wilson. 

He is also the longtime Director of Jazz Studies at The Hotchkiss School and founder/director of the esteemed Playscape Recordings label, which has released more than 40 distinctive recordings over the past decade.  Learn more at http://www.michaelmusillami.com


Garrison Fewell Profiled In The Boston Phoenix

February 4, 2009

Boston-based guitarist/composer Garrison Fewell is featured in the January 30th issue of the Boston Phoenix, now available online.

The piece looks back on Fewell’s 30-year career, explores his most recent collaborations and traces his progression from highly respected mainstream guitarist to free jazz innovator.

His latest release, Variable Density Sound Orchestra, will be released February 17th on Creative Nation Music.