More Year-End Lists: Darcy James Argue

December 28, 2009

We were away much of last week dreaming of dancing sugar plums and rockin’ around the Christmas tree, but the year-end lists featuring Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam) continued to flow as freely as egg nog in our rare but enjoyable absence.

Here’s a quick summary to get you caught up:

1. The AMN Top 5 of 2009 at AvantMusicNews.com

2. Michael J. West’s Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2009 in the Washington City Paper

3. Jacob Teichroew’s Best Jazz Albums of 2009 at jazz.about.com

“Argue’s pieces are haunting and eruptive, and his dextrous band is capable of thrilling maneuvers.”

4. Peter Hum’s 10 Best Jazz CDs of the 2000’s at Jazzblog.ca

“Years in the making, this disc by the Vancouver-raised, New York-based composer and bandleader points the way ahead for big bands. Argue’s music is fresh and intoxicating, unfurling dramatic surprises and conventional beauties while tapping indie rock and ambient music for references.”

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JazzTimes: Taylor Ho Bynum, Darius Jones and Jessica Pavone

November 16, 2009


The December issue of JazzTimes arrived this weekend and with it reviews of three of our clients’ most recent releases, Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings’ Madeleine Dreams (Firehouse 12 Records), the Darius Jones Trio’s Man’ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) (AUM Fidelity) and Jessica Pavone’s Songs of Synastry and Solitude (Tzadik).

Michael J. West called Madeleine Dreams‘ title track “a six-movement suite that intriguingly blends chamber classical, beatnik jazz, indie-rock and free improvisation, dominated by violin (Jason Kao Hwang), viola (Jessica Pavone), cello (Tomas Ulrich) and stately, evocative moods. Vocalist Kyoko Kitamura recited magical-realism vignettes, based on an acclaimed novel by Bynum’s sister, that blur the line between reality and the world of dreams…it’s a fun listen.”

Jones, 31, is a hotshot we should keep our eyes and ears on,” declared Steve Greenlee. “He’s got a raw but disciplined sound, a head full of ideas and a heart full of talent. On his debut album, he plays sweetly, melodically, plaintively, raucously and discordantly. He plays outside and in. He goes from blues to swing to free and back again. He never wastes a note or a breath.”

Jessica Pavone has begun making a name for herself in the world of modern improvised music,” wrote Mike Shanley, “but those words only go so far when trying to describe her work. Performed by members of the Toomai String Quintet (Pavone doesn’t appear on the disc), the music doesn’t reside in the frenetic free zone where the composer sometimes dwells. Each track averages about four minutes in length, with many going through a few different sections, yet the whole work flows together like a complete, compelling composition.”


JazzTimes: Darcy James Argue + Joe Morris/Petr Cancura/Luther Gray

September 28, 2009

The new October issue of JazzTimes features reviews of Darcy James Argue‘s Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam) and Joe Morris/Petr Cancura/Luther Gray’s Wildlife (AUM Fidelity).

Infernal Machines is the future of the big band,” declares Michael J. West, “with leader Darcy James Argue presenting seven fiercely original and exciting compositions and arrangements for his 18-piece ensemble. His music is ambitious, experimental and complex, but in a sense far closer to indie rock with its immediacy and wide-ranging palette. With their haunting compositions and imaginative experiments, Argue’s Secret Society might do for jazz what Radiohead did for rock—and poach some of its audience, too.”

In his review of Wildlife, Mike Shanley writes, “Before too long, Joe Morris’ work as a bassist is going to eclipse his work as a guitarist—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Morris’ approach to the bull fiddle offers a solid focus to free-improvisation sessions, with some solos that take on percussive qualities when he really cuts loose. This album sounds loose but each track has a different mood that keeps things compelling for 56 minutes.”


Firehouse 12 To Present The Steve Lehman Trio October 9th

September 9, 2009
Photo by Dominik Huber

Photo by Dominik Huber

On Friday, October 9th, New Haven’s Firehouse 12 will present innovative saxophonist/composer Steve Lehman‘s only area performance this year as part its fifth annual Fall Jazz Series. Lehman, who grew up in Hartford before earning two degrees at Wesleyan University during studies with Anthony Braxton and Jackie McLean, will be performing selections from his latest release, Travail, Transformation, and Flow (Pi Recordings). Originally composed for his octet, the music, which daringly integrates elements of spectral harmony into jazz, has been meticulously arranged for this acoustic trio featuring bassist Chris Tordini and drummer Damion Reid.

“With Travail, Transformation, and Flow,” writes the Washington City Paper‘s Michael J. West, “alto saxophonist Steve Lehman makes a rare offering to the jazz world: a thoroughly alternative principle of improvisation. Lehman’s deeply compelling harmonies and textures sound noticeably different from anything before it, but the music doesn’t have the threat-to-everything-we-know-and-love trappings of prior upheavals. The mysterious and open-ended tensions on Travail are a powerful lure into an advanced and challenging set of music that firmly establishes Lehman as a major force in jazz’s avant-garde without taking the music too far out for comfort.”

Critics have called him “an inspired talent” (John Fordham, The Guardian) and “one of the rising stars in modern creative jazz” (Michael G. Nastos, AllMusic.com), noting that “Steve Lehman is thinking about jazz in a new way” (Will Layman, PopMatters.com) by opening “his own corridor of exploration” (Nate Chinen, New York Times). L.A. Weekly‘s Chris Barton adds, “Lehman’s heady excursions remain unique and engaging to the listener whatever your knowledge of musical theory.” In addition to leading his own bands, Lehman is a member of such prominent creative music ensembles as the Anthony Braxton 12+1tet and Fieldwork. He is also an instructor and departmental fellow at Columbia University, where he is a doctoral candidate in music composition. Learn more at http://www.stevelehman.com

2009 Fall Jazz Series Schedule:

09/18 :: Brandon Ross & Blazing Beauty
09/25 :: Matt Wilson Quartet
10/02 :: Mauger: Rudresh Mahanthappa/Mark Dresser/Gerry Hemingway
10/09 :: Steve Lehman Trio
10/16 :: Gretchen Parlato Band
10/23 :: Whirrr! The Music of Jimmy Giuffre
10/30 :: Taylor Eigsti Trio
11/06 :: ODE: Larry Ochs/Trevor Dunn/Lisle Ellis/Michael Sarin
11/13 :: The Peter Evans Quartet
11/20 :: Darius Jones Trio
12/04 :: Mary Halvorson Quintet
12/11 :: Amy Cervini Quartet
12/18 :: Daniel Levin Trio

Tickets and more information available at:
http://firehouse12.com/performance_space_calendar.asp


JazzTimes: Garrison Fewell + Michael Musillami

August 28, 2009

The resurgent JazzTimes shows two of our guitarists, Garrison Fewell and Michael Musillami, some love in the newly arrived August/September issue, making its return to active publishing status that much sweeter.

Variable Density Sound Orchestra should be on jazz education syllabi worldwide,” declares Michael J. West in his review of Fewell’s latest release on Boston’s Creative Nation Music. “It demonstrates how even free improvisation depends on musicians listening closely to each other. Guitarist Garrison Fewell’s septet uses some compositional structures, but the real backbone comes from developing and responding to each other’s spontaneous ideas. The products of that chemistry are gorgeous.”

In his review of the Michael Musillami Trio +3’s From Seeds (Playscape Recordings), Chris Kelsey writes, “Vibist Matt Moran, alto saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller join guitarist Musillami in performing his creative, forward-thinking compositions. The music is exceptional in all respects, from the fiery but respectful readings of Musillami’s tortuous compositions to the inspired solo work by one and all…Musillami is at his best when exploiting his nuanced quasi-acoustic sound, as he lays down long, unpredicatable freeboppish lines. Alessi and Moran are excellent, and Ehrlich is brilliant—his playing here is fresh and impassioned.”


Washington City Paper: Dragon’s Head Worth Your Attention

January 2, 2009

The Washington City Paper‘s Michael J. West spotlights five avant-garde jazz albums released in 2008 that he feels “deserve your attention” in his December 31st entry in the publication’s blog, Black Plastic Bag.   

Number three on his list is guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson’s Dragon’s Head (Firehouse 12 Records).

West, who penned a feature on Ms. Halvorson for the December issue of JazzTimes, writes, “The guitarist leads a Hendrix-inspired trio featuring bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith through a set of her own intuitively designed compositions. Between her unconventional approach to structure and her thorny guitar style, however, it’s impossible to tell where composition ends and improv begins, and vice versa; the effect is not unlike watching a cat unfurl a ball of yarn, with no telling which directions the string might end up going but, ultimately, a layout of distinct but unusual patterns.”


Reminder: Michael Musillami Trio + 3 To Make NYC Debut January 31st

December 31, 2008

 On Saturday, January 31st, guitarist/composer Michael Musillami‘s newest ensemble, the Michael Musillami Trio + 3, will make its New York debut at Cornelia Street Cafe.  The group will be performing new original music, which it will then record the following day for its forthcoming May 2009 release on Playscape Recordings.  The Michael Musillami Trio + 3 augments Musillami’s longstanding core trio, featuring bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller, with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, multi-instrumentalist Marty Ehrlich and vibraphonist Matt Moran.

“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 latest, 2007’s The Treatment, featuring his trio with violinist Mark Feldman, “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.”