Signal To Noise: Taylor Ho Bynum, Fonda/Stevens Group, The Fully Celebrated, Darius Jones and Joe Morris

December 14, 2009

The Winter 2010 issue of Signal To Noise arrived this weekend and with it reviews of the latest releases from Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings, the Fonda/Stevens Group, The Fully Celebrated, the Darius Jones Trio and the Joe Morris Quartet.

“Bynum’s compositions consistently engage and amplify the texts [from his sister’s novel, Madeleine is Sleeping],” writes Stuart Broomer in his review of Madeleine Dreams (Firehouse 12 Records), “and the performances are at a high level. Vocalist Kyoko Kitamura ranges from pensive dramatic readings to jazz-inflected vocals and creative improvisations, performing admirably in the divergent settings. The group’s improvisational skills come to the fore on pieces by three great composers—Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington and Sun Ra—whose works are all subtly complementary…the results are driving, focused, expressive performances that make the most of the jazz tradition.”

“After 20 years of musical partnership, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, bassist Joe Fonda, drummer Harvey Sorgen and trumpeter Herb Robertson have developed a rich chemistry,” declares James Hale. “On Memphis, their 11th recording, the quartet surges with energy—equal parts Stevens’ proclivity for aggresive vamps, Robertson’s slippery slalom runs, and a wrecking crew of a rhythm duo. When the mood turns somber individual members find ways of keeping the tension high, whether its Fonda’s abrasive arco on ‘For My Brother’ or the free segments that alternate with Stevens’ pretty theme on ‘Whale Majesty.'”

“Alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, bassist Timo Shanko and drummer Django Carranza hammer away at eight slices of groove-based music that is is peppy, incisive and yes, amusing,” explains Jay Collins in his review of Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity). “The Fully Celebrated is a group that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but the music is of high caliber and a hell of a lot of fun.”

Marc Medwin describes the Darius Jones Trio’s debut, Man’ish Boy (AUM Fidelity), as “a barn-burner from note one. Jones could not have chosen better musicians to enter into his world, with Cooper-Moore and drummer Rakalam Bob Moses enhancing every moan, cry and shriek emanating from his alto.”

Jay Collins calls the Joe Morris Quartet’s second release, Today On Earth (AUM Fidelity), “Morris at his most accessible. His tremendous single-note flurries come to bear immediately on the boppish ‘Backbone’ and the exuberantly swinging ‘Imaginary Solutions.’ The quartet’s keen melodic sense is eveident on ‘Ashes’ and the ruminative ‘Animal,’ especially in Hobbs’s earthy, gripping saxophone playing. Hobbs and Morris’s unison lines against the rhythm section’s restless activity are part of the record’s pleasures. Like Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones, Today on Earth has it all: smart compositional structures that launch tasty, unpredictable improvisations.”

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iC Media Poll Results: Part 2

July 20, 2009

Print publications

Today we explore the results from the second of five sections of our recent survey of 50 prominent jazz writers and editors.

This section, called Web and print habits, asked about the jazz-related publications, blogs and Web sites these professionals are reading, how they access them, and if what they read there impacts their own work.

As shown in the chart above, we first asked respondents to indicate which of the eight major jazz magazines they read on a regular basis. The list, which featured English-language publications only, included AllAboutJazz-New York, Cadence, DownBeat, Jazz Improv, Jazziz, JazzTimes, Signal To Noise and The Wire. We also made it possible for people to write-in any other publications as well.

The clear winner was AllAboutJazz-New York with 54.5%. The runner-up was Signal to Noise with 51.5%, followed by DownBeat and JazzTimes, which each scored 48.5%. The Wire (39.4%) and Cadence (18.2%) were next, while Jazziz and Jazz Improv each scored less than 10%.

One write-in vote each was cast for Cuadernos de JazzCoda, Improjazz, Jazz Journal and Ritmos del Mundo.

Print influence

We then asked if the coverage in these publications influenced the respondent’s own work (i.e. discovering new releases, coloring their judgement of artists/releases, etc.).

The results (above) were clear as 85.3% answered in the affirmative.

Web sites

Next we asked which jazz-related Web sites respondents visit on a regular basis, again spotlighting eight popular choices and giving people the chance to write-in any others they prefer.

AllAboutJazz.com was the clear favorite with 77.4%, with AllMusic.com finishing a close second with 61.3%. Next came Bagatellen with 32.3%, followed by Jazz.com and NPR Music, which each earned 29%. Avant Music News (16.1%), Jazz Corner (12.9%) and PopMatters (6.5%) also got multiple votes.

A significant number of write-in votes were cast for blogs, which we tackle in the next question, but Point of Departure was a popular choice (an admitted oversight on our part), as were Pitchfork and Dusted.

Web influence

Again, the majority (82.4%) indicated that the content of these sites influence their own work.

When tackling the subject of blogs, we asked respondents to list five of their favorites. Oddly enough, more than half skipped this question completely, and only 37.5% filled in all five slots. Some even dedicated one or more of the slots to expressing their dislike for reading and/or discussing blogs at all.

The calculations don’t apply to write-ins, but the most popular choices were Destination: Out, Do The Math, Free Jazz, Jazz Beyond Jazz, Lerterland and Secret Society.

Blog influence

But this time, when we asked if what they read on these blogs influenced their own work, only 44.4% said yes.

Blog access

When it comes to accessing the blogs they read, the Web is by far the most popular way with 94.1% giving that answer. Using a built-in blog reader in one’s browser and using a stand-alone RSS feed reader represented the rest of the vote with 8.8% each.

Twitter account

Finally, we asked if any of the respondents have a Twitter account.

Unlike with the blogs, everyone who took the survey answered this question, but only 35.3% said yes.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the third section of our survey, Personal Listening Habits, which features questions about writers’ interaction with jazz radio, their preferences for format (CD, MP3 and vinyl) when purchasing music for personal use, and the amount of music they purchase in a given year.

Please stay tuned!


Signal To Noise Covers Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone

April 1, 2009


Kurt Gottschalk’s feature about Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone is the cover story in the new Spring 2009 issue of Signal To Noise.

The piece, complete with new original photos by Alexander Richter, explores the pair’s seven-year musical partnership, as well as their work—both together and apart—in numerous other ensembles. 

The duo‘s third CD, Thin Air, was released last week as part of Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series, curated by Matthew Shipp.


The Lady Of Khartoum Gets Her Due

January 8, 2009

The new year has started off rosy for Boston-based guitarists Garrison Fewell and Eric Hofbauer, whose 2008 duo release, The Lady of Khartoum (Creative Nation Music), has received some positive, if belated praise, in a few prominent places.

The Penguin Guide to Jazz, Ninth Edition:
“…this extraordinary duo session makes most of Bill Frisell’s records seem one-dimensional.” 

Nathan Turk in Signal To Noise, Winter 2009:
“This freewheeling pan-cultural duo helps show that jazz’s family tree has some pretty deep roots.”

Karen Hogg in AllAboutJazz-New York, January 2009:
“Tracks like ‘Dogon Delta Blues’ and ‘Devil at the Salang Pass’ are adventurous and quirky, exploring the boundaries of the guitar’s sonic possibilities. ‘Farsighted Friendship’, a John Tchicai composition (Fewell is a long-time collaborator), is a fitting closing tune, beautiful and contemplative.” 

A compilation of this recording’s earlier reviews can be found here.

The Fewell/Hofbauer Duo will be performing a handful of dates around the Northeast next month as part of a package tour of Creative Nation Music artists celebrating the label’s fifth anniversary. Details are forthcoming.


More Critical Praise For Mario Pavone’s Ancestors

January 7, 2009

Since tonight is the official New York CD release party for the Mario Pavone Double Tenor Quintet’s Ancestors (Playscape Recordings) at Iridium, we thought it fitting to share some new reviews of the record, as well a live review of the band’s concert on Monday night that appears in today’s Hartford Courant.

In the January 2009 issue of AllAboutJazz-New York, Jeff Stockton wrote, “As befits a band with a bassist as its leader, it’s the rhythm section that drives the music, particularly Pavone’s springy bass and pianist Peter Madsen’s exploding chords. Along with drummer Gerald Cleaver they would make a fantastic recorded trio, but the inclusion of saxophonists Tony Malaby and Jimmy Greene make this small group sound like a rollicking big band.”

In his review in the Winter 2009 issue of Signal To Noise, Michael Rosenstein added, “Malaby and Greene (who both double on soprano) are a great fit, diving in with an uncanny sense of melodic invention and just the right touch of grit and muscle. Madsen’s piano anchors the music with a light touch and incredible sophistication, and Cleaver propels the music with a lithe sense of swing. The leader steers things with an assured sense of pulse and flow, his stalwart bass a guiding force throughout.”