Radio.String.Quartet.Vienna: A Remark You Made

I'm not sure why this string quartet is not better known. Certainly fans of the Kronos Quartet or Turtle Island String Quartet would find much to enjoy in the invigorating music of Radio.String.Quartet.Vienna. But no dice . . . you need to add this CD to the growing list of exceptional releases on the ACT label that deserve better distribution and greater visibility. A year ago this group put out a brilliant recording of John McLaughlin compositions arranged for string quartet. This was one of the finest jazz CDs of 2007, but I see that it is still almost impossible to find in the U.S. and only available on Amazon.com as a $35 import. Now they follow up with an equally memorable project with guest artist Klaus Paier on accordion and bandoneón. Let's hope it finds a more receptive audience. This unusual combination of instrumental textures works well, with Paier giving some bite that counters the inherent fluidity of all string ensembles. Joe Zawinul's "A Remark You Made" is the perfect vehicle for this band. The musicians' shifts in dynamics, their free-flowing sense of time, and the arrangement by Paier all combine to create a touching tribute by a Viennese group to the most famous Viennese jazz artist.

December 08, 2008 · 0 comments

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Wolfgang Schalk: The Second Third Man

Writing reviews allows me to revisit music I have not listened to in a long time. In some cases, I forgot I owned it. Aside from the shock at how long a particular CD has been in my collection, such as this 12-year-old Wolfgang Schalk album, I get the opportunity to listen and rediscover with ears that are 12 years wiser. While the loss of hearing the past dozen years in the upper registers is something I need to talk to an audiologist and a doctor about, I still hear Wolfgang Schalk loud and clear.

"The Second Third Man" is indicative of the whole album. It is improvised music of originality and high performance. Schalk and Brecker are perfect foils as they tackle a complicated and relentless head arrangement. The momentum generated makes it sound as if the melody was spring-wound. The guitarist's solos are nothing less than fantastic, and what more can be said about Brecker? Feldgrill will need to change the transmission on his bass after this low-grinding performance. This is a high-caliber chops fest in the best tradition of the jazz-rock idiom. The fact I have not listened to it for so long is unforgivable, but understandable, if you could see the mess that is my office.

April 15, 2008 · 0 comments

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Wolfgang Puschnig: Promise

Wolfgang Puschnig has always been interested in other musical traditions. Coming himself from Austrian folk music, he's played with the Vienna Art Orchestra and Carla Bley's groups, with the Korean percussion band SamulNori, and with Philadelphia electric bass ace Jamaaladeen Tacuma. So he's perfectly at ease with a Tunisian oud player and an Indian percussionist. The three of them weave a highly hypnotic sonic tapestry on which the alto's modal improvisation soars with majestic beauty. This sounds like a mix between an Indian raga and a slightly off-center sax trio.

March 05, 2008 · 0 comments

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Max Nagl: Bowling

Alto sax/accordion/bass is definitely not the most common trio setting. But we are in Austria, where the jazz scene has strong links with local folk tradition. Nagl's alto has a rather raw tone that goes along with great fluency. Lechner's accordion has a sound and phrasing that make it a totally individual voice, both as a harmonic instrument and as a soloist. And Jones, the American in the lot, has a bass sound that fits perfectly in this homage to Charles Mingus.

March 05, 2008 · 0 comments

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Vienna Art Orchestra: Jean Harlow Meets Leonardo da Vinci

To celebrate its 30 years of existence, the most renowned European orchestra had to do something really special. And that’s exactly what founder/director/composer Mathias Rüegg did: a 3-disk project comprising “portraits” of 13 American female stars, an equal number of European male thinkers, and as many imaginary meetings between the former and the latter. Imagination, men, women, beauty, mind, and fusing the American jazz tradition and the European classical music… that’s mostly what the Vienna Art Orchestra has been about for the last three decades, after all. Of course, this track can only give a small – but significant – foretaste of the maturity this wonderful orchestra has achieved.

January 15, 2008 · 0 comments

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