Florian Ross: Wollongong Sketch

German pianist-composer Florian Ross studied with Jim McNeely and George Gruntz before leading his own bands. This double apprenticeship might explain a lot about the originality of his inspiration. Indeed this song, composed during an Australian tour, has a twist of its own that cannot easily be linked to either the American or European traditions. The melody and rhythm are evocative of wide-open spaces, the mellow sound of the all-reeds horn section is rather unique outside of a big band context, and the use of the Fender Rhodes instead of acoustic piano enhances the dreamy hues of a piece that could well be used as a soundtrack to a road movie.

January 10, 2008 · 0 comments

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Heinz Sauer: Variations on Redford

These previously unreleased three minutes are the perfect conclusion to the compilation of 40 years of recordings that ACT published to celebrate Heinz Sauer’s 75th birthday. On the dark, haunting minor chords that Michael Wollny plays as an introduction, the deep, serene sound of the tenor sax soars, and takes the hymn-like song to a climax of intensity. This moment of pure beauty will undoubtedly convince the listener that it’s high time the talents of the underrated – if not unknown – sax veteran and of his brilliant young partner were rediscovered for the former, and promoted for the latter.

January 02, 2008 · 0 comments

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Walter Lang & Lee Konitz: Farewell

For decades, Lee Konitz has shown a special liking for duets. In this context he has often favored pianists, many of them European. After the likes of Martial Solal or Enrico Pieranunzi, Lang – though fairly unknown outside of Germany – appears to be one of the best choices of accompanist the veteran alto player has made recently. On this track, as on most of Ashiya, Lang’s melodic talent as a composer and sparse, clear harmonic piano support create an atmosphere of vibrating melancholy. In this inspiring context, Konitz’s improvisational skills reach a rare level of understated emotion.

January 02, 2008 · 0 comments

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Peter Brotzmann: Machine Gun

Machine Gun is the most frightening album in jazz. Hands down. It was in 1968, and it still is today. Only a few other albums even come close – there’s the unbearable tension of John Coltrane’s “Ascension,” the brute force of John Zorn’s Spy vs. Spy and of course six or seven other Brotzmann records. But this one shows no mercy at all. It doesn’t swing. There’s no melody. There’s no rhythm. It’s pure emotion – Peter Brotzmann blowing the hell out of his horn, two drummers bashing the skins and cymbals senseless, Fred Van Hove beating the life out of the piano. It’s a 15-minute expression of frustration and anger. Is it an antiwar statement? It must be, but it’s hard to know for certain. What we do know is that it scares the bejesus out of us, every time.

October 25, 2007 · 0 comments

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