More Other Stuff by Anthony Medici
My order from Clean Feed came in yesterday. In case you’ve been misled by those pop-jazz magazine polls into thinking the usual suspects (Blue Note, Verve, ECM) are actually issuing jazz recordings of real artistic interest, let me fill you in: Clean Feed, a label based, perhaps rather improbably, out of Portugal, is among the new leaders in creative improvised music. The label, started in 2001, has performed brilliantly, and features some superb artists: Anthony Braxton, Evan Parker, Tony Malaby, Steve Lehman, Charles Gayle, Paul Dunmall, and many other artists who are continuing to advance the art of creative improvised music. Where the industry “giants” look for the next Norah Jones clone, or pop star in need of a jazz “makeover,” Clean Feed is still about the “sound of surprise.” Blue Note used to be like this, but it has lost its way, depending upon a stream of reissues and pop crossovers to fill its roster and beholden to a corporate titan to adhere to the bottom line. Blue Note is now part of the “industrial-musical complex.” Anyway, the first two Clean Feeds out of the shipping box and into the CD player were Tony Malaby’s TAMARINDO, and Evan Parker’s A GLANCING BLOW.
Let me say, right off, that this was two hours of riveting music. Malaby has grown into a major figure in creative improvised music, with strong exploratory instincts, and a depth of feeling that is notable. On TAMARINDO (CF 099), he is teamed with William Parker on double bass (someone please give this man a Guggenheim or MacArthur “genius” award, if only to say “thank you”) and Nasheet Waits on drums. I’ve been a bit tough on Nasheet recently, but his performance on this album is brilliant enough to almost make me retract some of what I’ve said. Parker and Waits form a rhythm section hard to surpass; note their roiling, boiling, deep, deep, deep in the pocket performance on “Floating Head.” Malaby rides this wave with intensity, intelligence, and feeling, on both tenor sax and soprano sax. I prefer him on the former, but there is little to quibble about here. This one is destined to be a classic that will repay repeated listens.
A GLANCING BLOW (CF 085) features the Master, Evan Parker, on tenor and soprano sax, with John Edwards on double bass, and Chris Corsano on percussion. Corsano might be the best drummer you never heard of. The album consists of two lengthy cuts, the title track, and “Out of the Pocket.” The album was recorded at the Vortex in London on August 24, 2006, in front of a live audience, although that is not apparent until the end of the album. I was totally sucked into this performance, with its almost paranormal level of interplay amongst the group, its deep intelligence, and its creative improvising. You will not get this on Blue Note. You will not get this on Verve. You will likely not even get this on ECM, which still sputters to life once in a while, but which often settles for sonic wallpaper. “Clean Feed” delivers what it implies: a direct transmission of the artist’s vision to the listener. Notes and Miscellany: Will wonders never cease? Jazz Times cover story is on John Zorn, an interesting interview of Zorn with Bill Milkowski. The other cover features are more typical JT: “Marcus Roberts Returns”– did we care that he ever left?. “Melody Gardot: The Next Norah?”- words fail me (however, this article epitomizes what is wrong with jazz and the mainstream jazz mags). “Wynton & Branford Reviewed”- can we stand it? JT also has an article on Benny Golson, I suppose on the premise that Downbeat had the same article last month. I suppose they can’t help playing Frick and Frack, since they feed from the same PR stream. Speaking of Downbeat, their cover article on “Diana Krall: Loss, Love, & Confidence” is purely embarrassing. Jazz Festivals: All the magazines are featuring jazz festival sections and advertisements. Since space here is limited, I shall only say that many, too many, of the festivals that bill themselves as “jazz festivals” are larded (I use that word advisedly) with pop and “jazz lite” acts that have little to do with jazz. Folks, step out of the commercial rubbish and get a “clean feed.”