Hugh Masekela, the legendary South African jazz musician, has died aged 78. I am feeling so blessed that I had a time and chance to go and enjoy his most recent performances in the UK. Given his vitality and the steam going out of the stage I wouldn’t even think about that we can be loosing him so soon forever.
It is not my first meeting with Erika Stucky, crazy Swiss artist and stage performer with her origins rooting in the US, planet Earth and imagination from Mars. Therefore, I was kind of prepared that what comes will be unique. As I previously reviewed her Suicidal Yodels and the Black Widow recordings as well as Live I was pretty aware of her surprising possibilities and the vocal arsenal. This incredible cooperation however again took me by the surprise.
But no one could really expect that she will team up together this time with the prominent celebrity countertenor Andreas Scholl and the Baroque Ensemble (La Cetra Barockorchester). To spice it up even more, add FM Einheit to the pack, the drummer and the creative force behind famous German band Einstúrzende Neubauten.,
And no one could guess what it is all going to be about. This is however about Erika’s father, hence a Spanish tittle Pepito. As it refers to her early childhood memories and needs more explanation it is better to read what PR says about to gain as much preparation as possible. Blended with quirky sense of humour and shocking graphic design for the digi-pack layout, referring to her deceased father’s live making profession: the butchery.
Repertoire as always with Erika contains her own compositions and covers, on that occasion it is choice of Cole Porter, Billie Holiday, Luccio Dala and Steven Sondheim among the others. Songs referring to difficult relations, or mental troubles. Songs which used to be around when she was growing. Maybe songs she had been listening to with her father, or she remembers him listening to them. Whatever the reason they fulfil the emotional pallet of romance, grand sentiments, simply joys or sometimes great disappointments. In short: all the life has to offer.
Now it all gets down to the arrangements and the performance path she decided to go with to complete that program. And believe me she could do whatever she would like to do with it. But she kept it simple. Brilliant and without overdoing. With well-balanced use of the quest musicians.
Starting with Porter’s Ev’ry Time We Say Good Bye she set up the sentimental mood for the set. Baroque strings, used to play different sounds daily, approach the subjects with an incredible fullness and richness of the sound. Her singing, sweet and luscious, counterpointed with it nicely. And her “trombone solo”, one of those amazing things she can make with her voice refereed to the classic ballroom tradition.
Randy Newman’s Marie, again, sung with the great intensity came together wonderfully with orchestra sounding both baroque and romantic in the same time. It was sung in the way that Tom Waits would probably do that.
But the cherry of the pie are obviously duets with Scholl here. Like one in Lil’ Sister, where they both create gentle harmony in almost non-existing canon is splendid. The call and response in Two for Tea is a final pick, where Scholl sings with an incredible clarity and Stucky with almost laconic naivety. When She tries her “brassy” tricks in choruses, He comes in response with slightly nasal vibrato reminding Louis Armstrong’s manner.
Stucky’s own Stacheldracht (Barbwire) with strings merged with percussion dissonance brings to the surface FM Einheit’s contribution in most visible way. Here reminiscences to her father are hitting the surface too. They have emotional tension which is hard to omit but somehow songs from the musicals are holding emotional deposit in the better way for me.
I could go for all of them one by one but it is not the point. Everyone should do so for himself and feel it. This is the music to FEEL more than to listen. It is very private and very exhibitionist in the same time. It contains huge deposit of emotions and layers of beauty and touch-ability which must be soaked by an open heart and mind. The beauty which takes over you in most natural way.
PEPITO TRAUMTON PR
you can buy this music here:
Here cones a challenge with this interpretation. Truth Glenn Miller fans might risk dying of the heart palpitation if getting exposed to the tracks for longer when those who are dedicated fans of the Scandinavian band would probably shrug with disbelieving. Or just smile ready for fun. Whatever sort of fun is is going to be, forget the ballroom and leave your Tuxedo at home or you might risk getting it ragged.
Originally released in January 1980, the second album from (Crammed founder) Marc Hollander’s band was more intense and experimental than Aksak Maboul’s debut album yet often as playful. Containing complex written sections, free improv, and a wild variety of elements, Bandits was recorded with a band comprising revered UK musicians Fred Frith & Chris Cutler, and is described by All Music Guide as “a pinnacle of the RIO movement” (RIO being Rock In Opposition, the late-‘70s radical, pan-European coalition of bands, of which Aksak Maboul was part). The album reached #3 in the NME’s top ten European albums of 1980 (afterYello and The Nits, before Steve Reich and Faust!).
Containing 6 tracks percussion journey into Dahlen’s imagination brings manifold cinematic memories to my mind. Music is very imaginative and spacious. Soundstage is simply epic. This are all big scores like sonic landscapes reminding works of the biggest names working for the movie industry. Like Hans Zimmer or Ryuichi Sakamoto. Or Antonio Sanchez to bring it more to the jazz drumming territory.
But the drumming is very propulsive as well, so it refers to the history of the rock music without a shade of doubts. Music of The Police, Tangerine Dreams, Mike Oldfield, Pink Floyd or Grateful Dead alike comes to my head as a first impression.
Another subject worth mentioning is an extended range of instruments which had been used for making this sounds. Not just a drums and bells and all sort of percussion instruments, but also cutlery, strings and all sort of electronics to mix and loop it with at the end. Even Drone boxes, to jump out of usual approach completely. All that shows an incredible creativity and imagination and the frameworks he created and taking us indeed into multiply mental departures. Sort of things which I first time experienced from another percussionist wizard – Terje Isungset.
An opening Clocks, with gentle techno bit and ticking sounds of clocks and gongs reminds a bit a psychotic trip of Dark Side of the Moon that Floyds took us once to. But the tension brings even more dark feelings and multicultural images which are travelling through your head are revering to early period of Gong music, a bit like on Camembert Electrique with drumming pattern reminding a bit Dire Straits. I can see the crops from movies like Solaris, 5th Element or Delicatessen, humour wise. So, you got a picture now, I believe.
The Glas, coming after is Insugset’s universe. Short , but very rich ,spacious and dynamically extended, with this feeling of coldness coming from the upper transients of the percussion sounds.
Ship, Is almost like a tribute to the Gong’s Gazeuse with very rich tissue reminding me the best from Pierre Moerlen. But with this electronic plankton characteristic for the overall sound of CAN from the period of 70-ties and 80-ies, listen to the Tago Mago album, or to the Rite Time and you would feel it immediately. One can tell the music he grown on listening to.
Following two with the titles illustrating animals, the Bear and the Lizard I like to see as a portrait of the creatures themselves. In the first one monumental stepping power of the rhythm describes the rough power of the animal, with its ruthless sense of self confidence. Dynamic range makes this walk incredibly three-dimensional and almost touchable like a hologram.
On the other pole, we are getting repetitive pattern camouflaging the real nature of the sonic wave which gets twisted and modulated under the surface. Kind of weirdness which makes an easy natural association with a reptilian sort of nature. Some might however see completely different pictures there. Easy to understand if listened with no suggestion coming from the title.
That’s exactly the power of that music. One keeps reading in it like in an open book and never gets enough. Therefore, I am leaving closing Wood composition for your very own recognition.
For 20 years Rune Grammofon have made a habit of releasing music that is beyond easy classification, in later years typified by Swedish trio Fire!, consisting of Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin. All three are highly accomplished musicians, but Fire! music is not “difficult” in the sense that jazz and especially free jazz is often perceived. Very much a tight knit unit with three equal players, Fire! has been likened to powerful guitar led trios such as Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but with Berthling´s heavy, doom laden bass-lines being such a typical identifier, we can´t help but thinking of Black Sabbath´s debut album when it comes to hypnotic impact.
These nine tracks are a joy to my heart and I can tell you right from the beginning that it is to me one of the best recordings I’ve heard this year. As a debut, it is simply mind-blowing and equally addicting like last year’s Florian Favre one or Fabienne Ambühl’s two years ago. Why those two, you might ask, amount the hundred others. Simply due to its spiritual quality.
Kasia is one of those musicians who are down to the Earth honest. They bring you their heart in their hand. All nine compositions are coming from the band. Six of them sound to me like proper scores developed in a process. During playing and listening to each other for long. Three others, called Episodes are representing kind of suite to me, where every musician in the trio gets his own space to express himself and make a kind of signature. An order on the recording makes perfect sense when interludes are establishing a pace of the recording when placed between the tracks being played by the whole trio.
Episode 1 belongs to the drummer Piotr Budniak. It is a wonderful percussive framework, build with very subtle tissue. Changing tempos and the minimalistic approach on drums and rides are contrasting each other and bringing such an organic feeling to the table.
The piece called Passaic Avenue makes a perfect example to describe Kasia’s approach. It sounds a bit like Esbjörn Svennson, who’s emotional touch is audible in her play and a little bit Komeda like, with its folk sounding repetitive lines, bringing that unmistakable touch of Polish Romanticism. Kasia walks and watches. Music delivers in her head due to the feelings. She is like a painter. She is communicating with pictures. Every tune speaks its own story. Story she felt before she forged that into the sounds.
Take the Green Eyes which are Grey, another so much personal and intimate deeply emotional piece of music which makes listener almost feeling like a trespasser. But this is nothing else like this absolute emotional transparency she shares with an audience which is her best weapon of choice and makes her voice standing out of the crowd.
Episode 2, lovely balanced bass walk, just like the drummer’s one, scopes massively from the contrast of tension and straight forwardness of the woody tone of the instrument. It is almost dreamy in its feeling. It comes to the end just when one starts to fall in love with. It is like unveiled promise. So, light and ephemeral. Not the feeling that one usual gets from the double bass. And it had not been played in a cello register either.
Intimacy starting with wonderful drummer’s intro is my absolute favourite of that forthright stories. It comes like a storm. First with a gentle tension of the percussive rhythms and accents, then joined with the full piano blow and, staying in the conversation with, bass. It is not about the volume here as title would clearly suggest, but about the intensity of the communication inside the piece. Culmination comes as a natural climax build on the spark of emotions which all the band is melting in that pot with equal intensity.
Kasia’s own Episode 3 is based on the silence between the notes. Tension and reverb are what makes that music, which is the darkest sounding one on the record. Intensity and the emotional feeling present there are reminding me my always beloved Mal Waldron. Such a joy to hear his spirit in her gentle feminine touch.
Long story short I admire her mature approach and the way she listens to her instincts and the inner voice. It is especially surprising given her young age. But as I said above, her lack of mannerism and complete openness to what comes are her greatest strengths. I am keeping that record close to the heart where it belongs and waiting impatiently for more to come from this incredibly sensitive young artist. I feel delighted and privileged for being trusted to come across those recording and being able to Harold it to you Ladies and Gentleman.
KASIA PIETRZKO on SOUNDCLOUD
I got that feeling that the third Masaa LP brings establishment to already well-spoken band. Western -Arabic bond which characterise their development was fresh and breath taking to me from the first contact with the band’s music, the Freedom Dance. The previous Afkar was my favourite since and it remains favourite even today. Let me explain why.
The music here coagulated. Became more firm and mature, maybe by the feeling of the fluidity which came as well from being together so long, continue touring and simply recognise each other spiritual feeling on the go. That’s all good but I was happy with what I already heard previously as well. It was just a little bit different, more intuitional if you wish.
Now the band explores the same territories as it did before. The romantic piano remains accompanied with Kappenstein’s sensual drumming, which I like so very much. It is the driving force behind the Lahoud’s voice as I pointed before and that intimate bond is still there and works wonders for the band. Trumpet arrangements keep bringing windy and spacious openness.
Take lovely Miah composition as an example. It is all there. It remains pretty and I am hundred percent confident that every new-comer who heard that music for the first time will be delighted. I am delighted myself as it difficult to remain blank to Rabih’s voice, always emotionally fragile. Delicately balanced, but in the same time so powerful with the message it brings. But it is also the same on the challenging level for those who already know him, like myself.
What I am missing here in that mix of otherwise wonderfully played and beautiful music is kind of interaction with the life as it goes now. When I heard them first time in Berlin it was all fresh and striking. It was sign of time and an imprint of what’s happening in the European culture right now. That’s exactly why it was so powerful. The honesty of that message was what was getting me. Now times have changed during the last few years since their debut and the dynamism of these changes is noticeable but their voice somehow got stacked in time.
That means they lost this power of the messenger who is bringing the news. This flash and blood freshness which makes this music so authentic when it is there. Now I can’t sense it anymore. It became more like a pattern. Beautiful and pleasant but it is not the same. One might say that maybe I am just missing that lost virginity, sort of innocence which one can lose just once in life. Maybe so. But maybe not. I am not an adrenaline junky and I am enjoying adultery after even more. Perhaps that’s why I am now event more convinced and dare to say so when something doesn’t turn me on anymore.
Outspoken on SOUNDCLOUD:
Norwegian guitarist/composer Kim Myhr’s follow-up to the acclaimed ‘Bloom’ presents an oceanic immersion in intensely saturated sound over two separate ‘sides’ featuring guest drummers Tony Buck (The Necks), Ingar Zach (Huntsville, Dans les Arbres) and Hans Hulbaekmo (Atomic, Moskus, Broen)
The young piano trio from Norway is the 3rd one on the Label’s catalogue after In the Country and The Espen Eriksen Trio, but philosophically they are also following the footsteps of another two compatriots: Helge Lien and Tord Gustavsen. Especially the last one appeals with its incredibly romantic and melancholic approach. Performing in the past with Arve Henriksen alike would fit into the sonic universe he represents but names like Nils Olav Johansen(guitarist) or Ola Kvernberg(violinist) shows huge versatility as those two are flirting heavily with various popular genres.
The track called You Stood There In Silence, Having No Words makes to me the best example of what describes the trio’s music. Here is a band co-operation at the best. Wonderful melodic approach with sophisticated drum framework, full of changing tempos and various dynamic tensions. Challenging rhythm patterns with full pallet of dynamic flavors. Piano sporting full dynamic range in this joyful conversation. Mostly hymnal, almost touching the lament side, fantastically sparkling and never losing its gentle melodic core. Absolutely fascinating. Bass on the other hand is a show of the maturity, with every sound being played wonderfully woody and with a perfect tension.
Coming after C&R brings the same maturity with careful listening to each other and responding to what comes rapid fire fast. Music might not be up tempo, pretty much is melancholic and laid back but the way they are building up culmination and then realize it with such a natural ease is mesmerizing. Here one can here that there is a lot of space left for the improvisation. I don’t believe that all the lines are written into the score really. I can sense this joy of tracing each other and bringing the spark to the surface. Drummer’s snare cannonades in that piece with phenomenally controlled dynamics between conversations with the piano are nothing but master class show off.
Another one which I truly enjoyed is improvised Time /Breath, with very contemporary spacious character, dark piano clusters and minimalistic percussion approach with creative play on the rims of the toms and cymbals and fantastically controlled and the dynamic tension dosed.
Leaving Home is kind of Jarrett alike burlesque, again wonderfully dynamically executed with nice drive and perfect inner communication.
I like the way that tracks are mixed on that recording. You can listen to them randomly and they are nothing but the pleasure, but simply put this cd into the tray and just sit and listen without messing with an order and you will notice truly mature concept behind that. It brings the flow this way and the dynamic control of the recording becomes easier to understand. Plus, it shows another skill of the young pianist as a composer and an arranger as well and ability to control the tension by making the right choices.
That’s why closing Three Last Words, are making such a lovely outro here. Fading piano with gentle plunking, assisted by swirly bass lines and long-lasting sounds from triangles disappearing into silence in such a natural way leave the listener completely immersed to the tissue of the recording.
This trio is really speaking with its own voice and they left me with huge hunger for more, so I will stay alerted and will be looking forward to the next chapter to come – Not Nearly Enough To Being Done With Them.