Steve Barry’s recent writing has evolved a highly individual and idiosyncratic language that colours the logic of his melodic line. Harmonically he has become even more adventurous, and rhythmically he plays with time and the stretching of time in truly eye and ear-opening ways.
It was fascinating to watch such a powerful voice emanate from Kristin Berardi’s delicate frame.
I heard something of Miles’ ‘Big Fun’the first time I played I Hold the Lion’s Paw’s ‘Abstract Playgrounds’.There, in the opening track ‘(outtakes from the)’ is that same soupy mix, the same muddy rhythms, as if primeval matter, inchoate, is ever-so-slowly coalescing into form. There is an urgency and drama inherent in that opener, as it carefully leads the listener in: what directions this music will take is a wide-open question.
When Michael Griffin’s lips touch the mouthpiece, he’s transfomed: the awkward teenager gives his place to a jazz master of superb confidence – and his pinstripe suit becomes a perfect fit. It’s uncanny.
I don’t know how much distance there is between Carla Bley and Frank Zappa, but Cheryl Durongpisitkul covers it with ease. And, however helpful references and namedropping might be to describe a sound, it is mostly just noise. Because, the loudest, clearest, most assertive voice here, is that of Cheryl Durongpisitkul herself.
Across ‘The Game’, Trish Delaney-Brown’s vocal scat (in duet and solo) is exquisite, always intriguing, never empty histrionics.
Their latest album, ‘Confluence’, is made up of two long improvisations – the 40-minute ‘Stream’ and the 24- minute ‘Flow’. The titles are fitting, as this music has much in common with the nature of both water and of electricity: rushing between banks, bubbling over rapids, coming to rest calm and lake-serene, sparking, ever moving to a point of resolution or rest.
Shannon Barnett writes brilliantly for jazz – there is challenge, rhythmically and melodically, but there is also space enough to move around in.
And that from anguish to giddy silliness, and everything in between is the scope of [A]part. It is a massive piece in every way: challenging to the ear and the mind, highly original (as we know Kirkwood to always be), often cerebral and abstract, all the time threatening to be too much to take in in one sitting. But what saves it from possible overwhelm is that Kirkwood never loses the emotional thread in the music; it is human music and it consistently makes you feel. Sometimes, as with all valid contemporary art, those feelings can be baffling or even plain uncomfortable, but you do feel them deeply.
Playing with the Vampires on this album has pulled some startling performances out of Loueke and, in kind, the band rise to his fire one catches oneself thinking they sound the best they ever have; then you realise the Vampires always sound this good.