Cos La Machina 1

[D'Autres Cordes, www.digitruc.com]

New American Wing

[New American Wing, www.newamericanwing.com]

Five Saxophone Solos

[Mutable Music, www.mutablemusic.com]

The Long & Short Of It

[Black Saint, www.blacksaint.com]

Who said jazz had to be its same old boring self? Let's listen in on what's grazing' in the grass in that century old genre.

Push The Triangle is a French quintet whose main aim seems to be that of painting a pastiche landscape. By using an angular approach, the music on their latest release "Cos La Machina 1" is an exercise in stop and go. Don't ever think that this is pure jazz [whatever pure means nowadays]. Jenn Priddle's Phil Minton inspired vocals create tension that lingers on whenever she opens her mouth. With Franck Vigroux rough guitar work, Médéric Collignon's warm cornet lines, Stéphane Payen's jagged saxophone solos and Michel Blanc's off-the-mark drum work, the quintet push on in directions less travelled, into less chartered territories. Much of the fun of this disc comes in the form of turntable manipulations by Franck Vigroux. Gentle and hushed one minute, while the next they turn into these audio beasts. Album's surprise comes in the guise of a brief track "In The Perfume of the Muse", where Jenn whispers delicately, while Médéric plays some caressing cornet passages around her. In places, Push The Triangle are doing imitations of a muscle band such as Naked City, while in other moments, they're warm and caring balladeers. A personality complex, if I'd ever heard one.

Founded by guitarist Daniel Raimi, NYC trio New American Wing is a world onto itself. To group this in the jazz idiom would be a crime [oops! Too late for that!] but grouping it under classical or contemporary music would be a misnomer as well. So, we're left with the new music label which seems to suit this band fine. Trumpeter Jacob Varmus and cellist Erica Sattin round out the line up. The beauty of the recording is in the ease of execution of these pieces. Neither jazz nor chamber music, they somehow linger in this new music category and posses this cinematic quality about them. There are plenty of open spaces between the notes. None of the trio's members is in a rush to prove a point, to show off their acquired skills. Rather, they truly function as an equal part of a team. Jacob Varmus's trumpet squeals remind me in parts of Dave Douglas's glory days. The real splendour is with the team of guitar and cello. While Daniel's method is angular and quite direct at times, Erica uses a more subdued approach. It seems that for much of the time, her gentle bowing drives the whole project forward. Minimal, direct but most of all purely ethereal, New American Wing are definitely a trio to watch out for. In every sense of the word, this turns out to be an impressive debut.

Thirty year veteran of the improvised and composed scenes, multi-instrumentalist Earl Howard returns with his "5 Saxophone Solos" recording. Sparse and meandering are two words that immediately come to mind when listening to some of these alto pieces. Earl is focused but there are sections when his playing wonders off the map for a little while. Whether these elongated pieces are tonal or not is not important. The listener's ear will adjust to Earl's style and his abstract forms. In a small way, these solos may be a sibling to Anthony Braxton's "For Alto", but in another sense they stand apart. While Earl doesn't over-blow at any given point and time, his solos have much tension built in. It's as if the composer was at odds with his own self. It's as if he was trying to give us a glimpse of the complexities of his own life. Dynamics of the pieces vary from time to time as well. There is no room for Earl to settle into that comfortable playing pace or mode. True enough, a few of the pieces are song-like and encapsulate a singing quality about them but for the most part, the pieces are abstract and complex. Obviously, this is a disparate avenue for Earl to pursue from his electronic work, but lucky for us, it is still a success.

After interesting Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman tributes [with his former ensemble Affinity], soprano saxophonist Joe Rosenberg now pulls out all punches and presents his most recent quintet. "The Long & Short Of It" is a concoction of eight of the most fiery ensemble pieces Joe has played on. >From the over-the-top "Detritus" to the equally intense "Go", the album shines through and through with top notch musicianship. Three sax assaults - Rosenberg on soprano, Jean-Luc Guionette on alto and Olivier Py on tenor - are prevalent throughout the recording. Don't get me wrong, there are still some rich and satisfying ballads here. Take "Stasis" for instance. As Rosenberg gently introduces the motif, Oliver Py begins a mid-tempo tenor solo and a few minutes later Jean-Luc Guionette does the same on his horn. When the brass trio really belts out a number, they don't hold back. On "C'est Facile" they play melodies off one another and each player uses the other more or less as a sounding board. Crunchy and direct solos are what these three do best and there's plenty of energy in every tiny note they play. All fire and fury, Joe Rosenberg comes back in fine style.

- Tom Sekowski

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