by: Hobart Taylor
Restroy - Restroy - (1980 Records)
Once again Chicago comes through. Restroy is Christopher Dammann bassist and composer and his collaborators James Davis, (Trumpet), Kevin Davis, (cello,) Paul Giallorenzo (synth, electronics), Mabel Kwan, (piano, keyboards), and one of the deans of the creative music scene in Chicago, drummer Avreeayl Ra who played with Sun Ra, Ernest Dawkins, Fred Anderson, and Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble. Integral to the sound of this release are the electronic effects achieved by using ring modulation.
"A ring modulator multiplies two signals together to create two brand-new frequencies which are the sum and difference of the input frequencies."
The totality of their sound is not as you might suspect, mechanical, cold, or alienating. It is pulsating, vibrant, profoundly organic in texture. That's Danmann's signature, brown propulsive rhythm as a ground, allowing for other instruments, (notably trumpet and keyboards) to swell and ebb. Ra's drumming is bifurcated between irresistible driving figures and commentary that subliminally interjects. This is music so personal and intimate that any attempt to classify it by genre misses the point entirely. Please check it out for yourself: Restroy S/T, by Milk Factory Productions
Bill Anschell - Shifting Standards - (Origin)
Pianist Anschell working in a trio format (Jeff Johnson, bass, and D'Vonne Lewis, drums) takes nine standards and transposes their melodies while maintaining their integral and essential qualities. Imagine a fauvist substituting an alternative palette spectrum to Picasso's "Guernica", say reds instead of greys. The melodies, the outlines and figures are clearly recognizable, but completely transformed both stylistically and emotionally. Often, on other recordings, one sees tunes quoted as improvisations inside of other tunes. Here Anschell is not improvising, he is reimagining the pop hits and show tunes of the 30's, 40's and 50's so we can hear them again with fresh ears.
Jason Yeager/Randal Despommier - All At Onceness - (Red Piano Records)
Saxophonist Despommier and pianist Yeager dwell in the sweet spot between romantic classicism and swing jazz. The first tune illustrates their schtick admirably, a mash between "Cherokee" and Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring". Their execution is flawless, a sumptuous feast of music well plated. They also perform works by Scriabin, Messiaen, Bartok, Bach, and a composer deeply influenced by jazz, Darius Milhaud.
Robert Diack - Lost Villages - (Self Released)
Canadian Drummer/composer Diack has composed a cycle of tone poems built on shifting crescendos driven by the electric guitar and pedal effects of guitarist Patrick O'Reilly (the real deal here, someone who plays from the heart and in the moment) and the fractured chordal progressions of pianist Jacob Thompson. These overlay on Diack's driven rhythms and subtle shuffles. I'm guessing this work took as a point of departure the evaporation of the Canadian frontier, perhaps especially that frontier of the First Americans and the earliest white settlers. I'm basing this on the cover image of a log cabin with a field of transparent red at its base (a pool of blood?) and titles like "Displace", "Bittered" and "Lacuna". The whole project is gorgeous, haunting, and, best of all, earnest.
Bongwool Lee - My Singing Fingers - (Origin)
Featuring Korean pianist Lee along with bassist Lucques Curtis and drummer Kendrick Scott this release is fluid and resonantly melodic. Lee's tunes waft somewhere in the nether atmosphere between partly cloudy and heaven ("Burning Incense"). Her "How's Up There?" is a meditative tune that allows all the players to stretch out and demonstrate their copious skills and sensibilities. Check out the jaunty antidepressant "After The Black Dog" and the soul jazz send-up "Why Not".