November 17, 2017

Matana Roberts - Coin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Thee [2015]

Matana Roberts is an artist whose work always, in one way or another, demands the listener's attention. Almost nothing that the experimental saxophonist releases is catered to what one might call a casual listen. Since The Chicago Project, which featured tracks that casually shifted between smooth melodic lines and more free and aggressive explorations, she has been slowly constructing a discography of quality avant-garde jazz albums. However, Roberts, like many greats before her in the long African-American tradition of improvisation and creativity, would likely scoff at the idea of categorizing her music as only "jazz". On Coin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Thee, she puts to bed any argument that the word "jazz" alone could be used to describe her latest ambitious series of albums.

November 12, 2017

Armand Hammer - ROME [2017]

On October 26, 2017, Armand Hammer released “It Was Written” and announced that ROME, their first full length since 2013’s Race Music, was to be released in November. The track broke a long silence of the creative duo releasing music under this moniker. Their most recent project, Furtive Movements, was released in 2014. However, despite Armand Hammer going through what may seem like a temporary hiatus in the current musical climate of arguably excessive releases, Billy Woods & Elucid, have been very busy in recent years. Both rappers have recently high quality solo projects in 2017, in the form of Woods’ varied Known Unknowns and Elucid’s urgent Valley of Grace. A listen to any project by these two shows that, due to the uncompromising nature of their music, marketability and pop-appeal is never the focus. However, based on the evidence of a bigger fanbase than either rapper had in the early 2000s and coverage from large publications like Noisey (Billy Woods, Elucid), Bandcamp and Pitchfork, it’s clear that with the passage of time, Armand Hammer’s stock has been steadily rising.

November 8, 2017

Tomas Fujiwara - Triple Double [2017]

This review was published on NextBop

Tomas Fujiwara has been active for well over a decade now, with his first recorded date as a sideman being on Matana Robert’s The Calling in 2006. Just a quick look at his discography shows that Fujiwara has established himself as a respected musician - specifically in the more avant-garde portion of the New York City jazz scene. The drummer has frequently collaborated with fellow adventurers guitarist Mary Halvorson, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and bassist Michael Formanek. In the past year, he has shown up on Ho Bynum’s expansive, at times Mingus-esque Enter the Plus-Tet, Formanek’s engaging big-band experiments in The Distance and Halvorson’s inventive interpretations of John Zorn’s Klezmer-influenced compositions on Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32. Throughout the years, in addition to his releases as leader of Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up, Fujiwara, Halvorson and Formanek have toured and recorded together as a trio under the name of Thumbscrew. Although the next Thumbscrew records will not be released until 2018, on Triple Double, Fujiwara has brought Halvorson, Ho Bynum and other talented musicians along for the ride of his latest interesting take on the trio format.

October 22, 2017

Mary Halvorson - Paimon: The Book of Angels Volume 32 [2017]

This review was published on The Free Jazz Collective

Those who pay close attention to the more avant-garde leaning portion of the jazz scene, particularly the musicians based in New York City, will know that Mary Halvorson stays extremely busy. On top of constantly performing, be it with groups like the Tom Rainey Trio or her fantastic Octet, the guitarist has recently showed up on studio releases by Jason Moran (BANGS) and Tomas Fujiwara (Triple Double). This June, while in residency at City of Asylum in Pittsburgh, Thumbscrew, a band she is in with Fujiwara (drums) and Michael Formanek (bass) announced that they were recording two new albums to be released next year. Despite all this, Halvorson still managed to make some time to form a quartet to record the final volume of John Zorn's Book of Angels series: Paimon: The Book of Angels Volume 32.

October 13, 2017

Vijay Iyer - Far From Over [2017]

This review was published on Nextbop

There has always been an air of adventure about his music, but since Vijay Iyer has started releasing records on ECM, the acclaimed pianist has really been exploring. Iyer's ECM debut came in the form of the hard left turn that was Mutations in 2014 - the only Iyer album which features him composing for a string quartet. In his 2015 ECM release he reconnected his long-running trio with Stephan Crump (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums) to create an extremely rhythmically interesting album that may the group's best work yet in Break Stuff. Last year, he followed Break Stuff with a fantastic album that was built for the pristine, ethereal aesthetic of ECM production, the airy and experimental avant-garde collaboration with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke. A cursory listen to any of these releases side by side will reveal that, aside from the presence of Iyer himself, the only thing that they really have in common is that they are all radically different from each other. On Iyer's latest ECM release, he continues the trend of difference, trading the sparse duo format for a powerful sextet that includes Crump (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums),  Graham Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn, electronics), Mark Shim (tenor saxophone) and Steve Lehman (alto saxophone). After a few listens to Far From Over, it is clear that the Vijay Iyer Sextet has released a fascinating record that has the potential to be remembered as one of the pianist's grandest achievements.