Outside Ordinary: Tim Daisy’s Relay Recordings

January 26, 2015


Relay Recordings

Relay Recordings is the label of Chicago drummer Tim Daisy.  It was originally a device for releasing his own music, but lately it’s begun to release albums by musicians that Daisy either collaborates with or has existing relationships.  As a lynchpin of the Chicago free improv scene, naturally, these recordings represented Daisy’s hometown environs, but now, with his New Composer’s series, Relay Recordings has begun expanding its reach outside of Chicago and overseas to Europe.

Ultimately, though, Daisy sums up the label’s goals as such:  “I try to release the music that I feel best represents what I’ve been up to recently both as a performer and composer,” adding, “But also to capture and document some of the new music being made in Chicago’s thriving avant-garde scene.”

Tim DaisyWith its focus on new and experimental music, Relay has already built up a nifty collection of exactly that.  Much of the music on this label presents a challenge… this is not conventional stuff intended to imprint a catchy melody on the brain, nor is it likely to get the foot tapping.  But it’s key to remember that challenging music can also be friendly and allow for any number of points of connectivity with the ear.

A lot of the music on this label is wildly expressive.  The path taken isn’t always laid out with clear trail markers.  Car chase scenes have their fair share of collisions.  Genre has little to do with it except as established points of reference.  Improvisation and in-the-moment creativity is key.  Some of this improvisation takes the form of new ways of thinking and some of it echoes traditional forms of Jazz language.  It’s also exciting and imaginative and fun.

Here are some of the albums I’m really taking to…



Tim Daisy – October Music Vol. 1: 7 Compositions for Duet

Tim Daisy - "October Music Vol1- 7 Compositions for Duet"Drummer Tim Daisy invites other musicians from the Chicago scene to each perform a duet with him for the newest recording on Relay.  Those musicians (James Falzone on clarinet, Dave Rempis on baritone sax, Katherine Young on bassoon, Marc Riordan on piano, Jen Clare Paulson on viola, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes and Josh Berman on cornet) each develop compelling dialogs with Daisy, and the action ranges from a track like “Roscoe Street,” which has Rempis burning it up on baritone sax while Daisy just keeps tossing matches to the flame, to a track like “Some Birds,” a duet with bassoonist Young, that possesses both the languorous presence and distant warmth of moonlight.

Released December 2014.


Russ Johnson Quartet – Meeting Point

Russ Johnson - "Meeting Point"A solid modern jazz set from the quartet of trumpeter Russ Johnson, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Tim Daisy.  Perhaps the most appealing quality of Meeting Point is how Johnson gets his trumpet to mirror the bass clarinet’s fuzzy lyricism and wide-lens expressiveness.  In addition to the harmonic peculiarities this invites, it’s just plain fun hearing them bounce ideas off one another.  Nice mix of inside/out and free improvisation.

Released May 2014.


Bill MacKay – Chatham Park

Bill MacKay - "Chatham Park"Bill MacKay experiments with folk and rock mediums as much as jazz, and the ability to cross-pollinate between those genres shines through pretty strong on the strangely alluring Chatham Park.  The challenge of speaking in several lexicons doesn’t prevent MacKay from developing a nice chatter, simultaneously informing both melody and tempo.  This solo album has him on guitars and requinto.  At times, it’s positively magnetic.

Released October 2014.


Vox Arcana – Soft Focus

Vox Arcana - "Soft Focus"Arguably, Soft Focus represents the true spirit of experimentalism that Relay is looking to represent.  This trio of clarinetist James Falzone, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm (also on electronics) and drummer Tim Daisy (also on marimba) dives into free jazz, chamber, inside/out and a vague post-bop, and their dizzying run through these expressions makes them indistinguishable from one another and perpetually self-referential… as if they’d discovered a new form of language that had been in use all along and nobody had yet noticed.  Personal favorite quality of Soft Focus are the shifts from thick dissonance to the oddly melodic.

Released in September 2012.


Tim Daisy Quartet – Streets In Time

Tim Daisy - "Streets In Time"The quartet of drummer Tim Daisy, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, trombonist Steve Swell and bassist Tim Hebert has a real personable way of delivering the bursts of chaos and dissonance and furtive kinetic energy of their improvisations amongst the firmly entrenched passages of modern post-bop and classic inside/out.  It’s like watching a good friend go off on one of his wild tangents, growing increasingly unstable, then returning back to the original point as if that had been his predetermined path all along.  Streets In Time is an album that finds time to bop and swing in between the big explosions.

Released February 2013.


Purchase these titles (and others) at Relay Recordings’ Bandcamp page.


Recommended: Valia Calda – “Valia Calda EP”

January 25, 2015


Valia Calda - "Valia Calda"An absolutely riveting debut EP from the Valia Calda quintet, blending modern post-bop, Greek traditional, free improv and Balkan music.  Electronics, Cretan lute, Cretan lyra, and tsambuna fit right in with traditional jazz instruments.  Without missing a beat, the music goes from a late-night jazz club cool to an ambling post-bop to a Frisellian eeriness to Mediterranean seaside ease.

Though arranged from two Epirus folk tunes, “Epirus Suite” does more to spotlight the quintet’s strengths in modern post-bop expressions, especially those that hit upon areas that Bill Frisell and Brian Blade Fellowship mark as their respective territories.  It’s a massively arresting opening track, effortlessly shifting gears from a heart-on-the-sleeve melodicism to a hard-charging lyricism.  The quintet display a real talent for the right turn of phrase at just the right time.  Guitarist Nikos Ziarkas sets a captivating tone early, while trumpeter Sam Warner‘s fiery solo lifts the song up in flight.

Second track “Neda” comes right out with a dancing motion atop a driving tempo.  Where Rob Milne‘s bass clarinet cast shadows on the previous track, here he’s all about the sunlight with his flute.  On guitar, Nikos Ziarkas mirrors the darting motion set into place by Milne, while also providing evidence that his guitar is more than just a tool for ambiance and effects.

“Ornette in Space” opens with a smokey presence, a cool blue tone and a simmering tempo.  Thodoris Ziarkas and Gaspar Sena set the scene and move it at will on bass and drums, while the bright tone of Warner’s trumpet contrasts nicely with the prevailing moodiness.  That moodiness eventually gives ground to a volatility that grows increasingly out of control.

Final track “Nocturne” digs deep into the traditional while also accentuating the band’s experimental nature.  An arrangement and lyrics of a Karpathos folk tune is crosshatched with guitar effects and a slow boil post-bop.

All kinds of cool, and a very promising start to their recording career.

Your album personnel:  Rob Milne (bass clarinet, flute), Sam Warner (trumpet), Nikos Ziarkas (guitar, electronics, Cretan lute), Thodoris Ziarkas (double bass, cretan lyra, tsambuna), Gaspar Sena (drums) and guests (on “Nocturne”): Tom Green (trombone), Saul (vocals), Alexandros Miaris (analog synths) and Theodoros ‘‘Siozos’’ Ziarkas (voice).

This album is Self-Produced.

Jazz from the London scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Bandcamp | Amazon


Recommended: Marcel-li Bayer – “1680”

January 23, 2015


Marcel-li Bayer - "1680"It was in an 11th Century church in Avinyó, Spain that saxophonist Marcel-li Bayer recorded his solo work, 1680.  It is a quiet affair, reflecting the solemn environment in which the music was created.  Many tracks sing out the briefest melodic gem, just a concept, an idea of something that could blossom into something more… and then it is gone and the next has begun.  It is a beguiling plume of ideas.

Some of this music was planned in advance… a rough outline, a definitive structure, a fleeting thought.  Much of this music was improvised.  Even the song titles follow this pattern… one is dedicated to a friend who lives in a forest, another was inspired by a sculpture of a saint found in the church where this album was recorded.

Some pieces, like “Proemi” and “This Is Our Last Call,” are mere drones, whereas the fluttering motions and higher registers of pieces like “Efectes Timbrats” reveal heavenly aspirations in their melodic intent.  Tracks like “La Catifeta” have the same goals in mind, but simply take their time in achieving them.

“Le Drapeau Noir” and “Babangida Samurai” dance for the entirety of their brief duration.  “La Tête de la Course,” on the other hand, proceeds with a crisp determination.

“Kiss Me Like You Miss Me” is the closest thing to song form on this recording, whereas “I, mentrestant, en Claudi s’abraçava al seu Daguerrotip” is a lovely solo looking for a song to call its home.

“Azuwe Namba” possesses a wistful quality, as would a streak of nostalgia that incites smiles instead of melancholia.  The rare instance of ferocity displayed by “L’Erotica del Poder” contrasts nicely with the tuneful “Avant la Lettre.”

An absolutely sublime recording.

Your album personnel:  Marcel·lí Bayer (soprano, alto, tenor & baritone saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet).

Released on Discordian Records.

Music from the Barcelona scene.

Available at:  Bandcamp

Marcel-li Bayer church

Església de Santa Eugènia de Relat

These are videos that I like: George Colligan & Theoretical Planets, live at Portland State University

January 23, 2015


George Colligan - "Risky Notion"Today’s featured video is from George Colligan and his ensemble, Theoretical Planets, performing music from his new album Risky Notion.  The show was held on the Portland State University campus.

Read more about this album and others like it in the most recent This is Jazz Today recommendations column (LINK).

Your video personnel:  George Colligan (drums), Nicole Glover (tenor sax), Joe Manis (tenor & alto sax) and Jon Lakey (bass).


Have a great start to your weekend!


This is Jazz Today: Hereward, Casey Golden, Lisanne Tremblay & more!

January 22, 2015


BitW square avatarSo here we are.  As you (hopefully) read in a previous column, my run on eMusic & Wondering Sound is now over.  You can read about what’s what, here, w/this LINK.  For the time being, as I search for a new home for my weekly jazz recommendations column, I’ll be posting the recs on Bird is the Worm.

About those recommendations…

Welcome to the new year.  As with past years, I’ll be scooping up many albums that dropped between now and a month ago, when my annual vacation from the new arrivals listings begins so I can focus on year-end assignments.  That means a month’s worth of new releases.  Even during a dead period (as the end of the year often is), that’s a huge stack to sort through, but that also means you’ll get a pretty deep selection this week.  Several of the albums that fall in the “bottom half” of the column could’ve just as easily been featured… and, perhaps, will receive more words of recommendation in the near future.

2015 is off to a great start.

Now, let’s begin…

*** The Featured Ten ***


Hereward – Hereward

Hereward - "Hereward"It makes sense that Brady Millard-Kish‘s debut would sound like this.  His New Orleans roots inform the music with a view of many genres and sounds becoming one.  This mix of modern jazz, post-rock, chamber, pop, etc, isn’t unlike the approach of fellow-N.O. musician Cliff Hines and his captivating Wanderlust.  The sound, on the other hand, clearly reflects his current Pacific-Northwest environs, falling right in line with Cellar & Point and Blue Cranes.  Melodically heartbreaking, rhythmically mesmerizing, and a presence like the sweetest lullaby you’ve ever heard.  Pick of the Week.

This album is Self-Produced.  Visit the artist site.

Available at:  CDBaby | eMusic | Amazon


Casey Golden Trio – Outliers

Casey Golden Trio - "Outliers"Sometimes you’ve got a melody as thesis statement and sometimes it gets strung out like a trail winding through the hills, always within sight but an uncertainty where it’ll take you.  Pianist Casey Golden‘s newest album is of the latter group, and it’s why his simple piano trio recording is so damn absorbing.  Those melodies are more like guideposts to some exciting travel routes.  Two feet in modern jazz territory; it’s gonna be more cerebral than swing, but the thoughtfulness the trio puts into each tune makes it a winner.

Released on Scrampion Records.  Visit the artist site.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon


David Roitstein & Larry Koonse – Conversations

Roitstein Koonse - "Conversations"This is one of those duo collaborations when two individual voices speak as one instrument and yet the result is multiple conversation lines… each of the collaborators apart and their notes in unison.  Guitarist Koonse and pianist Roitstein provide just such a series of dialogues, and whether laid back or kicking up a little dust, the music is just sublime.  Peaceful and lively, both.  Everybody needs music like this for a lazy Sunday morning, when the whole city is at rest and quiet sounds are needed to fill quiet rooms.

Released on Jazz Compass.  Visit the artist site & site.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon


Aaron Goldberg – The Now

Aaron Goldberg - "The Now"With his longtime trio of bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland at his side, pianist Aaron Goldberg offers up a solid new piano trio recording, finding the right mix of compositional structure and improvisational effusiveness.  The resonance of each tune is strong, but it’s the diversity of expression that makes the album stand out.  Read more about why I recommend this album (LINK).

Released on Sunnyside Records.  Visit the artist site.

Available at:  Bandcamp | Amazon CD/MP3 | eMusic


Lisanne Tremblay – Violinization

Lisanne Tremblay - "Violinization"Absorbing debut from violinist Lisanne Tremblay.  Her quartet (violin, piano, bass, drums) switches things up in terms of the jazz perspective they present, but Tremblay’s violin maintains a remarkably consistent voice despite the scene changes.  The end result is that a familiarity is bred with her particular voice throughout an album that never sits still in presenting unexpected views.  There’s some post-bop, some contemporary, some avant-garde(ish) angularity and some jazz-folk.  Somehow the quartet wraps it up into a neat bundle.

Released on Inner Circle Music.  Visit the artist site.

Available at:  eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon


David Helbock Trio – Aurual Colors

David Helbock - "Aural Colors"David Helbock develops a nice talkative demeanor on his newest.  It’s a relatively straight-ahead affair, especially compared to his previous release, Think of Two, a tribute to the music of Monk and Hermeto Pascoal, which used a huge arsenal of eccentric instruments to go along with the unconventional compositions of the unconventional artists.  This time around, aside from a string of Arnold Schoenberg compositions, it’s Helbock originals and a straight trio of piano, drums and bass ukulele (well, there had to be something strange in there somewhere).  Strong melodies, nice dialog between the trio members, and refreshing infusions of blues and gospel along the way.

Released on Traumton Records.  Visit the artist site.

Available at: Amazon


Anna Webber – Percussive Mechanics: Refraction

Anna Webber - "Refraction"Returning with the same cast that offered up the excellent 2013 release Percussive Mechanics, Anna Webber crafts Refraction with a similar method of coalescing a disassembled collection of moving parts into a form of synchronized chaos where melodic fragments thrive and prosper.  Read more about why I recommend this album (LINK).

Released on Pirouet Records.  Visit the artist site.

Available at: eMusic | Amazon CD


Manatee – Look the Other Way

Manatee - "Look the Other Way"The 11-piece ensemble, Manatee comes heavy with the wind instruments, especially sax, and they put the numbers to good use, offering up a big sound with warm, wide harmonies.  The thing that separates the album from the pack, however, is the way the group develops tempos that shape the music into something catchy and, at times, danceable.  The Ontario-based ensemble’s mix of post-jazz, modern bop and indie-pop isn’t at all unlike some of the cutting edge bands hailing from the Swedish countryside.  It’s their debut.  Hopefully it’s not their last.  Fun album.

The album is Self-Produced.  Visit the artist site.

Available at:  eMusic | Bandcamp | CDBaby | Amazon


Sweet Defeat – Sweet Defeat

Sweet Defeat - "Sweet Defeat"This is a strange one.  Sweet Defeat is a trio of Tom Wouters on reeds, Lode Vercampt on cello and Bert Dockx on electric guitar.  Carried along by punctuated tempos, the trio switches between a seaside ease, an incisive edge and a fierce burn.  This is whimsical music delivered with a deadpan facade.  And somehow, amidst all of that, the trio tries to melt some hearts by sneaking in beautiful melodic passages.  Very cool, plenty different.

Released on El Negocito Records.  Visit the artist site.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon


Duane Eubanks Quintet – Things Of That Particular Nature

Duane Eubanks Quintet - "Things Of That Particular Nature"Solid straight-ahead recording from trumpeter Duane Eubanks, who returns to session leader after a long hiatus.  There’s a decent contemporary piece thrown in, but mostly we’re talking some sort of bop… hard bop, post-bop, whatever bop, it’s all great stuff.  The most notable member of the sextet has to be pianist Marc Cary, who’s been lighting up the scene recently, however vibraphonist Steve Nelson brings a warmth to the session that brightens melodies and puts a spring in the tempo’s step.  Just excellent musicianship from first note to last.

Released on Sunnyside Records.  Visit the artist site.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | Amazon


 ***And Ten More ***


Justin Kauflin – Dedication (Jazz Village)

Justin Kauflin - "Dedication"Absolutely resonant piano session from Kauflin. Inspired use of two different guitarists.  The kind of tunes that never get old no matter how many times you hit the play button.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: Amazon


Felice Clemente Trio – 6:35 am (Crocevia di Suoni Records)

Felice Clemente - "6.35 am"Nifty sax trio recording. Maintains an alluring flow while sticking to up-tempo pieces. Straight-forward, likable.

Artist site | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Linda Presgrave – Along the Path (Metropolitan Records)

Linda Presgrave - "Along the Path"Nice easy-going cadence whether throwing out heat or blanketing the room in moonlight. Broken into suites to reflect her travels. Presgrave’s piano synchs in nicely with drummer Allison Miller on this trio set (w/some guest saxophonists).

No artist site | Buy: Amazon


George Colligan – Risky Notion (Origin Arts)

George Colligan - "Risky Notion"Strong sense of locomotion on the newest by Colligan. A quartet with two saxophonists (plus, guest trumpeter) provides melodies more stomp than bop. Nice follow-up to his last recording, The Endless Mysteries, when he’s at the piano.

Artist site | Buy: Amazon


Makaya McCraven – In the Moment ((International Anthem))

Makaya McCraven - "In the Moment"On-the-spot rhythms are the feature presentation on McCraven’s compilation of improvised tracks culled from live sets over a year’s stretch. He’s joined by an all-star line-up of Chicago’s best. A whole bunch of brief spurts of friendly conversation that’s often catchy as hell.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon


Akua Dixon – Akua Dixon (Self-Produced)

Akua Dixon - "Akua Dixon"Personable session from cellist Dixon, joined by her string quartet.  Lively take on Mingus’s “Haitian Fight Song” and sweetly melodic touch to “Moon River” are highlights.  Develops some more action with takes on Ellington, Strayhorn and Latin standards.

Artist site | Buy: CDBabyAmazon


Chamber 3 – Grassroots (Origin Arts)

Chamber 3 - "Grassroots"Nifty trio set of guitar, sax and drums (plus guest bassist).  Straight-ahead modern set, planted firmly in that shimmery post-bop style typical of the Pacific Northwest scene.  Differentiation in the details develops something a little less ordinary.

Artist site | Buy: Amazon


Five Plus Six – Such Sweet Thunder (Self-Produced)

Five Plus Six - "Such Sweet Thunder"Vance Thomposon’s big band sticks to the compositions of the masters. Develops a big sound, full of life. Nothing unconventional, but quirky traits rise to the top and provide some real personality.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicCDBabyAmazon


Art Hirahara – Libations & Meditations (Posi-Tone Records)

Art Hirahara - "Libations & Meditations"Excellent straight-ahead piano session. Hirahara’s trio gets every tempo to crackle with electricity, melodies glitter like stars. This recording keeps getting better to my ears with each listen.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: Amazon


Rob Mazurek – Alternate Moon Cycles (International Anthem)

Rob Mazurek - "Alternate Moon Cycles"Few as creatively daring as Mazurek. On his newest, it’s a crosshatch of In a Silent Way and shoegaze. A seriously captivating album. Read more about why I recommend this album (LINK).

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon+MP3



Have a great time digging through the list!

Remember, it’s simple:  You like what you like.