Archaic Future Players – “Station Wagon Interior Perspective (A Requiem for John Fahey)”

April 10, 2014


Archaic Future Players - "Station Wagon Interior Perspective"Incorporating the blues and gospel and ragtime that comprise the roots of Jazz music, and then channeling it with a forward-thinking inventiveness, Robert Stillman’s Archaic Future Players offer up with Station Wagon Interior Perspective that potent mix of past and future, synthesized down in the present moment… a sense of timelessness and nostalgia that is as exciting as it is intoxicating.

It’s unsurprising that the ensemble echoes the voices of similarly inclined musicians like Charles Mingus and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra for their four-movement tribute to deceased folk guitarist John Fahey… a musician who also embraced the roots of the past as he constructed his own inventive expressions.

Your album personnel: Robert Stillman (Fender Rhodes, drums), Jeremy Udden (C-melody saxophone), Kenny Warren (trumpet), Dave Noyes (trombone), and Ben Stapp (tuba).

The album opens with “Part I: Waltz,” a song of heavy notes delivered with a staggering cadence, yet lofted up with a boozy euphoria that lets the music hang in the air, floating weightlessly.  Ben Stapp’s tuba brings a fullness to the tempo, and Jeremy Udden’s c-melody saxophone adds brightness to its edges.

That same cadence continues into “Part II: Blues,” though expressed with a casualness that lends it a lighter gait.  Kenny Warren’s trumpet has a melodic richness thick with feeling, and Stillman’s drums crackle off its surface like sparks from an open wire.

“Part III: Stomp” comes hard out of the gate.  Dave Noyes’s trombone opens the doors for Stillman to glide through with the most beautiful solo on Fender Rhodes.  It’s a stunning moment.  The lightness of Rhodes contrasts dramatically with the heaviness representative of the album up until that moment, and the way it puts this album’s tunefulness into sharp focus is a revelatory moment.  That the ensemble then builds up from this into something bigger and more expansive, the tempo getting chipper and the harmonies warmer, it illustrates this album’s winning attitude.

The four-part movement comes to a close with “Part IV: Funeral March.”  It has the endearingly celebratory tones inherent in the somber New Orleans ritual of taking the recently deceased to their final resting place… and symbolic of this ensemble’s method of honoring the traditions of music while simultaneously expressing itself with its own personality.

The album has two bonus tracks: “Epilogue for J.F.” and “NR Rag.”  Both tunes are introspective piano pieces, achieving a meditative dissonance and possessing an identity separate from that of the album’s four-part movement, while doing nothing to clash with the spirit of the album.  This is a smart recording, and the placement of the bonus tracks does nothing to change that.

I’ve been listening to this album for awhile now, and am just getting around to writing something about it.  My enjoyment hasn’t waned a bit, and I’m just as excited to recommend it today as I would have been the first time I discovered this fine recording.

Released on Stillman’s Archaic Future Recordings label.

Available at:  Bandcamp CD/MP3/Vinyl | eMusic | Amazon MP3

Jon Crowley – “At the Edge”

September 16, 2013


Jon Crowley - "At the Edge"One of the nicer albums to get released in 2011 was by trumpet player Jon CrowleyAt the Edge is most remarkable for its melodic comportment… these are songs that swim in the melodies.  But what makes the album click is that it doesn’t treat the rhythm section as merely an afterthought.  Crowley binds the melodic and rhythmic sections together not through their commonalities but, instead, through the strength of their contrasting qualities.

The duo of Ziv Ravitz and Julian Smith on drums and bass maintain an agitated presence throughout the recording, stirring waters from which the bright notes of Julian Pollack’s Fender Rhodes can bob along the surface.  And it’s with that rhythmic foundation that Crowley and Jeremy Udden can launch off into one lovely melody after the next.

Your album personnel: Jon Crowley (trumpet, Fender Rhodes one track), Jeremy Udden (alto sax), Julian Pollack (piano, Fender Rhodes), Julian Smith (bass), and Ziv Ravitz (drums).

There’s a patience to the cadence with which melodies are expressed… unhurried as if they have all the time in the world, and play each note like its their last.  Crowley’s trumpet often soars, though he switches up the altitudes at which this happens.  “Find Me” has him skimming just over the surface of the rhythm, whereas title-track “At the Edge” sees him lifting off to greater and greater heights.

Most tracks take a linear path from first note to last.  The shifting “Sadness Suffering Hope Triumph” is a series of solos set to emotional changes altered through tone and tempo.  “These Four Walls” have Crowley and Pollack almost within reach of one another on trumpet and piano, as they follow complementary parallel melodic lines… a lesson in the partnership of light and dark in a game of shadow play.

“Shine” is the one track on the album that accentuates the angles more than the curvature of melodic lines, but even here there are times of beautiful melodic sighs.  “Progress” takes it to the other extreme, with melodies that circle back onto themselves in hypnotic pattern that occasionally breaks free from its flight pattern for lovely harmonic expressions.

Half of the album tracks are no longer than two minutes long, affording Crowley the opportunity to add further melodic texture to an album already strong with it.  “And then one day it’s all over…” is melancholic trumpet set against the murmur of bass… an interlude that can stand on its own in terms of creative statements, but also provides a sufficient lead-in to subsequent track “At the Edge,” which also has a somber side to its personality, though expressed with an abounding warmth that overcomes its darker side.

It’s a warmth that attaches to each of these songs, in each expression of melody.  It’s a big reason why this is such a winning album.

This album is Self-Published.

Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.

Available at:  Bandcamp | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3

Matt Holman – “Sketches”

March 24, 2013


Today’s video is from a performance by the Matt Hollman, featuring Jeremy Udden, performed live at the Doulgass St Music Collective, Brooklyn, NY on June 7th, 2012.

Not the best video in the world, but it features two artists I enjoy listening to, and it’s the first time I’ve heard them perform together, so up it goes on the site.

Your video personnel:  Matt Holman (trumpet), Jeremy Udden (alto sax), Ziv Ravitz (drums), Jarrett Cherner (piano), and Martin Nevin (bass).


Here’s a review I wrote about Matt Holman’s new album, When Flooded.

Here’s a review I wrote about Jeremy Udden’s new album, Folk Art.

Have a great Sunday!

Bird is the Worm Best of 2012: Albums 21-25

December 26, 2012

Today’s post reveals the 21st through the 25th Bird is the Worm albums of the year.


BitW photo (full)For each album considered for inclusion, I was looking for it to hit me right in my heart, provoke a strong emotional reaction. I was also looking for it to engage my brain, provide some intrigue or fascination with the music being presented. Extra points were awarded for doing Something Different or building on a premise that embraced the best qualities of creativity. Strong musicianship alone is not enough. Many solid albums didn’t make the list. It literally pains me when I see some of the albums that weren’t included. But I listen to a lot of music, and one of the rare downsides to encountering so much great Jazz is that some of it won’t receive the recognition it deserves. So there you have it.

There is a link to a more formal review following each entry. The text that accompanies each album isn’t a review so much as reminiscences of aspects of the recording I liked when I first heard it and how I still feel about it now. I wasn’t looking to sum any of them up… that’s what reviews are for. Most reviews are accompanied with embedded audio so you can hear some of the music, as well as personnel and label information, links to artist, label, and retail sites, and anything else that seemed relevant/helpful to me at the time.

Let’s begin…



21. Jeremy Udden – Folk Art

Jeremy Udden - "Folk Art"This is the third Plainville ensemble album saxophonist Udden has recorded, and it continues the trend of deconstructing the sublime beauty of the first and exploring Udden’s singular folk jazz sound. With each subsequent album, Udden has managed to engage my brain at increasing strengths without relinquishing its emotional pull. That’s a pretty deft trick to pull off. It’s also why I continue to express my belief that Udden is onto something here, and that his voice will be an important one on the development of Jazz in years to come.

Released on the Fresh Sound Records label.

A Bird is the Worm review here.



22. Sunny Kim – Painters Eye

Just a beautiful symbiosis between Kim’s vocals and Ben Monder’s guitar. There’s more to the ensemble than just those two, but it’s their interplay that really has caused this album to remain on my radar for so long. Kim’s inspiration for the compositions was an Impressionist painter and poet, and the music has a presence and a motion that suggests both those sources. Haunting music of a hazy nature, songs that are sharp in contrast except when they become like mist. Beautiful stuff, and an album I keep returning to.

Released on the Sunnyside Records label.

A Bird is the Worm review here.



23. Piet Verbist – Zygomatik

pietverbist_zygomatic_dssA high-energy recording that just bounces rambunctiously off the walls. Bassist Verbist and keyboardist Bram Weijters aren’t new to one another, and the synthesis on display backs that up. With some excitable drumming and a crowd of saxophones, this album has a swagger while keeping in party-time mode. An album that understands that laying a groove on thick negates an essential lightness. This has that Friday Night On The Town bombast not unlike Lee Morgan’s The Gigolo. An album that never stops being fun.

Released on the Origin Arts label.

A Bird is the Worm review here.



24. Jean Lapouge – Des Enfants

Lapouge’s trio of guitar, trombone, and vibes is both soothing and eerie. Reminiscent of the Bill Frisell recording Quartet with a bit of 80s ambient prog-rock thrown in for good measure. I am persistently drawn to this little mystery of an album. It sounds so different, yet so simple in its delivery, that while I find it challenging on many levels, nothing about the music presents an obstacle to just sitting back and disengaging. It’s lack of conventionalism only adds to this album’s beauty.

Released on the Musea Records label.

A Bird is the Worm review here.



25. Chambr – Freewheel

I considered leaving this one off the list. A sextet that features all strings except for one member on percussion, this is a group that strays far enough out of Jazz territory for it to be included on a Best of Jazz list. With classical and folk the predominant influences, Freewheel does possess much of the folky romanticism and chamber jazz austerity of older World Jazz groups, notably Oregon, especially their earlier recordings on the Vanguard label, not to mention some chipper gypsy swing that can trace its roots back to Jazz territory. What it all came down to really was that this is music with a soaring beauty that deserves inclusion on a Best Of list, genre slap-fighting be damned.

Released on the F-IRE Collective label.

A Bird is the Worm review here.



Tomorrow’s post will reveal the Bird is the Worm numbers 16-20 2012 albums of the year.


Jeremy Udden – “Folk Art”

December 24, 2012


Jeremy Udden - "Folk Art"Working with two ensembles and constructing his album around his “Folk Art Suite,” saxophonist Jeremy Udden offers more of his fascinating blend of folk-jazz on 2012’s Folk Art.  Udden’s Plainville ensemble albums are sublime recordings, sometimes slow and easy, sometimes deconstructed and free, but always the stuff of lazy afternoons spent on back porches.

A creative arc is apparent after three Plainville ensemble albums.  The first of those recordings, the 2009 release titled Plainville, was full of the comfort of warm melodies and a cheerful banter of percussion.  The second album, 2011’s If the Past Seems So Bright, toyed with the melodies a bit, rendering some of them less friendly than its predecessor, and giving a bit of darkness and edge to many of the tunes.  On new album Folk Art, Udden not only continues on the path of disassembling those back porch serene tunes, but also with the configurations of the ensembles that portray them.

It displays yet more facets of Udden’s unequivocally singular and fascinating sound.

Your album personnel:  Jeremy Udden (alto & soprano saxes), Brandon Seabrook (banjo), Jeremy Stratton (bass), Kenny Wolleson (drums) and Eivind Opsvik (bass), Pete Rende (Rhodes, Wurlitzer), Will Graefe (guitar), Nathan Blehar (guitar), RJ Miller (drums).

The album opens with “Prospect Part 1,” a mix of scattered percussion cut through with strings and buoyed with some inquisitive lines from sax.  It’s an eerie sound hinted at in Udden’s previous two recordings, but now he’s putting it right up front.  He’s made a statement that it’s not business as usual.  A track like this was made for Wolleson’s percussion talents, with a similar touch being used on recordings by Bill Frisell and John Zorn… that right mix of the beautiful and the dangerous.

Second track “Train” has Graefe’s guitar plucking its way through a pleasant interlude.  The tune’s gentle beauty is nice as a contrast to the dissonance of the previous tune, and also as a transition into the fuller, freer “Up.”

Third track “Up” continues the seemingly looser construction of tunes.  Percussion and strings spill everywhere, bouncing off one another and crossing lines while sax skitters over the top.  Seabrook has some ferocious moments on banjo, just flying through notes like a bat careening through a swarm of mosquitoes.  It further demonstrates the distances the group stretches out to as they explore Udden’s folk jazz sound.

But the ensemble doesn’t forget to look back over its shoulder at what has come before.  Fourth track “Portland” harks back to the previous two recordings.  Languid sax lines, rustic strings like raindrops, and the gentle steady patter of drums.

“Dress Variation” is a two-and-half minute Blehar solo on a nylon-stringed guitar.  It’s got soul, but it’s also got a dour disposition reminiscent of some of Leo Kottke’s darker tunes.  It plays on the theme of “New Dress” (from If The Past Seems So Bright), while also serving as a wonderful transitional interlude between “Portland” and subsequent track “Alexander Part 2.”  Udden’s fluttering sax lines twist around Stratton’s bass, while Wolleson adds chipper statements on drums.  It’s a construct later revisited on “Our Hero,” but where “Alexander Part 2″ goes out quietly, “Our Hero” brings a simmer to a boil, ending with a wash of sound.

“Bartok” displays the course Udden’s path has taken from the original Plainville.  “Bartok” lays down a choppy cadence that many post-boppers utilize as they straddle the line between straight-ahead and modern avant-garde.  The track sounds like an original model disassembled then reorganized into a new but familiar structure.  It ain’t pretty, but it’s easy to see how it once was.  It’s also a welcome development.  As much as I freely rave of the sublime beauty of Plainville, it’s a healthy sign to see Udden experimenting with the formula in If The Past Seems So Bright and then breaking it down to its elements with Folk Art.  It prevents things from getting stale.  It also adds anticipation for what might come next.

The final two album tracks are “Jesse,” a growling tune that brings a lovely contrast between an earthy electric guitar and Udden’s fluttering alto sax.  The album finale is “Thomas,” a track that was also featured on If the Past Seems So Bright.  The current rendition falls right in line with the previous one.  It also lines up well the music of the previous two recordings, so that even as Udden stretches further away from his starting point, he hasn’t lost sight from where he first began.  It ties everything together nicely, and promotes a sense of both the new and the familiar.  Just a great way to end this wonderful album.

Released on the Fresh Sounds Records label.

Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3