Alon Sariel: Telemandolin

Telemandolin

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) is the subject of this superbly realized album by mandolinist Alon Sariel, who has arranged the music on Telemandolin for an instrument that, while popular in the German composer’s day, was never one he wrote for. Much has been said, at times critically, of Telemann’s influence and prolific output, but in Sariel’s hands such debate is shed like a skin of unimportance by an undeniable vitality. The resulting program is many things: a self-styled greatest hits collection, a master class in historical charm, and, above all, a story to be told.

Sariel himself describes Telemann’s music as “a sea of colorful flowers,” and in this recording this sensibility comes across as fragrantly as the analogy would have it. This is reflected not only in Sariel’s role as soloist and the accompaniment of his brilliant ensemble, Concerto Foscari; it shows also in the ways in which the music interlocks like a sentient puzzle that solves itself.

Nowhere is this more crystalline than in the Mandolin Concerto (TWV 51:fis1) and the Sonata de Concert (TWV 44:1), wherein Sariel shows just how beautifully his forte is suited to Telemann’s sound-world. The mandolin’s short decay gives every note a crispness of articulation that more resonant cousins such as the lute are at pains to achieve. And while it may be stereotyped as a fast instrument, it reveals its delicacy in every Allegro while slower time signatures reveal its most robust evocations, especially in the latter composition’s heartrending Largo.

Another fine example of this tension may be found in Telemann’s forward-thinking suite, “La Bizarre” (TWV 55:G2), of which we are treated to the Overture (a decidedly French convention that some claimed Telemann did better) and closing Rossignol. Therein, playful allusions to inspiration epitomize both the technical and emotional sensitivity of Sariel as interpreter.

Alongside these grand extroversions, the intimate Fantasias turn our ears inward. Whether playing archlute on the Fantasia I (TWV 40:26) or returning to his mainstay in the Fantasia X (TWV 40:23), Sariel understands the push and pull that characterizes baroque music at its finest, as proven in his rendition of the Partita No. 2 (TWV 41:G2). With only continuo to accompany him, he evokes equal parts stone and glass with nary an errant scratch.

A few pieces by Telemann’s contemporaries round out the program. The “Hamburger Sonata” (Wq 133) by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) casts a dreamlike spell that culminates in an awakening Rondo. A solo viol piece (WK 209) by Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787), played here on baroque guitar, unfolds with geometric precision. And the Lute Concerto (FaWV L:d1) of Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758), via archlute, finishes with the flourish of a quill.

After listening to Telemandolin for the first time, my immediate reaction was to listen to it again. Such compulsion is rare for me at a time when I have more music than ever on my desk waiting to be reviewed, and speaks to the visceral impulses awaiting herein. What we’re left with, then, is more a beginning than an end, for its cyclical tendencies are part and parcel of Telemann’s genius. The sheer volume of his extant oeuvre, then, is to be seen not as an exercise in quantity over quality, but rather experienced as proof that music flows like breath out of only those blessed enough to channel it.

ECM by the Decades: The 1980s

On March 12, 2018, WKCR DJ Andrew Castillo and I presented the second in our four-part series, “ECM by the Decades,” focusing this time on the 1980s. The episode is now available to listen by clicking the PLAY button below. You may also download the full episode by clicking hereThere were some microphone issues during my introductory remarks, so the volume is rather low in that portion alone. Scroll down for a full playlist, including links to my reviews of each album:

LEAD-IN
Hajo Weber/Ulrich Ingenbold
Winterreise (ECM 1235)
“Karussell”

[INTRO @ 00:07:24]
(Please excuse the microphone issues here…)

00:11:54
Art Ensemble of Chicago
Full Force (ECM 1167)
“Old Time Southside Street Dance”

00:17:03
Eberhard Weber
Little Movements (ECM 1186)
“‘No Trees?’ He Said”

00:22:03
Rainer Brüninghaus
Freigeweht (ECM 1187)
“Stufen”

00:30:21
Steve Eliovson
Dawn Dance (ECM 1198)
“Venice”

[BREAK @ 00:36:51]

00:43:16
David Darling
Cycles (ECM 1219)
“Cycle Song”

00:50:18
Mike Nock
Ondas (ECM 1220)
“Doors”

00:56:40
Paul Motian Band
Psalm (ECM 1222)
“Psalm”

[BREAK @ 01:03:27]

01:12:15
Dewey Redman Quartet
The Struggle Continues (ECM 1225)
“Joie De Vivre”

01:20:42
Chick Corea
Trio Music (ECM 1232/33)
“Eronel”

01:25:17
Bill Frisell
In Line (ECM 1241)
“Throughout”

[BREAK @ 01:32:04]

01:36:54
Steve Tibbetts
Safe Journey (ECM 1270)
“Test”

01:43:07
Everyman Band
Without Warning (ECM 1290)
“Patterns Which Connect”

01:48:30
Marc Johnson
Bass Desires (ECM 1299)
“Samurai Hee-Haw”

[BREAK @ 01:56:09]

01:59:09
Gary Burton Quintet
Whiz Kids (ECM 1329)
“Yellow Fever”

02:05:52
Enrico Rava/Dino Saluzzi Quintet
Volver (ECM 1343)
“Minguito”

02:17:05
Oregon
Ecotopia (ECM 1354)
“ReDial”

[BREAK @ 02:22:59]

02:27:04
The Paul Bley Quartet
s/t (ECM 1365)
“One In Four”

02:36:31
First House
Cantilena (ECM 1393)
“Cantilena”

02:39:57
Dave Holland Quartet
Extensions (ECM 1410)
“The Oracle”

ECM by the Decades: Second Installment Tonight

Please join me and host Andrew Castillo tonight on WKCR’s Jazz Alternatives program, from 6-9pm EST. We’re continuing where we left off, exploring some hidden (and some not-so-hidden) gems of the ECM catalog from the 1980s. Click the logo below to be directed to the WKCR website, where you will find more information about tonight’s program, and where you may stream us live by clicking the “LISTEN” icon on the top-right corner of the screen. Note: there will be no fundraising interruptions this time around, so listen with confidence! And even if you’re unable to tune in, we will be podcasting the program for all-access future streaming.

WKCR

ECM by the Decades: Upcoming Shows

Thank you all who tuned in for my first of four “ECM by the Decades” radio shows on WKCR. Host Andrew Castillo and I will continue our saga through the label on March 12, April 9, and April 23. For those of you who joined us live during the first show, you will be pleased to know that the station’s fundraising efforts for this cycle are complete and that our show will no longer be interrupted. I am grateful for your patience the first time around. We’ll be on the air next Monday from 6-9pm EST, streamling live on the station website here. A podcast version will also appear on this website soon thereafter.

ECM by the Decades: The 1970s

On February 26, 2018, WKCR DJ Andrew Castillo and I presented the first in our four-part series, “ECM by the Decades.” The inaugural episode is now available to listen by clicking the PLAY button below. You may also download the full episode by clicking here. Scroll down for a full playlist, including links to my reviews of each album:

LEAD-IN
Barre Phillips
Mountainscapes (ECM 1076)
“Mountainscape VII”

[INTRO @ 00:03:18]

00:11:02
The Music Improvisation Company
s/t (ECM 1005)
“Dragon Path”

00:21:22
Stenson/Andersen/Christensen
Underwear (ECM 1012)
“Underwear”

00:28:57
Gary Burton
The New Quartet (ECM 1030)
“Mallet Man”

00:36:06
Ralph Towner
Diary (ECM 1032)
“Icarus”

00:42:18
Bennie Maupin
The Jewel In The Lotus (ECM 1043)
“Past Is Past”

00:46:09
John Abercrombie
Timeless (ECM 1047)
“Red And Orange”

00:51:31
Steve Kuhn
Trance (ECM 1052)
“Trance”

[BREAK @ 00:57:24]

01:01:58
Arild Andersen
Clouds In My Head (ECM 1059)
“305 W 18 St”

01:05:46
Collin Walcott
Cloud Dance (ECM 1062)
“Prancing”

01:09:08
Enrico Rava
The Pilgrim And The Stars (ECM 1063)
“Parks”

01:10:53
Tomasz Stanko
Balladyna (ECM 1071)
“First Song”

01:18:32
Edward Vesala
Nan Madol
(ECM 1077)
“Areous Vlor Ta”

01:31:14
Jack DeJohnette
Pictures (ECM 1079)
“Picture 6”

[BREAK @ 01:39:06]

01:44:02
Jack DeJohnette
New Rags (ECM 1103)
“Steppin’ Thru”

01:54:25
Art Lande and Rubisa Patrol
Desert Marauders (ECM 1106)
“Livre (Near The Sky)”

01:58:14
Bill Connors
Of Mist And Melting (ECM 1120)
“Café Vue”

02:04:15
Miroslav Vitous
First Meeting (ECM 1145)
“Silver Lake”

02:14:39
Sam Rivers
Contrasts (ECM 1162)
“Zip”

[CLOSING REMARKS @ 02:19:17]

“ECM by the Decades” on WKCR

Please join me and host Andrew Castillo tonight on WKCR’s Jazz Alternatives program, where I’ll be your guest for four consecutive shows to present “ECM by the Decades.” Each program has been specially curated by myself to reflect the more obscure and hidden gems of the ECM catalog, decade by decade. Tonight, from 6-9pm EST, we’ll be exploring the label’s formative forays of the 1970s. Click the logo below to be directed to the WKCR website, where you will find more information about tonight’s program, and where you may stream us live by clicking the “LISTEN” icon on the top-right corner of the screen. Even if you’re unable to tune in, we will be podcasting the program for all-access future streaming.

WKCR

Norma Winstone: Descansado (ECM 2567)

Descansado

Norma Winstone
Descansado

Norma Winstone voice
Glauco Veneier piano
Klaus Gesing soprano saxophone, bass clarinet
Helge Andreas Norbakken percussion
Mario Brunello violoncello
Recorded March 2017, ArteSuono Studio, Udine
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Vocalist Norma Winstone returns to ECM with pianist Glauco Venier and reedplayer Klaus Gesing to explore the relationship between song and cinema. Interpreting the scores of Legrand, Rota and Morricone, among others, and referencing such filmmakers as Godard, Fellini and Scorsese, the result is a collection of moving images in and of itself.

Winstone’s penchant for moody arrangements and organic insights into the human condition shares the silver screen’s existential concerns. Said concerns are made explicit as her trio, joined by percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken and cellist Mario Brunello, flip through the pages of the human heart. The power of memory to shape how we live and love is a central theme. Whether toeing the line between past and future in “Il Postino” or weaving through the corridors of yearning in “Amarcord (I Remember),” Winstone’s voice knows where it stands at any given moment. Thus, “What Is A Youth?” and the opening “His Eyes, Her Eyes” set the tone for a plaintive emotional experience, like a dark filter placed over the lens of the mind through which she captures parries of affection.

Winstone’s musicians soliloquize the finer implications of her sentiment. Norbakken and Brunello add points and lines, respectively, setting the scene for every story, while Venier populates those backdrops with extras. Gesing, alternating between soprano saxophone and bass clarinet, is a protagonist on par with Winstone, responding to her every move in dialogic fashion. Four tracks in which Winstone sings wordlessly further highlight these infrastructural relationships. Of these, the jig-like comportment of “Meryton Town Hall” comes as a welcome splash of Technicolor in an otherwise noir-ish program.

Lyrically, too, this record stands out within an already-distinguished discography. Beginning with the title song, one of six for which Winstone penned her own words, and continuing on through to “So Close To Me Blues” (her take on the theme from Taxi Driver), she demonstrates a keen understanding of the magnitude of intimacy, thereby providing shelter for any soul craving refuge from its weary transit.

(This review originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)

Bobby Previte: Rhapsody

Rhapsody

For the second installment of his Terminals trilogy, an ongoing ode to transit and migration, drummer Bobby Previte has convened a dream group. Although featuring musicians often found in electr(on)ic settings, Rhapsody unfolds a grand mise-en-scène by purely acoustic means. “Casting Off” and “I Arrive,” respectively, begin and end the album by threading the vocal delivery of Jen Shyu (whose erhu playing is another distinct color in this palette) through the netting of John Medeski’s piano and Fabian Rucker’s alto saxophone. As the center of the action, Shyu imbues Previte’s lyrics (a first for him) with theatrical punch, singing the role of an airplane traveler cycling through various stages of self-awareness until she reaches her unknown destination under cover of night.

That state of liminality—of hanging suspended between locations with only a thin layer of metal and composite between you and certain death—is beautifully rendered in Previte’s downright cinematic movements, each of which variously highlights the strengths of one or more of his bandmates. Medeski shines in “When I Land,” his precise syncopations seeming to chart every leg of the journey, and, in tandem with harpist Zeena Parkins, he renders the backdrop of tracks like “The Lost” and “The Timekeeper” while Ruckman carefully links his own chains of melody and abstraction. Hearing Parkins unplugged is an especial privilege; in this context, her crystalline beauty feels nearly all-consuming. Guitarist Nels Cline treads a parallel path and to highest effect in “All Hands,” in which his slide guitar sounds almost like a pipa. Previte himself completes the picture, playing an assortment of drums and percussion and, in “Last Stand/Final Approach,” autoharp and harmonica to boot. He treats himself no differently than his other musicians, letting his singular compositional voice ring over all, handing us a light to navigate the darkness in which he leaves us.

(This review originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)

Turtle Island Quartet: Bird’s Eye View

Bird's Eye View

The Turtle Island Quartet presents a new program centered on the spirit of Charlie Parker. Although only one of his tunes is included, these four impeccable musicians share Bird’s penchant for expanding parameters and the results of their alchemy are just as golden. Like the other jazzy ingots herein—namely, “Subconscious-Lee” (Lee Konitz) and “Miles Ahead” (Miles Davis)—“Dewey Square” makes artful use of extended techniques. Violinist/founder David Balakrishnan employs scratch tones for a delightfully percussive effect while cellist Malcolm Parson (who, along with violinist Alex Hargreaves, is new to the group) plays the role of bassist via robust pizzicato. The in-house arrangements alone boast of interdisciplinary genius at play, allowing for plenty of improvisation to show the quartet’s combinatory properties.

The Modern Jazz Quartet’s “Django” gets a welcome spin and in its central section evokes the fluidity of Stéphane Grappelli, whom Balakrishnan calls a “patron saint” of the quartet. Yet Balakrishnan’s own compositions are the support beams of this soundly engineered structure. They sometimes reveal an underlying quirkiness, as in his “Rebirth of the Holy Fool,” which puns on Davis’s Birth of the Cool, and “Squawk,” taking its inspiration from a mysterious incident in 2011 when the town of Beebe, Arkansas awoke on New Year’s Day to find that 5,000 dead blackbirds had fallen from the sky. The composer navigates these images with delicate rigor. His “Aeroelasticity: Harmonies of Impermanence,” however, is the album’s centerpiece. A multivalent suite in four movements, it hums with the very propulsive energies that inspired it. Influences range from Indian classical music to mathematical properties (the piece is, after all, dedicated to his father, a UCLA professor of engineering), bringing solid returns on his emotional investments. There’s a backwater charm lurking within and a feeling of memory tying it all together. Violist Benjamin von Gutzeit’s “Propeller” is something of a sister piece, as it deals equally with mechanisms in motion, if on a more intimate scale. Its balance of curves and straights is emblematic of what this quartet is capable of at its finest.

(This review originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)