Reviews that mention Gerald Cleaver

March 4, 2022

Cecilia Lopez

Red (DB)
Relative Pitch RPR 1133

Making electronic a full partner in a program, but not letting voltage attributes overwhelm the bass and drums makes Cecilia Lopez’s Red a fascinating aural mixture. The Buenos Aires-born, New York composer/performer uses wire-speaker nets connected to contact microphones and speakers, with the resulting feedback architecturally intensifying the drones and loops project by her electronics plus repetitive textures from Brandon Lopez’s bass and Gerald Cleaver’s drums.

A multimedia artist, Cecilia Lopez has improv experience with the likes of Joe Moffett and Ingrid Laubrock, She needs it since bassist Lopez has worked with committed free players such as Mette Rasmussen and Nate Wooley, while Cleaver has played with almost every major creative musician in Europe and North America. MORE

November 18, 2021

East Axis

Cool With That
ESP Disk 5064

By Ken Waxman

Created by committed improvisers, this CD is one that won’t frighten those who shy away from free music. While engagement is present, alienating pressure is omitted. Strength isn’t missing, but is so much part of the New York quartet’s DNA that it doesn’t need to be emphasized. Drummer Gerald Cleaver’s powerful and elastic beat and pianist Matthew Shipp’s spidery pecks or cultivated patterning are guiding factors here. Bassist Kevin Ray’s pinpointed plucks move the program forward without demanding attention, while Allen Lowe operates in chameleonic fashion, alternately mellow or biting on tenor saxophone and smooth or raucous on alto sax. MORE

November 18, 2021

Judson Trio

Light and Dance
RogueArt ROG-0112

By Ken Waxman

Taking advantage of the unique textures available with unusual instrumentation, members of the Judson Trio stretch the connective limits during this two-CD set of one live concert and a studio date. Following a five-year partnership, Paris-based bassist Joëlle Léandre and New York violist Matt Maneri and drummer/percussionist Gerald Cleaver can perfect searing or subdued improvisations with sonic understanding,

Except for the drummer’s crunching kit-exercising on the final track, tracks pulsate fluidly since none of the players stick to standard forms. Besides refracting creaky spiccato scratches, Maneri’s pizzicato strums create mid-range continuum. Léandre’s command of connective pressure is a given, but she also expresses pointillist expositions with the speed and malleability of a small fiddle. Colorist Cleaver’s accompaniment is expressed with cymbal clanks, gong-like resonation pointed ruffs or drum top spanks. MORE

July 28, 2021

Paul Dunmall/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver

The Bright Awakening
RogueArt ROG-0103



West Hill Records WHR 002

Almost eight years separate these two live quartet sessions featuring British tenor saxophonist Paul Dunmall, but the high level of in-the-moment improvisation is almost identical. Other than intensity, there’s little overlap between the two discs. The Bright Awakening was recorded during 2012’s Vision Festival and features Dunmall who has partnered with many UK sound explorers embedded among American practitioners with the same experience: pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist Joe Morris and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Flash forward to Café Oto in 2020 and the saxophonist plays with London-based associates of the same ilk: trumpeter Percy Pursglove bassist Olie Brice and drummer Jeff Williams. The American program is a single creation, while the slightly longer London one is divided in two. MORE

June 12, 2021

Joshua Abrams' Cloud Script

Cloud Script
RogueArt ROG-0107

Before Chicago bassist Joshua Abrams created the Natural Information Society that melded repetitive drones and ethnic pulses paced with improvisations, his work was closer to Free Jazz. In fact this 2016 session consists of six of his own compositions that express the talents of AACM stalwart tenor saxophonist Ari Brown plus guitarist Jeff Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver. While the others have like the bassist, move in and out of different genres with groups like Tortoise and those of William Parker, Brown who often works with Kahil El’Zabar is a solid Jazz player. MORE

December 26, 2020

Brandon Seabrook

Astral Spirits AS 132

Substituting a Diddley bow for a double bass may seem a perverse move for an improvising trio that otherwise includes an electric guitar and drums. But the skill with which Cooper Moore uses this baling wire stretched over two nails protruding from a wooden board makes the bass superfluous. Considering that Cooper Moore has played with William Parker and others as hoe-handle harpist as well as pianist should make this additional skill no surprise. At the same time his partners have no trouble adapting either. Drummer Gerald Cleaver has worked with everyone from Matthew Shipp to Larry Ochs, while session leader, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, has been associated with people as different as Cécile McLorant Salvant and Anthony Braxton. MORE

November 11, 2020


Welcome Adventure! Vol. 1
577 Records 5837-1

Dave Glasser

Hypocrisy Democracy

Here Tiz Music HTM003

Committed to the standard horn-piano-bass-drums configurations two New York-based multi-instrumentalist create inverse yet equally valid program. Ironically though it’s the 11 selections on saxophonist/flutist Dave Glasser’s disc that are slotted closely to expected 1950-1960s mainstream tropes. The irony arises from his choice of song and album titles, firmly expressing his commitment to social justice and, born in 1962, he’s the younger of the two multi-instrumentalists. Seventeen years Glasser’s senior, Daniel Carter, who plays trumpet, tenor saxophone and flute on Welcome Adventure has been part of exploratory ensembles for almost half a century. MORE

February 8, 2020

El Intruso’s

12th Annual International Critics Poll
Ken Waxman’s 2019 ballot

Musician of the year: Joe McPhee

Newcomer Musician: Timothée Quost, Gaspard Beck

Group of the year: Roots Magic, Tonus, Joe McPhee Trio

Newcomer group: MétamOrphée

Album of the year: Quatuor de Jazz Libre Du Québec, Musique Politique Anthologie 1971-1974 (Tour de Bras) Uri Caine, The Passion of Octavius Catto (816 Music)

Composer: Roscoe Mitchell, Uri Caine, Harris Eisenstad

Drums; Gerald Cleaver, Steve Noble, Tim Daisy

Acoustic Bass Joëlle Léandre, Barry Guy, Barre Phillips MORE

August 8, 2019

Angelika Niescier

New York Trio
Intakt CD 321

Die Hochstapler

The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog

Umlaut Records UB010

Ocean Fanfare

First Nature

Barefoot Records BFREC 060 CD

Three variations on the venerable saxophone-trumpet-bass-drum formation shows its continued global popularity considering German, French, Italian, Polish, Danish and American players are involved. As importantly, the sessions demonstrate that even small tinkering with the formula(s) can result in wholly distinct if equally valid programs. MORE

May 12, 2019

Larry Ochs-Gerald Cleaver

Songs of the Wild Cave
RogueArt ROG 0084

Jason Kao Hwang Burning Bridge


True Sound Recordings TS1



Microcid 014

Ulrich Mitzlaff

Sonic Miniatures about Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

Creative Sources CS 531 CD

Joe McPhee/John Butcher

At The Hill of James Magee

Trost TR174 CD

Something in the Air: Inventive Improvisational Inspirations Are Infinite

By Ken Waxman

April 27, 2019

Gebhard Ullmann & Basement Research

Impromtus and Other Short Works
WhyPlayJazz WPJ 045



Umland 19/el NEGOCITO eNR 088

Proving once again his adaptability and the welcome he gets from European-based bands two of New York trombonist Steve Swell’s newest CDs highlight his contributions to ostensibly German-based combos. Both are invested with the same dynamic. One session situates him within the newest iteration of Berlin-based tenor saxophonist/bass clarinetist Gebhard Ullmann’s Basement Research. With low-pitched exploration an apt metaphor for the affiliated sextet Plant, the other CD demonstrates the re-imagining of the sextet sounds from a band that started as a trio in 2004. MORE

March 3, 2019

Ivo Perelman

Leo Records CD LR 810


Noise of our Time

Intakt CD 310

Allying himself with two different saxophonists, American trumpeter Nate Wooley puts aside distinctive personal projects to participate in these quartet session that approach improvisation in alternate fashions.

Another in what appears to be a continuous outpouring of discs on which Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman is coupled with a platoon’s worth of other Jazzers in constantly changing combo form, Octagon includes three equally resourceful Americans who have played with multiple partners: Wooley, bassist Brandon Lopez and drummer Gerald Cleaver. With tracks titled “Part 1” to “Part 8”, it’s obvious that this is a session of free-form improvisation. Alongside Chicago tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark and Wooley, Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and New York drummer Tom Rainey interpret three compositions by the pianist, three by the reedist and three by the trumpeter. MORE

August 16, 2018


The Industry of Entropy
Relative Pitch RPR 1063

Subtle Degrees

A Dance That Empties

New Amsterdam NWAM 093

One of the most refined and flexible percussionists in Jazz, Gerald Cleaver’s rhythmic skills have been put to use alongside everyone from Roscoe Mitchell to Samuel Blaser. On the CDs here, he’s a featured player in two divergent groups including a different tenor saxophonist, who incidentally also one-fourth of the four-saxophone, Battle Trance band. Both discs inhabit the Free Music spectrum. However A Dance That Empties is a no-holds-barred interaction between the drummer and Travis Laplante’s saxophone, while On The Industry of Entropy, is an integrated effort of timed instant group composing featuring the drummer, saxophonist Matt Nelson plus bassist Brandon Lopez and vibraphonist Andria Nicodemou. MORE

August 16, 2018

Subtle Degrees

A Dance That Empties
New Amsterdam NWAM 093


The Industry of Entropy

Relative Pitch RPR 1063

One of the most refined and flexible percussionists in Jazz, Gerald Cleaver’s rhythmic skills have been put to use alongside everyone from Roscoe Mitchell to Samuel Blaser. On the CDs here, he’s a featured player in two divergent groups including a different tenor saxophonist, who incidentally also one-fourth of the four-saxophone, Battle Trance band. Both discs inhabit the Free Music spectrum. However A Dance That Empties is a no-holds-barred interaction between the drummer and Travis Laplante’s saxophone, while On The Industry of Entropy, is an integrated effort of timed instant group composing featuring the drummer, saxophonist Matt Nelson plus bassist Brandon Lopez and vibraphonist Andria Nicodemou. MORE

April 1, 2017


Ida Lupino
ECM 2462

Although rightly so, Italian pianist Giovanni Guidi is the name above the title of this above-average CD of compositions and improvisations, he’s merely the first among equals. More profoundly the elaborations of the themes depend as much on the eloquent slide exaggerations of Bari-born trombonist Gianluca Petrella as Foligno-born Guidi’s keyboard skills. While the two dexterously partner as if comporting themselves in performing Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire routines, like the dances they need backing scenery and sounds from which to project. Sophisticated American drummer Gerald Cleaver provides the judicious rhythm that moves along these tracks. Meanwhile like the blustery foil on screen to try to separate the leads, French clarinetist Louis Sclavis adds a selected reed obbligato when warranted. MORE

February 23, 2017

Judson Trio

An Air of Unreality
Booklet notes for RogueArt ROG00073

French double bassist Joëlle Léandre’s relationship with American musicians is analogous to that of French general the Marquis de Lafayette’s to the nascent Americans army during the American Revolution. After establishing her career in notated music in Paris, Léandre spent time at the Center for Creative and Performing Arts in Buffalo, NY familiarizing herself with the currents of improvised and aleatory music prevalent upstate and in nearby New York City. Just by chance Léandre arrived stateside in 1976, the 200th anniversary of the signing of the American Declaration of Independence. In a curious parallel her sojourn was the double bassist’s declaration of independence from the conventions of European so-called classical music. Like Lafayette, whose championing of the liberty and equality he experienced in the 13 Colonies provided some of the intellectual underpinnings for the French Revolution, the concepts Léandre internalized in the United States, mixed with many of her own ideas, subsequently helped define free music in Europe. MORE

December 11, 2015

Samuel Blaser Quartet

Spring Rain
Whirlwind Recordings WR 4620

By Ken Waxman

Like the bird which is able to replicate others’ songs, trombonist Samuel Blaser is crafty enough to adopt particular musical persona for each project. On Spring Rain for instance the Swiss-born, Berlin-based Samuel Blaser honors Jimmy Giuffre’s early ‘60s trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow by recording five of its tunes plus seven originals in that chamber jazz style. On his recent A Mirror to Machaut (Songlines), he performed a similar feat, sophisticatedly re-imagined early Renaissance motifs for the 21st century. But in practice, the trombonist’s results differ convincingly from those of the imitative fowl. With canny arrangements and expressive skills, Spring Rain’s program is cunningly original, even as tunes composed by Giuffre and Carla Bley are interpreted. MORE

December 1, 2015

Samuel Blaser Quartet

Spring Rain
Whirlwind Recordings WR 4620

By Ken Waxman

An original variant on the practice of saluting earlier jazz heroes by recording their tunes, Swiss-born, Berlin-based trombonist Samuel Blaser honors Jimmy Giuffre’s early 1960s trio with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow, by recording five of its tunes plus seven originals in restrained chamber jazz style. But even as Blaser empathizes with the particular sound constructed by compositions Giuffre and Carla Bley wrote for the trio, he’s like a chair designer modernizing the ergonomics concepts of 50 years ago to 2015. MORE

October 1, 2015

Matthew Shipp Quartet

Declared Enemy - Our Lady of the Flowers
RogueArt ROG-0057

Matthew Shipp/Mat Walerian Duo

The Uppercut- Live at Okuden

ESP-Disk 5007

Bobby Kapp

Themes 4 Transmutation

No Label No #

By Ken Waxman

With his mature artistry fully established following 20 years of recording and recent leadership of a working trio with Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey, pianist Matthew Shipp continues to defy conventions by trying out various formulas and partnerships. For example Declared Enemy - Our Lady of the Flowers is an extended meditation on nine of the keyboardist’s composition by Shipp plus bassist William Parker, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Sabir Mateen and drummer Gerald Cleaver; all of whom he has collaborated with in the past. A sharp left turn The Uppercut - Live at Okuden is a first recording of a meeting of minds between Shipp and Polish reedist Mat Walerian. Finally Themes 4 Transmutation is a rare below-the-radar sideman turn by Shipp joining two other younger players to work with veteran drummer Bobby Kapp, one of the original New Thing percussionists from the ‘60s. MORE

June 21, 2015

Basement Research

Hat And Shoes
Between The Lines BTLCHR 71238

Carlo Costa Quartet


Neither Nor Records n/n 001

Having paid his dues in experimental – and other – music(s) since the mid-1970s, New York-based trombonist Steve Swell has become an eclectic, respected commodity in both North America and Europe. While this means that Swell is as likely to be gigging with Peter Brötzmann as Rob Brown, it also pinpoints the dissolving differences between so-called American and so-called European free music MORE

June 6, 2015

Artist Feature

Samuel Blaser
By Ken Waxman

Swiss-born trombonist Samuel Blaser maintains strong North American ties that extend far beyond the musicians on Spring Rain (Whirlwind), his newest CD. While the disc, dedicated to Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008) feature all-American backing from keyboardist Russ Lossing, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Gerald Cleaver, one of his frequent trans-Atlantic trips bring him to NYC this month for a series of gigs with other long-time associates such as drummer Harris Eisenstadt, bassist Michael Bates and tenor saxophonist Michael Blake – all Canadians. “It’s like a big family” says Blaser, 33. “I like to draw upon the same members in many of my bands.” MORE

December 21, 2014

John Hébert Trio

Clean Feed CF 290 CD

The Tim Daisy Trio

A Fine Day in Berlin

Relay Recordings 006

Compositional focus or pure improv, emblematic Jazz piano trios with bass and drums can be envisioned in accordance with the tendencies of the participants. These sessions, recorded about one month apart in different European countries, instructively outline these differences. Interestingly enough as well, although the piano is the main melody instrument on both, neither session is lead by a pianist. The second outing for a group consisting of French pianist Benoît Delbecq plus New Yorkers, drummer Gerald Cleaver and bassist John Hébert, Floodstage mostly highlight the compositions of the New Orleans-born bassist. A true international configuration, A Fine Day in Berlin’s four extended track resulted from a day of collaboration between American drummer Tim Daisy, Norwegian pianist Håvard Wiik and Australian bassist Clayton Thomas. MORE

February 16, 2014

Samo Šalamon Quartets

Stretching Out
Samo Records No #

One of Slovenia’s two internationally known jazzmen – (the other? percussionist Zlatko Kaučič) – guitarist Samo Šalamon has developed an elastic musical persona adaptable to many situations. Recorded four years apart, the sessions that make up this two-CD set highlight his so-called American and European quartets. While there is much good work throughout, the superiority of the eight 2012 Continental tracks over the three 2008 U.S. ones, confirms the truth of the old adage, which in this case would be “you can take a musician out of southern Central Europe …” MORE

February 11, 2014

Black Host

Life In the Sugar Candle Mines
Northern Spy NS 039

Adam Lane Trio

Absolute Horizon

NoBusiness NBCD61

The Sabir Mateen

Jubilee Ensemble

NotTwo MW 862-2

By Ken Waxman

From the time he relocated to NYC from Virginia about a decade ago, alto saxophonist Darius Jones made a major impact on the local scene, partnering with the likes of pianist Matthew Shipp, plus releasing acclaimed CDs as a leader. But Jones is a collaborative musician and these notable discs find him using his considerable talents to help realize others’ visions. MORE

January 3, 2014


Leo Records CD LR 683

The Rempis Percussion Quartet


Aerophonic AR-001

Although the concept of having two drummers as part of an improvising ensemble isn’t a new one, it must be done judiciously so the percussion doesn’t overwhelm the other players. The situation is especially problematic when dealing with as few as four musicians, but both sessions here are organized so that this atypical make-up doesn’t impede creativity.

At the same time each session differ from the other due to the choice of individual chordal instrument. Phalanx, recorded in Antwerp and Milwaukee is held together during four extensive blow-outs by the powerful bass work of Norwegian-turned Texan Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. Together in different configurations since 2004, the percussion part of The Rempis Percussion Quartet is made up of Frank Rosaly and Tim Daisy, both of whom are in-demand on the expanding Chicago improv scene. Dave Rempis, who plays alto, tenor and baritone saxophone on the disc, is best known for his work in the Vandermark5. MORE

December 23, 2013

8th Annual Jazz Critics Poll – NPR Music

Ken Waxman
(The New York City Jazz Record, Jazz Word)


1. Convergence Quartet, Slow and Steady (NoBusiness)

2. Andrew Cyrille, Duology (Jazzwerkstatt)

3. Black Host, Life in the Sugar Candle Mines (Northern Spy)

4. Scott Neumann, Blessed (Origin)

5. Michel Edelin, Resurgence (RogueArt)

6. Ab Baars-Meinard Kneer-Bill Elgart, Give No Quarter (Evil Rabbit)

7. Maria Faust, Jazz Catastrophe (Barefoot)

8. Barry Altschul, The 3dom Factor (TUM)

9. Mark Dresser, Nourishments (Clean Feed)

10. Alexey Kruglov-Alexey Lapin-Jaak Sooäär-Oleg Yudanov, Military Space (Leo) MORE

December 3, 2013

Artist Feature:

Ivo Perelman
By Ken Waxman

“When [Brazilian director] Gustavo Galvão first asked me to do the soundtrack for his film I thought he was crazy,” confesses tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman, 52. “I said I don’t do that kind of thing and play to cues. I only play my music the way I do.” Yet Galvão, who had made a special trip to New York precisely to get the São Paulo-born saxophonist to create music for his film finally agreed to let Perelman do it his own way with musician of his own choice. Before heading into the studio with violist Matt Maneri and pianist Matthew Ship, Perelman explained the film concept to them, knowing that different moods would emerge as they recorded their improvisations. Titled after the fact, and sequenced into eight tracks, the improvisations now make up the music for the director’s first international feature A Violent Dose of Anything. (Uma Dose Violenta de Qualquer Coisa in Portuguese). Not only is the music preserved on a CD of the same title, but it recently won an award as best original soundtrack at a prestigious Brazilian film festival. Would he do other movie projects? “Introduce me to more people like Gustavo then I’ll do more film music,” jokes Perelman. MORE

November 28, 2013

Craig Taborn Trio

ECM 2326

Satoko Fujii

Spring Storm

Libra Records 203-034

Sophie Agnel/John Edwards/Steve Noble


Clean Feed CF 272 CD

Probably the most respected of all Jazz configurations from all parts of the modern spectrum is the archetypal piano, bass and drum trio. Just because it’s the standard modus operandi for stylists ranging from Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson to Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal doesn’t means that the end product has to be the same. Especially evident in this trio of disc involving American, French, British and Japanese players is that originality results when the expected hierarchy of the piano-and-rhythm-section is shattered. In each of these discs creation is among equal partners. MORE

October 2, 2013

Ellery Eskelin Trio

New York II
Prime Source 7010

Ellery Eskelin


Clean Feed CF 271 CD

Although exposing characteristic and innovative reed comportment on both these trio sessions, tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin’s choice of partners results in highly idiosyncratic and original discs. A superficial listing of personnel would deem Mirage the reedist’s country and western CD and New York II his standards disc, the conceptions that go into each are much more profound than these rote descriptions. MORE

September 24, 2013

Book of Three

Continuum (2012)
Relative Pitch RPR 1012

Gianni Lenoci Hocus Pocus 4 + Taylor Ho Bynum

Empty Chair

Setola di Maiale SM 2440

The Convergence Quartet

Slow and Steady

NoBusiness NBCD 53

Along with leading his own band(s) and serving as aide-de-camp for many of Anthony Braxton’s projects, peripatetic cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum somehow manages to find time to regularly gig with players on both sides of the Atlantic. Sympathetic to others’ ideas his presence manages to multiply the number of high quality sessions extant. MORE

September 24, 2013

Black Host

Life In the Sugar Candle Mines
Northern Spy NS 039

Taking another shot at stretching improvised music’s boundaries is New York super group Black Host, which brings to boil inflections from Free Jazz, modal improvising, electronics, Thrash Rock and ProgRock to forge its own sound. Overall, nuanced friction could be described as the performance mode here.

With all tracks but two credited to drummer Gerald Cleaver, who is also listed as contributing sound design, Cleaver obviously had a major influence on the end product. Yet as a drummer who has worked with players as different as saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, he obviously has wide-ranging interests. Ditto for guitarist Brandon Seabrook, who is sometimes found in Rock settings, and piano and synthesizer player Cooper-Moore, who when not working with the likes of bassist William Parker, creates his own version of roots music on home-made instruments. Meantime alto saxophonist Darius Jones and bassist Pascal Niggenkemper are busy jazzers. MORE

September 3, 2013


Leo Records CD LR 668


The Edge

Leo Records CD LR 667

One of the decisions – of many – that has to be made when playing purely improvised music is whether to break inspiration into bite-sized pieces or eject the narratives as mammoth slabs. On these complementary CDs, Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman, who has recorded in context ranging from solo to septets, tries both on for size. While correspondingly stimulating, the personnel of the two quartets defines the creations more than the instruments used. MORE

June 13, 2013

Didier Petit-Alexandre Pierrepont

RogueArt ROG-0042

By Ken Waxman

While the ‘50s were the heyday for “Jazz with Poetry” recordings, leave it to the French to create a “Jazz without Poetry” recording. Unlike say Jack Kerouac reading his works while Zoot Sims improvises beside him in the studio, the musicians here improvise while listening to Alexandre Pierrepont’s poetry through headphones. Further confounding the paradigm, Pierrepont reads in French, then an English-speaker reads the same passage in French idiosyncratically altering the meaning. Very occasionally snatches of field recordings, including guitar strums or soprano vocalizing leak into the mix, but except for once, nothing of the poem is heard. MORE

June 3, 2013

Samuel Blaser Quartet

As The Sea
hatOLOGY 718



Yeah Yeah Records YY 0004

Extending the wide reach necessary to play their instrument with an equally ample range of ideas and skills, trombonists Samuel Blaser of Switzerland and New York’s Jacob Garchik confirm with these CDs that that the evolution of imaginative brass playing continues.

Blaser, whose experience encompasses working with other enlightened players like Swiss percussionist Pierre Favre and American drummer Gerry Hemingway, has composed a four-part suite to show off his prowess and that of his combo, featuring French guitarist Marc Ducret, Swiss bassist Bänz Oester and American drummer Gerald Cleaver. All-American and with a name that references the grueling club gigs of the 1950s, 40Twenty is a co-op quartet which highlights the improvisational and compositional muscle of all its members which include Jacob Garchik on trombone, pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza. MORE

December 10, 2012

Jacob Anderskov

Granular Alchemy
ILK 195 CD

Mark Solborg

Solborg 4+4+1

ILK 191 CD

By Ken Waxman

Recorded five days apart in Copenhagen in 2010, these CDs from two young veterans of the Danish improv scene, present differing versions of defining contemporary music. They also demonstrate the demand for the talents of tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Chris Speed, featured on both discs. If the Brooklyn-based Speed doesn’t have enough to do stateside, helping to run Skirl Records and playing with many so-called downtowners, he frequently gigs in Europe. Connections go deeper than that, of course. Guitarist Mark Solborg and pianist Jacob Anderskov, the CDs’ leaders, earlier forged connections with Speed while working and studying in New York. Anderskov’s Granular Alchemy and Solborg 4+4+1 are among the dozens of musical projects in which each is involved. MORE

May 21, 2012

Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver

Family Ties
Leo Records CD LR 630

The Ames Room

Bird Dies

Clean Feed: CF 231 CD

Free Jazz has no geography or language as these two CDs of outstanding trio improvisation prove. Seemingly any musician(s) from anywhere can organize an exceptional session just as long as the spirit is there. But that’s the key caveat. For unless the performance includes an indefinable helping of inspiration and cooperation, the results is endless blowing.

The younger group of players who make up the Ames Group understand this and, perhaps pointedly don’t make free expression their only methods of expression. Paris-based alto saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet for instance, is not only is involved with electro-acoustic compositions and pieces for organ but he’s one-fifth of Hubbub, France’s most recognizable reductionist band. Confirming the geographic separation, The Ames Room’s other members are Australians who have expatriated to different parts of Europe. Nantes, France-based Will Guthrie, is a percussionist who moves between Rock, Electronica and experimental solo expression; Berlin resident, bassist Clayton Thomas is as likely be found as part of an experimental duo as a big band playing complex arrangements. MORE

January 20, 2012

Rhapsody's 2011 Jazz Critics' Poll

Individual Ballot
From Ken Waxman

1) Your name and primary affiliation(s) (no more than two, please)

2) Ken Waxman

Jazz Word ( )

3) Your choices for 2011's ten best new releases (albums released between Thanksgiving 2010 and Thanksgiving 2011, give or take), listed in descending order one-through-ten.

1. World Saxophone Quartet Yes We Can Jazzwerkstatt JW 098

2. Gerald Cleaver Uncle June Be It As I See It Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-375

3. Hubbub Whobub Matchless MRCD 80 MORE

January 10, 2012

Ivo Perelman Quartet

The Hour of the Star
Leo Records CD LR 605

Eastern Boundary Quartet


Konnex KCD 5258

Carlo De Rosa’s Cross-Fade

Brain Dance

Cuneiform Rune 317

Of all the formations that have characterized improvisation at least since the Bop era, the most common has been that of one reed player along with piano, bass and drums. Just because it’s unexceptional doesn’t mean every session has to be identical however, especially if the meeting ground is original compositions. As these quartet discs demonstrate, plenty of variations are available, even if the form prods participants towards a mainstream orientation. MORE

January 5, 2012

Pascal Niggenkemper

Upcoming Hurricane
No Business NBCD 34

By Ken Waxman

Spontaneity is enhanced by inspiration. That’s what bassist Pascal Niggenkemper proves with this CD, an original take on the classic jazz piano trio, recorded in one session in Cologne. The symmetry maintained between linear harmony and fanciful abstractions demonstrated on the seven tracks is also a result of to the equilibrium maintained among the French-German bassist who now lives in New York, and his associates – sidemen isn’t the word – who singly and together have been on hundreds of records. MORE

September 30, 2011

Ellery Eskelin

Trio New York
Prime Source CD 6010

Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black

One Great Night ... Live

hatOLOGY 683

These two sides of Brooklyn-based tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin’s trio sounds aren’t as disparate as they appear on the surface. While Eskelin is identified with the experimental side of improvised music, typified by his trio with keyboardist Andrea Parkins and drummer Jim Black plus sideman gigs with the likes of drummer Gerry Hemingway, the results are only far-out when measured against the most rigidly conservative Jazz. MORE

September 30, 2011

Frank Carlberg

Tivoli Trio
Red Piano Records rpr 14599-4403-2

Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson


Konnex KCD 5243

Fully-functioning Jazz piano trios involve a meeting of equals, so that all nuances of the performance are communicated. Nonetheless its very name attests that, intentionally or not, the keyboardist usually becomes first among equals, a situation that sometimes unbalances the performance.

Helsinki native Frank Carlberg dominates Tivoli Trio in that manner. Now domiciled in New York, the keyboardist composed all 13 of the tracks here and even co-owns the record company. But Carlberg, who is also on the faculty of the New England Conservatory and Berklee College and has played with among others saxophonist Steve Lacy and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, has enough experience with different bands to ensure his so-called sidemen can not only deal with the demanding themes, but challenge him when necessary. Gerald Cleaver is one of the most versatile drummers in New York, working with, among others, saxophonists Tim Berne and Roscoe Mitchell. Bassist John Hébert follows a similar path, playing with trombonist Joe Fielder and trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum to name two. MORE

September 5, 2011

Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver

Floating Islands
ILK 162 CD

Nicolas Caloia Quartet


No # No label

Henry Threadgill Zooid

This Brings Us To Volume II

Pi Recording PI 36

William Parker & ICI Ensemble

Winter Sun Crying

Neos Jazz 41008

Something In The Air: Guelph Jazz Festival 2011

By Ken Waxman

--For Whole Note Vol. 17 #1

A highlight of the international calendar, the Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), September 7 to 11, has maintained its appeal to both the adventurous and the curious over 18 years. It has done so mixing educational symposia with populist outdoor concerts, featuring performers ranging from established masters to experimenters from all over the world. MORE

June 15, 2011

Gerald Cleaver Uncle June

Be It As I See It
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-375

Program music that avoids the expected, drummer Gerald Cleaver’s Be It As I See It is a finely formed meditation that makes purely musical points. Although based on the Great Migration of American Blacks from the South to the North from the 1920s onwards, Detroit-born, New York-based Cleaver, whose immediate family was involved in the journey, has created a magisterial chamber work which carefully avoids clichés. There are no allusions to south-of-the Mason-Dixon agrarian nostalgia or attempts to musically recreate the gritty urban north. MORE

May 31, 2011

Taylor Ho Bynum/John Hébert/Gerald Cleaver

Book of Three
RogueArt Rog-0029

Joe Hertenstein/Pascal Niggenkemper/Thomas Heberer


Clean Feed CF 205 CD

Unusual in composition, an improvising trio made up of double bass, drums and a brass instrument usually has a harder time balancing its sonics than when the third instrument is piano, say, or saxophone. It’s a tribute to each of these formations that the end results are of such high-quality, although the Book of Three CD is low-key and atmospheric, while HNH is bright and lively. MORE

March 24, 2011

Michael Formanek

The Rub And Spare Change
ECM 2167

Hugo Carvalhais


Clean Feed CF 201 CD

Leadership’s loss is a sideman’s gain as these quartet sessions demonstrate. That’s because alto saxophonist Tim Berne, who hasn’t made a CD under his own name for about half a decade, instead adds his skills to these bassist-led quartet sessions. Instructively as well, while one combo is completed by Americans with whom Berne has often played in the past, the other is made up of younger Portuguese Jazzers who recently toured with the American reedist. MORE

May 20, 2009

Lotte Anker/Sylvie Courvoisier/Ikue Mori

Alien Huddle
Intakt CD 144

Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver

Live at the Loft

ILK 148 CD

Germinating notable improvised music is more a function of intellect and emotion than gender, race or geography – as these sessions led by Danish reedist Lotte Anker demonstrate. Live at the Loft, recorded in Köln, finds her playing with pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver, both American and male. Alien Huddle on the other hand, was recorded in New York, and features the Dane in the company of two other non-Americans or aliens: Swiss-born pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and Japanese-born electronics-manipulator Ikue Mori, both of whom, like Anker, are female. MORE

May 20, 2009

Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver

Live at the Loft
ILK 148 CD

Lotte Anker/Sylvie Courvoisier/Ikue MoriV

Alien Huddle

Intakt CD 144

Germinating notable improvised music is more a function of intellect and emotion than gender, race or geography – as these sessions led by Danish reedist Lotte Anker demonstrate. Live at the Loft, recorded in Köln, finds her playing with pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver, both American and male. Alien Huddle on the other hand, was recorded in New York, and features the Dane in the company of two other non-Americans or aliens: Swiss-born pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and Japanese-born electronics-manipulator Ikue Mori, both of whom, like Anker, are female. MORE

March 15, 2008

Gebhard Ullmann

New Basement Research
Soul Note 121491-2

More appropriately described as demonstrated results than research, this first-class presentation of low-end polyphony not only celebrates Berlin reedist Gebhard Ullmann’s 50th birthday, but also gives him a chance to reinterpret older compositions in new surroundings.

Regularly gigging in both Europe and North America, the tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist’s sidemen reflect his trans-Atlantic contacts. British soprano and baritone saxophonist Julian Argülles traded licks with Ullmann on a continental big band recording, while the other players are all New Yorkers. Trombonist Steve Swell co-leads a quartet with the Berliner, while bassist John Hebert and drummer Gerald Cleaver, functioning for the first time as the reedist’s rhythm team, aptly demonstrate why they’re among the busiest individuals in the city. MORE

January 1, 2006

Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver



By Ken Waxman
January 1, 2006

Known – if at all – in North America for her contributions to Tim Berne’s recording of the open, coma saxophone suite, and her trio appearances with pianist Marilyn Crispell, Danish reedist Lotte Anker has a much higher profile elsewhere.

Moving among free improv, contemporary classical music and a combination of the two, the tenor and soprano saxophonist has composed theatre music and worked in Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur’s ensembles and American Maria Schneider’s big band. MORE

October 31, 2005


Clean Feed CF 033CD

Kaivalya Volume 1
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1177

Unbridled emotionalism has always been somewhat suspect among formally trained musicians – even some jazz players who should know better. Forgetting yourself momentarily while emphasizing the contours of a romantic ballad or the pace of a rhythm tune is OK, they sniff condescendingly. But, they warn, forgetting yourself this way too often leads to sloppy intonation and wrong notes. MORE

January 19, 2004


Playscape PSR#J061803

A Bright Nowhere
Matchless MRCD 55

Turning on its head the old NRA slogan of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and actually that way making a modicum of sense out of its twisted message, these bands show that instruments don’t make the music, people do.

For both these quintets consist of improvisers playing the exact same instruments and ones which make up the prototypical hard bop quintet. Yet the advanced music played by Mario Pavone’s quintet -- and trio -- is anything but typical boppish fare. Meantime the Conditions twist the sounds arising from trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums into original fare that owes more to extended free improvisation than freebop. MORE

June 3, 2003


Live in Paris
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1151

JAMEEL MOONDOC TENTET Live at the Vision Festival
Ayler aylCD-047

One of the most recognizable members of New York’s third generation Free Jazz players from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, alto saxophonist Jameel Moondoc, along with associates like bassist William Parker and trumpeter Roy Campbell, was everywhere during that epoch, usually leading his own band.

Like other non-commercial players though, he seemed to vanish -- some said into architecture -- shortly afterwards. But he’s been front-and-centre and recording again since the mid-1990s. These two live CDs, made up of his composition and arrangements, show that he still surrounds himself with notable sidemen and plays firmly in the Free Jazz tradition. They also may offer hints for his hiatus. MORE

April 28, 2003


Thirsty Ear THI57127.2

Antipop Consortium Vs. Matthew Shipp
Thirsty Ear THI57120.2

When SONGS, his CD of standards came out about a year ago, it seemed that Matthew Shipp had decided to become Anthony Braxton and record his own interpretation of many traditional jazz compositions and standards.

Those presumptions have certainly gone out the window on evidence of these two CDs. One links Shipp and company with the synths and programming of FLAM; the other finds him collaborating with hip-hoppers Antipop Consortium. Judging by his simple, rhythmic playing on these sessions, however, the pianist may now be aiming to be the next Ramsey Lewis. MORE

January 22, 2003


Going To Church
AUM Fidelity AUM 024

Thirsty Ear THI 57122.2

Substantial slices of Maneri music, these two new CDs prove that while violist Mat Manner has internalized the quirky cogitation and execution of his father, reedist Joe Maneri, he’s not adverse to testing out some ideas of his own in different contexts.

Father-son improvisers are nothing new on the jazz scene and have ranged from boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons and his funky tenor saxophonist son Gene Ammons to mainstream pianist Ellis Marsalis and his progeny. But few offspring are as inculcated in his father’s music, as Mat -- born in 1969 -- who began playing music with his father when he was only seven. It’s hardly necessary to point out that Joe -- born in 1927 -- was no mainstream Marsalis. A jobbing musician for years with an interest in ethnic, microtonal and 12-tone composition as well as jazz improvisation, his talent finally got him a gig teaching theory and composition at Boston’s New England Conservatory in 1970. But his single-mindedness left him unrecorded until his belated emergence in the mid-1990s. MORE

September 9, 2002


Song for My Sister
PI Recordings 103

Avant garde jazz fans who remember the 1960s and 1970s have the tendency to come on like moldy figs when they compare the activities of many highly celebrated younger players with the accomplishments of their elders.

Case in point is this CD. For while a few youngsters have been over-praised for merely mastering the intricacies of a particular jazz style -- be it hard bop, modal or even a hip hop take on the New Thing -- reedist Roscoe Mitchell, 62, showcases a lot more.

Mitchell, who plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, flute, bass recorder, great bass recorder and percussion on this disc, has also written a set of unmistakably modern tunes that touch on playful R&B, precise swing, Third World anthems, jagged contemporary composition and even Early music. Assisted by eight young and veteran improvisers -- and four more for the “classical” piece -- Mitchell easily slides from one stance and style to another without ever losing his identity or resorting to tonal impersonation. MORE

January 15, 2002


Light Made Lighter
Thirsty Ear 57111

A long time coming, pianist Craig Taborn’s first American date as a leader has been expected since he started making his name as the pianist in saxophonist James Carter’s first quartet in the mid 1990s. Since then he has recorded with the likes of violinist Mat Maneri and avant elder statesman, multi-reedist Roscoe Mitchell and spent time live and on disc in a new electric configuration of altoist Tim Berne’s trio.

Although he sticks to the acoustic piano here, the result still seems diffuse, as if Taborn was in a men’s wear store, trying on different outfits for size in one of those three sectioned, wrap-around mirrors. Barely reflected in that mirror are his accompanists, drummer Gerald Cleaver, who has worked with pianist Mat Shipp and guitarist Joe Morris, and bassist Chris Lightcap, who has been in groups led by Morris and drummer Whit Dickey. MORE

September 11, 2000


Blue Decco
Thirsty Ear TH 57092.2

Mat Maneri may be the savior of jazz violin. If not that, he's definitely it's future.

Long the music's stepchild, with 200 drummers or saxophonists for every Stuff Smith or Joe Venuti, jazz violin banged into the fusion brick wall about 30 years ago when nearly every fiddler tried to emulate Jean Luc Ponty's guitar-god-like string playing. For the past quarter century, though, even Ponty has produced little more than tired retreads of his earlier work.

At the same time the few musicians who found a role for violin in improv musics, were rapidly aging. Except for the work of the equally talented, and slightly older, Mark Feldman, it appeared that jazz violin evolution is linked to the fingers and strings of Maneri.