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|Reviews that mention Marty Ehrlich
Hans Tammen Third Eye Orchestra
Live At Roulette
Expanding his electro-acoustic expertise to a creation for large ensemble, on this CD German-born, New York-based endangered guitarist Han Tammen presents two mesmerizing suites from his 13-piece Third Eye Orchestra.
Apparently unfazed by the superstition about 13, Tammen doesn’t perform, but instead conducts and arranges in real time. Likewise ignoring the superstitious angle, some of Manhattan’s most accomplished and innovative musicians – and one ringer – handle with aplomb Tammen’s creation which calls for equal facility with improvisation and notated music, acoustic instrumental techniques and familiarity with electronic excursions. Although billed as two, six-part versions of the same piece – “Antecedent” and “Consequence” – it’s a tribute to all concerned that neither version mirrors the other. While the separately titled tracks exhibit certain homogeneity, soloists never eschew individuality even while blending with the others in section work or contrasting passages.
The ringer here is trombonist Detlef Landeck, a musical associate of Tammen’s from the Fatherland. Having flown from Germany especially for the concert, his contributions are particularly expressive. On “Antecedent: Part III: Mdina Experience” for instance, the measured dual keyboard pulsations and backbeat percussion cushion a contrapuntal duet between Stomu Takeishi’s thumb-popping electric bass and Landeck’s wide-ranging brays and blurts that finally swell to full-fledged gutbucket slurs. Mixing Trad Jazz-style wah-wahs and New music-like staccato tonguing on “Consequent: Part I: Istres Control”, Landeck matches Briggan Krauss’ baritone saxophone growls which in themselves proceed chromatically with the single-mindedness and strength of a boar searching for truffles. Then as part of Consequent’s finale, the last measures of pitch-sliding strings plus percussionist Satoshi Takeishi’s dense backbeat are superseded by dexterous tongue slaps and unaltered air forced through Landeck’s s horn’s body tube, adumbrating the concluding silence.
Overall nearly every sonic incursion corresponds with Tammen’s game plan, and eventually becomes interlocking parts of the whole. Hear Krauss’ work for other instances. Not just a low-pitched sax specialist, on alto saxophone he contributes jagged glissandi that at times balance the subtle murmuring from Dafna Naphtali’s sound-processed voice and elsewhere provide altissimo comments on metronomic piano chording. Meanwhile, Robert Dick’s sharp flute shrills moderate Krauss’ low-pitched sax lines at points and in another instance operate alongside spiccato slides from the string quartet.
Among the other textures in use by members of the lucky 13 are mercurial pitch-sliding and sharp, dissonant string slices from cellist Tomas Ulrich; zither-like twanging and rebounding from Denman Maroney’s prepared piano; plus Ursel Schlicht double-timed syncopation that expands from pecking, clipping and popping whether she plays acoustic piano or electric keyboard.
Not that some instruments’ traditional tones are neglected either. “Antecedent: Part V: Verrano” for example, begins with a violin solo from Mark Feldman that is almost classically pure in execution. As Maroney’s keyboard contributes further flowing patterns, the result resembles a chamber recital – especially when the other strings join with unison romantic glissandi.
Taken as a whole, both versions of the composition abound with similar connections and contrasts. “Consequent: Part IV: Intentionally Left Blank” for one, layers abrasive and shuddering multi-stops from the strings alongside vamping horn timbres and burbling, motor-driven electronic whizzing, held together by a solid bass line. But to isolate the praiseworthy skill that goes into the band members creating yet another slithering keyboard run or a bit of flying spiccato from a fiddler would be pointless.
More generic to the session is the realization that as a conductor, arranger and conceptualizer, Tammen now appears to have equaled his skill as an instrumentalist. One would hope that more large-scale works are planned for the future.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Antecedent: 1. Part I. Opening 2. Part II. Death Clock I 3. Part III: Mdina Experience 4. Part IV Coup d’Archet 5. Part V: Verrano 6. Part VI: Triadic Closure Consequent: 7. Part I: Istres Control 8. Part II: Subtle Inconsistencies 9. Part III: Zipangu 10. Part IV: Intentionally Left Blank 11. Part V: Treadmill 12. Part VI: Red Eye
Personnel: Detlef Landeck (trombone); Briggan Krauss (alto and baritone saxophones); Marty Ehrlich (bass clarinet, alto saxophone and flute); Robert Dick (flute and, contrabass flute); Mari Kimura and Mark Feldman (violins); Stephanie Griffin (viola); Tomas Ulrich (cello); Stomu Takeishi (electric bass); Ursel Schlicht and Denman Maroney (piano and keyboard); Satoshi Takeishi (percussion); Dafna Naphtali (voice and live sound-processing) and Hans Tammen (concept and real-time arrangement)
December 17, 2009
News On The Rail
Palmetto Records PM 2113
What reedist Marty Ehrlich seems to envision for this well-balanced sextet become particularly clear when you analyze the title track. Toting up the modus operandi you note that the instrumentation one reed, one brass, piano, bass and drums, and the sixth man doubling brass or reeds plus the understated harmonic voicing and unforced swing calls up memories of the sophisticated composers and combos of the 1950s which negotiated a middle ground between the effeteness of the Cool School and the weightiness of Hard Bop.
Musicians such as Shorty Rogers and Shelley Manne on the West Coast, Gil Melle and Teddy Charles in the East, and the bi-coastal Jimmy Giuffre experimented with unusual instrumentation and unexpected compositional forms, while maintaining an easy rhythm in everything they did. News On The Rail is like that, as are most of the other seven tunes Ehrlich wrote for this date. On that track, Howard Johnson burbles a contrapuntal tuba ostinato throughout, drummer Allison Miller confines himself to light taps and bounces and the thematical exposition is divided between the leaders clarinet and the odd slurs from James Weidmans melodica hes just as effective on piano elsewhere.
Not surprisingly, Ehrlich has the background and experience to pull this off. Influenced by working with members of the Black Artist Group (BAG) in his hometown of St. Louis, the reedist perpetuates the BAG tradition as chief organizer of the Julius Hemphill Sextet since 1997, and performing the music of the late alto saxophonist. At the same time, as a graduate of Bostons New England Conservatory of Music, Ehrlich has legit credits as well, having performed with ensembles such as the New York City Opera, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and several dance companies. His compositions have been played by ensembles as different as the Lydian String Quartet and the Rova Saxophone Quartet.
With Miller and bassist Greg Cohen, whose employers range from Ornette Coleman to Dixielanders, holding down the bottom, Ehrlich allows enough space for the front line which includes James Zollar on trumpet and flugelhorn, Johnson on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet as well as tuba, and himself on alto saxophone and clarinet. Zollar, who has also been in David Murrays big bands, sounds double- and triple-tongued grace notes on Seekers Delight and Trad Jazz wah wahs to match the drummers hard and heavy back beat on Hear You Say.
At times Weidmans playing is reminiscent of Jaki Byards harmonized riffing, especially during Byards stint with Charles Mingus who, incidentally, was associated with many of the 1950s progressives of both coasts in his day. Yet the pianist reaches an apogee of sorts on Enough Enough when his part-flowing, part-clipped lines supersede hocketing horn harmonics that are given extra heft with Johnsons bari.
Furthermore, although at places Ehrlichs alto line is slippery yet as formal as Bud Shanks, on a piece like Dance No. 2, he opens up his extended solo with split tones and spetrofluctuation that would have made his mentor, Hemphill, proud. Zollar adds rubato trills and Weidman nimble dynamics.
In the spirit of full disclosure it should be noted that this prescription gets a little flimsy on Light in the Morning (Many Thousand Gone), the nearly 10-minute longest track. For some reason the reedman seems feet that politely layering polyphonic harmonies behind his Giuffre-like nocturnal clarinet trills would make his compositional point. Instead the tune skirts George Shearing-Ahmad Jamal, polite bop exotica with horns. Even the descending piano chords and rattling cymbals sound like little more than decoration.
Except for that one misstep however, NEWS ON THE RAIL, can be enjoyed equally by those impressed by the continuation of sophisticated bop, as well as those merely impressed by unpretentious but serious contemporary jazz.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Enough Enough 2. Hear You Say 3. Light in the Morning (Many Thousand Gone) 4. News on the Rail 5. Dance No. 2 6. Erica 7. Seekers Delight 8. Keeper of the Flame (in memory of Sam Furnace)
Personnel: James Zollar (trumpet and flugelhorn); Marty Ehrlich (alto saxophone and clarinet); Howard Johnson (tuba, baritone saxophone and bass clarinet); James Weidman (piano and melodica); Greg Cohen (bass); Allison Miller (drums)
January 30, 2006
Line on Love
Palmetto PM 2095
Dont be put off by the title of this fine CD. Despite similar curly hair and use of saxophone, multi-reedman Marty Ehrlich hasnt suddenly turned into Kenny G.
Instead he uses the almost 54 minutes of the session to prove that you can perform understated, mellifluous music without insulting anyones intelligence. The eight selections score because he and his rhythm section bring the same guts and techniques they would to an out-and-out free blow or technical experiment as they do to these more restrained ditties.
Known for his work with pianist Myra Melford, pianist Andrew Hills sextet, drummer Bobby Prevites Bump and his own groups, Ehrlich has always been the melodist among outside musicians. Able to hold his own in avant company, he has never rejected euphony just to be fashionable. LINE ON LOVE, as a matter of fact is a follow up of sorts to 2001s SONG CD. On that disc he covered tunes by singer/songwriters Robin Holcomb and Bob Dylan and pianist Jaki Byard. Here, though, while as song-like, the tunes are all his own.
On this disc, altoist Tim Bernes associate Michael Formanek returns on bass, as does drummer Billy Drummond who often works with pianist Renee Rosnes. Theres a change at the piano bench though. Instead of Uri Caine, Craig Taborn, often heard with Berne and as a part of Roscoe Mitchells band, plays a restrained acoustic piano. Ehrlich mostly plays alto saxophone, as well as bass clarinet on Solance and The Git Go.
While embracing mellifluence, Ehrlich still subtly reinforces a harder output, so that the grace notes that spread from his reed like jelly on bread often add a bit of avant-garde pepper to the currant veneer of the tunes. This include irregular vibrations and dips into false registers. For instance, Like I Said, an overly boppish line includes double-timed slurs from the reedist and straightforward cymbal work from Drummond. Jaunty Julians Theme named for Ehrlichs son, not altoist Julian Cannonball Adderley, has him overblowing ever so slightly and extending the timbres. Screeches even find their way into the fading termination of his solo on Solance.
Blues inflections from both the alto and piano, coupled with a hearty shuffle rhythm from Drummond, surface on St. Louis Summer. Still the saxmans intensity vibrato and trilling cries show that he can recreate the soul of his boyhood city if he wishes. Trained classically and someone who has performed contemporary classical music, his bass clarinet sound is a bit too legit. Aside from the odd run on The Git Go, his playing on the swollen licorice stick features none of the dissonance that has characterized jazzers on the instrument since the days of Eric Dolphy.
Taborns two-handed, arpeggio rich impressionism helps define the title tune, though as well as the definitely secular Hymn. Meanwhile his understated swing on pieces like Julians Theme and Solance also reveal more of the straightforward melodic sense that he has kept under wraps since his earliest days in Young Lion saxophonist James Carters first quartet. Eschewing showiness, Formanek maintains the underlying pulse with solid, woody resonance. His one solo showcase on Turn Circle and Spin barely departs from the rhythmic function.
No avant-garde statement, but no smooth backgrounder either, LINE ON LOVE is the sort of modern, mainstream CD that wins listeners over with its sound without boxing their ears with its abrasiveness.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Hymn 2. Like I Said 3. Line on Love 4. Julians Theme 5. Turn Circle and Spin 6. Solance 7. St. Louis Summer 8. The Git Go
Personnel: Marty Ehrlich (alto saxophone, bass clarinet); Craig Taborn (piano); Michael Formanek (bass); Billy Drummond (drums)
December 22, 2003
Winter & Winter W&W 910 082-2
BOBBY PREVITE & BUMP
Palmetto PM 2091
Fans who complain that improvised music is too cerebral and not concerned enough with rhythm should hear these sessions led by drummers usually confined to the avant-garde side of the spectrum.
Although both are literal dance parties -- in the 1950s definition of the term -- each is different as well. ASTEREOTYPICAL shows what happens when you give three American and one Icelandic musicians license to create a sound animated by the traditional music of Eastern Europe, especially the Balkans. Conversely, COUNTERCLOCKWISE, featuring five Americans of a slightly earlier vintage than the dewy-cheeked Pachora crew, plays improv informed by the sort of R&B licks leader Bobby Previte probably heard growing up in Niagara Falls, N.Y. in the 1960s.
While often compared to a fanciful Balkan wedding band, Pachora has more influences than that. Rock/pop arrives through the bass guitar and electric bass of Icelander Skúli Sverisson and the electric saz of guitarist Brad Shepik, who played with the Tiny Bell Trio and Babkas. The plectrumist also adds South Asian intimations through his use of the droning tambura. Reedist Chris Speed and drummer Jim Black, both of whom were in Tim Bernes bands have strong jazz influences. Black, who creates even rockier textures in his own groups, breaks up the rhythms here by his use of cowbells, bell trees, selected and unselected cymbals and other percussion. He also adds unique pianica tones to some of the backgrounds, suggesting both the harmonica and the accordion.
Additionally, Speed, whose alto saxophone is featured in bands like Myra Melfords, stick exclusively to clarinet here, likely for purported authenticity. What results however when his reed tone is mixed with the pianica and strings isnt Balkan, but sounds that are more related to joyous freylech melodies, that are to Klezmer what czardas are in Hungarian music and the jig in the music from the British Isles.
There are times, however, when this not-quite-ethnic strategy falters. Usually those tunes features overly busy drumming from Black -- some of which sounds as if his instrument of choice is the telephone book -- and when Shepiks nylon string guitar forays resemble those acoustic intermission fillers so loved by overly-loud heavy metallers.
Still, most of Pachoras tunes feature Speeds uninflected, clear-toned clarinet playing the melody, mostly in contralto, but occasionally in chalameau register, with the beat promulgated by Sverrissons bass arsenal. With the freylech undercurrent in accordion washes, and rock interjections arriving though Hendrixian fuzz-laden guitar leads and buzzing amps, the challenge is for the musicians to not sound like the hippest ethnic wedding band in the world.
With what appears to be almost literal balalaika and dumbeck backing -- probably courtesy of the saz and baritone guitar -- Howl avoids this, with Blacks rhythms relating more to Persian or Dervish music that anything further west. Then theres Rider, when dual guitars and tabla sounds from Blacks knurly percussion implies that raga rockers have drifted into the souk. Speed dissolves his Eastern European trills into split reed tones, Shepik tries some fancy triple-lined flat picking and Black appears to be doing the near impossible, playing a dumbeck and regular drum kit simultaneously. The Little Theater celebrated on the tune of that name seems to include performers who need a belly dancing melody arising from reed contralto trilling and dancers who need andante polkas and mazurkas created by buzzing triplets from the guitar players.
Although Pachora may appear to be playing at an ethnic wedding, Bump seems to spends its time in an ghetto honky tonk where funk-soul aggregations induce folks onto the dance floor.
That means that erstwhile Lounge Lizard and Jazz Passenger trombonist Curtis Fowlkes come across like the a blend of the JBs Fred Wesley and The Crusaders Wayne Henderson; Marty Ehrlich who is usually a high-brow alto saxophonist channels The Crusaders Wilton Felder and the JBs Pee Wee Ellis; Zony Mash mainman keyboardist Wayne Horvitz becomes The Crusaders Joe Sample; veteran electric bassist Steve Swallow cops Bootsy Collins licks; and in his playing Previte himself recalls the early, unclichéd style of the JBs Clyde Stubblefield and The Crusaders Six Hooper.
Dont think that Bump has suddenly morphed into a funk/fusion band though. Despite the funk trappings, Previte is still the same musician who has written notated music for films, orchestras and the Moscow Circus and worked with thorny downtown noisemakers like John Zorn, Elliot Sharp and Berne. So while something like And the Wind Cries-Mademoiselle Katherine may reference Jimi Hendrixs And the Wind Cries Mary, its lockstep rhythm function and extended horn sounds recalls Miles Davis Mademoiselle Mabry as well.
Additionally, Bobby's Next Mood, the longest track, initially skates along on a reggae-like beat courtesy of Swallows four square rhythm and key clips from Horvitz. However by the time Fowlkes has revealed his inner Rico Rodriguez and Ehrlich is sounding out long-lined altissimo trills, the piano output has turned impressionistic with turnaround meeting the bassmans linear attack. Other tunes feature charts that lead the horns up in incremental pitches, the trombonist constructing a complete countermelody to what the others are playing, and the pianist erecting some high intensity fantasias, slipsliding from sharps to flats and back again while ranging all over the keyboard.
As for the short soul interludes here, they seem to be area code salutes to the down-and-dirty sounds produced in Detroit, Columbus, Ohio, New York, the East Bay area, Chicago and several unidentifiable spots. Most of the time Ehrlich and Fowlkes play unison passages with more sophistication than the Tower of Power horns, including rare forays into plunger mute territory for the bone man and writhing split tones from the saxist.
Unfortunately, the final number -- which adds Zony Mash guitarist Timothy Young to the band -- is an oddly unfinished pastiche of atmospheric sliding guitar chords, ascending horn charts, and left handed nightclub piano sounds. After two full minutes of silence at its end, the tune reappears filled with recurrent R&B changes, tinkling, right-handed fills and pitch-and-catch riffs from the horns. At this point it literally lives up to the CD title since the concluding notes in that track seem to fit -- counterclockwise -- right into the first notes of track one.
More for your feet than your head, ASTEREOTYPICAL and COUNTERCLOCKWISE show that accomplished improvisers can get down if they wish. Lets just hope they continue to intelligently experiment as well as showcase dance rhythms.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Astereotypical: 1. Romanics 2. Bushka Lounge 3. Klink 4. Snap 5. Push 6. Howl 7. Drifting 8. Little Theater 9. Nyla 10. Rider 11. Silencio 12. Mexahata
Personnel: Astereotypical: Chris Speed (clarinet); Brad Shepik (tambura, electric saz, nylon string guitar); Skúli Sverisson (acoustic bass guitar, electric bass, baritone guitar); Jim Black (drums, percussion, pianica)
Track Listing: Counterclockwise: 1. 877-Soul 2. Counterclockwise 3. 614-Soul 4. Bobby's Next Mood 5. 111-Soul 6. Patricia 7. 312-Soul 8. And the Wind Cries Mademoiselle Katherine 9. 498-Soul*
Personnel: Counterclockwise: Curtis Fowlkes (trombone); Marty Ehrlich (tenor (saxophone); Wayne Horvitz (piano); Timothy Young (guitar)*; Steve Swallow (electric bass); Bobby Previte (drums)
July 28, 2003
BOBBY PREVITE & BUMP
Just Add Water
Palmetto PM 2081
For years the definition of the so-called downtown New York drummer, Bobby Previte has never stopped moving for long. He has mixed it up with everyone from saxophonist John Zorn to guitarist Elliott Sharp, helmed a variety of bands with ever more bizarre names, scored indie films, appeared as an actor in a Robert Altman movie, given percussion workshops, and written music for the Moscow Circus.
Organized as a combo to tour Europe playing the music of his remarkable debut LP in 1987, the dynamism of this Bump band encouraged him to write new tunes and this CD is the happy result. Built around a rhythm section of veteran electric bass player Steve Swallow, pianist and old friend Wayne Horvitz and Previte, the group has space age tailgate specialist trombonist Ray Anderson, Marty Ehrlich, unexpectedly on tenor saxophone, as its front line. Bumps blowers are expanded by Defunkt trombonist Joseph Bowie on this disc.
Exploring that POMO netherworld where the shades of Albert Ayler, Red Garland and Tricky Sam Nanton and the Bar Keys seem to coexist, the music is held together by Prevites powerful, yet moderated rumbles and tumbles.
Biggest surprise is Ehrlich, recording on the larger sax for the first time, or first time in a long, long while. Divorced from his expected clarinet, bass clarinet or soprano and alto saxophone he seems to be channeling the spirit of Big Al Sears, who was both an Ellington band member and pioneer R&B honker. On Stingray for instance, which is driven like the Corvette by Prevites drum rolls, he and the bones voice what could easily be a Stax/Volt horn line, complimenting Horvitzs piano which mixed rockabilly and a Garland of Reds blues. Additionally, his bar walking tenor squeals on the funky 53 Maserati, may reference his early apprenticeship in St. Louis avant Black Artists Group, yet probably sound very familiar to the drummer, reminding him of the honky tonks of his Niagara Falls, N.Y. boyhood. One the other hand, Ehrlich exhibits a deep chested Swing era vibrato on Put Away Your Crayons and his solo feature, Nice Try.
Anderson (and possibly Bowie -- it isnt clear if hes on every track) moves comfortably through the eras, exhibiting his (their?) jungle band growl for Everything I Want then blasting into the Arkestra-explored stratosphere on All Hail Kirby! Perverse as is his wont, the drummer/composer offers subtle cymbals and brushwork on the former but distorts the later with a backbeat that appears to be derived from Lee Morgans The Sidewinder. Both bones are definitely onboard for the miniature foottapper 63 as they race around Ehrlichs upraised Ayler-like sax lines.
All together, this CD is convincing evidence of how many disparate strands of playing and thinking can be brought together. Listening to Prevites new tunes you get a rare glimpse of Ehrlichs tenor playing, Swallows more felt-than-heard bass backup away from Carla Bley and his usual associates, Horvitz playing acoustic piano jazz instead of his more derivative keyboard and electronics, and two top tooting trombonists.
Prevites recent BITCHES BREW tribute band Horse was derivative and merely one more Miles emulation. Its obvious after listening to this session that hes better off and more impressive going his own way, recalling his past rather than anothers.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Put Away Your Crayons 2. Nice Try 3. Leave Here Now 4. 53 Maserati 5. 63 6. Stingray 7. Everything I Want 8. All Hail Kirby! 9/ Theme for an Imaginary Dénouement
Personnel: Ray Anderson, Joseph Bowie (trombones); Marty Ehrlich (tenor saxophone); Wayne Horvitz (piano); Steve Swallow (electric bass); Bobby Previte (drums)
February 8, 2002
Enja ENJ-9396 2
Among his other attributes, multi-reedman Marty Ehrlich has always been known as a melody man. And, as the title says, this euphonious CD brings these qualities even more to the fore.
Despite that promise and the standard horn-and-rhythm-section line up, be assured that this isn't one of those bucolic smooth jazz snorers or neo-con ballad fests. The woodwind specialist wrote most of the tunes here, and the covers he plays are from such unlikely sources as singer/songwriter Robin Holcomb, Jaki Byard, the late jazz pianist with whom Ehrlich studied and played, and Bob Dylan, who as they say, needs no introduction.
Except for a couple of tunes, Ehrlich doesn't offer up the standard kind of arrangement either. Plus his sidemen are also noted for adventurous work. Pianist Uri Caine, who splits most of the solos with the saxophonist, for instance, is best known for his recasting of music by classical icons Wagner, Bach and Mahler. Bassist Michael Formanek is a frequent associate of prickly altoist Tim Berne, and drummer Billy Drummond is an in-demand New York session player.
Wild card here on one track is the ebullient Ray Anderson, an Ehrlich associate since the late 1970s. He adds his sense of humor and raucous trombone manipulation to "Blue Boye's Blues", a tune the reedist obviously wrote in homage to another of his inspirations and playing partners, the late altoist Julius Hemphill, the original Blue Boye.
Alluding to Hemphill's usual compositional mix of outside licks and funky blues, Ehrlich's slinking alto phrasing, the trombonist's quasi-Dixieland blats and some spooky silent movie house-style piano from Caine quickly builds up to a boisterous Sanctified Church style theme. After a section that sounds as if Anderson is deboning his instrument from every chromatic position, the pianist introduces some soulful 1960s piano chords which in turn pushes the altoist to create the sort of soulful blues licks he -- and Hemphill -- would have created in their St. Louis youth.
If that tune rollicks with energy, "The Falling Rains of Life", another homage, is an altogether more sombre affair. Performed by Byard, its composer on his famous 1968 WITH STRINGS LP with Ray Nance, Ron Carter and George Benson, here Ehrlich's legato bass clarinet fills the dual rolls of Nance's violin and Carter's cello. With the ballad performed at a brisker tempo than Byard's original reading, the woodwind's usual morose tone adds a cloak of sadness to it, intensified with Caine's conclusive treble keystroke.
"Rains..." mood had been carried over from Ehrlich's "Fauve", a meandering soprano saxophone feature that is the longest tune on the disc. It's probably named for the early 20th century painting style that used intensely vivid, non-naturalistic, contrasting colors and which numbered Matisse, Marquet, Braque, and Dufy among its adherents.
Curiously enough "Greensleeves" and Chick Corea's "500 Miles High" are suggested by "Fauve's" theme, rather than anything as French musically as Fauvism was visually. Once the tune gets going however, it turns out that Ehrlich's meringue-like delivery merely supplies the froth on top of a straightforward, swinging jazz (y) composition.
Nicely situated in the program, Dylan's "I Pity The Poor Immigrant" recalls those times in the 1970s when soul/jazz saxists like Eddie Harris or Hank Crawford would do their versions of pop-folk tunes. Standout work here comes from Caine, whose double-time embellishments lead to a protracted gospelish finish.
With its 21st century melodies given an atypical twist, SONG's title may be too short to itemize all the inventive melodies and fine playing included on the disc.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Waltz 2. The Price Of The Ticket 3. Day Of The Dark Bright Light 4. Blue Boye's Blues* 5. I Pity The Poor Immigrant 6. Fauve 7. The Falling Rains Of Life
Personnel: Ray Anderson (trombone)*; Marty Ehrlich (alto and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet); Uri Caine (piano); Michael Formanek (bass); Billy Drummond (drums)
October 22, 2001
Between the lines btl 015/EFA 10185-2
James Emery leads a valiant fight, but in the end he's done in by the acoustic guitar curse. Ever since jazzers switched over to the electric model following Charlie Christian's tenure with Benny Goodman's band in 1939-1941, the acoustic model has been little more than the electric's poor cousin. Sure, versatile soloists like Charlie Byrd and Laurindo Almeida may have concentrated on it for renditions of Brazilian music and standards, but this conservative approach was in retrospect only impressive when compared to lite-jazz, New Age or fusion followers who brandish the instrument to convey their so-called sensitive sides.
So what's James Emery, certified avant gardist and co-founder of jazz's most outside string group -- The String Trio of New York -- doing with an acoustic axe? Attempting to create interesting chamber jazz that's what. Whether he succeeds is another matter, however. For despite an all-star cast performing all original material, the tunes often appear to be almost too polite. The sidemen may be some of New York's most accomplished "downtowners", but overloading the session with such "softer" instruments as the acoustic guitar, flute and vibes pushes the session towards 1950s' jazz'n'satin excursions from the likes of George Shearing's quintet.
Luckily Emery has called upon one of the toughest accompaniment team -- bassist Drew Gress and drummer Gerry Hemingway to hold things together. But on a tune like "En Rapport" you get the feeling that the drummer is hitting much harder than usual just to keep the piece from being drowned in froth. Then on something like "Violet Into The Blue", with its modified tango beat, the clarinet harmony is cloying. Even when someone like Marty Ehrlich constructs an alto solo that contains the tougher elements of Art Pepper's early style, it's Emery's lighter guitar string attack that makes the tune earthbound. Elsewhere, Chris Speed may let loose on tenor saxophone and Ehrlich do the same on clarinet on the vaguely Latin "Across The Water", but by the time the melody is elaborated, you get the uneasy feeling that it's the continuation of another tune, not a standalone piece.
Cool/West Coast Jazz conceptions, with every note locked into place also seem to come to the fore on "Exit To Nowhere" and other pieces. There likely haven't been as many vibe runs or doubled flute echoes recorded since the heyday of Pacific Jazz in the early 1950s. Strangely enough Emery may have taken the title of 'Exit" to heart, for here he appears to strengthen his attack to cut through the woodwinds.
During earlier Jazz eras, musicians sometimes put out sessions where they "played pretty for the people" and LUMINOUS CYCLES could easily fit into that niche. The musicianship here is still top notch and the conception pleasant enough. If you're a rabid fan of any of the musicians involved you may have a higher opinion of this CD as well. But, overall, while pleasant enough, it seems to lack the go-for-broke spark that illuminates really memorable music.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Luminous Cycles 2. One red Thread 3. Beyond Words 4. En Rapport 5. Exit To Nowhere 6. Across The Water 7. Cardinal Points 8. Violet Into The Blue
Personnel: Marty Ehrlich (alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute); Chris Speed (tenor saxophone, clarinet); James Emery (acoustic guitar); Drew Gress (bass); Gerry Hemingway (drums, glockenspiel); Kevin Norton (marimba, vibes, tympani, bowed tam-tam)
May 15, 2001
MYRA MELFORD/MARTY EHRLICH
Yet Can Spring
Arabesque Recordings AJO 154
One may be the loneliest number, but for committed improvisers creating as a duo can be fraught with more anxiety than playing on one's own. Uncompromising solo work may necessitate capturing the listener's attention while weaving variations on the material. But when it takes two, each partner must be like mountain climbers hitched together by a thick rope. Even the tiniest movement of the other must be scrupulously anticipated and amplified so that both don't suddenly plunge down the precipice.
Luckily, youngish New Yorkers, pianist Myra Melford and multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich are veterans of such encounters. Melford has held her own with ethereal flautist Marion Brandis and burlesquing drummer Han Bennink, while Ehrlich has faced off against such hardcore idea men as bassist Anthony Cox and pianist/AACM theorist Muhal Richard Abrams.
YET CAN SPRING allows the featured duo to apply their collective history to three Melford originals, three Ehrlich compositions and two other tunes. A hushed, studied atmosphere results. And that could be this session's singular drawback for those used to the exuberant sounds each of the two can bring to his or her larger ensembles.
Case in point is the pianist's low key and philosophical "Here Is Only Moment". Her conception may have been imagined as dance-like, but the feeling from the alto saxophonist is one of motionlessness, as he floats over the changes. Elsewhere, not only does a cello-like sombreness color his playing on "Duiloquy", but there are times in Melford's solo that you could swear she was executing variations on "Moonlight Sonata". Later, vocalist Robin Holcomb's dirge-like art song, "The Natural World", anchors the two inside a hushed revival meeting with gospelish arpeggios from the piano and anguished soloing in tongues from the reedist.
More animated is Ehrlich's "March Fantastique", with its upper register saxophone glissandos and a short double time passage from Melford. However, it sounds less like a John Philip Sousa or even an Anthony Braxton march than a sprightly hop.
Examining the album's context, in fact, blues pianist Otis Spann's "Don't You Know", with its echo of Ivory Joe Hunter's "Since I Lost My Baby" -- a favored encore for Melford and Ehrlich -- adds that missing spark to the CD. Melford's right hand keyboard forays and Ehrlich's melismatic sound pinpoint the sort of melancholy cheerfulness often found in the blues. And that's an earthier emotion, which should have been worked into more tunes.
"Know" is no afterthought, since both come to the blues legitimately, Ehrlich collaborating with members of St. Louis' Black Artists Group over the years and Melford absorbing boogie-woogie basics from her first piano teacher in Illinois.
An interesting answer to the question of how to conduct a successful duo session, this CD offers many small pleasures. But who knows what surprises might result if these two let themselves loose on a whole program of deep blues?
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Yet Can Spring 2. Duiloquy 3. Here Is Only Moment 4. The Open Room 5. March Fantastique 6. The Natural World 7. Yellow Are Crowds of Flowers (I)
8. Don't You Know
Personnel: Marty Ehrlich (alto saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet); Myra Melford (piano)
January 25, 2001
Any misguided soul who figures that so-called "out" jazz doesn't swing should listen to this disc.
From the first notes of the jaunty "Rhymes", Ehrlich and his Traveler's Tales band give notice that a form of staightahead, swing isn't only the preserve of recreators like Lincoln Center Orchestra crew. Though it must be stressed that Ehrlich & Co. don't have to blow the dust off their lead sheets -- they're mostly his own compositions -- or pretend that they're famous soloists of he past to do a good job. That's because the musician on this notable CD have the years of experience and performance "smarts" to know when to keep things on a low flame and when to let go.
"The Cry Of", for instance with its vague Eastern cast and heartbeat-apart tenor saxophone and flute work is a light, breezy tune that could pass as merely a pleasantry until you sit up and take notice of its careful construction.
Or consider "Pigskin" written by Ehrlich's mentor, the late Julius Hemphill. With its offbeat pulse -- courtesy of Previte, who has sparked ensembles as different as John Zorn's and the Moscow Circus band, and Harris, point man for leaders like Sonny Rollins and Ray Anderson -- the tune becomes an exhilarating cross between half-time march and dance floor groover. On it and with his sensitive, folk-style accompaniment for Bob Dylan's "Tears of Rage," Harris shows that Paul McCartney's favorite axe can be used for a lot more than simple time keeping.
Then there's the title tune, a sort of rhythmic freeform prance meant to invoke its honoree, a theatre teacher who inspired the young Ehrlich to investigate improvised music. Mr. Malinke obviously did a good job, for since that time the multi-instrumentalist has played with everyone from Muhal Richard Abrams to Myra Melford, and created musics in a variety of idioms for a clutch of different ensembles.
From the evidence here it would seem that Traveler's Tales is Ehrlich's "fun" band. And certainly the audience for this live session recorded at the Knitting Factory last year reacted to it that way.
You probably will too.
Track Listing: 1. Rhymes 2. The Cry Of 3. Malinke's Dance 4. Line On Love 5. Pigskin
6. Tears of Rage 7. North Star 8. Bright Remembered 9. Willy Whippoorwill Steals A Bow
Personnel: Marty Ehrlich (alto and soprano saxophone, flute); Tony Malaby (soprano and tenor saxophones); Jerome Harris (acoustic bass guitar); Bobby Previte (drums)
June 17, 2000