St. Laurent Piano Project – ‘Temps libre’; Eyes of a Blue Dog – ‘Rise’; and Ezra Buchla – ‘At The Door’ [Capsule Review]

In quick succession, three unconventional labels producing three albums of different jazz conventions:

8437094266_cfcc0e7109_z-300x292Following close on the collaborative work ‘Duets for Abdelrazik’, Stefan Christoff and the Howl! Arts Collective of Montreal serve up another session of communal arrangements – ‘Temps libre’ – this time centered on Christoff’s piano work. Titled the St. Laurent Piano Project, Christoff teams separately with Brahja Waldman (saxophone) and Peter Burton (contrabass), then Waldman solo and Christoff solo, to skate across four tracks of darkly-lit bop and ballad. Recalling a sturdy tradition of piano led composition epitomized by the peaks of Keith Jarrett, these pieces too inculcate the local scene of post-rock long hand which works in heavy strokes of filmic shading, situating the work in its texts among the political upheavals of 2012. Like ‘Duets’, the players are of utmost competence, but do not divulge the limits of these powers; somber, sober, they dress the set of social action with the full force of their instruments, each of which utters a tradition of tragedy and (power-) quiet dignity – if lacking in an agency of their own. 300 copies in screened, chipboard sleeves, available HERE

a0767216810_2The Babel Label is working hard to cement itself as the Arena Rock Recording Company of UK/North Sea post-jazz-rock: though heavily catalogued in works of free bop sound, a sizeable minority express other interests, either wholly – e.g., the Mogwai of Glockenspiel – or in part – like the swatches of Tarentel slow core in Barbacana. Similarly, Eyes of a Blue Dog represent the Norweigian jazz (in the loosest sense of the word) scene, and the soul of labels like Rune Grammofon and Smalltown Supersound. ‘Rise’ involves the trio moving between heavily-electronic jazz modalities of an almost mathematical technicality, and poppier tracks recalling Add N to (X) and Wildbirds & Peacedrums; the latter are heavily indebted to the vocals of Elisabeth Nygård-Pearson, who develops complex melodic forms without any crutch considering the divergent instrumental ambience – an often stunning juxtaposition – but who also lends a human hook to this otherwise tremendously technical subgenre (well-illustrated by the former: ambling, flashy percussion and steppes of cool trumpet flutter). The result is a thorough, complete album that is highly listenable, while still revealing savory riddles with each run through. Recommended, and available HERE.

Ezra_Buchla_440_440Orbiting the greatest span from conventional, the new label Care Of Editions purports to recycle money made on vinyl sales to compensate those who download those same albums. Underwritten by the Berlin University of the Arts and the state’s Einstein Foundation, the whole thing has a strong academic impetus and experimental novelty (it seems they have yet to make the necessary vinyl sales to begin paying out), which is fitting that their third disc should be ‘At the Door’: the disc is Ezra Buchla, of Mae Shi and Gowns, working in his most drone-heavy mode to date. Recalling his recent split with Whitman, but sounding more like that compatriot, Buchla plays the side A triptych “A Cruel Man/His Thirsts/Hail Nothing” with a lispy wisp of harmonic voice(s) and a fugue of strings, permutated through granular synthesis, and rising into the triumphant minor notes which he is known, and which gives so much of his work the sense of honesty and hopefulness. “Black Box” fills side B with a slow-burning drone, recalling the work of his father’s generation, out of academic experimental jazz, and up into the current diffusion through fellow practitioners like Infinite Body and Rale.  A worthy flagship for such a unique endeavor. Available from the label HERE.

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