|Brother Man / Wahba / Rob Watson||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||5:15|
|Every Word / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||4:28|
|Intro: Blessed One / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||1:15|
|Blessed One / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||3:50|
|Intro: Tug on My Heart / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||0:48|
|Tug on My Heart / Wahba / Rob Watson||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||3:20|
|Unfailing / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||4:55|
|No Rock / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||4:42|
|Flame (Intro) / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||0:36|
|Flame / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||3:59|
|Lead Us to You / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||3:49|
|Giver / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||2:25|
|Your Grace Is Enough / Matt Maher||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||4:17|
|Blessed One / Wahba||Wahba feat: Josh Gersten||3:58|
Japanese improvisational power trio Altered States -- along with turntablist/guitarist Otomo Yoshihide -- stormed through the Baltic republics of Lithuania and Estonia in October 1993, and this CD documents the sonic shredding that ensued. The foursome wails away on rock-based jams that flow organically, constrict into tight and chunky rhythms, and sometimes stop in a millisecond, leaving one to wonder how long a few of these improvisations had been rehearsed beforehand. (Given the aimlessness of much rock improvisation, that's not intended as a criticism.) Guitarist Uchihashi Kazuhisa, bassist Nasuno Mitsuru, and drummer Yoshigaki Yasuhiro are often relentless, locking into propulsive rhythms that push along at a manic pace, but the open-eared improvisations are indeed the most amazing parts of Lithuania and Estonia Live, as the musicians anticipate one another's moves and react in a flash to whatever ideas might be tossed into the mix. And plenty of ideas are tossed in, particularly with Yoshihide and Kazuhisa sharing the front line. As for Yoshihide, although his work would become far more minimal in subsequent years, the turntablism practiced here features musique concrète experimentation while also possessing the swagger and pyrotechnic spirit of a rock guitar god.
As Altered States churns out a pounding accompaniment, Yoshihide is in full-throttle mode, and his contributions sound like skittering violin lines, mutated free jazz saxophone solos, the high-pitched clarion call of an unidentified horn, fevered individual and group political chants, and other mysterious vocalizations. (Given the language barrier, few Westerners would fully understand the plundered vocals and chants, but they remain powerful and startlingly appropriate to the music on the basis of their sonic properties alone.) Recorded by Estonian radio on October 6, "Motif B" and "Chain Reaction" are concise and well-recorded avant rockers that get the CD off to a high-energy start. The album then moves into a handful of the previously referenced improvisations, recorded with a somewhat rougher sound quality during the band's appearance at the Tallinn International Festival the following day. The musicians are clearly at the top of their game as they experiment with new approaches and place earlier elements in new contexts (for example, "Motif B" reappears as the entry point for "Improvisation #3"). The eighth track melds performances from Tallinn on October 7 and the Vilnius Jazz Festival on October 9 into a single piece; Yoshihide's recordings of chants and singing unify two segments that otherwise stand in stark contrast: a lengthy near-ambient sound collage and a brief rolling up-tempo unison vamp. Clocking in at over 15 minutes in length, the ambitious final track, "Lithuania Mix," is a stunning blend of avant jazz-rock, improvisation, and turntablism. Here, the musicians appear to have taken the jazz festival surroundings of their Vilnius gig to heart, although of course with a completely skewed approach. Yoshihide reaches into his grab-bag of discs and finds some particularly apropos gems, transforming an apparent solo saxophone recording into a mutant free jazz escapade and spinning a big-band platter as the proceedings draw to a close. Of course, this adheres to the tradition of jazz artists quoting standards in their solos, which Yoshihide just took a step further: He didn't only recontextualize melodies in new bop settings, but tossed entire LPs -- music, instruments played, musicians who played them, and even album surface scratches -- into Altered States' maelstrom of sounds.
This stuff would likely cause audience members at a typical U.S. jazz fest to rush pellmell for the exits, hollering about travesties, heresies, and how this couldn't possibly be jazz.
So here is a CD that documents not only some great performances by four of Japan's top avant improvisers, but also the sense of open-mindedness at music festivals in a pair of tiny Baltic nations. One airline ticket to Vilnius, please.
The two-fer, Live in Cologne 1961 + Benny Carter Sextet, showcases two dates, recorded separately. The first features the Cannonball Adderley Quintet (featuring cornetist Nat Adderley) and was captured a day after the group's other 1961 concert album, En Concert Avec Europe1. This is a live show and reveals the Adderley brothers in fine, funky form. The second date, featured on the latter half of this collection, is an in-studio session featuring saxophonist Benny Carter backed by members of Kurt Edelhagen's Orchestra. Recorded at Studio 1 of the West German Broadcasting Corporation, it is also a warm, swinging session.
It's very easy to dismiss Rhythmscape: The New Sound of Melody and Rhythm as new age meandering. After all there's plenty of rain sticks and gongs, and you'll find plenty of blathering in the sleeve notes. And don't forget the faux jazz that makes up "Zinc." But if you can take the time to get beyond all the clichés, there's actually some tasty musicianship on this album. Bikram Ghosh is an extremely talented tabla player, albeit one who's working very much outside the box on this release, accommodating Indian ideas, voices, and instruments (along with Western percussion and instruments) to Western mores. All too often that's a bad thing, and brings out the worst from both cultures in the name of fusion.
But on pieces like "Gangotri" there's some depth to the thought and the playing. Granted, it's not going to be to everyone's taste. Those who favor Indian classical music will likely see it as heresy, and the new age crowd might find it somewhat busy. So while it falls betwixt and between, there's still plenty of good to be found -- you just have to search for it.
With its original members taken from the principal chairs of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Leipzig String Quartet has been a strong force on the chamber music scene since 1988. Its dozens of recordings have covered repertoire from the early classical to the most cutting-edge avant-garde. In 2009, the ensemble returns to the roots of its repertoire with the beginning of a survey of the Haydn quartets. Curiously, the group has chosen the Op.
51 String Quartet, known better as "The Seven Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross." Haydn originally composed this commissioned work for full orchestra, but his own versions for string quartet and oratorio are much more commonly known today. The work is, as would be expected, deeply solemn and earnest. Haydn himself commented on the difficulty in composing a piece with all slow movements, and the same difficulty exists in its performance. The Leipzig Quartet, however, succeeds in maintaining a great deal of energy and forward momentum while retaining the dignity and tone of the piece. Intonation and articulation are splendidly refined throughout. Haydn assigned the majority of the melodic duties to the first violin, and Stefan Arzberger's sound definitely comes to the forefront, but the important and often descriptive accompaniment is still clearly audible. MDG's sound is clean and pure without being dry. Listening in SACD mode gives listeners the sense of being surrounded by the quartet in a church.
MDG also offers its 2+2+2 sound, but listening to it requires the addition of more front speakers and rewiring existing setups, something with which few listeners are likely to bother.