• JESSICA ACKERLEY - Morning/Mourning (Cacaphonus Revival)

    Jessica Ackerley is a Canadian guitar player who belongs to the school of contemporary musicians with an individual way to construct their pieces. Gone are the instant 'tunes'. They are replaced by a way of sonic storytelling that forces the listener to renounce the obvious ways of 'standard' playing. Like many records these days, the recording of these nine solo pieces is related to the Covid-19 era were artists create in retreat. She lost one of her mentors to Covid-19, which explains the second part of the title of this album. Before reviewing, I listened two times in totally different circumstances. First I put it on while reading my newspaper and it sounded almost like ambient, taking attention now and them but never disturbing or distracting. The second time I listened very closely and attenive which revealed a totally different experience. The pieces are full of interesting turns and twists whilst keeping its flow and sense of direction. Jessica Ackderley literally talks through her guitar playing, with a lot of focus on the storytelling. What more can a musican do? A truly impressive set of composed/improvised pieces.

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Jessica Ackerly - guitar

  • LINA ALLEMANO FOUR - Vegetables (Lumo Records)

    This is the sixth album by Canadian trumpeter Lina Allemano with Four. Bass, drums, alto and trumpet are the instruments; composition and improvisation the ingredients. Lina writes strong pieces that are interpreted by a well seasoned quartet with freedom and flexibility, but also with discipline. This generates an excellent synergy between the players and an exceptional depth in the performances. The six pieces were each assigned the name of a vegetable and thus we find out how onions, beans, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, avocados and leafy greens sound like in the universe of Lina. 'Vegetabes' brings intriguing contemporary acoustic chamber jazz with a twist, but also with smooth lines and delicious flavors.

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Lina Allemano (trumpet), Brodie West (alto sax), Andrew Downing (double bass), Nick Fraser (drums)

  • BLOOP - Proof (Lumo Records)

    Trumpeter Lina Allemano moves between Toronto and Berlin. Her Canadian recordings appear on the Lumo Records label. In Bloop, Lina plays live trumpet and percussion, sometimes at the same time. That's being processed live by Mike Smith; the electronics are part of the interaction. Yet, this remains essentially an acoustic album in which electronic manipulations create a sound expansion that evokes various spheres. Allemano has also mastered the technique of muting in which she naturally creates effects without effectpedals. It is in a way the instrumental equivalent of Sophie Tassignon's Mysteries Unfold in which the combination of voice and electronics creates a broad, layered and spatial sound, albeit here with more experimental sounds. Proof is an intriguing and instant creative record that navigates between music and sound art. Lina's control of her instruments is phenomenal!

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Lina Allemano (trumpet, percussion, mutes, whistling), Mike Smith (live-processing, effects)

  • THREE-LAYER CAKE - "Stove Top" (RareNoiseRecords)

    If you're looking for adventure and originality in contemporary music, this is the one. Three-Layer Cakes functions with a combination of drums/organ/percussion, guitar/banjo and bass. If one wants to qualify the music, "punk jazz" will do, but that's only a hint. The three musicians don't think in terms of genres or styles, but make a natural cross-over of sounds, timbres and textures. Sometimes they sound like an updated version of the most adventurous version of Tony Williams Lifetime and then they wade in illuminating soundscapes. The use of banjo in some pieces is nothing less then phenomenal. I bet you've never heard a banjo doing what it does here. There's a lot of improvisation but there's never a sense of chaos or the absurd, it keeps on moving.The use of tuned percussion is reminiscent of some of Frank Zappa's work. The trio holds no veto's against any musical style, their tastes go from from Black Sabbath to John Coltrane. Listening to "Stove Top" is a musical journey with a wealth of sounds, rhythms and spheres: three versalite musicians who know what they are doing, without taking boundaries. (available as digital, cd or vinyl)

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Brandon Seabrook (guitar, banjo, tapes)
    Mike Pride (drums, glockenspiel, bells, organ)
    Mike Watt (bass)

  • MAGNET ANIMALS - Fake Dudes (RareNoiseRecords)

    Magnet Animals is a foursome under the leadership of Mexican guitarist, vocalist and composer Todd Clouser. Clouser is a very versalite musician who doesn't want to be associated with any scene. His music incorporaties jazz, rock, funk, blues and improvisation. Doing that, he creates the ultimate crossover between genres without losing any authenticity. 'Fake Dudes' is his Covid-19 record and it's nothing less than brilliant. It consists of twelve 'songs' that go in all directions while keeping a phenomenal sense of consolidation and body. Every track is a musical adventure by itself. His music is complex and accessible at the same time, it makes even the body move. Most of all it surprises all the time. Throughout the whole album there's an immense intensity and creativity that takes one away every time. This is the perfect example of how genres can be woven into each other. I started loving music in an age were pop was considered as throwaway music, rock was dirty, dangerous and to avoid, jazz was alright if it had enough "decent" elements and a dash of "white" in it and classical was the only "real" and lasting music. Fifty years later there's an openminded generation that doesn't let itself limit by a genre. Magnet Animals is the perfect exemple of that, while making the most powerfull crossover I've ever heard. Yes, brilliant! Available as digital, cd and vinyl.

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Todd Clouser (guitar, voice)
    Eyal Maoz (guitar)
    Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (bass)
    Jorge Servin (drums)

  • ARBENZ x MEHARI/VERAS Conversation #1 - Condensed

    Covid-19 may be a disaster for musicians, but it also triggers ideas or accelerates the start of projects. Drummer Florian Arbenz starts a cycle of twelve conversations with other musicians. #1's an instant hit. The combination of the inventive, driven, imaginative and energetic drum parts with the equally surprising trumpet by Hermon Mehari and the warm but pointed guitar of Nelson Veras culminates in ten engaging conversations, of which eight own compositions and two by Ornette Coleman and Eddie Harris respectively.

    Arbenz has played with these musicians before, so empathy does its job. The starting point is always a noted composition, but the free interpretation of the trio gives each piece a spontaneous flexibility that we rarely hear. Arbenz sets a high standard for the follow-up cd's. This applies to both the music and the impressive recording quality. We are already curious about the sequel.

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Florian Arbenz (drums), Hermon Mehari (trumpet), Nelson Veras (guitar)

  • BERNARD WÖSTHEINRICH & CHRISTINA RUF - Ptolemaic Model (Iapetus)

    The ptolemaic system is a mathematical model of the universe formulated by the Alexandrian astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy about 150 CE. The Ptolemaic system is a geocentric cosmology that assumes Earth is stationary and at the centre of the universe. This model by ancient astronomers is the basic idea behind this fascinating soundsculpture created by Austrian experimental cellist and composer Christina Ruf and German electronic music and graphic artist Bernard Wöstheinrich. This music was performed during an extensive recording session in Berlin in 2019. 'Ptolemaic Model' consists of two long pieces each approaching the half-hour and taking the listener into space. Close your eyes and you really feel the immense infinity of the universe in the first piece 'Deferent'. The second piece 'Epicycle' is more noise-oriented and evokes like incoming sounds from the universe. Towards the end it sounds like one is vanishing into an harmonious eternity. One is immersed in an aural trip with an astonishing texture. Bernard and Christina have found each other melting their parts in a perfect way. A true piece of art that goes way further than the cosmic sounds that were created in the seventies by the likes of Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream or the sound creations of Brian Eno. Great stuff!

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Christina Ruf: 6-string cello, effects, acoustic piano samples, iPad

    Berhard Wöstheinrich: synthesizer, keyboards, sequencer.

  • JULIE SASSOON SOLO PIANO - If You Can't Go Outside ... Go Inside (Jazzwerkstatt)

    Although the music on this cd was recorded four years ago, it is now released as British pianist Julie Sassoon's lockdown record. In July 2016 she recorded two long solo acoustic piano pieces live in the rbb Kulturradio Studios in Berlin. It was a moment of pure magic where she gave free way to her instant creativity. The first piece 'At The Water Tower' lasts for 19 minutes and sounds like an explosion of energy but not without a cause. When you listen to it, you have to do the same as Julie did when she performed it: let go, don't think, allow the avalanche of notes to take over and go with the flow. Listening to this piece, I had a strange image in my head of a small bunch of bike racers going to the finishline and looking at each other, going faster and faster and then slow down, hesitating, having a break, sniffing and then again giving all the power they have to finish first. The second piece 'Murmuration' lasts for 12 minutes and is more like contemplating but also builds up towards the end creating a wonderful bow of tension. On both pieces Sassoon shows her tremendous skills on the piano whilst playng two astonishing pieces of music. In the liner notes she explains in a perfect way what this music is about: 'Whilst playing At The Water Tower I managed to reach a space where no thoughts are present, only sound and energy. (...) towards the end of this piece my fingers spontaneously began to move at double speed, leading me somewhere I've never been before.' That's also the mindset in which this record has te be listened to. And finally she explains the connection with the Covid-19 lockdown situation: 'The time of lockdown (...) self-refection seems to me like the right moment to share this music. A music that moves inwards to access an inner world, away from twitter, likes and clicks.'

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Julie Sassoon - piano

  • ROBERTO MAGRIS & ERIC HOCHBERG - Shuffling Ivories

    Together with bassist Eric Hochberg, pianist Roberto Magris pays tribute to his heroes of African-American music who made him love jazzmusic. His first idols were Oscar Peterson and Bud Powell and later he discovered Timmons, Tyner, Monk and Hill, as well as Elmo Hope and Randy Weston. Throughout the eleven pieces he lets his keyboard speak in a way that also reveals his Italian classical training. Hochberg's contribution is an enrichment of the sound in which an engaging interaction and the necessary swing are developed. Magris is an excellent pianist who is comfortable with many styles. On 'Shuffling Ivories' we hear him in an intimate setting with entertaining and smooth chamber jazz. A bulk of finessy features provide his renditions with the necessary spice. For musicologists there is a lot to pick up, which is explained in detail by Downbeat collaborator Bill Milkowski in the liner notes of the album.

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Roberto Magris (piano), Eric Hochberg (double bass)
    On JMood records

  • AZOLIA - Not About Heroes (Jazzwerkstadt)

    The third album by the Belgian/American/German/Swiss quartet Azolia is a thematic record about the English poet Wilfred Owen whose poetry belongs to the artistic heritage of the Great War (14-18). Ten of Owen's lyrics were set to music by Sophie Tassignon and Susanne Folk and they are pearls of beautiful serenity.

    The voice of Tassignon, the voice of Folk who also plays the wind instruments together with Lothar Ohlmeier and the tasteful double bass work of Andreas Waelti merge into an harmonious and rich sound palette. You can choose music to support a certain atmosphere or state of mind, but conversely, music can also just determine atmosphere and mood. That's what 'Not About Heroes' does.

    With her solo album 'Mysteries Unfold', Sophie Tassignon has opened up a new dimension in her singing performance and she pulls that through in a stunning way as the fourth instrument in an intimate quartet set-up in which every musician forms an essential part of the whole. That makes 'Not About Heroes' a work of penetrating beauty.

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Sophie Tassiginon (vocals), Susanne Folk (alt sax, clarinet, vocals), Lothar Ohlmeier (soprano sax, bass clarinet) Andreas Waelti (double bass)

  • COLIN FISHER - Reflections Of The Invisible World (Halocline Trance)

    Colin Fisher is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist with a substantial musical output going from solo-albums, the psych-improvistion duo Not The Wind, Not The Flag, the Colin Fisher Quartet, Monas, a collaboration with math-metal trio Many Arms to many guest appearances. 'Reflections Of The Invisible World' is a pure solo effort with Fisher playing guitar, sax and electronics. The seven pieces on the album are mainly ambient and create a dreamy, reflective atmosphere. If you like the ambient albums by John Zorn, you will also enjoy the work of Colin Fisher. Dispite the atmospheric character of the music there's also a tension in every piece that lifts it way above a sonic wallpaper function. There's always something interesting happening with a rich kaleidoscope of sounds.

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Colin Fisher (guitar, saxophone, electronics)
    Produced by Jeremy Greenspan

    (Will be released on vinyl and in digital form on Marsh 26th 2021)

  • SEE TROUGH 4 - Permanent Moving Parts (All-Set!)

    Like many contemporary musicians, bass player Pete Johnston has a very eclectic approach to music and has projects going from improvised- to chamber- and folk inpired music. On 'Permanent Moving Parts' he teams up with his long time collaborator Jake Oelrichs (drums) and two not so obvious choices with Lina Allemano (trumpet) and Michael Davidson (vibraphone). This turns out to be a wonderful combination. Lina Allemano plays fascinating lines and shows an unique phrasing. The sonic contrast with the vibraphone works wonderful. The rhythm section is totally part of the interaction between the four musicans who find a common goal in everyone of Johnstons pieces. Music with a free spirit, a distinct direction and nevertheless full of suprising twists. They go from counterpoint to swing and everything comes out in a natural flow. Contemporary 'jazz' at its best!

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Lina Allemano (trumpet)
    Michael Davidson (vibraphone)
    Pete Johnston (bass)
    Jake Oelrichs (drums)
    All compositions by Pete Johnston
    Produced by Mike Smith. Engineered and mastered by Fedge
    Recorded at Union Sound in February 2020

    (Will be released on March 12th 2021)

  • ANDREAS WILLERS - Haerae (Evil Rabbit Records)

    German guitarist Andreas Willers performs eight pieces solo on acoustic guitar. As with many musicians, the corona era is the trigger to be creative on a small scale. On 'Haerae', Willers improvises with complete abandon, sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes only a minute and a half. The sounds he produces are not always what is conventionally expected of his instrument. The sonorous possibilities are explored from all angles, but this is not a mere study work. Each piece does have a direction and a certain atmosphere and sounds like a set of thoughts that include associations, inferences and jumps.

    The musician in Willers blooms again in beautifully constructed gems that do not violate silence.

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Andreas Willers (Guitar))

  • Baars/Dumitriu /Henneman/Sola Aphorisms Aphorism Aphorisms (Evil Rabbit Records)

    In eleven improvised pieces, two Dutchmen, a Romanian and a Spaniard create a meeting place between different groundings, literally. The earth of their respective birthplace is the inspiration for pieces such as 'Paarse Hei', 'Estepa', 'Laagveen' or 'Brun Roscate'. Initiator George Dumitriu wanted to know more about the viola and formed a quartet there in which Ab Baars forms the sonorous cornerstone on shakuhachi. Although the music is anything but conventional, the record still evokes peace, even in the most whimsical pieces. After all, the sound image is not made up by competing instruments, on the contrary, there is room for silence and breath. Evocation and serenity make these eleven imaginative miniatures an engaging ambient listening adventure.

    (Geert Ryssen)

    Ab Baars (Shakuhacki, clarinet), George Dumitriu (flute, viola), Ig Henneman (viola), Pau Sola Masafrets (cello)

  • ANN PIERLé - Wiga Waga (W.E.R.F)

    There is a parallel between the An Pierlé Quartet and Taxi Wars, even though they make different music. In both cases, it is a story of two worlds that meet and where the improvisation/jazz element is fused with contemporary pop and (post)rock. This creates a form of innovative crossover that gives the blurring of genres a big boost. Singer-songwriter Pierlé and her partner/producer/musician Koen Gisen make a team with the duo SCHNTZL and the input is equal on both sides. This results in pearls such like 'Fingerspitz', 'Unreal', 'Imaginary Summer', 'Slow Down', 'Go On' or the elastic 'Slippery Fish'.

    Inspiration, variation, improvisation and flow are the ingredients of a natural fusion of musical backgrounds while An Pierlé perfectly retains her artistic identity. Brilliant record!

    (Geert Ryssen)

    An Pierlé (vocals, piano), Koen Gisen (sax, guitar), Hendrik Lasure (piano, electronics), Casper Van De Velde (drums, electronics)