Category: experimental jazz

Throwback: Happy 99th Birthday, Marshall Allen!

JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates Sun Ra Arkestra’s Marshall Allen’s 99th birthday.

New Video: Seattle’s High Pulp Shares Surreal and Symbolic Visual for “You’ve Got to Pull It Up From The Ground” feat. Theo Croker

Seattle-based jazz outfit High Pulp features:

  • Antoine Martel (keys, synths), a self-professed mad scientist with a wall of modular synthesizers and a passion for film scores and abstract soundscapes
  • Rob Homan (keys), whose innate ability to process, deconstruct and reassemble material on the fly bordered on the impressive and scary
  • Scott Rixon (bass), who comes from a punk and hardcore background and possesses pop sensibilities
  • Victor Nguyen (tenor sax), a Pharaoh Sanders acolyte with an ear for urgent, entrancing solos
  • Andrew Morrill (alto sax), whose bold tones and fearless harmonic sensibilities earned him a reputation for pushing the old school into the 21st Century
  • Bobby Granfelt (drums), whose hip-hop and bebop-inspired drumming laid the rhythmic foundation for the entire project

High Pulp can trace their origins to a loose, weekly jam session at Seattle’s historic Royal Room. “When you put us all together, our sound isn’t so much a fusion as it is a synthesis,” the band’s Bobby Granfelt says in press notes. ““There’s a lot of different personalities coming from a lot of different places, and we use it all as fuel to create something that’s totally our own.”

The Seattle sextet’s latest album Pursuit of Ends is slated for a Friday release through Anti- Records. The band’s unique brand of experimental jazz is simultaneously vintage and futuristic, often hinting at Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Aphex Twin and My Bloody Valentine and a wide range of others. The album’s material sees the band carefully balancing meticulous composition with visceral spontaneity and centered around virtuosic performances.

While High Pulp is primarily centered around their core six, Pursuit of Ends sees the band making judicious use of a board network of collaborators with guest spots from Jaleel Shaw (sax), who has played with Roy Haynes and Mingus Big Band; Brandee Younger (harp), who has played with Ravi Coltrane, The Roots, and Makaya McCraven; Grammy-nominated Theo Croker (trumpet); Jacob Mann (keys), who has played with Rufus Wainright and Louis Cole to help push their sonic boundaries even further.

Pursuit of Ends‘ latest single “You’ve Got To Pull It Up From The Ground” is a mind-bending and incredibly slick synthesis of bop, jazz fusion, funk and hip hop. The composition begins with an extensive bop jazz-inspired, drum solo. The song then quickly moves to a section featuring rapid fire percussion paired with sinuous bass lines, twinkling keys and a mournful, modal horn line led by Theo Croker’s expressive Miles Davis-like playing. Throughout the rest of the song, the melody floats and dances through the instrumentation. While the material is rooted in precise performance of the written composition, there’s ample room for soulful, free-flowing improvisation among a collection of sensitive and thoughtful artists.

“During COVID we spent a lot of time listen to Miles Davis’ Second Quintet, and specifically the drum solo at the start was inspired by ‘Agitation’ off of E.S.P.,” Granfelt explains “There’s something about that quintet that is so awe-inspiring. I think it’s the way they have such a deep shared concept which allows them to improvise in a meaningful way.”

“Pull It Up” is really a concept that is at the core of the band,” Granfelt explains. “It’s sort of about magic, sort of about will, sort of about self-love. It’s a concept based in the idea that things are already where they need to be, and it’s about unearthing what is already there as opposed to creating something ‘new’.”

Directed by Isaac Calvin and Seth Calvin, the accompanying video draws on the song’s overarching theme of digging deep, being persistent and staying humble. The video features Granfelt doing useful but mundane tasks: pulling nails out of a board, washing dishes, tying knots and so on. Towards the end f the video, Granfelt builds a shrine, but the offerings aren’t high quality of expensive; rather, they’re scuffed up, well-worn items including roadside flowers, cigarette butts, trinkets, tchotchkes and knick-knacks.

Live Footage: Reykjavik’s Óregla Releases an Expansive and Mischievous Single

Óregla is a rising, Reykjavik, Iceland-based jazz/progressive funk octet led by composer and trumpeter Daníel Sigurðsson that derives its name from the Icelandic word for chaos or irregularity. Featuring some of the country’s rising jazz musicians, the act is inspired by a diverse and eclectic array of influences including Igor Stravinsky, Miles Davis and Frank Zappa.

While Sigurðsson crafts compositions featuring arrangements centered around a brass section consisting of two tenor saxophones and a trumpet, guitar, bass, keys, drums and some bursts of orchestral percussion, the members of the act aim to push the boundaries of their music and sound with a funky and lively atmospheric and a sense of humor.

The act released their latest album Þröskuldur Góðra Vona (The Threshold of Good Hopes) earlier this year, and the album’s latest single “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” is a expansive track, centered around rapidly changing and very odd time signature changes as the song progresses — and some deft playing, that alternates between mischievous playfulness, contemplation and a breakneck swing.

The live footage features the band performing “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” at Tónkvísl for Reykjavik Sessions back in 2014.

Individually Norwegian-born and-based trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær and French-born, Brooklyn-based percussionist Mino Cinelu have had accomplished careers: Cinelu first gained attention playing on Miles Davis‘ We Want Miles and Amandla, which has landed him gigs playing with Weather Report, Gong, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Sting, Santana, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and a eclectic and lengthy list of internationally acclaimed artists. The French percussionist has also released three solo albums and has collaborated with Dave Holland and Kevin Eubanks on World Trio. With 1997’s Khmer released through ECM Records, Nils Petter Molvær quickly established his unique sound and aesthetic — one which combines the Nordic feeling of nature with Southeast Asian sound philosophies. But since then, Molvær’s work has found him pushing his sound deeper into uncharted areas, while exploring various combinations of acoustic and electronic sounds. His work has allowed him to collaborate with German electronic producer Moritz von Oswald in 2013 with reggae artists Sly and Robbie in 2018 and with Bill Laswell on several occasions.

Slated for a September 4, 2020 release through BMG’s Modern Recordings, Cinelu and Molvær’s collaboration together SulaMadiana can trace its origins back to 2015 when the duo first met at a solo Molvær played in Turkey. Quickly agreeing to embark on a joint project together, it took several more meetings in different parts of the world and a handful of years before they were able to get together for a studio session in Oslo. Early this year, the recordings were rounded off in Cinelu’s Brooklyn studio with post-production completed as a remote, Transatlantic endeavor as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns. Speaking about the process, Cinelu says “The best way to start something is to start it. So I said: ‘let’s get started’. Nils brought a groove along which I liked, we enriched it with sounds and other grooves, wanted to find a melody, and it just made ‘Bang’. It was a real trip. A lot of blood, sweat and tears, but even more love.”

Sonically speaking both artists’ work represents two completely different worlds — Molvær’s work evokes the boreal cold of his homeland while Cinelu’s work evokes the rhythms and heat of Latin America and Africa. The album, which derives its name as a tribute to both artists’ heritage — Sula is the Norwegian island where Molvær grew up and Madiana is a loving nickname for the island of Martinique, where Cinleu’s father was born. The album’s material finds the duo finding a common sonic playground initially inspired by their previous work — but while pushing each other and their sound together into completely new territories: the album’s material finds Cinelu taking up vocal duties while Molvær plays acoustic, electric guitar and various other electronics. Of course for this to work, the interplay between the musicians is key. “We are different, but what we have in common is that we like to give some space to things,” Molvær says. Cinelu adds: “It doesn’t matter who has what share in music. We both know each other’s cultures, we find bridges and crossings, and often we walk these paths that lead in the same direction. We wrote everything together and followed our feelings. There are no limits or barriers.”

The album’s first single, album title track “SulaMadiana (For Manu Dibango)” is an ethereal yet funky tribute to Cinelu’s mentor Manu Dibango, centered around a propulsive acoustic guitar line, pedal effected trumpet, shimmering electric guitar soloing, atmospheric electronics, Afro-Latin percussion and Cinelu’s dreamy vocals. The end result is an adventurous and loving Vulcan mind-meld in which a wintry breeze blows through the propulsive funk in a way that evokes late summer.