10/13: Tonight at Nublu – Sun of Goldfinger

Sun of Goldfinger

On Sun of Goldfinger, his latest recording for ECM Records, saxophonist Tim Berne partners with guitarist David Torn and percussionist Ches Smith. The outing incorporates the avant-jazz palette usually adopted by Berne and Smith along with amplified sonics and effects incorporated by Torn.

There are three long-form pieces on Sun of Goldfinger. “Eye Meddle” builds from a fragmentary welter of ostinatos, each at first seeming to go their own direction, into a tightly interwoven and densely populated texture with wailing upper register saxophone accompanied by an insistent guitar melody and double time rhythms from Smith. Torn’s guitar then soars to match Berne, overdubs allowing for him to add a feisty rhythm guitar part to the mix. A filigreed, polyrhythmic denouement follows.

“Spartan, Before it Hit” opens with sustained upper register guitar answered by a mournful saxophone melody. A unison melody is offset by altissimo saxophone harmonics in imitation of the earlier high-lying guitars; Smith takes on a motoric beat while Torn contributes thunderous rock riffs and Berne corresponding squalls. The climax involves a huge crescendo from Smith, Torn’s laser beam guitar lines, and angular soloing from Berne. A subdued interlude, quite gentle in context, follows. Alternating with more forceful passages, an extended reflective demeanor explores fascinating musical pathways. At the conclusion, altissimo register saxophone alongside loping guitar is reasserted to make for a neat moment identifying the piece’s larger form.

The album’s closer, “Soften the Blow,” begins with oscillating dyads and bits of scalar passages. Sonorous guitar chords interrupt these fragments, followed by sci-fi effects, overblowing, and reverberating sounds from Smith. The drums finally enter, punctuating the music’s surface with short, muscular gestures. Berne then takes a solo that combines the fragments of the opening into piquant, post-tonal lines. While Torn reaches deep into the spacey side of his effects kit, the saxophone solo kicks into high octane, as do the drums. Smith creates a fascinating panoply of cymbal sounds and Torn’s solo matches Berne’s intensity, even bringing out the whammy bar for bent note emphasis. Behind all this is a doom-rock ostinato that propels the proceedings. The structure devolves, yielding a more ruminative passage where each member of the trio goes their own way. Wailing guitar and emphatic drums provide the link to another long crescendo in which Berne bides his time, allowing the spotlight to rest on his colleagues’ interaction for a time before rejoining the proceedings to lead it into fervent free jazz territory. A brief coda brings the boil back to simmer, leaving the listener with much to ponder.

Photo: Robert Lewis/ECM Records

On October 13th in New York City at Nublu 151 (151 Avenue C in the East Village), the trio will appear in a show at 9 PM; doors open at 8 (Tickets here).

Matt Mitchell – Fiction

File Under Best of 2013

Matt Mitchell

Fiction

Matt Mitchell, piano; Ches Smith, drums and percussion

Pi Recordings

The pieces on Fiction, pianist Matt Mitchell’s debut recording as a leader, began as etudes. Composed by the pianist in an attempt to integrate his notated composing and his considerable prowess as an improvisor, they soon took on a life of their own as creative work well beyond exercises or technical craftsmanship. Add energetic percussionist Ches Smith into the mix and you now have a combustible duo creating some of the best ‘out’ music of 2013.

Mitchell has played with some of the greats in modern and experimental jazz, from Dave Douglas to Tim Berne. Smith has an even more diverse pedigree, working with rock and pop artists as well as jazz musicians. Going head to head on Fiction, one can readily hear why Mitchell and Smith are so in demand. It isn’t just chops, though both have them aplenty and for days; it is the creative mindset with which they approach and embrace music-making. It leaves one with the impression that the album is a fully embodied, eminently expressive, and original statement – no mean feat when you consider that it is also challenging fare that requires a great deal from its listeners. Recommended.