Saturday, September 19, 2009

Material - Hallucination Engine (1993)

Praising Hallucination Engine as a postmodern Bitches Brew may seem mad, but Material bassist-composerguru Bill Laswell risks a maneuver akin to the one Miles Davis pulled off with his 1969 trailblazer: fusing disparate sounds into one groovy om of exhilaration and release. For sonic gorgeousness, funky trance states and technical bravado, this bid is the boldest.

In fact, the array of guest musicians is more diverse than ever: Trilok Gurtu, Jonas Hellborg, Zakir Hussain, Bootsy Collins -- the list goes on and on and even includes William Burroughs (who intones a hilarious list of "Words of Advice" over a churning mid-tempo funk groove). In his ambient mode, Laswell has been accused of turning too little music into too much track length, and there's some justice to those criticisms; here, "Black Light" and the unbelievably well-named "Eternal Drift" both plod along for far too long with far too little development. But that William Burroughs track kicks in just as you're about to fall asleep, and it's followed immediately by a very funky and very jazzy remix of "Cucumber Slumber." "The Hidden Garden/Naima" proposes an interesting juxtaposition of Arabic pop song and modal jazz, with dramatic and beautiful results, while "Shadows of Paradise" brings the album to a close with a gentle whimper, not a bang.

* Arranged By - Bill Laswell
* Bass - Bill Laswell , Bootsy Collins , Jonas Hellborg
* Chatan, Congas, Percussion - Aiyb Dieng
* Daff, Tambourine - Michael Baklouk
* Drums [Kit] - Sly Dunbar
* Engineer - Martin Bisi , Oz Fritz , Robert Musso
* Ghatam - Vikku Vinayakram
* Guitar, Sitar, Baglama - Nicky Skopelitis
* Mastered By - Howie Weinberg
* Ney - Jihad Racy
* Oud - Simon Shaheen
* Piano [Electric], Organ [Hammond B-3] - Bernie Worrell
* Producer - Bill Laswell
* Qanoum - George Basil
* Sampler, Programmed By [Beats, Loops] - Bill Laswell
* Saxophone [Tenor, Soprano] - Wayne Shorter
* Synthesizer - Jeff Bova , Nicky Skopelitis
* Tabla - Trilok Gurtu , Zakir Hussain
* Violin - Shankar , Simon Shaheen
* Voice - Fahiem Dandan , Liu Sola , William S. Burroughs

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bill Ware · Marc Ribot - Dir Duke (2001)

Vibraphone demon Bill Ware and guitar wizard Marc Ribot both have well deserved reputations as doyens of the downtown avant jazz scene, players capable of pushing the music into uncharted territory. Thus, it's doubly surprising when the pair decide to not only collaborate on a duet album of Duke Ellington tunes, but to honor the Duke's work with some of the most straight-ahead playing in either man's career. There are no radical deconstructions going on here, as Ware and Ribot take on some of the most beloved gems in the Ellington catalog. Instead, there's a respectful adherence to the original melodic/harmonic framework of the tunes. The most striking aspect of the arrangements comes from the strict duo format of the album, which necessitates use of space, subtle dynamics, and a modern kind of minimalism. After listening to SIR DUKE, no one ever need wonder again about the old-school chops of these two warriors on the edge of jazz.

Recorded at Studio 900, New York.

Personnel: Bill Ware (vibraphone); Marc Ribot (guitar).

Track listing:
1. C Jam Blues
2. I Got It Bad
3. In a Sentimental Mood
4. Mood Indigo
5. It Don't Mean a Thing
6. Solitude
7. Caravan
8. Come Sunday
9. Take the -A- Train
10.Sophisticated Lady

CMJ (10/1/01, p.21) - "...The feel is like a late-night jam between friends out to prove nothing....The choice of material is non-stop Ellilngton, but the tunes take on a new life of their own..."
Down Beat (1/02, pp.73-4) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...A straight, down-the-middle homage to Ellington....a warm, very melodic and sympathetic collection..."
JazzTimes (5/02, pp.141-2) - "...A disc of bright, light music in the form of's all clever, pleasant music."