Red Hill — Red Hill
(RareNoise RNR044, 2014, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2014-10-13
Free jazz has been around for decades, and has taken so many forms as to defy analysis, which is of course completely appropriate given the music's nature. If there is a definition of free jazz, it must surely include the statement that it cannot be defined. It also comes as given that no two recordings of free jazz will sound alike other than in terms so broad as to be meaningless. Red Hill features trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, pianist Jamie Saft, bassist Joe Morris, and drummer Balász Pándi, who went into the studio with no preconceived ideas (at least none that were shared with the others) and recorded a set of adventurous improvisations. Saft's playing here is acrobatic and often quite busy, along the lines of Cecil Taylor or Satoko Fujii (to name a couple I'm familiar with); he uses a Fender Rhodes on one track for a little tonal variety. There are also some bits that sound like either preparations on the piano or reaching in to strike the strings in alternate ways. Smith handles his trumpet with his characteristic flair, blasting out quick bursts of notes, backing off to sneak out subtle, airy tones, squeezing out high points of sound like fireworks popping in the sky, or slipping in a mute to give us a different perspective. Morris uses both fingers and bow on his double bass, setting moods and providing additional tone colors, getting some very interesting overtones by unconventional bowing techniques (I'm guessing). Pándi has the knack of providing propulsive drum parts even when not playing a consistent beat, using his kit fully and not overwhelming the others. Red Hill may not play music you'd want to listen to every day, but as free improvisation goes, they make a joyful noise rather than an angst-ridden racket. I'll take this over Wynton Marsalis any day.
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more