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Index of SEMJA reviews


Recent Recordings by Area Musicians


Your Tenant is DeadViolinist Mike Khoury's dedication to free improvisation has served as an important catalyst in the Detroit area scene, and the ongoing documentation of his musical collaborations continues to grow, with three new recordings released during the last few months. Your Tenant is Dead (Detroit Improvisation 6) offers a series of duets with his long time collaborator Jason Shearer. The two have played together for years and anticipate each other's moves in marvelous ways; the duets are intimate but intense, without any empty gestures. Shearer, who more recently has been concentrating on the clarinet, here also plays on the saxophone and the Indian chromatic harmonica.


StringsThe Finnish label Rypäs has released Strings (RPS-002), a compilation of three tracks, each with a different cast. The first is a duet between Khoury and the amazing German violinist Gunda Gottschalk, the second a trio with guitarist Richard Gross, and the third a collaboration with Toronto turntable and graphic artist Mike Hansen. The two-violin duet works extremely well; both fiddlers are very much on the same wavelength and create a veritable modern chamber piece that is so well structured that, although completely improvised, gives the impression of a written composition. The duet with Hansen contrasts radically, as the two musicians exploit with finesse the sonic differences between their instruments. Hansen is a delicate player, who often works on minute shifts of sound, and the violinist finds apposite ways of working with this material.

HorizonVery different is Horizon (editions brokenresearch), a collection of six improvisations played by a trio consisting of Khoury, percussionist Ben Hall, and bassist John Voigt. Hall and Voight set up a series of propulsive environments that lead Khoury to explore other dimensions of his playing; the interaction on these pieces is of the highest order, as all three musicians are listening to one another and reacting to the smallest cues.

This Electronic TrumpetMark Kirschenmann is a pioneer of the electric trumpet, but now that he has been in charge of the Creative Arts Orchestra at the University of Michigan, we have been hearing him without any of his electronic wizardry. Therefore, his new release This Electronic Trumpet (Sonikmann, SR 011) is quite a surprise. Kirshenmann creates a whole orchestra, using "simultaneous turntables turning at different speeds" as a background for his electronically processed trumpet playing. The results are startling, but hardly gimmicky, as hard driving rhythms are overlaid one on top of another, melodies rise and fall in the electronic ensemble, while others are played on the trumpet.

Listening to this CD, it is important to simply forget that all the music was created by one person, and to approach it as a new form of composition that utilizes contemporary techniques to create a music for our time.

PsuhSaxophonist, clarinetist, and composer Andrew Bishop is well known in our area, and now that he has begun to release his music on CD his mastery can be appreciated by a broader public. Bottomed Out is one of the many groups he works with, and on their new recording Push (Envoi) the group consists of John Wojciechowski (tenor and soprano sax), Ryan Mackstaller (guitar), and Alex Trajano (drums), with Bishop playing tenor, soprano, as well as clarinet. Since Wojciechowski no longer lives in the area, Dan Bennett has been filling in for him during recent performances.

This is a cooperative composer's group; Wojciechowski contributes five scores, Bishop three, and Mackstaller one. There is tremendous variety here, as the arrangements take full advantage of the range of timbres offered by the different instrument combinations. This timbral variety is matched by a rhythmic diversity; the pulse keeps shifting, not just from track to track, but also within compositions; these musicians know how to slowly build tension, creating tremendous excitement.


Mayan MythsThe Western Jazz Quartet, made up of faculty members from Western Michigan University, continues to demonstrate that jazz educators can be creative and original rather than serving as pallbearers of the tradition. They travel all over the globe for the Department of State and USIA; memories of one such trip served as the inspiration for their new release Mayan Myths (Sea Breeze SBJ-3079). The regular quartet of Trent Kynaston (tenor, soprano, alto flute), Steve Zegree (piano), Tom Knific (bass), and Tim Froncek (drums), are joined on some tracks by trumpeter Scott Cowan and percussionist Jamey Haddad.

On this recording Kynaston also impresses as a composer; the three-piece opening Mayan Suite is his, as are two other tunes. Knific contributes the lovely "Siena." Between the forlorn alto flute that initiates the "Mayan Suite" and the closing hard boppish blues "Harlem River Drive" the group works through a broad array of tempos and moods, demonstrating their mastery of mainstream modern jazz. They even manage to make something of George Harrison's "Something," hardly a great vehicle for improvisation.

The many years of playing together show well, but the familiarity has not diminished their joy of playing, which comes though on the recording as much as it does in their concert performances.

Detroit Jazz ConnectionPianist and singer Claude Black has been entertaining listeners in Michigan and Ohio for decades, most famously as the house pianist at Murphy's Place in Toledo. His most recent CD, Detroit Jazz Connection (TJSCB06), consists of septet and trio recordings made at the club. He is joined, in the septet, by George Benson (alto saxophone), Gunnar Mossblad (tenor saxophone, flute), Bob Mojica (trumpet), Vincent Chandler (trombone), Jeff Halsey (bass), and Scott Kretzer (drums), while on the two trio tracks he is accompanied by Clifford Murphy on bass, and Wendell Robinson on drums.

The repertoire consists of well-known standards such as "Lush Life" and "Stardust," which are primarily vocal features for the leader, good modern jazz blowing vehicles ("Gemini," "Planet Earth," "Dizzy's Business"), and original compositions by the leader. The rhythm section swings unapologetically, the soloists are all first class, and the crowd clearly hada great time.

As the recital draws to a close, Black slows down the proceedings with a gentle solo version of "Over the Rainbow" that segues into "Blame it on my Youth," but then the band joins him to rock out with "Route 66," with a scat vocal and "One O'Clock Jump" riff.

Detroit Jazz ConnectionThe Global Jazz Trio has just put out Live in Detroit (globaljazztrio) recorded during a performance at Baker's Keyboard Lounge. The trio, consisting of saxophonist Mark Hershberger, electric bassist Richard Smith, and drummer Maruga Booker, offers its original take on the modern jazz tradition, flavored with just a bit of the avant, and a dollop of funk. Starting with the classics — "St. Thomas," "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," and "Impressions" — and a good stab at trying to make something of a Norah Jones number, they move on to their own compositions, with a stylish detour through "Amazing Grace."

Hershberger is a strong saxophonist with a big tone on all of his horns, who is equally at home with the music of Sonny Rollins as he is with R&B stylings, and Smith is one of the rare bassists who can make the electric version work in straight ahead contexts. They work well together, but what really makes this trio sound so different is the potent, complex, and often majestic drumming of Maruga Booker.


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