Sunday, June 10, 2018

Nate Wooley & Ken Vandermark, Broken Shadows Quartet and Thomas Strønen's "Time is a Blind Guide" at Chapel Performance Space, The Royal Room & Cornish Poncho Hall: Jun 13 - 16 & 23


Again, as seen in a recent stretch of summer programming, Seattle's Earshot Jazz organization has insightfully culled from Vancouver International Jazz Festival's expansive global roster of all things orbiting the world of jazz. In a lineup featuring members of the The Bad Plus, the first of the month's offerings from Broken Shadows Quartet bring their reinterpretations of timeless sounds originating from the rural south and heartland to The Royal Room. Channeling American luminaries like Ornette Coleman, Julius Hemphill, Albert Ayler, Dewey Redman, and Charlie Haden, their invigorated and often blistering jazz reconfigurations of influences span the avant-garde, folk art, and the deep southern blues. Earlier the same week at Chapel Performance Space, the locus of the American free jazz and improv world, Ken Vandermark, will be performing in a new duo setting with trumpet stalwart Nate Wooley. Vandermark's last two decades have seen him in arrangements with some of the heaviest hitters in global free jazz, including the prolific Scandinavian centerpiece, Paal Nilsen-Lovelegendary drummer Hamid Drake, saxophone colossus Peter Brötzmann, and extended technique and electro-acoustic pioneer, Evan Parker. Vandermark's trajectory has also taken him deep into the influence of the burgeoning late 20th and 21st Century central European and Scandinavian free jazz scene. Including trio and quartet settings with the aforementioned Paal Nilsen-Love, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten, Per-Ake Holmlander, Axel Dörner, and Fredrik Ljungkvist.

By way of introduction to this scene, there is probably no better document than Johannes Rød's recent, "Free Jazz and Improvisation on Vinyl 1965-1985", published by Norwegian vanguard imprint Rune Grammofon. Tracing independent free jazz and improv labels between 1965 and 1985, from the beginning of ESP-Disk through to the current era of vinyl revival and ascendant digital formats. With some 60 labels are covered in the volume, and forewords by Mats Gustafsson and label founder, Rune Kristoffersen, the edition perfectly encapsulates this particular brand of what The Guardian's Richard Williams calls, "Norwegian Blues". The significance of the ECM label to the extended Scandinavian scene and it's embracing of classical, jazz, improvisation and chamber music experimentation, can't be overstated. Dana Jennings "ECM: Albums Know that Ears Have Eyes" for the New York Times mines the ensuing four decades following those detailed in Rød's chronicle. Another significant marker of in "The Sound of Young Norway" came in the form of ECM sister label's 150th release, The Quietus hailing the far-seeing benchmark of graphic and sonic synergia that was, "Rune Grammofon: Sailing To Byzantium".

Returning to Cornish Poncho Hall, another central figure of the Scandinavian scene plays bandleader to a different arrangement of his soaring performance in last year's trio with Mats Eilertsen. Known for his dynamic and detailed moodscapes as Food's percussion and electronics wing, Thomas Strønen's chamber jazz five piece is fleshed out by the eloquence and sensitivity of bassist Mats Eilertsen, pianist Ayumi Tanaka, Håkon Aase and Leo Svensson Sander on violin and cello respectively. "Time Is A Blind Guide" is both the title of Strønen’s new ensemble album, and the name of his new Norwegian-British five piece. As depicted in a recent series of recordings for ECM, their all-acoustic chamber music sound is a more timorous, searching affair than many of their contemporaries in the American free jazz scene. Central to it's fabric are piano and bass studies in rhythm and texture that circumnavigate the orthodoxies of piano trio and quartet playing, melodically heightened by the finesse of a duo strings, with Strønen's drumming acting in expressive, detailed counterpoint. For Jazzwise, Stuart Nicholson spoke with Strønen for their "Time Bandits" feature. Mapping the drummer's varying settings of music making, from Food's electro-acoustic tapestries, to his own Time Is A Blind Guide ensemble, and the influence of former bandmate, the late great pianist John Taylor.