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CD Reviews: JAZZ CDS.

Byline: Reviewed by Peter Bacon

JAZZ CDs OF THE WEEK

Stan Sulzmann, John Parricelli and Kenny Wheeler - Ordesa (Symbol) Some little record companies can be relied upon. You know if it's on Provocateur or Babel it will be quality music - and so, it is becoming increasingly clear, it is with Symbol.

John Parricelli's Indigo opens with his electric guitar harmonics on a loop, his guitar synth shimmering beneath, and Sulzmann's soprano and Wheeler's fluegelhorn singing over the top. Both hornmen have loads of interesting stories to tell and both have the instrumental vocabulary to convey them with intriguing detail and rich profundity.

Sulzmann's tenor against Parricelli's acoustic guitar conjures up memories of Jan Garbarek and Ralph Towner in the early days of the ECM label, but only to show how distinctively themselves Sulzmann and Parricelli sound. Wheeler, with his smeared notes among the bell-like clarity, is, as always, a wonder and a joy. The pieces are all originals from members of the trio with the exception of Billy Strayhorn's A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing, and they constitute nearly an hour of unadulterated pleasure.

HHHHH

Orchestre National de Jazz - Charmediterraneen (ECM)

This opens with a military drums and brass fanfare, which is actually a bit of Monteverdi, before segueing into some slightly insane strings, a burbling trombone and tuba, and a sudden barrage of Zappaesque electric guitar.

It's all part of a first suite of music written and arranged for this French band by the Italian woodwind expert Gianluigi Trovesi, one of two celebrity guests on this expansiveand hugely satisfying disc (the other is oud master Anouar Brahem).

The cut and paste nature of the first couple of short tracks soon gives way to some serious blowing from the band's excellent soloists, which include the saxophonist and co-director Francois Jeanneau.

Jeanneau is responsible for the second suite of themes, and the other codirector, Trovesi's countryman Paolo Damiani, also contributes some substantial writing.

The glory of the band and the music is the way it shifts from contemporary abstract classical styles to a surging modern bigband groove at the flick of a switch. The electric guitar is wonderfully well incorporated into the acoustic orchestra, and the arrangements are continuously exciting.

The Lincoln Center Band and Wynton Marsalis were the safe choice for a jazz Proms concert this week; the Orchestre National de Jazz would have been much more exciting - and a lot less dusty.

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Armenian Navy Band - New Apricot (Emarcy/Universal) More fun and games from Europe. This is subtitled Avant Garde Folk Music and the driving force is percussionist Arto Tuncboyaciyan. The joke in the band name is that Armenia is landlocked. Tuncboyaciyan explains: 'The difficulty of moving a boat without water can be overcome if one's belief is based on love, respect, truth and patience and that is what we represent.'

And the difficulty of mixing jazz and folk music in a contemporary fusion can be overcome if you enlist musicians of this calibre. They are unlikely to be known here, but have a cracking hornsection, an eloquent pianist, a hardgrooving rhythm team and the added attraction of such exotic sounds as the duduk, the kanoon and the kemanche. Lots of singing, too, makes this a joyous affair.

HHHH

Joe Sample - The Pecan Tree (Verve)

Old Crusaders never die, they just go away for a while to return with that old easy-listening jazz magic.

Pianist Joe Sample doesn't break any fresh ground stylistically but then we wouldn't expect that. What he does do is invigorate the rather tired clichs of radio-friendly smooth jazz with some unusual chord changes and strange twists in the melody. It's a bit like what Steely Dan do to the AOR conventions.

The title track just glides on a catchy bass riff and a bed of synth wash and percussion, Hot And Humid has a gentle reggae/bossa beat and recalls the heady 70s sound of Bob James, while The Texas Two Step ups the pace and sets Sample in a more conventional piano trio context.

The vocal tracks fail to avoid the blandness that is R'n'B but the rest is as nuttily succulent as a freshly picked pecan.

HHH

STRANGE SOUNDS CDs OF THE WEEK

Information - Biomekano Scorch Trio Spunk - Den Overste Toppen Pa En Blamalt Flaggstang (all Rune Grammofon)Three more excellent releases from the Scandinavian label, all complete with stylish minimalist artwork on their cardboard covers.

Information are by far the most appealing to these ears.

Apparently this latest from them is 'based on a collection of sounds originating from mechanical manipulations of organic source material'. Whatever that means it always sounds close enough to conventional instruments to comfort but different enough to excite. There are lots of crackles and bleeps and buzzes but the pulsing low tones, banging on a can and looped sounds give it a fairly regular beat and many points of rhythmic reference. The adventurous may choose to dance.

Information may be two guys noodling away at their computers while all around them lie the arctic wastes, but they are never bleak or boring.

Scorch Trio gives you what it says on the tin - a raging free-from power trio of guitar bass and drums with the accent on distortion in excelsis.

Guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim is the old man of the group at 45, his young partners being in their 20s. Bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten has played more conventional jazz but listens to Backdoor in his spare time, I suspect; Paal Nilssen-Love has jammed with Pat Metheny.

All three are dedicated to spontaneous music-making of a relentless and cathartic nature. Not for the faint-hearted.

The four-female Spunk mix folk instruments like recorders and pan pipes with electronica, including theremin, and found items like a wok lid.

The Monty Python preconception of folk dancers from Trondheim will not survive more than 30 seconds in their company.

Distorted whispering, metallic cello, gargling and burp noises. Nothing's too strange for Spunk. Music to upset nearly anyone over the age of 30.

HHHH for Information HHH for the other two.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 10, 2002
Words:1008
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