John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble – All Can Work

The Music

The Words

Twenty-one. That’s how many people play in this so-called “large ensemble”. This jazz orchestra is noticeable in many regards, but the most important of which is their musical output. All Can Work came out on January 26, and it represents over an hour of amazingly well put together modern jazz compositions that often remind me of some of the best prog rock out there. I’ve got to say this might be due to Theo Bleckmann’s voice, which is perhaps the most reassuring thing in this quite avant-garde environment. While the aim of the work here is … Read more

Kami Octet – Spring Party

The Music

The Words

We truly are well treated in this early 2018. So much great music has been knocking on my eardrums that it’s difficult to keep track. Although a late 2017 release, France’s Kami Octet, an avant-garde jazz eight-member ensemble, and their album Spring Party, was only just now heard by yours truly. The release is an adventurous and thorough experiment on contemporary jazz, sharing similarities with Fire! Orchestra and other such modern artists like Jaimie Branch. I’ve noticed the former mainly due to the vocal eccentricities of Christine Bertocchi, who at times recall moments of … Read more

Death Drag – Shifted

The Sounds

The Words

Iluso has a great track record for providing us with some of the wildest, most adventurous jazz albums out there. I think I’ve become acquainted with the label through dMu’s Synaptic Self, which was a true revelation to me! Today, they’re back with Death Drag‘s debut album, Shifted.

Shifted is like a free jazz album built with the tools of noise metal. The trio consists of drummer and composer Mike Caratti, aided by Santiago Horro on heavily distorted bass guitar, Roberto Sassi on guitar, and Luke Barlow, who plays keyboards and Rhodes. Each … Read more

Garrett Wingfield’s Octopod – Monoliths and Sepulchres

The Music

The Thoughts

For full disclosure, yes, I’ve backed this project on indiegogo. Nonetheless, I think this album is a really awesome one! Monoliths and Sepulchres is the debut full-length from Denton, Texas-based experimental jazz unit The Octopod. The aptly-named Octopod features eight musicians, including three horn-blowers (correction: five). As such, their music is heavily textured and rich. The album moves from free jazz during the prelude, postlude, and interludes to composed scores in the main tracks. Consequently, the result is a highly aberrant album that’s nonetheless a more than recommended listen. Its theme is to grow progressively … Read more

Merkabah – Million Miles

Moloch was a defining album for me. As one of the first, and, above all, best, albums truly bridging the gap between jazz and metal into a strange form of palatable yet challenging avant-garde jazz record. The Polish quintet is now back with their third release: Million Miles. Their newest takes up where Moloch left off – kicking and screaming –, and offers us an experience that’s almost as searing as its predecessor. However, instead of pure abrasive power, Million Miles is more delicate, tasteful, and mature than its older sibling. They obviously still share the same genes, but … Read more

Valtozash – Wizard-Bird

The Australian jazz metal fusion orchestra Valtozash is quite a newcomer, when it comes to their young age as a group, but they’ve already made their marks with their 2016 debut album, Iron Maiden Voyage. Barely more than a year later, they’re back with a sophomore release in Wizard-Bird. For those unaware, the ensemble is quite extensive: five saxophone players, three for trumpets, four trombones, and a vibraphonist all play alongside the traditional guitars-bass-drums trio. On top of that, the track from which the album title is taken features the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra! Through musical humour and a … Read more

Logan Strosahl Team – Book I of Arthur

Classical music and jazz are opposite and unreconcilable ends of the musical spectrum. Clearly, Logan Strosahl and his Team have never heard such words of warning, or, if they have, they foolishly ignored them and ventured forth. To the wise man’s surprise, however, they have returned victorious! Holding in his hands three tomes and chanting in a mighty parade, Logan handed one of the books to the old man and he looked at it with much confusion, assaulted by the unorthodox fanfare. Unfortunately, as is most common in the sixteenth century, the man was illiterate. There is no moral to … Read more