Apples + Oranges at Cardboard Music (Belgium)

I have to say straight away that this is a new one for me, a great surprise. Singlespeed mentioned in a press release that he was bringing out a record from Cory Wright, unbeknown to me this record was going to blow me out of my chair – sofa in fact.

Next, what type of music is it?

What really defines the music on this release is the excellent ensemble playing, combined with beautifully written charts and arrangements, there isn’t one duff track on the record. The underlying trend of the music is built on tradition, and in particular that of hard-bop. Yet, the group, and the compositions, take this much, much further. The music develops in an extremely organic fashion, using some intriguing methods, tempo changes, improvised sections and hot fiery solos. The music sits on neither side of the fence, taking in straight ahead and improvised musical traditions. Cory Wright has put together a set of charts which succeed in the same way that the Ken Vandermark Five have tried in the past. Other groups, such as Atomic or Motif, have also pushed in the same direction, combining accessible melodies with alternative ways of soloing over (or with) material.

Continue reading “Apples + Oranges at Cardboard Music (Belgium)”

Apples + Oranges at Gapplegate

Cory Wright has conquered musical space. It’s incontrovertable, as the old Castro Convertible ad jingle used to have it (if anybody remembers that). He’s done it especially with his album Apples + Oranges (SingleSpeed Music 012).
What we have on this set is a freely propulsive outing by the Cory Wright Outfit, which has Cory on tenor sax and b-flat clarinet, Evan Francis on alto sax and flute. Rob Ewing on trombone, Lisa Mezzacappa on contrabass and Jordan Glenn, drums.

This is freebop at times, other times free new music that swings brightly, a collective froth well-structured and well-played by all involved. Cory writes some excellent charts here and the band comes through with fire and individual sounds that blend wonderfully well. Continue reading “Apples + Oranges at Gapplegate”

Apples + Oranges at Shanley on Music

Wright’s group starts out in familiar surroundings but by the end of Apples and Oranges, they’re planted firmly in their own unique territory. The same can be said for several of the compositions and the multiple sections they contain. They get further leverage from the horn-heavy lineup of Wright (tenor saxophone, b-flat clarinet), Evan Francis (alto sax, flute), Rob Ewing (trombone) who are joined by Lisa Mezzacappa (bass) and Jordan Glenn (drums).

“Freddie Awaits the Sleepers” has a stop-time melody that emphasizes the off beats. The band plays changes during Ewing’s solo, while he cuts his own melodic path with plenty of energy. The saxes each take their own solo and keep the mood going. Ewing later gets in a spirited chase with Wright (now on clarinet) and Francis (flute) in “Low Impact Critter,” which begins with both reeds playing rapid eighth notes in unison. The same two reeds add a rich texture to “The Sea and Space.” It begins like a ballad showcase for Ewing but by the end, the group locks into an arty vamp for an alto solo that has a dirty funk tone when Francis starts blowing.

“Whaticism” also packs a lot of ideas into a seven-minute track. In the spirit of mid-’60s post-bop (reminds these ears of the between-free-and-structured work of perhaps Grachan Moncur III and Andrew Hill) everyone gets room for a brief, concise solo, including a twisted line from Francis. “Eyedrop,” the longest track at 11 minutes, slowly evolves from muttering horns to a slow riff in 3/4 where the clarinet whine is answered by the other horns. Wright leaves his mark here both in a solo and in what he’s written. The West Coast players make an impact that can be compared to Shelton’s Fast Citizen comrades in Chicago, so this album will hopefully get into the hands of more eager listeners.

Originally published at Shanley On Music.

Apples + Oranges at All About Jazz (#2)

Oakland, California based reedman Cory Wright (Anthony Braxton, Vinny Golia & Yusef Lateef delivers a manifold and juxtaposing ensemble date on Apples + Oranges. It doesn’t take too long to determine that the album poses a surfeit of diagonally opposed viewpoints. Other than the highly emphatic and synergistic group-centric output, Wright’s compositions hit the mark, and this is one of those very special endeavors that excites, entertains and sustains interest.

Wright’s involvement with visionary composer and improviser, Anthony Braxton seems to have assimilated into some of these pieces. However, the band’s buoyant mode of operation is coupled with a feisty disposition. They execute highly charged free- bop, featuring whirling sax choruses by Wright and Evan Francis while flirting with the chamber-jazz element during “Low Impact Critter,” modeled on incongruously arranged metrics and spunky multipart dialogues amid several paradigm shifts and sprightly aerial assaults.

Wright leads the Outfit through bracing swing, bop, and ballad segments via shifting parameters that seamlessly flow and interconnect. Each piece contains massive doses of pop and sizzle. And “Whaticism,” is a song-form designed with unorthodox extended note opuses that burst out of nowhere, reinforced by Lisa Mezzacappa’s earthen-toned bass notes, leading to a pre-planned breakdown. However, the “The Sea and Space” contains a sleek luster due to Francis’ complex flute phrasings in unison with Wright, and trombonist Rob Ewing’s burly solo. Here, the ensemble yields a controlled semblance of well-coordinated abstractions.

The musicians dish out minimalism and microtonal, free- form dialogues while also reverse-engineering various activities. Other regions of sound are constructed on pumping grooves and, changeable motifs that are heavily outlined upon variable cadences. Consequently, “St. Bruno’s Purview” is a mid-tempo burner atop a quasi, New Orleans 2nd line March pattern, hued with animated horn passages. Without further ado, Apples + Oranges warrants serious consideration for a spot in many year-end top-10 lists.

Original post by Glenn Astarita at All About Jazz.

Apples + Oranges at Memory Select

Playful twists on conventional jazz pepper Apples + Oranges, the new album from Bay Area sax/clarinet player Cory Wright and his quintet of locals.
It’s a free-jazz album at heart, with lots of room for improvisation and plenty of unconventional structure in the songs. But it all stems from a sunny disposition that colors the modern bebop composing, producing a great session overall.

“Freddie Awaits the Sleepers” bursts forth to start the album with tangly horns and bright, jumping bass from Lisa Mezzacappa. Jordan Glenn propels the song from the drum kit, continually percolating behind the solos, which use different tactics to weave their way into the songs. After a solid trombone solo by Rob Ewing, Wright’s tenor sax puts up easy runs of notes contrasted against the driving rhythm. Evan Francis’ alto then plays off the fury of Glenn’s drums by working in high, whining registers, a different type of ear-pleasing contrast. (I think I’ve got the order of the solos right.)

“Whaticism” is a perky and upright bit of swinging whimsy, opening with a jaunty sound. The horns act as the chord instrument, backing up each solo with little written-out phrases or, in the case of the bass solo, a repeated joint squeal.  “Low Impact Critter” takes a less jazzy approach, with each instrument pecking sparsely in rapid-fire tradeoffs to create the skeleton of a swing. Later, it’s got flute, clarinet, and trombone mixing it up for a drumless improvisation that’s a lot of fun. “The Sea and Space” is slow but bright, Wright’s clarinet proudly fluttering over a minor-key composition with a catchy bass rhythm and calm lines from the horns. It ends with a hard-driven groove backing Ewing’s trombone solo. Everything wraps up with “St. Bruno’s Purview,” a showy tune with hints of old-timey melody. It features some throaty, burbly clarinet moments — a complement to two other “St. Bruno’s”-titled tracks that serve as short interludes.

The most drastic mood shift comes with the 11-minute “Eyedrop,” an exercise in sparse improvisation. Its opening themes are small modern-classical scribbles, spaced apart by quiet, crawling improv segments, one of which eventually takes over to form a slowly jazz-oriented improvising over small, composed outlines. It’s gutsy to take up so much of the album with an experimental piece, but it’s also a way to show off another side of the high-caliber band assembled here. Mezzacappa’s bass solo, over slowly cascading horn notes, is a nice lead-in to the song’s final theme. “Eyedrop” might seem like a speed bump to some listeners who tune in more easily to the overly jazzy tracks, like an orange among the apples, but I’m happy to take them all in together.

Originally published at Memory Select.

Apples + Oranges: SSM-012

Apples + Oranges at All About Jazz

In jazz, there are composers and there are soloists and, as they say, “never the twain shall meet.” Okay, not impossible, but it is rare in modern jazz for a musician to be both an outstanding soloist and a talented arranger. Listening to Apples + Oranges by West Coast saxophonist Cory Wright, the challenge is to determine which of the two talents makes this a thriving and effective recording.

But then again, requiring one to choose will result in a false choice. I like both chocolate and peanut butter, and I love them together.

The disc opens with “Freddie Awaits The Sleepers,” a piece that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1959 repertoire of Ornette Coleman. That is, if Ornette would have employed a trombonist. Rob Ewing’s bone punches through the evanescent bebop passages while Evan Francis’ alto saxophone shakes skittering notes. Wright’s composition masquerades as unconfined, but it is actually a tightly woven composition. And so are the other seven pieces he penned here. “Whaticism” plays with time, bassist Lisa Mezzacappa soloing, then guiding the quintet through some challenging parts. The music alternately tangles complex arrangements with accommodating solos. Wright’s saxophone is a resonant full-bodied sound that fits hand in glove with altoist Evan Francis. He plays both tenor saxophone and Bb clarinet here, delivering a brawny sound. One that has been featured in the bands of Anthony Braxton, Adam Rudolph, Vinnie Golia, and Yusef Lateef.

The beauty of this session is the range of the music. Wright’s music can encompass the ceremonial sounds of the “St. Bruno’s” series, a semi-classical chamber jazz composition “Eyedrop,” and “Low Impact Critter,” a sort of “Carl Stalling” cartoon music tribute score. Apples + Oranges turns the wow factor to maximum.

by Mark Corroto. Originally posted at All About Jazz

ASQ in San Francisco Chronicle

Alto saxophonist Aram Shelton doesn’t hail from Chicago, but he spent his formative years in the city of broad shoulders and hard-blowing horn players, honing an aesthetic steeped in the visceral hurly burly of free jazz.

Since moving to the Bay Area in 2005 to study at Mills College, he’s become an essential part of the region’s left-of-center improvisational scene while also maintaining his Chi-town ties. Shelton has launched several Bay Area-based bands, such as the raucous sextet Marches – which extrapolates on the music of Sun Ra, Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler – and These Are Our Hours, a quintet showcasing a bevy of highly promising young players. But he’s getting his first major West Coast exposure with a powerhouse quartet featuring Chicago compatriots Keefe Jackson on tenor sax, bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Tim Daisy.

“It’s strange that I’m breaking out with this Chicago group,” Shelton says, “but this quartet is the one that’s closest to more traditional jazz music, with a lot of in-time swinging and playing melodies and structures.”

Following two Saturday afternoon sets at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Aram Shelton Quartet concludes a high-profile California tour Saturday night at the Red Poppy Art House. Shelton also performs with guitarist Nathan Clevenger’s sextet Sunday at Oakland’s Freelove Music School and Sept. 30 at Legion of Honor with the Oakland Active Orchestra, a creatively charged 14-member collective that appears regularly at the Uptown Nightclub in Oakland.

With his thick, sinewy tone, Shelton, 36, often makes the alto sax sound like its larger sibling. On the quartet’s debut album “Everything for Somebody,” he and Jackson bob, weave and dance around Daisy’s mercurial rhythmic churn. No one is likely to mistake the grooves for dance music, but the quartet retains the ecstatic, call-to-assembly urgency found in its primary sources – Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy. “I listen to them all the time,” Shelton says. “Their music has this beauty and energy that comes out of the soloists playing really simple. Well, not simple as much as honest. That’s what really inspires me.”

Raised on a small ranch in southeast Florida, Shelton spent his teenage years immersed in the Western classical tradition. Just as he was finishing a music degree at the University of Florida he experienced an epiphany at a performance by Sam Rivers’ extraordinary multi-instrumental trio. Settling in Chicago in 1999, he quickly threw himself into the thick of the city’s roiling creative music scene, collaborating with leading players in a series of singular ensembles. He’s done much the same thing in the Bay Area.

“Aram is so prolific and such an original voice, he’s really a beacon for what’s possible out here,” says bassist Lisa Mezzacappa, who opens the Red Poppy show with ROVA saxophonist Steve Adams. “Besides the sheer energy and work he puts into making things happen, it’s been great that he’s kept his relationships with Chicago. We get to interact with those players and that cross pollination helps our scene.”

by Andy Gilbert

Original published by the San Francisco Chronicle