Kris Davis & Craig Taborn: Octopus
Two masters of jazz piano, dueting live, balancing compositions with improvisation. A key question in such circumstances: will the performance be a dialogue of the deaf? Here, the answer is a resounding “no”; Davis and Taborn have been playing together for quite awhile, and this record is a bit of a tour de force. They play in harmony, in unison, trailing each other, in response to each other’s calls, and, on “Chatterbox,” in dialogue. Quite surprisingly, at least to me, the dominant tone is meditative, especially on Davis’ “Ossining” and segments of Taborn’s three “Interruptions.” Best in show are interpretations of Carla Bley’s “Sing Me Softly of the Blues, and–especially–Sun Ra’s “Love in Outer Space,” a wry and touching closer. I didn’t know they were interpretations until after I’d listened to the record twice and done my homework.
Ty Segall: Freedom’s Goblin
You gotta hand it to the guy: few musicians on the planet work harder, and for an open spigot of creativity, his quality control valve’s gasket is pretty tight. However, after one listen, this double-record set is too much a melange for me to truly appreciate–from horns to funk covers to ladyfriend’s vocals to jams, he crams in just about everything–and even the “better” production does not hold from beginning to end. Still, as one would expect, Segall unleashes several ravers, and he goes out streaking through guitar heaven with “I’m Free” / “5 Ft. Tall” / “And, Goodnight.”
Brian Eno: Music for White Cube
Composed for an art installation, Eno’s simulations of quiet, late-night-early-morning environments–ships coming into port, street life heard around an alley corner, industry creeping into life–are mesmerizing. I never know when the old wizard is gonna put the hook in; I wasn’t expecting it here, but he definitely understands how to energize any old sound when its context is silence.
Maria Alyokhina: Riot Days
Here, Pussy Riot co-founder Alyokhina recalls the planning, execution, and aftermath of the group’s “Punk Prayer” action at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral and, in disarmingly direct narrative, with undimmed defiance and power, details her three-year stint in several Russian prisons. I think the book’s a worthy addition to the world’s prison-lit canon, but what do I know? One thing’s for sure: it’ll raise your hackles if you give it a chance.
Sara Fishko, director: The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith
I’ve already documented my devout enthusiasm for Sam Stephenson’s Gene Smith’s Sink this month, but if the reader desires the most powerful Smith experience, she might pair her reading of that book with this superb documentary. Somehow, its release slipped past me (thanks, Barrett!), but, hard as it would seem to have been to accomplish, visually, structurally, and emotionally, Fishko’s movie does justice to Smith’s genius. She picks and frames the right talking heads astutely, integrates wonderful segments of Smith’s massive Loft tape archives (I am quite sure with Stephenson’s aid), whets your artistic appetite with glimpses of Smith’s most famous photographs, and boils the burgeoning, chaotic doings of the Loft’s years into a coherent, fascinating, and moving string of stories. I already want to watch it again. Here’s the trailer: