The New York City Jazz Record

Themes 4 Transformation has been selected as a recommended release for the month by New York City Jazz Record Magazine.

Downtown Music Gallery

Themes 4 Transmutation

“…a superb, often laid-back not too-free session with a calm center.”

Jazz From Gallery 41

Themes 4 Transmutation

"...In the 1960's, Bobby was a seminal figure in the so-called new music movement in NYC, recording with Gato Barbieri, Archie Shepp, Noah Howard and others.  Part 1 of his dream was to return to NYC and record with the other heavyweights on this cd...pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist Tyler Mitchell, and Ras Moshe on saxophones and flute.  He'd already worked out in his head and his heart the ebb and flow of the 4 part suite Themes 4 Transmutation.  Once he returned to his current home in San Miguel de Allende he began putting the plans in motion.  The studios were booked, the musicians committed to the date, and when they ultimately assembled this one night in New York City they all put the heart and soul into creating the remarkable music on this cd.  The communication and the synergy between the four musicians appears to have been intense and magical.  Gentle, powerful, sweet, tender, genuinely's all expressed here in the 4 movements of this suite."

A New Jersey native living in Mexico, Bobby Kapp brings a sense of humor and fun to older classics and new originals that begins with the album’s title – “blue white boy” in Spanish.

After a boisterous opening instrumental, featuring Cuban pianist Gabriel Hernandez and called (appropriately enough) “Power Chords,” Kapp follows with his second straight original – the sly and ingratiating, Spanglish-sung “El Guero Azul.” Tenor man Jorge Brauet adds a grease-popping honk, giving the song a lascivious wit. Alex Guardiola then steps forward for a ringing trumpet solo, as clean and propulsive as anything put forward for legends like Arturo Sandoval – before Kapp throws a fun curveball with the addition of a bluesy turn on harmonica. He doesn’t present it, ala Toots Thielemans, as a jazz instrument but rather reshapes the tune to fit around his R&B soaked turn.

Already, El Guero Azul has shown itself to be as fizzy, offbeat delight.

Next, the group takes on Cole Porter’s “Get Out of Town,” with bassist Jaime Ferrada and drummer Victor Monterrubio setting a torrid pace. Hernandez’s fleet fingers then open the door for a series of muscular lines from Brauet and Guardiola. By the time Kapp appears, ready to rip off another solo-like bit of scat-inflected singing, the track has reached cruising altitude. Kapp then lays out while Guardiola unleashes a stunning flurry of notes. “Fly Me to the Moon,” the Bart Howard standard, arrives then like a long, slow, stress-busting exhalation. He’s just as adept in one atmosphere as another.

That impressive, very musicianly approach to a lyric from Kapp – who’s had a varied and intriguing career in jazz – actually comes quite naturally. He’d played drums with Gato Barbieri and Dexter Gordon before ever turning his attentions to the microphone. From there, Kapp would place in the Top 10 at the well-known Monk International Vocal Competition, and subsequently mounted extensive tours with Gene Perla and the Fine Wine Trio.

Living now in the artist colony of San Miguel de Allende, Kapp’s collaboration with Hernandez also saw the pianist handling arrangements for El Guero Azul – and they are big part of what makes even the more shopworn selections from the Great American Songbook sizzle here. “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” for instance, is given a regal makeover, providing the perfect platform for one of Kapp’s most considered vocals. “Naima,” the tricky Coltrane classic, offers a unique opportunity for this group to display its jazz chops – and Brauet, Kapp and the active but never distracting Monterrubio never disappoint.

Meanwhile, “Old Mexico” undulates with a smart sensuality, as Kapp riffs on a series of scenes from his adopted homeland. The similarly titled “Mexico City Blues” couldn’t be more different, as Kapp dives headlong into the harp-driven soul only hinted at earlier on the title track. When the rest of the group belatedly joins in, the song begins to jump and shimmy like an old Blue Note side.

Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now” is a perfectly attenuated selection, as Kapp’s bop-styled phrasing seamlessly meshes. The original “Zuhia,” named after the Zihuatanejo fishing village on Mexico’s Costa Grande, flashes and feints like a particularly active school of underwater marine life – even as Kapp completely inhabits a sun-filled lyric that recalls nothing so much as Michael Franks.

Finally, there’s “Caravan” – the legendary Juan Tizol-Duke Ellington collaboration. Hernandez sets a lickety-split pace for Kapp to fill with his whiskey-soaked asides, before Brauet bursts in with a torrent of notes. Kapp answers with a gruff improvisation, matched step for step by his pianist. Finally, Guardiola brings the group back around to the main theme with a dizzy little Gillespie-esque run. It’s a tour-de-force finale to an endlessly involving vocal record with plenty of jazz chops.




NYC Jazz Record


Dalston Sound

Brazilian saxophonist Ivo Perelman & American pianist Matthew Shipp have an exceptionally close working association. Corpo is their 15th collaboration on Leo Records since 2012 alone, and Shipp has described it as: “the ultimate coming together of everything Ivo and I have been working on…apotheosis of the Perelman/Shipp duo (language and) cosmos.”

Shipp’s relationship with veteran drummer Bobby Kapp (b. 1942) carries less historic weight, and that has its up-side. Shipp is still Shipp, of course – always vibrantly imperious – and the music on Cactus (Northern Spy) is every bit as dynamic as his duo with Perelman, but it’s a more brittle and frisky, less compacted dynamic.

Kapp was active in the underground jazz movement in 60s New York, and played on a handful of choice recordings of the time: one half of Brown’s Three for Shepp (Impulse!, 1966), Gato Barbieri’s In Search of the Mystery (1967) and Noah Howard’s At Judson Hall (1968)—both on ESP—and Dave Burrell’s High (Douglas, 1969).

At some point, however, Kapp relocated from New York to the artist’s colony of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and effectively dropped off-radar. He recently recorded two albums of piano jazz standards with the unpromisingly-named Fine Wine Trio, but a brief reunion with Howard before the latter’s death in 2010 was a more accurate pointer to 2014’s Kapp ‘comeback’ album Themes 4 Transmutation, on which Shipp played alongside bassist Tyler Mitchell and saxophonist/flautist Ras Moshe.

Kapp has an economical, pan-rhythmic style firmly rooted in a tradition that accommodates both Shelly Manne and Sunny Murray. He’s typically busy, probing and gestural – all light snare and brisk cymbals.


Shipp, who is 20 odd years the drummer’s junior, rightly says that Kapp: “combines the best of old school drumming with a real feel for pulse and breaking the circle that exists in the avant-garde. He can open the beat up in a way where you can flow with the wave and never lose the line.”

Shipp’s own lines have a more ineluctable fluidity, but he’s always diligent, and ready, like water, to ply unexpected directions of frictionless accord with the drummer’s agitations.

Of course these are reductions. While Knapp as a habit of breaking into briskly spry rhythm, Shipp’s style can be angular. The two play off each other’s changeable moods.

The album’s opening cuts and “Good Wood” are restlessly, ceaselessly inventive and indubitably musical. On the latter – a piece top-and-tailed by variegated Knapp percussion solos, Shipp seems to get right under the skin of his own style.

“Snow Storm Coming” flows on from “Good Wood” with heightened drama and dynamic contrast, and incidental contrasts abound everywhere. Where “During” has Shipp at his most lyrical and darkly romantic, “The 3rd Sound” is skeletal and deliberately fitful, and “Money” is jaunty, with Shipp, uncommonly loose, concocting a light melodic rain of one note hits as Knapp essays a loose swing time with brushes.

The title track is the album’s most thoughtful, original and least deterministic piece, and perhaps the choice pick after “Good Wood”.

Curiously, the CD cover lists one piece, “Drum-a-Phone” which, if the album’s Bandcamp page is correct, isn’t actually included.

Corpo is an altogether more crepuscular and nuanced affair, and that’s not just because the drums are essentially expansive and the saxophone more accommodating of cerebral introspection. As Shipp intimated, his rapport with Perelman is by now so refined that theirs has become a fluid duologue with characteristic, intuitive subtleties and few external references.

Perelman is one of the most exceptional saxophonists currently recording. He’s a syncretist, like David Murray, with a comprehensive feel for ‘the tradition’ but his own sound and approach. His style – hitherto more in tune with European free-jazz than Murray’s – has matured over the years, from an anguished and impassioned sound in the 90s to something altogether more considered and refined.

Where Shipp and Kapp trade gestures, every cut by Shipp and Perelman incises new entries in an ongoing dialogue. So their decision-making is more granular, and their music flows with instinctive nuance. Perhaps for this reason, its individual pieces, all first takes, are simply numbered “Part 1” to “Part 12”, and aren’t as easily dissected.

Highlights include the duo’s prismatic phraseology on “Part 3”, Shipp’s flinty response to Perelman’s bruised, almost lachrymose vulnerability on “Part 4”, and the tension that engenders, which is resolved in “Part 5” with a courtly, sensuous rapprochement.

“Part 6” is the longest cut at just 6:13, and the album’s best stand-alone example of the duo’s fluidity in superbly in-check dynamism: on “Part 7” they hold each other at a distance, playing off one another, gracile as dancers, in perfect equilibrium.

The brief “Part 8” sounds like an intellectually playful game, and “Part 9” (my personal choice cut) has its own fascinating and uniquely compelling dramaturgy, but there’s no remove from the listener, because this music’s overriding sensitivity is poetic and essentially melodic, making it supremely seductive.

Perelman plays a ravishing intro and lead tenor line in “Part 11” that sets up a suppressed tension in Shipp’s response, which finds intermittent release in “Part 12” through urgent, compacted irruptions of forceful expression. For the most part, though, it’s what this duo holds in abeyance through tempering and modulation that makes Corpo so deeply and richly compelling.

Corpo: Ivo Perelman saxophones; Matthew Shipp piano.
Cactus: Bobby Kapp drums; Matthew Shipp piano.

Music Zone

Il disco in questione vede a confronto due musicisti che rappresentano due diverse generazioni di musicisti free, il batterista Bobby Kapp, uno che ha registrato negli anni ’60 insieme a Gato Barbieri e Noah Howard su ESP, o su Impulse con Marion Brown ed il pianista Matthew Shipp, abbastanza noto per le tante incisioni, dal quartetto di David Ware a quelle più recenti insieme a Ivo Perelman. Sono due musicisti che condividono lo stesso linguaggio, il free, ma con esperienze diverse alle spalle, più tormentate dal punto di vista biografico quelle di Kapp, che permettono un dialogo reale, complesso, che dà frutto ad una musica che non si pone confini o restrizioni da un brano all’altro, completamente improvvisata al momento. Non mancano i momenti più tranquilli, Drum – a – Phone ne è un esempio, ma è chiaro fin dall’Ouverture che apre il disco che la lezione di Cecil Taylor è una di quelle cui si fa riferimento è che quindi il pianoforte può essere trattato come uno strumento a percussione, da cui escono però melodie interessanti, come su Good Wood, una ricerca continua di idee, di situazioni inusuali che spuntano all’improvviso. Before è un brano interessante, in cui spunta un inusitato swing dal piano, spinto in ciò da un batterista molto empatico ed allo stesso tempi riservato, che usa per lo più i piatti del proprio set. During comincia con un assolo del batterista, cui dopo si aggiunge un adrenalico pianoforte, molto interessante Money, in cui viene fuori uno swing che collega i due musicisti ad ua tradizione che è importante. Cactus dà il titolo al disco, Shipp sembra un novello Monk, ma con più energia nel modo di proporsi al pubblico. La musica dei due si ascolta con piacere, è un ottimo biglietto da visita per i due e l’avanguardia in genere. Un disco con tante qualità, non ultima quella di proiettare lo swing, patrimonio del genere mainstream, in un contesto moderno.

All About Jazz

After a productive period in the 1960s, drummer Bobby Kapp revived his career at the start of the millennium. Among his latter projects was The Fine Wine Trio with pianist Richard Wyands and bassist Gene Perla. The group was commissioned by the US State Department to tour Africa and Jordan as "Jazz Ambassadors." That music, being decidedly mainstream, did not reflect Kapp's free jazz affinity having played with the likes Archie Shepp

Archie Shepp
" data-original-title="">Archie Shepp and much more recently with alto saxophonist Noah Howard
Noah Howard
1943 - 2010
sax, alto
" data-original-title="">Noah Howard on Between Two Eternities (Self-Produced, 2009). Throughout four decades, whether playing lounge jazz or avant-garde, Kapp has flown significantly and inexplicably below the radar.

In polar opposition, we have Matthew Shipp. A force of nature whose readily identifiable style has made him one of the most notable and recognizable pianists. Controversial in his bombastic dislike of critics and a steadfast refusal to acknowledge the influence of any pianistic forbearers, Shipp would seem an unlikely personality match for the restrained Kapp. But music, being the great equalizer, the two teamed up as half of Kapp's quartet on the excellent (and grossly under-recognized) Themes 4 Transmutation (Self-Produced, 2014) and have now moved on to this outstanding duo outing, Cactus.

The nine track set opens with "Overture" and finds Shipp taking the time to exploring antecedents and consequences of each facet of the piece. As he does so, Kapp shifts position frequently, sometimes in accord, often in contrast and eventually utilizing the entire kit to make his own distinctive statement. The bluesy motif of "Before" is more organized at the outset but moves into freer territory towards its conclusion. Kapp provides an extended and thundering introduction to "During" before Shipp heads down a path moving from abstraction to lyricism. A standout piece is "Money"; again featuring a lengthy opening solo from Kapp, this time both complex and nuanced. Shipp's playing here is sprightly and expressive, his angular approach softened but not completely exenterated.

Cactus is impressive from both musical and organization standpoints. The symmetry between Kapp and Shipp suggests nothing less than two players who can manage the balance of structure and freedom while having no tolerance for ambiguity. The music is engaging from beginning to end and, more importantly, there is an element of surprise in each piece that makes the overall album extremely satisfying. Kapp is now seventy-four and it's about time for him to get some higher level of recognition. With the Shipp brand in play, Cactus may be the album to move the needle.

Downbeat Magazine


The not-so-well-known veteran drummer Bobby Kapp became active in the 1960s, playing with saxophonists Gato Barbieri and Noah Howard. Pianist Matthew Shipp has attained a similar veteran status, but his output has been way more prolific. Recorded at Systems Two in Brooklyn, this duo debut highlights an exposed meeting between these empathetic players.

On the opening “Overture,” Shipp follows a linear path, but its trajectory is always darting about, switching speed and direction. It’s filled up with sideline ornamentation and littered with sudden detouring embellishments. Kapp works here with cymbals, lightly dancing beside Shipp, who slams dark clusters, simultaneously delivering right-hand rivulets. Kapp is airy, but efficiently targeted.

There is a continual restless change afoot, even within each piece, due in part to Shipp’s nervy dominance. Nevertheless, Kapp follows quickly, and in deep sympathy. Shipp opens “Before” with a conventionally walking bass line, and “Money” has an odd, bluesy swing. The song straddles traditions, gradually breaking apart to gain greater space. Shipp burrows under his lid for harp-like shivers, as Kapp continues his perpetual abstractions. Even if Kapp isn’t using brushes, his skimming circulations always sound feather-light. 

“Snow Storm Coming” is not really a track at all, more of a conceptual statement (its total length is listed at 00:00). A hammering, pugilistic bass overtakes “Drum-A-Phone” with big sustain, opening up to some lighter spaces. It’s a nice lead into the halting plod of “The 3rd Sound.”

At just over an hour, the soundscape elements sometimes sound too stretched, with a certain aura of re-visitation, but this album remains a sensitive dialog between two highly articulate speakers.

—Martin Longley

Republic of jazz

Republic of Jazz
In Valerie Wilmer’s important socio-political history of the jazz vanguard As Serious As Your Life (Serpent’s Tail Press, 1977), the chapter on pianist Cecil Taylor is subtitled “Eighty-Eight Tuned Drums.” Textually this reference advances the role of the piano in free music as percussive in large part, especially as the chordal and melodic directions taken after Ornette Coleman in the late 1950s often appeared to circumvent the more fixed tonalities of the keyboard. Drummers and pianists have been one core team in this music, going back to the forbears and scions of the modern-jazz era — Buddy Rich and Nat Cole; Art Blakey and Herbie Nichols or Thelonious Monk; Denis Charles, Sunny Murray and Andrew Cyrille with Taylor — whether the pianist may work percussively or sculpt the music temporally and melodically. 
Drummer Bobby Kapp (b. Robert Kaplan on April 11, 1942 in Perth Amboy, NJ) and pianist Matthew Shipp (b. December 7, 1960 in Wilmington, DE) are a team that has only recently come together, though their affinity for one another is natural and rewarding. Cactus is their first duo recording, a spontaneous set coming on the heels of 2015’s Themes 4 Transmutation, the latter waxed under the drummer’s leadership and featuring Shipp, reedist Ras Moshe and bassist Tyler Mitchell. While the cognoscenti may be aware of Kapp’s name as a firebrand in the mid-60s New York free music underground, he didn’t record as a leader back then. In recent years, after relocating to Mexico, he’s co-led the standards-rooted Fine Wine Trio with pianist Richard Wyands and bassist Gene Perla, and reunited with alto saxophonist Noah Howard before the latter’s untimely passing. 
Kapp’s restless energy and streetwise lyricism, yen for the blues and supple templates for unfettered expression took him from New Jersey and Staten Island to Berklee College of Music, where he studied with Alan Dawson, and then Lower Manhattan. There, he played and recorded with alto saxophonists Marion Brown and Noah Howard, pianist Dave Burrell and tenor saxophonists Leandro ‘Gato’ Barbieri and Pharaoh Sanders before eventually settling in an artist’s colony in San Miguel de Allende. Kapp’s sideman recordings in the 1960s are scant, comprising two full LP appearances (Barbieri’s In Search of the Mystery and Howard’s At Judson Hall, both on ESP), two individual LP halves (Brown’s watershed Three for Shepp on Impulse! and Burrell’s High on Douglas), and film footage of Brown’s trio was captured in 1967 by Henry English, but all of this work presents a rolling, massive and fleet economy somewhere between Elvin Jones and Shelly Manne. 
His more recent outings have been somewhat under the radar, but the aspects that entice—a sure, tempestuous detail—are toned with age, experience and fidelity. 
Shipp’s piano is the perfect foil for Kapp’s dryly doled-out metric inventions, his sinewy but factual movements through erudite melody, resonant stomps and granular sideways gestures creating fields and objects through which the drummer’s open, supple brushwork and woody rolls float, undercut and weave. Shipp has worked with a wide range of individual, creative drummers—including Newman Taylor Baker, Whit Dickey, Guillermo E. Brown, Susie Ibarra, Marc Edwards and Steve McCall—and says of Kapp that “Bobby is a marvel as he combines the best of old school drumming with a real feel for pulse and breaking the circle that exists in the avant-garde. However, he can open the beat up in a way where you can flow with the wave and never lose the line. His touch is really refined and that adds to the beauty of his sound. 

I am always looking for ways to make my comping deeper and working with someone who has played with all the people he has deepens my thing. Also, the sound he gets off the cymbals has a resonance that is beyond deep—it’s like swimming in pure vibration.” On Cactus, nine spiny and flowering dialogic arms are presented in gorgeous sound, creating a language that stems from bebop, free improvisation and classicism but are of the present and specific to these two musicians. Rigorous, spontaneous play that feels this good is something to hold onto. 

– Clifford Allen 
“Practically without parallel — Matthew Shipp is the connection between the past, present and future for jazzheads of all ages.” - Downbeat 

“...In the 1960’s, Bobby was a seminal figure in the so-called new music movement in NYC, recording with Gato Barbieri, Archie Shepp, Noah Howard and others.” - Ron J. Pelletier




On this fully-improvised session, the jazz duo of drummer Bobby Kapp and pianist Matthew Shipp lock in and never lose focus.

The improvising jazz duo is a potent form, offering chances for dialogue, battle, and confluence. There’s immediate pressure on both players since neither can hide, so the opportunity to create tense, vital music is palpable. This seems especially true for piano and drum collaborations, since the piano—more so than horns or strings—is often a percussive instrument, and thus can intersect and connect with drums in unique ways.

On Cactus, drummer Bobby Kapp and pianist Matthew Shipp take advantage of the possibilities inherent in their setup, persistently passing ideas back and forth in a wordless conversation. The quality level matches the participants’ pedigrees. Kapp came up in the middle of the ’60s free jazz groundswell, playing with saxophone legends Pharoah SandersMarion Brown, and Noah Howard. Shipp, meanwhile, has been a mainstay in New York’s improvising scene since the mid-’80s, best known for his work alongside bassistWilliam Parker in saxophonist David S. Ware’s quartet.

Yet Cactus represents only the second time Kapp and Shipp have recorded together—following 2015’s Kapp-led quartet album Themes 4 Transmutationand they had never played as a duo until they pushed the record button on this fully-improvised session. Given that level of unfamiliarity, their quick reaction time and thoughtful interplay are impressive. The pair lock in immediately and never lose their keen eye-to-eye focus, engaging in such thorough dialogue that it’s hard to find a moment where one isn’t responding to the other.

The responses that Kapp draws out of Shipp are some of the latter’s most percussive playing on record. There has always been a heavy rhythmic bent to the pianist’s music, but here he’s so inspired by Kapp’s versatile work that at times it sounds like he wants to be a second drummer. Passages in the rolling “Money” and the meditative “After” find Shipp tapping chords between Kapp’s snare strikes in an impromptu call-and-response. In other spots, the pair’s exchanged pulses shift into less orderly flights, such as when Shipp’s hard-beat notes dissolve into Kapp’s cymbal runs on the gripping “Before.”

That last example demonstrates the most compelling aspect ofCactus: the duo’s precise tonal control. Kapp and Shipp move from calm to urgent to portentous in single turns of musical phrase, bringing a wide range of moods completely and assuredly within their grasp. They certainly push each other, but they never overreach (one particularly dissonant passage in the aptly-titled “Snow Storm Coming” could be a mess in shakier hands, but here it feels like humans controlling weather). The thrill of Cactus is not that the music could fall apart at any moment, but that this duo can handle anything they throw at each other.


Matthew Shipp and Bobby Kapp: September 17, 2016 Trans Pecos

If there is a valid criticism of this site’s work, its our paucity of recordings of NYC’s vibrant modern and avant jazz community. We have been steadfast (particularly since EricPH joined the crew) in our documentation of the local noise scene, which has on occasion crossed the line into jazz (Zs at Bowery) but when it comes to the legendary performers playing in our midst, we’ve been remiss. But what we experienced and captured on Saturday at Trans-Pecos should go a long way towards rectifying the slight.

Matthew Shipp has been a fixture in the NYC jazz scene for more than three decades. His solo work has been lauded since he became a regular in the downtown new jazz clubs in the early 90s for his unique expressive freeform style. He’s also been a collaborative performer most notably as a longtime member of the David S. Ware group. My first experience seeing Shipp live was at the old Knitting Factory on Leonard Street in the late 90s at a show where he teamed with frequent partner bassist (and current Trans-Pecos curator) William Parker.

Bobby Kapp too has a long and storied history in NYC jazz that dates even further back, as Kapp first came onto the scene in the 1960s, most notably as the drummer for the great and recently-departed Gato Barbieri’s on his first album, the 1967 classic In Search of the Mystery. Kapp’s lengthy musical journey now finds him in San Miguel De Allende, the artistic center of Mexico City. In between, Bobby Kapp has appeared on countless albums, played on several continents, and indeed has been recognized by the US State Department officially as the “Ambassador of Jazz”.

Matthew Shipp and Bobby Kapp first collaborated for Kapp’s 2014 EP Themes 4 Transmutation in a quartet. But earlier this year, the two met as a duo for an improvisation session that became Cactus, an album ultimately released on Northern Spy Records on September 16. The following day, this Trans-Pecos performance operated as the official CD release event. But instead of attempting to recreate the Cactus session, the duo instead performed a nearly fifty-minute new improvisational session that the artists have entitled “Live at Trans Pecos”. The piece offers a unique opportunity to experience the live creation of once-only music by two jazz legends. The ability of Shipp to construct melodies and then meticulously descontruct them is matched by Kapp’s profound touch on the drums — the on-the-dime movement from subtle taps on the cymbals to crashing snares perfectly in sync with Shipp’s journey. I’ve now listened to this piece four times and I’m still flabbergasted at the ability of these two artists to work so well in tandem and produce such breathtakingly moving music.

I recorded this set with the Neumann LD’s mounted in front of the stage to capture the drums in stereo and mixed with two separate feeds of the piano mics. The sound quality is superb. Enjoy

North Spy

Bobby Kapp /Matthew Shipp Cactus Northern

Spy NS079


The title could be perceived as a definition of the music, but this runs the risk of cliché. It is spiky, prickly and may be hard for certain listeners to get a handle on. But while there is a distinct element of confrontation in the material generated by prolific pianist Shipp and the far less documented drummer Kapp, the pair are by no means incapable of producing a tenderness that belies the implications of discomfort in Cactus. ‘Money’, an obvious highlight, has an absolutely delightful swing that is cunningly generated amid the wide open spaces created by Kapp’s discerning use of the kit, his brushes and snare like a soft drizzle behind the heavier drops of Shipp’s left hand. The melding of lightness of touch and forcefulness of attack is a major part of the duo’s aesthetic, and the fleeting nuances, none more so than the jangly hiss of tambourine and deep sigh of tympani on ‘After’, are as effective as the rich melodic broad strokes. Yet as musicians who have shared the stage with saxophonists as powerful as David S. Ware and Noah Howard, respectively, Shipp and Kapp are all too aware of the great rhythmic as well as textural possibilities offered by their instruments, and the relative sparseness of some of the playing does not preclude funky fragmentation, if not outright eruption, which is definitely the case on ‘Snow Storm Coming’. Its drunken, wavering 6/8 hopscotch and mighty low register somersaults are superb. Notable addition to the pantheon of interesting, if not daring duets.


Bobby Kapp & Matthew Shipp

Cactus (Northern Spy)

Usually when there’s an age gap of some note between two improvising musicians who cut their teeth in specific eras and alongside very distinct or radical artists, it’s tempting to view the results as something of a generational duel, the young buck taking on the revered veteran. However, while there’s a touch of that on Cactus, which unites on record for the first time as duo legendary drummer Bobby Kapp (who made his name playing for the likes of Pharoah Sanders and Noah Howards) and the current flame-bearer of free jazz, pianist Matthew Shipp, such is the profile of both artists that this feels more like an overdue conversation than anything more confrontational or instructional. 

Often the most exciting set-ups in improvised music, the duo can also be a tricky one to navigate, as both performers need to negotiate space around one another. Even the most abrasive improvisers, such as Peter Brötzmann and Keiji Haino, know that if they’re not in tune with their musical collaborators, the results will be a bloody mess, and this is particularly underwhelming in a duo. But the first bars of “Overture” demonstrate that Kapp and Shipp are not just great musicians but great listeners as well, their dual attack marrying the tones of the piano with the snaps and shuffles of the drums in mesmeric harmony. Kapp keeps things light, focusing on cymbals and snare drums to match the sharp, rapid cadence of Shipp’s undulating piano rolls. There’s no sense of competition here, instead both artists dance around one another, never intruding on or overriding the other.

In fact, for purely improvised music, the pieces on Cactus are remarkably melodic. On ”Before,” Matthew Shipp runs out a swinging melody that would sound neat coming from the fingers of a Bill Evans or Bud Powell, bolstered by Bobby Kapp’s loping drum patterns. Only occasionally does the pianist lean more heavily on his keys to produce some grumbling clusters, just enough dissonance to keep the listener surprised. “Money” features a tense, brooding atmosphere that slides from an opening rumble of toms into a bluesy, nocturnal solo from Shipp that is closer to Keith Jarrett than Evans or Powell. Kapp comes back in with a fresh shuffling beat and the pair dance around one another with grace and dexterity.

The album’s highlight, “Good Wood” (which could be a way to describe both artists’ instrument of choice) is both its longest and its most experimental, shifting through tempos and tonal structures with nimble ease. Shipp’s take on the piano is often jerky throughout Cactus, as if mirroring Kapp’s sharp percussive style, and never more so than on “Good Wood.” Indeed, for an album featuring only drums and piano, Cactus actually underlines the rhythmic qualities of both, as if either artist is disinterested in hopping into the solo seat. The reverse way of looking at it, of course, is that these tracks are an exercise in perpetual soloing between two artists who do so whilst maintaining space for the other to move and find room for his own input. Now that’stalent. 

Gapplegate Music Review

Gapplegate Music Review


When I heard drummer Bobby Kapp on Marion Brown's Three for Shepp many years ago I was jolted. Here was a drummer that swung in his own way and had a rootsy feel for the drum kit's many sonic possibilities. I caught him on some others but generally missed his later output...until now. But his presence on the Brown album has stuck with me all these years.

Following on the heels of an album out a couple of years ago, Themes 4 Transmutation, which grouped Kapp with Matthew Shipp and Ras Moshe Burnett (and I must hear that one!) we have a full CD of duets by Shipp and Kapp, Cactus (Northern Spy 079).

I've listened a bunch of times, and each time it gets better. Matthew, always at the forefront of the new free jazz piano, is relaxed and filled with great ideas, chordal-compositional spontaneity, beautifully abstract scatter, inside-the-piano projections, crazy-good outswing, open-form discoveries, he is inspired here and Bobby gives us an update on why he is such a sensitively effective drum exponent. And such a great partner to have on a free excursion. There is a natural rightness to his phrasing, a poise, a flowing torrent of the expected and unexpected.

And it all swings even when it is not doing so overtly. If there is no sound in life that is not followed by another, then all is rhythm. If there is no note that doesn't eventually fall into the lap or tag onto the sequence of another somewhere in time and space, then all is melody and harmony. When there is transcendent deliberation that makes it all meaningful, there are things like Cactus.

This album is a model for what great things can happen when two masters respond to one another and let it go where it may. Happy is the avant enthusiast who hears this. That's you. Grab onto this and it will stick to you in years to come. Brilliant!

Jazz Right Now

Review: Bobby Kapp & Matthew Shipp – Cactus

The art of ensemble is one of the most fascinating aspects of improvised music to me and any ensemble that includes piano seems almost doubly so. Why? The range of the piano is so large, both in pitch and timbre, and typically requires both hands, which the pianist can utilize in whatever way they choose. Will they use both hands in conjunction with each other? Will the hands each take on a mind of their own? Will the player start with the hands in conjunction and then separate or vice versa? Or neither?


Listening to Matthew Shipp is a journey, and I always assume that I have an idea of where he’s going to go as soon as he touches the keys because of my familiarity with his work. And yet, every time I assume anything, he proves me wrong. He is one of my favorite pianists to see and hear live, particularly in intimate, small ensemble situations because to me, his playing is balanced, sensitive, and finessed while still being powerful and distinctive. Cactus, in duo with Bobby Kapp, is no exception. I hadn’t known much about Bobby Kapp prior to this album, but I hope that his performance on this album affords him more notoriety as I found his playing to be lyrical and exquisite.

Throughout the album, I noticed two distinct personalities that maintained independence without waiting for the other to answer, two distinct lines intertwining as well as taking their moments to shine alone. And yet, in spite of this independence, the lines were always completely complementary and definitely did not sound like the two players were on two different planets, a criticism I sometimes have of freely improvised music. The lines were structured in a way that was intuitive and seemingly thought-out, yet spontaneous, and I credit both improvisers in their ability to stay present in what the other is doing while still creating something beautiful themselves.

I was enthralled by the contrast of textures throughout the album:  looming, threatening, tumultuous patterns in the bass end of the piano relieved by gleaming, almost strident forays into the upper register. Chaotic yet lyrical passages soaring throughout the range were brought abruptly to an end by punctuated ensemble between the two players. The plucking of strings sounded much like the album’s namesake’s needles, gently enveloped by the reverberation of gently stroked, shaking cymbals. Sparsity, a soundscape of a desert complete with tumbleweeds and not much else, gave way to lush moments of nearly impressionistic or neoclassical grandeur, not dissimilar to the sounds one would expect from Debussy or Stravinsky. This was particularly prominent on the album’s second track, “Before”, which I would label haphazardly as “Matthew Shipp’s Homage To Great Pianists and Composers of the 20th Century” as it’s array of elements lent me a strong Monk and Basie vibe as well. I found the track particularly entertaining and actually giggled at a few points during my first listen because his quoting of many well-known pianists’ styles was so far from what I had initially expected when I first put the disc in the stereo.

Backtracking a bit, I made a reference to the piano having the ability to, for lack of a better term, play duet with itself. I would be remiss in my duty if I failed to mention that I hear this quality in Kapp’s playing of drums, cymbals, and auxiliary percussion as well. I can hear melodies buried gently beneath the overlapping rhythms of each distinct percussive voice, both when the drums are solo and when they’re playing alongside Shipp. Each of Kapp’s melodies, when isolated, stand alone beautifully, but are also unobtrusive enough to mingle among even the gentlest melodies of the piano without dominating the entire soundscape.

Cactus is an enjoyable journey, rich with both expectations and surprises. I look forward to hearing Kapp and Shipp together in the future and hope to discover more recorded evidence of their wonderful chemistry together.


Bobby Kapp and Matthew Shipp  Cactus 

Pianist Matthew Shipp has been a cornerstone of modern free jazz for decades. Drummer Bobby Kapp is less well known, but since a flurry of activity in the ’60s, has been distilling a potent style away from the national press. On their first recorded meeting, Cactus (Northern Spy Records), they’ve created sculptural improvisations through a combination of building up and carving away.

Cactus is rife with a rhythmic intensity that’s derived from unexpected angles. “Overture” centers on Kapp’s clicking drumming and his tiny hits on the side of the cymbals and the rim of the snare, which cut through Shipp’s tart, coiled lines. This tightness makes the cells of release—a full snare hit or a roll—come on like a burst of lighting.

More classical jazz rhythms and construction have a place on the record as well. “Before” takes saloon time and deconstructs it, speeding up and slowing down as the evening slips out of the grasp of the drinkers in the picture. There’s a palpable joy in the way they slide between tempos to create an overarching mood that’s big enough to encompass snatches of tangos, waltzes, and shards-of-glass arpeggios. “Money” opens with a building drum figure of shaking percussion and rolling toms, then a torrent of ominous and seductive piano. Shipp’s piano stabilizes into a crystalline melody as Kapp follows on brushes. It’s a finger-snapping moment that nonetheless doesn’t let the listener have it that easily. The longest track here, “Good Wood,” has a title that appropriately speaks to materiality. It understands that the heart of a piece is in every note and in the connections between those notes as it points to what comes after and nods at what’s come before. Cactus is a testament to the sparks that can fly in an early interaction with a new partner.



Drummer Bobby Kapp and pianist Matthew Shipp are legends of free jazz. Improvisation is their arena, and through a series of albums they have proven unique musicians they both are. Strangely enough, the two have not crossed paths in the past when it comes to recoding, apart from Kapp's album Themes 4 Transmutation. In Cactus the two are thrown into a more immediate dialogue, which spirals through heavy avantgarde piano lines and frantic rolls to bluesy tones and subtle cymbal hits. 

What is very interesting in this case is that the two artists rose into prominence at different times. Kapp is someone who was part of the great New York free jazz scene of the '60s, even though he was not a band leader at the time. Shipp on the other hand, arrived in the scene during the '90s. That gap in time makes things even more intriguing, as the two musicians aim to bridge it.

This is a high-level conversation between two great performers, and in most part it is about reacting. Versatility is key in this realm, and both Kapp and Shipp are quick in responding to queues from one another. Each action brings a reaction, making the album feel like a constant push and pull between the two, as each turn one makes forces the other to go the extra mile. A fluid story telling derives from this practice, with the coherence being retained from one track to the next, granting a sense of continuity and a terrific narrative to the record. 

It also proves the dexterity of the players that in here they are dealing with instruments that are percussive. A duo comprising of drums and sax would make things appear less frantic, but throwing a piano next to the drums results in rhythmic dissonance. It is an album filled with these rhythmic structures, a set of laws in a musical universe of the duo's making, that is sometimes followed but mostly broken. It does not of course mean that Kapp and Shipp rely only in their heavy improv and rhythmic textures, and they do find some space to explore a bit of melody, registering a more emotional tone, as the ending of “During.” The process works brilliantly and it shapes Cactus into a great record of free jazz explorations, completed by a drummer's drummer and avantgarde pianist. The writing in the album cover mentions that this is “vital for today's thirst” and it is very hard to argue with that.

Positively Under Ground

Bobby Kapp and Matthew Shipp-Cactus_Album Review

On Cactus, pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Bobby Kapp find a level of musical kinship nearly unmatchable in the modern jazz lexicon.  Although both are confined to standard playing techniques on standard instrumentation, their raw talent and ear for jazz repertoire guides the listener through a contrasting program of improvisations with biting energy that drives the piece forward with each passing track.  Perhaps one of the advantages of the confinement to standard acoustic practice is the natural, human element that remains central, especially considering the rhythmic connotation of the two instruments at play.  When two melodically focused instruments improvise, it can hard to push ideas forward as the energy provided by rhythm is often lost.  Partially due to instrumental selection, this is not a problem for the duo.  On top of this, the musicality and chemistry that seeps in each area of high-activity remains prominent in the more ambient, quiet sections making for an experience that never falters in intrigue.

Aptly titled “Overture” provides a quick-witted display of melodic piano lines amongst the textural effort of Kapp’s drum set.  The piece successfully frames the work to follow by introducing each player at their most straightforward. “Before” continues the straightforward playing by somewhat hearkening back to cool jazz with loose swing undertones.  In terms of harmony, Shipp finds a slightly more ominous aesthetic, which carries over to the next track “During.”  Here, the record really emphasizes tension with fast-paced, circulating rhythms in the high notes and dramatic, spacey chords to end off the tune.  “Money” signifies another relatively straightforward tune for the duo, leading into the most esoteric track on the record.  Reaching into the piano strings on “Cactus” is essentially Shipp’s only use of extended techniques making the already barren sonic landscape stick out.  On the second half of the album, the duo continues their slew of ups and downs with the elusive moods of “The 3rd Sound” fading out into silence to end things off.

One of the aspects of Kapp’s and Shipp’s relationship is the astounding back and forth that they exhibit.  On many of the tracks, time intervals of one to two minutes will come and go where one of the musicians takes center stage as the other cedes the playing space to them.  Upon re-entrances, a clear trust is exhibited as the musicians leave no direct cue to their partner, yet the choice to come back into the equation remains logical.  This comes into play towards the end of “Good Wood” where Matthew Shipp fades out of the equation, leaving Kapp to solo.  The timing of this brief interpolation is key as the music reaches a relatively stagnant place just before and Kapp’s playing provides a slight instance of contrast to usher in a change in mood for the track.

When playing together, the chemistry also shines.  Kapp takes a rather quiet approach to the drum kit overall and he has an astounding ability to provide some abstract sense of meter while also reacting to each of Shipp’s melodic lines.  On the other hand, Shipp also manages to remain on the same general wavelength of meter by providing fast rhythmic lines as an outline.  To contrast his rhythmic focus, Shipp will occasionally find space for longer melodic lines to give Kapp space to play rhythmically.

Perhaps the album does suffer a bit sonically as there are quite obvious limits to each instrument and very little extended techniques at play.  Those more intrigued by albums that test sonic parameters may be less inclined to enjoy the record because despite some obvious changes in musicality, the aesthetic of the album is essentially the same throughout.  Nonetheless, the duo’s heart remains out on the line enough to inspire further and further listening especially for the modern jazz crowd.

Cactus just never loses its drive.  It’s an easy front-to-back listen with a strong collection of tracks that flow into one another in a rather cohesive fashion.  Bobby Kapp and Matthew Shipp clearly work well together and the combination of their logical trading of ideas and complimentary approach to collaboration make for a highly varying experience.

The Denver Post

Jazz: Bret Saunders’ top 10 list of jazz music from 2016

Here’s my Top 10 list for 2016.  This year’s selections were taken from CDs (still hanging in there!) and vinyl (who would’ve seen that coming 20 years ago?) as well as streaming, Bandcamp and downloads from helpful people in the music industry. It’s getting harder to navigate the depths of sound being made available. Is there such a thing as too much music? Not a chance. Check out the 4th Annual NPR Jazz Critics Poll at, where this list was included, to see the results from more than 140 writers from around the USA.



Matthew Shipp/Bobby Kapp, “Cactus” (Northern Spy). A fearless free jazz piano-drums duo, just like they did it in the ’60s – but the recording quality is better now.

The Vinyl District

Graded on a Curve: 
The Best of 2016’s New Releases, Part One


Bobby Kapp & Matthew Shipp, Cactus +Oneida & Rhys Chatham, What’s Your Sign? (Northern Spy) Cactus is feast of duo improvisation and a pleasant surprise for those of us who missed out on Themes 4 Transmutation, the 2014 Kapp-led quartet date that included Shipp. Kapp is an important if too seldom recorded veteran of the ’60s free scene (he drums on Gato Barbieri’s In Search of the Mystery, Noah Howard’s At Judson Hall, Marion Brown’s Three for Shepp, and Dave Burrell’s High), and his return to action is reason to celebrate, particularly since the outcome is so splendid.

Shipp is on an ass-ton of recordings, an outpouring stemming from his stature as one of leading pianists in jazz over the last 30 years. In a nutshell, he belongs to the post-Cecil Taylor wave of energetic abstraction, though it would be mistake to describe him as a disciple of any one pianist’s style. Kapp has reportedly been doing some straight-ahead work lately in the Fine Wine Trio, but he and Shipp are firmly in outside mode here; the lack of skronk and the focus on the percussive (by both players) could tempt folks not normally swayed by free jazz, but be warned, for “Snow Storm Coming” is a wild ride.

The 20 Best Jazz Albums of 2016

If there is any way to imagine a positive outcome to David Bowie’s death in January, we can take comfort in the fresh light he shined on jazz music in 2016.

From David Sanborn’s sweet sax solo on “Young Americans” to AACM trumpet great Lester Bowie’s appearance on nearly half of Black Tie, White Noise to renowned avant-garde drummer Joey Baron’s role on Outside, the dearly departed Thin White Duke always had a keen ear for musicianship in this community for the majority of his career.

But the kick in the pants he gave jazz with by employing the lineup of New York City sax master Donny McCaslin’s group and ECM guitarist Ben Monder was an inspiration for the genre in a similar sense of transcendence to its conscious recoupling with hip-hop the year before through To Pimp A Butterfly.

Who knows whether Bowie would have continued to work with McCaslin and his band—the core of which is rounded out by drummer Mark Guiliana, bassist Tim Lefebvre and keyboardist Jason Lindner—had he not died of liver cancer two days after the album came out (on his 69th birthday, no less). But while The Magic Shop—the downtown NYC studio where ★ was recorded—closed its doors shortly after Bowie’s death, the magic of what the Starman and his charges conspired inside those walls can be heard across the entire scope of our list of the best jazz albums of the year, be it intentional or otherwise.

20) Logan Richardson, Shift (Blue Note)

Pat Metheny has only appeared on two Blue Note albums over the course of his career: Once in 1994 on a stunning duet album with fellow guitarist John Scofield (I Can See Your House From Here)and again in 1999 when he was one of the guests on Cassandra Wilson’s homage to Miles Davis, Traveling Miles.

That is, however, until this past winter when the guitar legend was placed in a starring role in the label debut of saxophonist Logan Richardson, performing alongside an A-list squad rounded out by the magnificent Harish Raghavan on bass, Jason Moran on piano and his drummer Nasheet Waits. For many fans of modern jazz, this lineup is something of a dream band and they do not disappoint in the least on Shift. 

Richardson pays homage to his Kansas City roots with a sense of unconventional daring that goes from the chamber jazz stylings of “Slow” to a moody rendition of Bruno Mars’ Police-jacking “Locked Out Of Heaven” with seamless ease.

19) Yusef Kamaal, Black Focus (Brownswood Recording)

Yusef Kamaal isn’t a person, but rather a working jazz duo from South London comprised of drummer Yusef Dayes and keyboardist Kamaal Williams who British music impresario Gilles Peterson signed to his Brownsound Recording imprint after seeing them perform in concert for 20 minutes.

The BBC icon’s impulse served him quite well; the pair’s debut Soft Focus takes British jazz into the realm of future funk spiritualism that’s helping transform such American abstract hip-hop imprints as Stones Throw and Brainfeeder into the best new sources for jazz today.

Rounded out by fellow South Londoners such as saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, trumpeter Yelfris Valdes, bassists Tom Driessler and Kareem Dayes, and guitarist Mansur Brown and getting Malcolm Catto of the Heliocentrics to produce, Yusef Kamaal makes exactly the kind of music their label boss loves to spin on his celebrated show on BBC Radio 6.

18) Marquis Hill, The Way We Play (Concord Jazz)

From Louis Armstrong’s famous Hot Fives and Hot Sevens recordings in the late ’20s to the third-eye modality of Lester Bowie, Chicago has always enjoyed a solid rep as one of the great cities for jazz trumpet. At 29, Marquis Hill continues this lineage with a sound that embodies the history of his city while also pushing its legacy into the 21st century with his esteemed Blacktet: saxophonist Christopher McBride, Justin Thomas on the vibes, bassist Joshua Ramos and drummer Makaya McCraven.

On his Concord Jazz debut, this native son of the Windy City pays homage to his town, first and foremost, by opening up The Way We Play with a soulful reading of the Chicago Bulls theme music from the Michael Jordan era.

From there on, this incredible ensemble delivers futuristic reimaginings of such jazz standards as Horace Silver’s “Moon Rays”, fellow Chicagoan Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage”, Donald Byrd’s “Fly Little Bird Fly” and “Straight, No Chaser” by Thelonious Monk, whose International Trumpet Competition founded in his name Hill won in 2014. And his steamy rendition of Victor Young and Ned Washington’s “My Foolish Heart” with vocals by singer Christie Dashiell, is indeed more KING than Nat “King” Cole.

The Way We Play is more than an album; it’s a calling card assuring that classic Chicago jazz is alive and well in the hands of one of its most talented young lions.

17) Anat Fort Trio with Gianluigi Trovesi, Birdwatching (ECM)

Ornithology has always been on the of the more intriguing thematic points of interest within the context of jazz music. Ornette Coleman, Dave Holland, Donald Byrd and, of course the original Birdman of jazz, Charlie Parker, have all paid sonic homage to birds and birdwatching throughout the years. For her third LP for ECM, Israeli pianist Anat Fort follows along this inspirational trajectory in her art, not only naming her new album after her favorite pastime, but spreading her proverbial wingspan as well with some of her most expansive compositions yet.

On Birdwatching, Fort returned home to Tel Aviv, where she performed a series of concerts with one of the pianist’s favorite artists, Italian horn player Gianluigi Trovesi. The successes of these performances inspired the trio, rounded out by her longtime rhythm section of bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider, to head into the studio with Trovesi and record this exceptional collection of 12 compositions.

This is a classic blend of Hebrew and Mediterranean sounds that intersect one another like the delicious fragrances coming from a marketplace in old Brooklyn, creating a listening experience as colorful and calming as the hobby it was named after.

16) Bobby Kapp/Matthew Shipp, Cactus (Northern Spy)

Drummer Bobby Kapp has been a criminally underappreciated fixture of New York’s jazz underground since the ’60s. He has appeared on such key freeform LPs as Marion Brown’s 1967 deep Impulse! gem Three For Shepp as well as pianist and longtime collaborator Dave Burrell’s crucial 1969 trio album High (with Norris Jones on bass).

But this magnificent showdown with fellow downtown dweller Matthew Shipp on the excellent Cactus makes for perhaps the most feral duel between piano and drums the likes of which I honestly don’t think jazz music has ever quite experienced before.

15) Craig Hartley, Books On Tape Vol. II – Standard Edition (self-released)

“By studying, reflecting, arranging, juxtaposing and interpreting songs and artists that have come before us, I believe that we can be better able to understand ourselves and the world in which we live,” opines pianist Craig Hartley in a public statement announcing the release of the brilliant second volume of his Books On Tape.

With a nimble rhythm section comprised of bassist Carlo De Rosa and The Bean, Mr. Jeremy Clemons, on the drums, the 2006 graduate from the Manhattan School of Music puts that statement to the test with imaginative mashups of Bach’s “Prelude No. 2” and Miles Davis’ “Solar” (“Sinclair”) and John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “Peace Piece” by Bill Evans (“Imagine Peace Piece”), as well as luminous readings of Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” and Paul McCartney’s “Junk”.

14) Brain Tentacles, Brain Tentacles (Relapse)

For those who discovered jazz through John Zorn and his affiliations with Mr. Bungle and Cannibal Corpse, the metal element of the genre has been prevalent for well over 25 years now (even longer, if you are among those of us who count Bill Ward’s drumming in Black Sabbath as the first true fusion of the two arts).

On their blistering debut, Chicago’s Brain Tentacles picks up the baton abandoned by such groups as Dillinger Escape Plan and Candiria by incorporating heavy elements of free bop into their spastic breakdowns, recalling the halcyon days of Naked City when Yamantaka Eye of the Boredoms was singing with them, crafting pure evisceration through improvisation.

13) Theo Croker, Escape Velocity (O’Keh)

As the grandson of legendary Dixieland trumpeter Doc Cheatham, it was natural for Oberlin Conservatory graduate Theo Croker to pick up the horn. However, what this young man has created on Escape Velocity goes far beyond his Big Easy pedigree as he and his group DVRK FUNK, comprised of reedist that is equal parts Mac Rebennack and Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack”. This is headphone bop of the highest order.

12) Wolfgang Muthspiel, Rising Grace (ECM)

The idea of the “great quintet” is alive and well on the second ECM LP as leader from Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel.

Recorded in the South of France with a jaw-dropping combo consisting of pianist Brad Mehldau and his longtime compatriot Larry Grenadier on double bass, drummer Brian Blade and the mighty Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Rising Grace is beautifully deep, melodic modal jazz that focuses around Muthspiel’s graceful work on the fretboard in the keys of Jim Hall and Ralph Towner. Essential late-night listening.

11) Henry Threadgill, Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi Recordings)


Since joining the esteemed Chicago freeform fraternity The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians upon its conception in the early ’60s, sax great Henry Threadgill has been an essential player in the evolution of creative jazz in the United States, a thread that helped earn him the Pulitzer Prize in music.

Some of his best work appears on the Brooklyn imprint Pi Recordings, where he’s been making albums for the last 15 years and released one of his most intriguing works yet this year with Old Locks and Irregular Verbs, a record that doesn’t feature Threadgill the musician but rather the composer, putting together a new group called Ensemble Double Up comprised of two pianists (current ECM heroes David Vrellis and Craig Taborn), two alto saxophonists (Curtis MacDonald and Roman Filiu) and a rhythm section for tuba, drums and cello to bring to life a six-part suite written in tribute to his fallen compatriot and fellow composer Butch Morris, who died of lung cancer in 2013.

Whether he’s wielding the big brass or a conductor’s wand, Henry Threadgill continues to apply new languages to the jazz conversation with a sense of adventure that sounds just as fresh and challenging as it was with the AACM or the New York City loft scene or for Bill Laswell’s Axiom label or with his sensational chamber group Zooid. We can only hope he doubles down on recording further compositions with this Ensemble Double Up.

10) John Scofield, Country for Old Men (Impulse!)

Country and jazz don’t blend themselves together all that much these days. But in those rare instances where these two worlds collide, the results can bring about some serious magic.

For Sco’s second album on the revitalized Impulse! imprint, he joins forces with old friends and fellow creative legends Steve Swallow on bass and drummer Bill Stewart to embellish in the guitarist’s pure love for such legendary country axes as Buck Owens and Leon McAuliffe of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys across imaginative interpretations of such faves as Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and the recently departed Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried”.

The trio even transform Shania Twain’s mom-jeans standard “You’re Still The One” into a serious jam.

9) The Robert Glasper Experiment, ArtScience (Blue Note)

After two albums teeming with high-profile guest spots, the best way for Robert Glasper to revive his group The Experiment was to keep the new album a family affair. And that is exactly what they did with ArtScience, which imagines how a ’70s fusion group might have entered into the R&B game in the present day instead of the disco era.

The best part of the record, actually, is how much we get to hear saxophonist/keyboardist Casey Benjamin sing, his processed voice being of a more tuneful variety of Gil-Scott Heron-esque earnestness and Stevie Wonder sweetness that can be felt most potently on the beautiful cover of The Human League’s new wave slow jam “Human”.

8) AZIZA, Aziza (Dare2)

The Aziza is a small woodland creature who serves as the God of Inspiration for the former kingdom of guitarist Lionel Loueke’s African homeland of Benin. Its powers come from the ability to lend its magic to both hunters and gatherers who enter the woods. It’s also the name of the latest working supergroup of legendary jazz bassist Dave Holland.

Featuring Loueke and rounded out by saxophonist Chris Potter and drummer Eric Harland, to say Aziza the band grooves harder than its 2013 predecessor Prism (with pianist Craig Taborn and former Tonight Show musical director Kevin Eubanks on guitar) is indeed an understatement.

Holland and Potter have been working together for 20 years appearing together on some of the bassist’s best work for ECM in the early 2000s, while Loueke toured with Potter and Harland as part of Herbie Hancock’s Joni Letters. That sense of familiarity plays a key role in this record’s cool cohesion—the kinship between these men reaches a fever pitch on Aziza with a cross-continental fusion of hi-life rhythms and kinetic interplay born from a rare perfect storm of professional admiration and genuine friendship.

7) Donny McCaslin, Beyond Now (Motema Music)

Donny and the group were very much in the throes of the grieving process when they began work on Beyond Now, recorded only three months following the passing of David Bowie, who shot their careers into the stratosphere when he brought them aboard to record.

With the help of guitarist Nate Wood and producer David Binney, the band channeled their sorrow into pushing themselves to keep merging innovative EDM production and jazz improvisation with a wild interpretation of “Coelacanth 1” by Deadmau5 and the freq’d out McCaslin original “Faceplant”.

Meanwhile, the group pays sublime homage to their old boss in the form of imaginative renditions of the Outside highlight “A Small Plot of Land” (featuring vocals by Jeff Taylor) and a transcendent translation of the Low centerpiece “Warszawa”.

Whether or not this band will record with another pop icon remains to be seen. But seeing how they made the most of the time they spent in the company of our beloved Ziggy is truly inspirational.

6) Kris Davis, Duopoly (Pyroclastic)

If there is one thing pianist Kris Davis has inherently displayed since emerging from the New York City jazz scene in the 2000s it was her ability to pick up and play with some of the most advanced minds on the local circuit, be it Trevor Dunn or John Zorn or Michael Formanek or fellow glass shatterer Mary Halvorson, and have a conversation filled with finesse and daring.

For her latest full-length as leader, the Vancouver-born Davis brings this intrinsic interpersonal compatibility with her colleagues to a new sense of intimacy with the brilliant Duopoly, an album comprised of a series of duets with friends she’s never recorded with before, including clarinet great Don Byron, alto saxophonist Tim Berne, drummers Billy Drummond and Marcus Gilmore of the Vijay Iyer Trio, pianists Angelica Sanchez and Craig Taborn and guitarists Julian Lage and Bill Frisell.

A set comprised of originals, covers and improvisations, Davis beautifully showcases the intelligent interplay that’searned her rightful comparisons to the great Cecil Taylor.

5) Esperanza Spalding, Emily’s D+Evolution (Concord)

It was tricky to decide whether to put the second or third Esperanza LP on this year’s jazz list or the upcoming R&B list on account of the bold way she interweaves the two here. But at its root, the bassist’s sonic reinvention is based in her initial craft.

As her extroverted alter-ego Emily (which is also her middle name), she shatters the divide between Janelle Monae and Joni Mitchell with the help of an incredible ensemble highlighted by three of the hottest names in modern jazz: guitarist Matthew Stevens, keyboardist Corey King and drummer Karreim Riggins, a group who surely enthralled fusion fans with some of the funky Return to Forever-isms partaken on artier, rockier songs like “Funk the Fear” and “I Want It Now”.

Spalding is to jazz what FKA Twigs is to R&B, a wholly unique entity pushing the boundaries of her craft into the future.

4) MAST, Love and War (Alpha Pup)

The concept of abstract beat production utilized to compose creative jazz has been taken to a whole new level on the Alpha Pup debut of MAST, the nom de plume of Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist Tim Conley, who plays in the Fresh Cut Orchestra, Icy Demons and a bunch of other projects you should hunt down on YouTube right now.

Mixed and mastered by L.A. beat scene veteran Daddy Kev and featuring guest turns from such fellow new school lions as Taylor McFerrin, Makaya McCraven and pals from Fresh Cut, Snarky Puppy and David Bowie’s ★ band, Love and War is a three-act suite for programmed breaks and live instrumentation that further tightens the knot uniting abstract urban culture and jazz musicianship into a cohesive, organic tangle of possibilities.

3) Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison, In Movement (ECM)


Jack DeJohnette only played with John Coltrane once for three songs in the early ’60s. But a half century later, the iconic Chicago drummer finds himself leading a group comprised of Trane’s son Ravi on sax, as well as Matthew Garrison, the son of longtime Coltrane bassist Jimmy Garrison. All you have to do is listen to the opening strains of their version of Papa’s “Alabama” to get the gist of the futuristic modality these three men bring out here.

Together this incredible cross-generational trio ushers this great jazz legacy into the now with an incorporation of electronics that offers a nod to what the youngest member of the esteemed Coltrane/McLeod clan, Flying Lotus, thanks to the laptop knowhow of little Garrison.

The trio even does a beautiful meditation on Miles Davis’ “Blue In Green”, a loving homage to both Ravi’s pops and Jack’s old charge in the same cool breath. In Movement is, in a word, magnificent.

2) Julian Lage, Arclight / Live in Los Angeles (Mack Avenue)

For his official debut as a leader on the Mack Avenue imprint, former child prodigy Julian Lage continues to prove why he is the best guitar player in modern jazz with this dazzling tribute to his electric guitar heroes of the early 20th century.

If you are hearing aspects of Chet Atkins and Les Paul throughout the course of Arclight, that’s because Lage and his mind-blowing rhythm section of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wollesen pay homage to the guys Chester and Lester were influenced by like Merle Travis and George Barnes, crafting a mood that is equally in step and out of time to brilliant effect.

Even better is the recently released digital EP Live in Los Angeles, which adds further weight to the stunning variation of early electric guitar jazz this trio takes in so many different directions across lengthy meditations on Sammy Cain and Irving Kahal’s 1938 standard “I’ll Be Seeing You” and the Arclight highlight “Stop Go Start” cut live at the Los Angeles jazz club The Blue Whale this past June.

1) Jeff Parker, The New Breed (International Anthem, Ltd.)


No other musician in the modern era has moved so seamlessly between rock and jazz like Jeff Parker.

As guitarist for Chicago post-rock icons Tortoise, he’s taken the group in new and challenging directions that have kept them at the forefront of pop creativity for the last 20 years. As of late, however, Parker has established himself as one of the most formidable solo talents in modern jazz.

The New Breed, Parker’s first release for the amazing International Anthem label, perhaps cuts closest to the cloth of the classic Tortoise sound many of us love and miss so much more than anything the band themselves has released since.

Rooted in old home recordings and beats that have been sitting on a hard drive or on his dormant MySpace page since the late 2000s, Parker revisited these relics with a killer ensemble comprised of cats who’ve worked with Me’Shell Ndegeocello (bassist Paul Bryan), Esperanza Spalding (saxophonist Josh Johnson) and Robert Glasper (drummer Jamire Williams), and updated them to fit his recent obsession with the Brainfeeder label and its accompanying Low End Theory movement.

With The New Breed, Jeff Parker’s made such an incredible fusion of abstract beat science, post-rock aura and nuanced modality that it sounds custom made for those of us who dive in and out of these worlds as seamlessly as the composer himself. What I’m trying to say is, he made the perfect jazz album just for me.

100% bandcamp

10 albums à retenir pour la semaine 38 (2016)

Chaque semaine, le meilleur de la pop indé, du rock, de l’electro et du jazz dans une sélection 100% bandcamp.


"A more pronounced lyricism, and a greater penchant for the conventional registers of the tenor saxophone (in addition to the altissimo octaves, which he has done more to explore and refine than any of his contemporaries)...the results fly free and far with exhilarating uncertainty, finding points of convergence that challenge and delight."

Tarvos, among the tiniest of Saturn’s 60-odd moons, has a radius of less than five miles, which places it in size somewhere between Santa Monica, California and Dover, New Hampshire. Its ovoid orbitmakes it one of Saturn’s “irregular moons” – moons most likely caught in the wake of Saturn’s gravitational pull, rather than those that congealed out of planetary dust. It belongs to a specific quartet known as the Gallic Moons, whose names derive from Celtic (Gallic) mythology. 
Tarvos is also the second volume in The Art Of Perelman-Shipp, a seven-disc series built upon the partnership of the titanic Brazilian tenorist Ivo Perelman and the protean American pianist Matthew Shipp. This series celebrates the Saturn Return, an astronomical phenomenon with astrological implications, which occurs roughly every 29.5 years (as described in detail in the accompanying essay by Chris Flisher). As these albums arrive, the Saturn Return looms on the near horizon for both Perelman and Shipp – born five weeks apart in the early 1960s – and Perelman sees its influence upon their music. “As we are starting to enter this phase,” he says, “I can feel its power on my daily life, and on my music life; and speaking to Matt, he also feels the same.

There’s a synergy as we both experience this. Both of our Saturns are amplifying each other, and everything is opening up – my practicing, the music, the way I hear, the sounds, the colors.”
The planet Saturn maintains a gravitational hold on its moons; similarly, in The Art Of Perelman-Shipp, the duo recording Saturn(Volume 6) provides the home world for the series, which also comprises albums named for six of Saturn’s satellites. On each of the moon-named albums, Perelman and Shipp have included a bassist or drummer (or a bassist and drummer), to form either a trio or quartet. Explains Perelman, “Saturn is the main piece, surrounded by the other volumes, which are our ‘moons.’ It’s not that the other combinations are weaker or not as good. It’s just that the gravity, the magnetic attraction, between Matthew and me is very strong. It is the core of everything.” 

On Tarvos, the duo has invited the rarely heard drummer Bobby Kapp into their orbit, whose performance here will strike many listeners like the discovery of a previously unanticipated asteroid or comet. 
​Tarvos is a divine but confusing figure in Gallic lore, depicted as a bull with three white cranes perched on its back; his significance remains a mystery. In any case, this image had nothing to do with Perelman’s decision in naming this album. “I didn’t really know what Tarvos means,” says Perelman. “It just sounds good. It’s exotic – and Bobby Kapp is a very exotic musician. Like me, he is an émigré; he’s been living four decades in Mexico. So he’s a mixture of America and Mexico, like I am – except in my case, it’s America and Brazil.”

Apart from its sonorous appeal, Perelman’s decision to use the name for this album prompts a comparison between the mythological figure Tarvos and the septuagenarian Kapp, whose age (74) and relative obscurity – along with his whipcrack reflexes and energetic musicianship – make him a semi-mythological figure in his own right. Playing jazz in his native New Jersey in the 1950s, Kapp made a side trip to the blues before heading to the Catskills resorts in upstate New York, where he could bank some cash while honing his craft; returning to the New York City area in the mid-60s, he joined pianist Dave Burrell in a quartet known as the Untraditional Jazz Improvisation Team. Shortly later he arrived in Mexico City, the base of operations for international travels ever since. In the autumn of 2016, Kapp released a duo album, Cactus,with Matthew Shipp, and Shipp introduced him to Perelman, to the saxophonist’s lasting gratitude. 

Explains Perelman: “There is an exuberance, an effervescence, a happiness about his playing. And he’s very knowledgeable about Latin rhythms – so he’s dancing at the drum kit. He’s the closest to my ideal drummer, which is a free-thinking drummer that understands music and dance and Latin rhythms. Many drummers like to pigeonhole the music; they think that Brazilian music is one format and free jazz is another. In my head it’s not. I’ve tried many times to mix Brazilian music and free jazz, and although I am happy with the results, I have never found a drummer that was equally free and equally Brazilian. In other words, I could never find the ‘Ivo Perelman’ on drums. But Bobby Kapp, he plays like that – and with a Latin American concept.”

Like all of Perelman’s work, with or without Shipp, this music takes shape in the instant of its creation, seeming to burst forth without premonition or preparation; the cosmic analogy of the Big Bang, which states that the known universe burst into existence in mere moments, applies here (minus its unintended grandiosity). Perelman provides no preconceived themes, no underlying harmonic schemes, no outline of the events that will take place in a given performance; typically, he and his chosen associates walk into a recording studio, unpack their instruments, and start to play, without a page of written music or even much talk beforehand. As usual, the results fly free and far with exhilarating uncertainty, finding points of convergence that challenge and delight. 
Nonetheless, those familiar with Perelman’s music will find hints of his own traditional music education peeking through here and there: a more pronounced lyricism, and a greater penchant for the conventional registers of the tenor saxophone (in addition to the altissimo octaves, which he has done more to explore and refine than any of his contemporaries). And when is the last time any of us heard Perelman or Shipp allude to astandard from the Great American Songbook – in this case, “I’ll Remember April” – as they do several times in Part 4, and at the end of Part 5, and most clearly in the dreamy lullaby of Part 6 (at 3:28)?
​Perhaps Kapp, whose career has included more traditional jazz playing than either Perelman’s or Shipp’s, exerted a slight gravitational tug on his collaborators, in a way that the small irregular moon Tarvos never could.

NEIL TESSER, liner notes "The art of Perelman-Shipp" vol 2

Culture Catch


Steve's Favorite New Jazz Albums of 2016

Two generations of free jazz combine for this duo: drummer Kapp, from the '60s; pianist Shipp, from the '90s (Shipp previously played on a Kapp-led band album). There's a greater-than-usual sense of Shipp having fun, and sounds I haven't heard from him quite how they appear here -- such as the quiet lyricism of "During," which Kapp counterpoints with a semi-martial beat that somehow is perfectly apt. Kapp has what some drummers tragically lack -- taste! -- as well as stylistic flexibility. Completely improvising each track, their telepathic interaction is one of the joys of this record. Without making any compromises ("Snow Storm Coming" sure isn't lightweight), this is one of the most immediately accessible free-improv albums I've ever heard. [Note: I manage the ESP-Disk' label, which has released albums including each of these artists.]

Art News

Review Big Ears Festival 2017 

Although there are edgier festivals set in unique civic environments—the Unsound Festival in Krakow, Poland rises to mind—Big Ears boasts a distinct user-friendliness for those who like to be stacked with options (or occasions for Solomonic quandaries). Should one abandon a rapturously cooking duo set with jazz pianist Matthew Shipp and loft-era drummer Bobby Kapp (resplendent in a glittery blue shirt suitable for Sun Ra) to catch a late-night show by DakhaBrakha, a Ukrainian quartet devoted to making “ethno chaos” in fuzzy conical headgear? Hit up the precision-minded art-rock band Horse Lords in an old warehouse at one end of town, or get in line early for the American debut of the Gavin Bryars Ensemble? I chose the latter and found myself sharing a front pew with Janie Geiser, the artist and experimental filmmaker, giggling at the composer’s dry anecdotal wit and floating back nearly a thousand years as the ensemble performed adaptations of 12th-century sacred music

Music and More

Ivo Perelman - The Art of Perelman - Shipp Volume 2: Tarvos (Leo Records, 2017)

The second volume of the series chronicling the work of saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp welcomes drummer Bobby Kapp into the fold for an excellent excursion into spontaneously improvised jazz. Their music has the power of deep communication and presents it in a powerful and palpable manner. "Part 1" has Kapp leading the group into a robust performance with a solo opening that is eventually met with full bodied saxophone and finally strong piano playing combining for an excellent improvised performance which allows ample room for experimentation. They culminate with torrential saxophone and drums combing for a full frontal assault before dropping off for a gentle conclusion. Haunting saxophone as at the heart of "Part 2" with subtle piano and percussion accompaniment. Their group improvisation is of a more subtle nature on this track, before picking up the pace to a low boil with whinnying saxophone framed by rhythmic piano and drums. "Part 3" is a tightly wound piece that evolves gracefully and creating an interesting perspective that allows for immediacy and interaction in the music which is happening in the moment and creating a unique atmosphere. The development of "Part 4" takes a fractured sensibility and uses it as a springboard for an interesting three way conversation. The musicians communicate with each other beautifully and this is passed on to the listener as the music becomes more strident and powerful. "Part 5" has a thoughtful and springy tempo allowing the musicians to dance around one another, engaging in an exciting creation of powerful low-end piano, strident saxophone, and skittering drums. The improvisation builds to an interesting fast paced free section that allows each musician to play to their strengths. Spare and lonely piano opens "Part 6" creating a vast soundscape for cymbal percussion, and finally long tones of deeply emotional saxophone. There is an atmosphere of deep yearning and restraint as the music develops organically, creating thoughtful and incisive renderings of their original music in the moment. The concluding "Part 7" has some very nice and subtle piano and percussion interplay, followed by ripe peals of saxophone that launch the music to a higher plane of interplay. The sound comes fast and furious, with Perelman's unique tone alternating between abrasive and lulling, and the piano and percussion shifting immediately with any changes in the music and creating precision ensemble playing. This was a very good album, one that is aesthetically pleasing and creates an immediate bond between the listener and the music. The trio creates spirited and many hued improvisations with their hearts proudly on their sleeves. 



Big Ears 2017: Where Jeff Tweedy Is Noise Star, Symphony Plays on Floor

Leading the impressive jazz roster, icon Carla Bley conducted the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra with sharp motions. Her five-part 2001 composition "The National Anthem" ("What better time," she quipped with a laugh), is technically a big band piece, but the minor-key funkiness (anchored by bassist Steve Swallow) and dissonant satire of the Francis Scott Key composition made it part Funkadelic, part Spike Jones, part On the Corner. Recent Pulitzer Prize winner Henry Threadgill's Zooid brought an unlikely set up (acoustic guitar, cello, tuba, flute, drums) to unlikely arrangements, coalescing into lumbering flat-tire rhythms. Matana Roberts played a jazz show that felt like a noise show, complete with drones, loops and some shouting over the chaos, bringing some of the narratives of her 2011 album Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libres into the intimate swirl of her more recent work. The 74-year-old free-jazz drummer Bobby Kapp teamed with pianist Matthew Shipp for an amazing dance of improvisation. Kapp's loose-limbed playing drifted in and out of Shipp's precise, almost militaristic tumbles of notes for a performance that swung between jaunty, apocalyptic and almost telepathically in sync. Steve Lehman and Sélébéyone played funky jazz-rap like loops going out of phase, walking the lines of groove and anti-groove. The performers were rhythmic marvels, the music feeling like funk but working like prog, with MCs rapping over 10/4 rhythms and the band hitting insane accents. Still, for all their wowing arrangements, the audience pleaser was the rapid-fire chops and high energy of Senegalese rapper Gaston Bandimic.

All About Jazz

Big Ears Festival 2017

Drummer Bobby Kapp and pianist Matthew Shipp

Matthew Shipp
" data-original-title="">Matthew Shipp played free improvisation in the intimate Square Room. Their recent album Cactus (Northern Spy Records, 2016) presented their improvisations as a collection of nine tracks, but their festival performance was a single, uninterrupted set. Kapp came on stage wearing an eye- catching aqua colored sequined jacket, but his playing was not comparably flamboyant. He and Shipp were a well oiled team, from the abstract opening (Kapp playing only cymbals) to sections with a swing feel (Shipp played a Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
" data-original-title="">Thelonious Monk
 quote at one point, proof that he's not all about continuous chromatic flurries of notes). The flow moved on to a section of Shipp playing inside the piano, then finally gentle music with Kapp using brushes. 

"a stunning collective improvisation...The Art of Perelman-Shipp is a monumental artistic achievement and one of the most important recordings of the XXIst century."

"Tarvos" is completely different: Matt and Ivo play here also in a trio, but this time with Bobby Kapp on drums. Kapp is an American jazz drummer, who played and recorded with alto saxophonists Marion Brown and Noah Howard, pianist Dave Burrell and tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri. Kapp is clearly a more traditional musician than Ivo and Matt, although he has some experience in the free music- he recorded also an amazing duo with Matt, "Cactus". Maybe for this reason "Tavros" is also more "traditional" and more "free jazz oriented" album. This is seen already in the first, very expressive "Part 1", but perhaps even more in the "Part 2", which starts peacefully, but develops into an explosion of feelings and moods. The spirit of Ornette Coleman is there. "Part 3" is more tranquila - the musicians return at least at the beginning to the kind free jazz framework, with delicate drums and gentle dialogue of Ivo and Matt.

The second part is more energetic, reminding me of some of the late tunes by John Coltrane. Obviously, associations with the legendary Cecil Taylor Trio (with Cecil Taylor on piano, Jimmy Lyons on alto saxophone, and Sunny Murray on drums) are in the right place! These latter associations are particularly appropriate for the "Part 4" and "Part 5". "Part 6" is a slow ballad, with fantastic work of Matt, in particular in the solo introduction. For me this is the most beautiful and artistically best track of the album. But, the final "Part 7" is also a small masterpiece, with a stunning collective improvisation. 

Maciej Lewenstein, author
"Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond"


Some musicians who cut their teeth on the wildly communal streets of Lower Manhattan have remained in the city, steadily working through the Loft Era to the ‘80s’ sub-underground rumble, reemerging as accepted leaders in post-Millennial New York jazz. Others departed for Europe as racial and political tensions, as well as lack of performing opportunities, became too wearying and carved out a life overseas, gaining greater recognition than they’d have likely received at home.

Still others have remained itinerant, passing through a number of locales and performing situations, adding sonic depth to an otherwise fairly solitary existence. Drummer Bobby Kapp is a member of the latter category and was a frequent collaborator with ‘60s heavies like trombonist Grachan Moncur III, pianist Dave Burrell and saxophonists Noah Howard, Marion Brown, Pharoah Sanders and Gato Barbieri. With a loose, allover approach to the kit, fleet and tidal, his playing certainly recalls the work of masters like Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones and Kapp has recently reappeared in New York with a cast of contemporary improvisers including pianist Matthew Shipp, saxophonist Ivo Perelman and bassist William Parker. Born on Apr. 11th, 1942 (as Robert Kaplan) and raised in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Kapp was introduced to music at a young age: “My grandmother had a player piano, so as a toddler, if you hit the pedals the things went on by themselves. I would be down there trying to figure out how to make it work. My parents bought me an accordion but I didn’t like that, so I got interested in the drums because I heard somebody play them in a high school band and I said ‘I want to do that.’ And I worked—my father sent me to Metuchen, New Jersey to work at a tire recap shop— I saved up money and bought a set of drums. I nailed them to the floor in the basement of the house and started listening to Max Roach, Shelly Manne, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Art Blakey, people like that, trying to match them.” As a teenager, Kapp left home and played gigs with organ trios in the Borscht Belt, eventually landing in Harlem, meeting heroes like Oliver Jackson and Philly Joe Jones. Kapp would go on to study at Berklee College of Music with Alan Dawson and Ray Santisi, which is where he met Burrell, but “learning how to play mama and daddy paradiddles with Philly Joe Jones in the bathroom before I even got to school, Oliver Jackson showing me that you play ‘up’ on the drums—‘you white boys always play into the drums and smother the sound. Play off the drums, play up, let it up and let it fly!’ Then he’d try to get with your girlfriend and send you out for pizza, but the drum lessons were off the map.” By 1965-66, Kapp was in the East Village rooming with Burrell and reedplayer Byard Lancaster at 52 Bond Street and later in a building on East Third owned by the Hell’s Angels. “Up the street, three blocks or so, was LeRoi Jones’ building, 27 Cooper Square. You could hear [saxophonist] Archie Shepp practicing. When you got up in the morning he was out the window. When you went to bed at night he’d be out there practicing. [Drummer] Beaver Harris came by, Elvin Jones, a lot of people came by the loft. The free jazz thing that everybody reveres, that was our daily experience—the Ayler brothers would be at parties, [drummer] Sunny Murray, all those cats.” Though quite active during the period, Kapp only appeared on two complete LPs and approximately one half of a record each by Brown and Burrell (though some further material was released later). Dealing, however, with the range of personal problems that sometimes affect even the most committed artists, Kapp relocated to Mexico as a way to recuperate, also studying T’ai Ch’i and exploring his vocal talents—with a dry, chestnuty voice that impressed none other than Joe Williams, Kapp would place in the Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition in 1998, 32 years after his recording debut as a drummer. At the time, he had also begun working with pianist Richard Wyands and bassist Gene Perla as the Fine Wine Trio, eventual Jazz Ambassadors to Northern Africa and the Middle East. In 2013 Kapp recorded in Havana with Gabriel Hernández and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars (Cilla sin Embargo, released in 2015), but the pull of free music remained and brought Kapp back home.

The drummer relates that “if I was gonna get a chance to do this I wanted to do it for real and at the highest level possible. Matthew Shipp fits the bill perfectly. And New York City is the epicenter of jazz. The masters of the trade, the innovators, are right here for better or for worse. What I’m trying to develop with Matthew is a concept I call simultaneous conversation. But at the same time it’s harmonious and empathetic. You’re looking for a miracle—magic—something that for lack of a better word I like to call the muse. The muse plays you. And if your associate is on that muse, you can get to stuff that you can’t get any other place.” Kapp and Shipp have a special relationship, the latter’s incisive overlays providing a crisp and altogether different whorl aside the former’s earthy, economical tap. Their first meeting resulted in the self-released disc Themes for Transmutation (with bassist Tyler Mitchell and reedplayer Ras Moshe Burnett), followed in quick succession by the duo Cactus (Northern Spy) and a trio with tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman (Tarvos, on Leo). Surprisingly, Themes for Transmutation is Kapp’s first album as a leader in 60 years of playing professionally and, taken as a whole, these discs show that decades of playing and continued reflection result in an undiluted and profoundly lyrical concept. v For more information, visit Kapp is at The Brooklyn Commons Jul. 17th. See Calendar. Recommended Listening:

• Noah Howard—At Judson Hall (ESP-Disk’, 1966)

• Gato Barbieri—In Search of Mystery (ESP-Disk’, 1967)

• Dave Burrell—High Won-High Two (Black Lion, 1968)

• Noah Howard/Bobby Kapp—Between Two Eternities (Cadence Jazz, 1999) • Bobby Kapp—Themes 4 Transmutation (s/r, 2014)

• Bobby Kapp/Matthew Shipp— Cactus (Northern-Spy, 2016)

The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2, Tarvos, with Bobby Kapp

The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2, Tarvos, with Bobby Kapp

So today I present to you my thoughts on the second volume of the ambitious and endlessly absorbing series, The Art of Perelman-Shipp. Volume 2, Tarvos (Leo LR 795). On it we are treated to the trio of Ivo Perelman, tenor sax, Matt Shipp, piano, and one of the more unsung masters of avant jazz drumming, Bobby Kapp.

Kapp has a supreme feel for getting his drums to SOUND, ringingly and musically, and then how to construct a prose of drum eloquence that is perfect for this threesome.

As the other volumes in the series, it is open freedom throughout that is the order of the day.

Matt sounds his usual excellently appropriate self. He is sometimes less overtly soloistic than he usually is, but what he plays is perfect as a pianistic setup for the proceedings and if you listen concentratedly to what he is doing, you hear how what he is doing goes a long way in establishing what is happening. And then there is some very weighty space eventually where he rhapsodizes freely as only he can!

This volume has some exceptional Ivo Perelman tenor. He wills himself into a sort of twilight world where the immediate mingles with a sort of scumbling presence of the past in jazz sax. I hear, almost hallucinate with the resonance of players like Johnny Hodges, Pete Brown, Ben Webster, there yet as a musical apparition, a ghostly wisp of allusions to what no longer exists except in Ivo's masterful channeling of their long silent echoes.

And so the entire program glows with an aura that is palpable yet intangible. It is a testament to the masterful brilliance of the three frozen in a series of brilliant moments.

Perhaps you should start here with the set! It is a prime example of very rooted and eloquent new free jazz.


Ivo Perelman: Heptagon


Over the past few years, Brazilian tenor sax luminary Ivo Perelman has been releasing albums in clusters based on themes / approaches: The Art of the Improv Trio, Vol. 1—Vol. 6 and The Art of Perelman-(Matthew) Shipp Vol. 1—Vol. 7 and Heptagon is one of six new simultaneous releases. 

Here, Perelman appears with longtime affiliates, pianist Matthew Shipp

Matthew Shipp
" data-original-title="">Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker
William Parker
bass, acoustic
" data-original-title="">William Parker
 and newcomer, drummer Bobby Kapp, who performed on Brazilian saxophonist Gato Barbieri
Gato Barbieri
1934 - 2016
" data-original-title="">Gato Barbieri
's debut album issued in 1967. Nonetheless, Kapp is an excellent choice as Perelman's assessment is on the mark by stating: "he's very sensitive to time and space. He is dancing at the drum kit..." And while the frontline rolls along with the improvisational game-plan, Kapp's buoyant timekeeping faculties add a poetic quality to the rhythmic foundation along with Parker's resonating lines and fluid attack. 

The artists do what they do best by creating on-the-fly works without following any rigid agendas, although Shipp does indoctrinate several of these works with underlying melodic content and hooks, translating into sub-motifs. The band launches the festivities with "Part 1," which is etched by a revolving pattern and the rhythm section's flourishing pulse, escalated by Perelman's muscular mid-register phrasings, accented with a few plaintive cries. However, the band slowly disassembles the flow towards the coda. 

Each piece stands on its own. And "Part 2" features Shipps circular clusters, shaded by Kapp's hued cymbal shadings and the saxophonist's moody lines along with dips and spikes eliciting notions of a late-night vibe. The quartet's undulating gait remains a constant throughout these contracting and energized works. But "Part 5," opens with Perelman and Shipp's lamenting exchanges, evolving into a rambunctious vista amid soaring trajectories, anchored by Parker's booming support and Kapp's nimble drumming. Eventually all hell breaks loose. On "Part 7" the band intertwines blues and a staggered free-bop framework, heightened by Shipp's hard-hitting block chords as Parker and Perelman mimic and counterbalance each other during the bridge. In sum, highlights abound throughout this effervescent set, as they articulate the shifting tides in expeditious and purposeful fashion

CD Baby


Bobby Kapp | Risky Business

DownTown Music Gallery