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J. Higham "joehigham" (Europe)

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Tiny Resistors
Tiny Resistors
Price: £12.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Stuff!, 15 Oct 2008
This review is from: Tiny Resistors (Audio CD)
Todd Sickafoose is the bass player for Annie DeFranco, but this doesn't mean very much when talking about the music on this CD. In fact one wonders if the music here is actually more closely related to 'prog rock' such as Tortoise, with wandering melodies that develop over a matter of minutes. Todd's arrangements are really very subtle, details pop out with each listening keeping the music very fresh.

There have been many jazz reviews for this CD but I would suggest that if it's jazz you're looking for then this might not be for you as it does lack real solo space. The excellent musicians on this CD play all the parts with style etc but maybe killer soloist (or two) leaping out of the pieces from time to time would of brought it up to 5 stars - there are beautiful short solo passages which float in and out of the pieces. This doesn't really matter in the whole as the music as I mentioned above functions more via the arrangements.

I would certainly highly recommend this CD if you're looking for something between jazz and prog-rock. If you like the jazz of Bill Frisell you'll also find plenty in here to your liking. Check out Todd's MySpace for more details and sound bites.

You can also check out the AllMusic Website (AMG) for further information.

A Fine Balance
A Fine Balance
Price: £9.12

5.0 out of 5 stars A great discovery, 27 Sep 2008
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This review is from: A Fine Balance (Audio CD)
What can you say except, nice work guys! Michael Bates (double bass) and his musicians take you on a beautifully crafted trip round various open ended compositions. These compositions are not free form blowing, but are really small highly developed compositions which have as their influences something of Charles Mingus to Dave Douglas (Michael's svengali I suppose). The music is always creative and often quite beautiful - check out 'Entrance' or the solo bass tune 'Partly Innocent'. Quinsin Nachoff (sax/clarinet) is exceptional, playing somewhere in the same direction as Chris Potter/Donny McCaslin but all the players play beautifully Kevin Turcotte (tmpt) & Mark Timmermans (drms).

If you like good experimental forward looking music that still swings - without lots of squawking and various noises - then this is maybe for you. There's plenty for you to discover on every listen and not a dull tune in sight.

Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £13.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars prog rock or jazz?, 21 July 2008
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This review is from: Oceana (Audio CD)
Ben Monder's 'Oceana' is certainly difficult to categorize when it comes to jazz. Many people on the site have already sung the praises of his various CDs, although it has to be said that the music is not always easy to listen to. It would seem that the 'jazz' tag is not really the best way of categorizing Monder's music/compositions. At times it would be more comfortable to take the likes of King Crimson, Robert Fripp, Pat Metheny, Living Color, Bill Frisell etc as comparisons as the music is often very composed and quite complex. Some of the melodies take a long time to develop - 'Oceana' at 17 mins, or 'Rooms of Light' at 16 mins, but this means that there's plenty to listen to and of course much to discover. Ben Monder uses the voice of Theo Bleckmann as a counterfoil in most of the written melody lines which gives the music an almost ethereal touch at moments - check out the heavy 'Rooms Of Light' with it's high energy guitar distortion melody doubled with the voice (as an example)!

One should not forget to mention the playing of Kermit Driscoll or Skuli Sverrisson (bass) and Ted Poor (drms) who keep this highly complex music 'up and running'. Without them the music would/could get very bogged down in complexity, but luckily the great rhythm section make you forget (not notice) the difficult structures which hold this music together.

Since Ben Monder is known for his work with such diverse groups as Paul Motian, Bill McHenry, Maria Schneider, Donny McCaslin or even Rebecca Martin (& thousands of others!!), one starts to understand when hearing this CD why this guitarist is in heavy demand as a sideman.

Great music and certainly worth listening to if you want to discover something new in terms of the guitar trio format.

More Jazz
More Jazz
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.74

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Iain's best effort!, 21 May 2008
This review is from: More Jazz (Audio CD)
Well, the above reviewers seem to be raving about this one, as did Jazzwise & other well know jazz papers - although it must be difficult to criticize such a well known figure on the UK scene (when you're part of it). I think that Iain is an excellent player and has made some very good CDs in the past, and I suspect in the future ....... but this is not his best, although if you're a fan you'll probably want to check this one out anyhow.

I find that Iain's playing on this album is rather busy and at times it seems to lack a little space in his solo lines. So, what's wrong with that you might ask(?) .... well, it becomes a bit monotone after a few solos. Having said that there are however some more attractive medium tempo tunes - 'St Ella' is one such example. The tunes (re-writes of standard tunes) are also maybe not his best and at times a little confused melodically, he tries to make a few 'interesting' changes to these standard chord patterns which don't always come off. It's certainly true that the 'Tribute to Alan Skidmore .... ' is one of the best and most swinging tunes on this CD, but for the rest...?!

Anyhow all that said Iain Ballamy is a player of impeccable taste, playing beautiful lines and writing good tunes. But for my money I would opt for an earlier album of his - all of the FOOD CDs, Balloon Man (if you can find a copy), Little Radio etc.

Price: £13.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars unexpected, 15 May 2008
This review is from: Dome (Audio CD)
Unexpected gift, which is what this CD was for me. As part of a package included in a subscription offer, this CD arrived (for me) with some trepidation. The CDs promo blurb seemed to suggest that the music might be a little too 'new age' for my liking, but I took the chance and ordered it anyhow!

To my great surprise the CD has stayed in my CD player for the last few days. Johannnes Enders a sax player who has played a composed in many different stlyes - from post bop to modern - is joined here by Nils Petter Molvær along with John Hollenbeck (drms), Saam Schlamminger (oriental percussion) and Ralf Schmidt (Church Organ). As one can imagine, recording a CD in a church, the music has an almost quasi-spiritual sound and at times the soloists almost reach out to you like a muezzin. What's also interesting is the build up of ideas, rhythms and atmospheres throughout the disc which climax on a very beautiful 'No Hope & Then No Hope Again'. Stylistically the music is much in the same direction as Arve Henrikson or even Jon Hassell.

Price: £24.79

4.0 out of 5 stars It just keeps on playing., 5 May 2008
This review is from: Roses (Audio CD)
Bill McHenry, if you don't already know him, is a law unto himself as far as jazz goes. He often plays (although not always) in a deceptively simple style which always places melody at the front. His compositions are always beautifully crafted melodies unfolding to reveal many different colours and atmospheres. Although the music is 'free-ish' (read : rubato style playing) it is never harsh and the music is at moments almost hypnotic due to the delicate playing of the all the musicians which kind of shimmers like a mirage in a desert - strange image, but true.

This CD is one of his more open sessions which go along with his earlier set with Paul Motian and the 'Sonic Pressure' set also. Paul Motian, Reid Anderson and Ben Monder play Bills music with the usual finesse bringing out the best from all the compositions.

If you don't know Bill McHenry's playing I should suggest that you maybe start with one of his earlier CDs, Graphic and Rest Stop which are both delightful, and then move onto the later ones such as this.


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A relaxed listen., 19 April 2008
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This review is from: Symbiosis (Audio CD)
On this CD you'll find Tommy Smith & Brian Kellock playing some good old-time standards (see the list above) in a very mellow laid back, no frills recording. Everybody plays beautifully and with plenty of taste, there are no hidden pyrotechnics or very taxing (read - probing, pushing the limits) playing on this CD, it's all down to melody and relaxed swing. I can certainly recommend this CD to those who enjoy hearing two skilled UK musicians playing standards together in such a way that you'll hear they're surely having much fun.

In fact if you know Tommy Smiths playing you'll probably be very nicely surprised to hear him working in such a straight duo situation with Brian Kellock, an exceptional pianist from North of the border.

For those who are interested by good duo playing (in this same style) I can thoroughly recommend the duo recording : Alone Together - Warren Vaché/Bill Charlap, which is a definite 5 star recording.

Price: £8.97

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars finding the way., 12 Mar 2008
This review is from: Slope (Audio CD)
As you may notice, the majority of reviews on this page are probably out & out Sylvian/Japan/Nine Hourses fans. With this in mind you can start to see how this CD is being rated a next thing to genius, well that's not quite the case - as yet. I think that the CD, which I bought on the back of some of these reviews, is certainly a nice example of someone starting to be his own man, but the songs are often no more than sketches with the need for a little development on the 'harmonic' front. Of course, one song with a nice atmosphere based on a odd meter (7/4, 5/4 etc) is great, but often all the songs seem to be organised around the same principals. However there are many nice moments - guest voices, atmospheres, interludes etc, which make this an interesting CD. I would add that the three stars is to try and vote 'tactically' so as to even up the rating. Steve Jansen is certainly a very creative musician and one hopes that he will develop the ideas he has on this CD even further.

I should just add a comment ...... it's now 2010, and the original review that I wrote (above) was written in 2008. I haven't changed my opinion from the above article but it's maybe helpful to say that this CD still sits in my CD player regularly ..... which shows, I'm still listening to this CD and so it has stood the test of time.

If you enjoy Steve's percussion interludes you maybe interested to check out Thomas Strønen!!!

Offered by Themusicmaestro
Price: £7.50

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't age well?, 15 Feb 2008
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This review is from: Flowermouth (Audio CD)
After having been completely fascinated by reviews of this CD on music pages elsewhere, I decided that it was time to buy myself a copy. I haven't really found myself being blown away (as yet), but have to say that the music is well arranged, even if a little on the light side. This is rather surprising taking into consideration the 'heavy weight' musicians playing on this session - Robert Fripp, Ian Carr, Steve Jansen etc make guest appearances on this CD.

If you're wondering what type of music can be found here comparison(s) could be David Sylvian and Japan at points, one could even throw in a little Talk Talk, also. No doubt that Steven Wilson is a big fan of all these people (after all he has recently remixed some of King Crimson's re-rease CD albums - Red: 40th Anniversary Series (CD + DVD-A), Islands: 40th Anniversary Series (CD + DVD-A)).

There are no real rough edges to the music, as one finds in many 'prog-rock' bands, and at times the 'reverb' on the voice seems omnipresent. However, I suppose this is what you call 'well produced' music, sound wise that is. The lyrics are a little weak in general apart from the first track which does have a really interesting story-line.

I might come back to re-review this article but at the moment I would say that I'd recommend this to people who enjoy pop music such as Dead Can Dance & Talk Talk, but not to those more interested by experimental pop/prog-rock.

Rest Stop
Rest Stop
Price: £15.05

4.0 out of 5 stars Bill's First CD., 31 Jan 2008
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This review is from: Rest Stop (Audio CD)
The music of Bill McHenry (tenor sax) at this period is very melodic (the later period being 2007 - 08 which is more open and free-ish) and often with straight ahead modern rhythms ( i.e. not your normal 'jazz/swing' music). Stylistically his playing seems very simple and it is often difficult to tell where the melody stops and the solo starts! The music is always beautifully crafted with details to melody/groove/atmosphere etc which means there's always plenty to discover. It's also great to hear Ben Monder (gtr) who plays with his normal brilliance and who is often found in the company of Bill McHenry. The difference between this CD and his 2nd (Graphic) is that Rest Stop is slightly more straight ahead. Bill McHenry also 'plays' more on this CD, with compositions that are more 'open swing', one could even say 21st century Ornette(!) - 'Hebuwuba' & 'Silly' being good examples. Great music at the beginning of what seems to be an interesting career.

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