Paul Giallorenzo’s Gitgo, Emergent (Leo)
2012 was a heady year for out-jazz, in more ways than one. It was a year that saw many combos combine free blowing with intricately composed heads. Partly because of this movement, a multitude of worthy recordings made it especially challenging to single out the year’s top releases.
Pianist Paul Giallorenzo’s catchy tunes and crack quintet exemplify these Emergent trends. He spent his formative years in New York City, but now is an integral part of the Chicago avant-jazz scene. Besides running Elastic, one of Chicago’s most active new music venues, he plays keyboards and electronics in a slew of ensembles, from all-acoustic to noisy electronic, with Chicagoan and Swiss collaborators. Giallorenzo is less recognized outside the Windy City, but releases like this one will thrust him into the spotlight.
Gitgo includes saxophonist Mars Williams, famous for his forceful free forays with the likes of the NRG ensemble and XmarsX, but also familiar to new wave fans for his contributions to the Psychedelic Furs’ Mirror Moves and Midnight to Midnight albums. Trombonist Jeb Bishop of Vandermark Five fame, bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Marc Riordan complete the ensemble.
At the piano, Giallorenzo mixes the odd rhythms and angular intervals of Monk with the occasional atonal clusters of Cecil Taylor. As a composer, he reveals a century of variety with arrangements that span jazz history.
“On Your Marks” opens with a piano line that would not be out of place on Taylor’s 1956 Jazz Advance, even if Bishop swaggers in with a classic tailgate solo halfway through. The main up/down scalar run of “Slowed Roll” is reminiscent of Anthony Braxton’s “Composition 114,” with superb solos from both Williams and Bishop interspersed with thematic interjections.
“The Swinger” is a pleasing romp through the ’40s, while “Spring Chicken” is a headlong rush on a path that could have been traced out by a headless hen. But even at its wildest moments two minutes in, there’s a coherence to the simultaneous squawking solos — Dixieland-on-speed.
If your New Year’s resolutions included exploring new genres of music, this inside/outside mix is an ideal entry point to free jazz. Here’s to the hope that 2013 blows in many discs as superb as this holdover from 2012.
Atoms for Peace, “Judge Jury and Executioner”
You’ve heard the new Bowie track, right? How bout the Momus cover? Just as haunting, but with more pronounced beats and even less inspiring visuals, is the forthcoming single by Atoms for Peace, Thom Yorke’s band with Nigel Godrich. Their debut LP Amok is out Feb. 26 on XL, followed by the 12-inch single on March 19.
Mac DeMarco, “Dreamin’”
Are Montrealer Mac DeMarco and director Jason Harvey mounting a parody of Vampire Weekend, or have they been watching that episode of Always Sunny? Whatever the case, witness the man cruising, slumming and getting slimed in 18th-century duds.