Naxos of America, Inc. and German jazz label Jazzwerkstatt have announced the U.S. distribution of their catalog, including several recent releases by The Dave Liebman Group, The Ullmann/Swell 4, Chris Dahlgren & Lexicon, World Saxophone Quartet and Adam Peironczyk. A recording by Jamaaladeen Tacuma is expected to be released as well.

The good folks at Michael Bloom Media Relations were kind enough to send cd recordings from each of the above mentioned groups and artists. Although a thorough review of each recording is not possible, I will attempt to hit on the high points and encourage readers to check them out for themselves.

The Dave Liebman Group- Turnaround

The widely recorded Dave Liebman and his group have teamed together to record the music of saxophonist and experimentalist Ornette Coleman. Dave Liebman explains this recording best. “In Ornette’s music there is a joyful spirit which permeates throughout and explains why people love his art as they do. His music expresses an irrepressible joi de vivre, uplifting and mournful at the same time, playful and deadly serious-a full view of the human condition. With deep respect to a true individualist and master of his art, I hope you enjoy our Ornette Coleman voyage.”

The first few bars of the opening cut Enfant immediately pull in the listener. Liebman’s tenor sound is sparkling here as well as on Turnaround and Una Muy Bonita. Most of us have become accustomed to his soprano saxophone playing it is quite refreshing to hear him on tenor. Liebman has been a long time friend and collaborator with other tenor saxophone notables on the New York jazz scene. It is clear his sound and concept are a kindred spirit to that of Michael Brecker, Bob Berg, Steve Gross and a host of others dare I forget to mention. The group consists of Liebman on tenor, soprano and wooden flute, Vic Juris on guitar, Tony Marino on bass and Marko Marcinko on drums.

In true Liebman style the group pushes and pulls against traditional notions of western harmony. They clearly like to lay it down and then “take it out” as only The Dave Liebman Group can. This is never more evident than within the final cut The Sky where Liebman’s primal screams permeate his free improvisation.

“In” and “Out” whatever you like – this is a great recording. Do yourself a favor and buy it.

The Ullmann/Swell 4 – News? No News!

The opening dissonances of tenor and trombone playing a whole step apart will definitely get your attention. Now that I’ve got yours, let me tell you of The Ullmann/Swell 4 and News? No News!. The quartet features Gebhard Ullmann on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Steve Swell on trombone, Hilliard Greene on bass and Barry Altshul in this chordless ensemble. Each member of the ensemble comes with their own accolades as either player, teacher or both. They are clearly, highly trained, thoughtful and experimental musicians and artists. That being said, this music is not for everyone. If you are looking for something different, avante garde, out of the ordinary, brooding, thought-provoking or experimental – you have found it in News? No News! by The Ullmann/Swell 4.

Chris Dahlgren & Lexicon – Mystic Maze

Mystic Maze by Chris Dahlgren & Lexicon is both clever and comical. In addition to showcasing some very talented musicians, Mystic Maze finds its swagger in exposing the harsh criticisms originally aimed at the music of Bela Bartok. Chris Dahlgren writes, “The music of “Mystic Maze” is based upon a selection of  written critiques against the music of the great composer Bela Bartok, who lived from 1881-1945. I wanted, in my won way, to vilify some of the very critics who judged Bartok’s incredible music so harshly by turning their own words against them – in other words, to turn their words into music.”

Although quite dissonant in classic Bartok fashion, the opening cut Mystic Maze is a clever piece weaving the spoken text within the driving, broken swing of the ensemble. Antonis Anissegos delivers the text as well as keyboards throughout the recording. Chris Dahlgren can be heard on bass, Eric Schaefer on drums and Gebhard Ullmann and Christian Weidner on saxophones.

Mystic Maze is a well-recorded and executed recording, demonstrating some of the more experimental offerings from this group. The textures are quite interesting and the sense of humor quite enjoyable. I particularly like the text and ensemble tutti of Great Desires of the Modernists.

One of the bright moments for saxophonist Christian Weidner can be heard on Painless Dentistry No. 2. Weidner has a wonderful sound and command of the alto saxophone.

If you have a love of fine musicianship paired with some intellectually stimulating humor, you may very well enjoy Mystic Maze.

World Saxophone Quartet – Yes We Can

The World Saxophone Quartet features saxophonists Hamiet Bluiett, Kidd Jordan, James Carter and David Murray. Kid Jordan is the sole alto saxophonist on Yes We Can while the others play a combination of baritone saxophone, clarinet, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and soprano saxophone. The energetic and percussive ensemble allows plenty of room for each other to blow throughout the live recording. David Murray and Hamiet Bluiett are credited with the bulk of the compositions while Kidd Jordan penned The River Niger.

Adam Pieronczyk Quintet – Komeda

Saxophonist Adam Pieronczyk has released Komeda – The Innocent Sorcerer on jazzwerstatt. He is accompanied by tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas, Nelson Veras on guitar, Anthony Cox on bass and Lukasz Zyta drums, percussion and even typewriter!

Of the many recent offerings from jazzwerstatt, The Innocent Sorcerer seems to be the most calming at the onset. Both Adam Pieronczyk and Gary Thomas play delightful solos over a haunting and pulsating rhythm section on Wicker Basket. It is noteworthy that all the music here is that of Polish composer and pianist Krzysztof Komeda. Pieronczyk’s group features Nelson Veras on guitar, rather than the obvious choice of piano.

The slightly more edgy Kattorna again begins with Pieronczyk and Thomas on saxophones. They develop the angular octave unison, spilling out into Thomas’ solo on tenor, then Pieronczyk on soprano and finally a very musical solo from percussionist Lukasz Zyta.

It is obvious great care has gone into representing the music of Komeda. It is particularly apparent in the eerie soundscape of Sleep Safe and Warm. Even the typewriter sounds good!

Crazy Girl begins with a lovely soprano saxophone and guitar octave unison then passed to the tenor of Gary Thomas. The writing just flows as does the playing. Veras solos on guitar first followed by soprano, tenor and for the first time Anthony Cox on bass.

After the Catastrophe, Roman II and Kattorna Reprise round out the tracks on The Innocent Sorcerer. One of my favorite tunes is blues Roman II. Although it is a blues, the feel seems somewhat Afro-Cuban in nature. Whatever it should be called, it provides a great opportunity to soar for both Pieronczyk and Thomas on dueling tenors. Lastly, Veras and Peironczyk perform the duo Kattorna Reprise.

Although some experimental and highly improvisational music can be rough on the casual listener’s ears, that is not the case with The Innocent Sorcerer by Adam Pieronczyk. I found the music to be well-executed and the ensemble sensitive, musical and never abrasive. Peironczyk and the ensemble have put together a fine sampling of Komeda’s music and then given it their own twist. If you love straight ahead jazz as well as something more adventurous, all executed to the highest degree – buy this cd!

Bloom Media Relations also sent in Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s newest release For the Love of Ornette for review with the recordings above. Initially legal issues prevented the official release, however it is now available. It features Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass guitar and a cast of highly creative musicians including Wolfgang Puschnig, David “Fingers” Haynes, Justin Faulkner, Yoichi Uzeke and Wadud Ahmad.

You can find out more about Jazzwerkstatt and at or Naxos