Liberty Ellman — Radiate (August 21, 2015)
Ξ The New York Times has called Ellman s music ‘complex, meticulous and challenging... but also groovy, contemporary and sleek’. For those of you unfamiliar with the Zooid sound itself, it’s as difficult to take in as it is to describe. Many of the instruments sound like they are operating independently. Tuba and trombone rarely rely on pedal tones and the drummer never just gives a straight away beat. The lead instrument, sometimes sax and sometimes guitar, will play a sharply articulated melody that seems keen on its very own mode of scale. Put it all together and you get some pretty far–out results. Many of these traits are on display with “Supercell”. Jose Davila makes his tuba bounce up, down, and all around as trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist/fellow Pi recording artist Steve Lehman peck their way over the top. In between is Ellman, splaying out weird arpeggios that are maybe one step removed from his regular day job. Drummer Damion Reid puts his focus into the heavy syncopation that somehow guides the piece. Bassist Stephan Crump knows where to go and what to do in all of this, and I certainly think that’s saying a lot. Just a little bit past “Supercell”‘s halfway point, everyone begins to align on a rhythmic pattern that goes from one note to a mere pair of notes. Location:
Ξ Ellman, Liberty (Dean), guitarist, composer, and bandleader; b. London, England, 17 July 1971. Mostly grew up in New York City and went to high school and college in San Francisco, CA. He received a Bachelors Degree in Jazz Studies from California State University, Sonoma, and studied with guitarist Randy Vincent from 1991–1994. His mother, Jenni Dean, was a singer and a songwriter. His father, Kevin Ellman, was a drummer who worked with Cab Calloway, Richie Havens and Todd Rundrgren. His sister Samantha Ellman was born October 15, 1977 in Queens, NY.Album release: August 21, 2015
Record Label: Pi Recordings
1. Supercell 5:14
2. Furthermore 5:58
3. Rhinocerisms 8:51
4. Moment Twice 1:48
5. A Motive 5:03
6. Skeletope 4:19
7. Vibrograph 6:30
8. Enigmatic Runner 5:56
Ξ Liberty Ellman: guitar;
Ξ Steve Lehman: alto saxophone;
Ξ Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet;
Ξ Jose Davila: tuba, trombone;
Ξ Stephan Crump: bass;
Ξ Damion Reid: drums.Editorial Reviews
Ξ Radiate is the long–anticipated new release from guitarist Liberty Ellman, his first since 2006 s critically acclaimed Ophiuchus Butterfly. He has chiefly been known in recent years as a member of Henry Threadgill s Zooid, a collaboration that has been ongoing for almost 15 years. The New York Times has called Ellman s music ‘complex, meticulous and challenging... but also groovy, contemporary and sleek’.
Ξ With a guitar sound that is thoroughly modern yet rooted in greats like Grant Green and Pat Martino, Ellman also works with some of the most important figures in jazz today such as, Myra Melford, Vijay Iyer, Greg Osby, Joe Lovano, as well as the singer Somi. Radiate is a collection of eight original compositions that bristle with vitality. Ellman has an uncommon ear for counterpoint and rhythmic convolution with each piece grooving in its own audacious way. Of particular note is his clear interest in electronic music, and much of his work here finds the perfect balance between the energy and textural variety of that music and the driving swing of jazz.
Ξ Ellman’s supremely accomplished band made up of some of the top musicians on the New York scene expertly replicates electronic music s deep bottom end and crackling odd–metered rhythms. The way he shapes his action–packed compositions, the arc of his quizzical melodies, the criss–cross rhythms, the roll and tumble of the bass and tuba, all remind us that Ellman is a highly individual composer and guitarist who demands to be heard. Ξ 4 stars — Downbeat Magazine ****
Ξ “How do you get a parping tuba bassline to sound so menacing? ” — The Wire Magazine
By DAN BILAWSKY
Ξ Guitarist Liberty Ellman works at the crossroads of intellectual inquisitiveness and rabid expressionism. That’s been evident both in his own small but impressive discography and in his musical travels with Henry Threadgill’s Zooid over the past fifteen years.
Ξ On Radiate — Ellman’s first album in nine years, third on the Pi Recordings imprint — those two roads quickly meet. The album–opening “Supercell” proves to be a deep–grooving masterpiece that plays unification and disconnection against each other to create something magical. Damion Reid’s drums and Jose Davila’s tuba come together to create otherworldly, funky, and unpredictable grooves before Ellman and the remaining horns — alto saxophonist Steve Lehman and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson — burst in from all sides, muscling their way into the picture, joining forces, and finishing each other’s sentences before Ellman takes the baton and runs with it. Everybody makes an impact here, both as individuals and as cogs in this most fascinating and uniquely rolling wheel. The follow–up track — “Furthermore” — is more of an exploratory venture, looser in shape, but no less absorbing. In those two pieces, Ellman’s attention to detail and willingness to let go both come to the surface.
Ξ As the album moves on, Ellman continues to work with shapes and, on occasion, shapelessness. “Rhinocerisms” returns to the idea of interlocking and opposing forces, with Lehman and Ellman traveling together and apart while the bottom end of the band pushes and pulls against them; "Moment Twice" is a trio vignette that gives Ellman a chance to exchange thoughts with Reid and bassist Stephan Crump; "A Motive" is another labyrinthine groove work that fits together in unexpected ways; and "Skeletope" starts with uncertainty before settling into a space where the band works as one and thins out for a Crump solo. The penultimate piece — "Vibrograph" — works many of the same angles that Ellman touches on earlier, but the album–ending "Enigmatic Runner" stretches beyond the rest of the material. It brings electric and acoustic thought together atop a skittery “drum ’n’ bass” type of foundation.
Ξ Ellman’s vision isn’t so far off from Threadgill’s, as dovetailing ideas, toying motifs, angular melodic lines, an appreciation for distinctive voices and instrumental combinations, and a loose–tight duality all play a part in the written and recorded works of each. Extreme organization is also present in the work of both men, but it's sometimes harder to hear that in Threadgill's expansive and challenging music. Ellman makes the nature of the order in his work clearer to the ear, as voices merge and detach in recognizable ways. His music is outward bound, but nobody could ever mistake it for being adrift.
Ξ The work of musicians who push the envelope is often easier to admire than enjoy, but Ellman has created something that’s eminently listenable. Radiate is a joy to behold, as it’s incredibly impressive in its complexity of vision and clarity. This one is certainly in the running for album of the year. ~ By DAN BILAWSKY Also: Ξ BY JOHN GARRATT, 12 October 2015; Score: 7
Ξ http://www.popmatters.com/review/liberty-ellman-radiate/ // Website: http://www.libertyellman.com/ // Label: http://pirecordings.com/ © Photo credit: Alan Nahigian