Posts Tagged ‘Michael Formanek’


On Kirk Knuffke

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

This review appears in the November 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

1382427195_knuKirk Knuffke
Chorale (SteepleChase)

By David R. Adler

Cornet specialists aren’t in huge supply, but Kirk Knuffke stands out among this unique lot for his versatility and expressive depth. He’s explored Steve Lacy’s music with Ideal Bread and the Lennie Tristano legacy with Ted Brown. He’s offered a compelling take on the repertoire of Monk, Ellington and Mingus in duets with pianist Jesse Stacken. His sideman work with Matt Wilson, Jon Irabagon and others is vigorous and surefooted.   Chorale, Knuffke’s fourth outing as a leader, finds him in a brilliant lineup with pianist Russ Lossing, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Billy Hart. It’s striking that the nine original pieces all have one-word titles save for the closing “Good Good,” which playfully shifts from uptempo to half-time swing.

Striving for a balance of the written and the freely improvised, Knuffke opens with the former, a plaintive rubato invention called “Wingy.” Hart’s drumming is identifiable within the first minute and its appeal only grows from there, giving more tempo-based pieces such as “Kettle,” “Standing” and “School” a sense of dynamic flux and timbral oddity.

“Madly” revives the hovering feel of the opener but in a much freer context; it’s the longest piece of the set, moving through passages of near silence and ending with Lossing’s fiery unaccompanied piano. The transition from there to “Match” is pretty magical: Lossing is out for the first two minutes while Formanek states a steady bass line and Hart plays hypnotic tom-toms, moving to more jazz-like sticks and cymbals the very moment the piano comes in.

The blend of cornet, bowed bass and piano on the title track does in fact suggest a chorale. This bit of lyrical and offbeat chamber-jazz, rather unlike the album’s other material, yields to free rubato interplay and yet somehow preserves the feeling and direction of the opening statement. It’s the strongest evidence of the band’s profound intuitive connection.


Six Picks: October 2012

Monday, October 1st, 2012

My monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in The New York City Jazz Record, October 2012:

Josh Berman and His Gang, There Now (Delmark)

Raynald Colom, Rise (harmonia mundi/Jazz Village)

Joe Fiedler’s Big Sackbut (Yellow Sound)

Roman Filiu, Musae (Dafnison Music)

Michael Formanek Quartet, Small Places (ECM)

Sean Wayland, Click Track Jazz (Seed Music)


On Michael Formanek

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

In the new Philadelphia Weekly:

Michael Formanek Quartet
Thu., Oct. 28, 8pm. $12. Philadelphia Art Alliance, 251 S. 18th St. 215.545.4302 www.arsnovaworkshop.org

Bassist Michael Formanek, a prof at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory, got his start with the likes of Art Pepper and Chet Baker and has since played plenty of head-spinning music as a member of Tim Berne’s quartet Bloodcount. With The Rub and Spare Change Formanek puts Berne in the sideman role, adding two more must-hear improvisers of the day: pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver. It’s Formanek’s first outing since 1998, and also his first for the prestigious ECM label (he appeared with Berne and Taborn on David Torn’s 2007 ECM disc Presenz). The six Formanek originals are full of complexity and risk but also an unabashed elegance you don’t get so much from Berne. There’s every reason to expect a killing live show. — David R. Adler