As one of the most in-demand players of his generation, it’s absurdly surprising that this is Brandon Lopez’s first album as leader. And although the compositional themes that act as a root for the three cuts that make up ‘Holy, Holy’ are from Lopez’s pen, it is a testament to his ideals of complete collaboration that the material on the record is developed wholly by an astonishingly well-recruited trio. Having Chris Corsano sitting behind the drums is a clear stroke of genius, an improviser whose restless spirit mirrors Lopez’s perfectly, sharing a similar resume of playing with the most vital players in the Global improvised music scene. It’s a real rarity to hear Corsano play with a pianist, which has directed his percussive choices into a deeply swing-orientated playing, keeping the music resolutely propulsive whilst losing none of his trademark inventiveness. Sam Yulsman's piano playing shifts from cascading blocks of sound to darkly inquisitive tone clusters, always rooted in deeper end of the melodic spectrum which act as perfect foil for Lopez’s dizzying arco lines. There is a cerebral kind of spiritualism that colours the music on ‘Holy, Holy’, made evident by Lopez’s impassioned vocal doubling of bowed bass work at several points throughout and, barring a few brief soloist excursions, the trio plays in total communion. Nowhere is this more clear than on the closing track of the record, where Lopez’s beautifully wonderous chromatic song ascends further and further into the reaches of the sky. Corsano and Yulsman gallop around the climbing riff with their own slightly out-of-step reflections on the melody which, far from jarring, create a kind of overlapping rising tension towards the ecstatic. And that for me is what ‘Holy, Holy’ is all about: the ecstasy of interplay.
The compositions were a collection of themes meant to be developed by the performers of the music. The themes are strong harmonic/melodic suggestion on paper, but the players are the makers of the music.
"Featuring Brandon Lopez on contrabass, Sam Yulsman on piano and Chris Corsano on drums. Over the last few years there appears to be a new generation of double bassists rising up from the Downtown Scene and emerging as serious contenders. The current top of the heap is Brandon Lopez who we’ve heard with Nate Wooley, Guillermo Gregorio and Chris Pitsiokos in recent times. I also caught Mr. Lopez in a duo with Dave Rempis a few months back at Owl Parlor and was blown away by this duo! Mr. Lopez played a spirited solo set at DMG last Sunday (10/15/17) and left us with his new trio CD. I know little about pianist Sam Yulsan who is on this disc but I do know drummer Chris Corsano pretty well, since he is one of the most creative and distinctive percussionists I’ve heard in the past decade. Check out his playing with Evan Parker, Sir Richard Bishop (in Rangda), Nate Wooley or Joe McPhee.
This disc begins with some strange bowed bass sounds, something that Mr. Lopez has been working on and making his own. Eventually the piano and percussion enter and they start to erupt… the balance of spaciousness and busyness is just right. Even when things calm down to a minimum, the results are most cautious and filled with suspense. The overall trio sound is often mesmerizing, rather dream-like and moving in waves. The tension and flow keeps escalating as things evolve bringing things to a long crescendo before sailing down to a more restrained conclusion. The trio sounds like one force since the move together in focused waves, ascending and then descending over time. This disc does a fine job of taking us along for a ongoing journey, like a sail-boat moving on an active body of water with a healthy balance of more placid and even some stormy sections."
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
"I first came across bassist Brandon Lopez as part of Amirtha Kidambi’s amazing Elder Ones band, lending his fluid licks to Kidambi’s ‘Holy Science’, an inspired mixture of classical Indian music and portal-opening jazz. Here, Lopez teams up with drummer Chris Corsano and pianist Sam Yulman to form a free music perpetual motion machine whose limber voyaging takes in abrasive furrows and airy melodic flights.
Although Lopez provided several composed melodic fragments for these pieces in lieu of a full score, which act as launch pads for the band’s expansive journeys, the trio is given plenty of freedom to take things in any direction they want. The fact that we can’t detect the points of transition only adds to the potency. A highlight comes two thirds of the way through the opening cut ’15.43’, when the trio coordinate in the higher register in a cascading, ululating wail, before hitting a surging torrent that recalls the maximalist swell of The Necks in full live force.
Corsano’s presence is generally an indicator of quality, and Lopez’s pedigree is assured post-Elder Ones, but it’s Yulman who’s the real delight here. His flinty clusters of notes shower ‘8.05’, the album’s closing track, in tough, glittering shards, opening up the trio’s frantic rhythmic glowers to let the sunshine in. His intro to ’21.21’ is dissonant and stately, initially restrained enough to let the other two drift by, then gaining pace to kick off a fractious knees-up. Holy jazz, Batman, this is really free."
- Paul Margree, Radiofreemidwich
"The English label Tombed Visions Records regularly puts cassettes (in luxury packaging) on the market, but sometimes they also release a CD-R. That is the case with Holy, Holy of double bassist Brandon Lopez, drummer Chris Corsano and pianist Sam Yulsman. It is only the first record with Lopez as a bandleader, although he has been a much sought-after musician for a long time and he collaborated with, among others, Nate Wooley, William Parker, Peter Evans, Tyshawn Sorey, Walter Weasel, Ingrid Laubrock, Mette Rasmussen, Cactus Truck, John Dikeman and Daniel Carter.
The enumeration above is also meant to indicate that we have to look for Lopez in the left-wing, avant-garde and sometimes noisy angle of the jazz spectrum. The bass player has a physical, robust style of playing, but he feels equally at home in a scorching experimental field. Drummer Corsano is a very versatile drummer, always looking for new musical finds, which are always in the service of the music. His inventive play was recently admired at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, where he played in the quartet of saxophonist Rodrigo Amado. Corsano does not play with pianists often, so the presence of both the drummer and pianist Yulsman on Holy, Holy is a special feature.
Yulsman is perhaps less known in the free impro world than his two companions, but he already played with Joe Morris, Bill Frisell, Tyshawn Sorey, Peter Evans and Art Lande, among others. Yulsman is not only active in jazz and (free) improvisation, but also makes modern classical music. Recently he played new work by Kenji Sakai ('Fanfare Towards The Dusk') and Chris Pitsiokos ('Working From Postcards is Good Enough If You Are Francis Picabia').
All compositions on Holy, Holy are by Lopez, but they only concern themes, frames where the trio get started in a self-assured way. The music therefore sounds very free, for the most part it consists of improvisations, in which especially the joint improvising makes a big impression. The titles of the three pieces on the album relate to the length of time that each of the works takes.
Lopez opens '15 .43 'with a brushed rough solo. After three minutes Yulsman and Corsano mix in the turmoil. Lopez takes something back. Yulsman exchanges clusters with loose notes and Corsano produces rubbing sounds. The piece does not develop along straight lines, but is made up of different phrases in which every musician can show his skills. Lopez soloes again, again using his bow, but where the first solo was built around a few repetitive ironed notes, the solo is now the prelude to a fiercely played part together. This is where the real power of this trio comes forward: improvising makes a messy but deliciously sounding piece of music. The fast notes of Yulsman impress. The same goes for the soft game in the quiet passage that follows. Corsano rubs and taps and Lopez now plays his raw notes whisper-soft. Consequence: a part with a huge, restrained voltage, which has to be discharged somewhere. This happens because the musicians slowly increase the volume. As a matter of course, a new part is created, with many slippery notes, which evokes tension in a different way. Yulsman ends the piece with a lively solo with a hard touch on the keyboard.
'21 .21 'also opens with Yulsman, now with quiet play. Lopez gives restless counter-gas with ironed bass. Corsano reports something later. In this way, we are working towards a cacophonous phase, in which each of the musicians is full. Corsano and Lopez lay down an irregular and fast rhythmic carpet and Yulsman tries to slow down the speed by playing slower. As soon as he also raises the tempo, there is no longer a hold: apparently unmanageable, the musical vehicle is heading for ... Yes, what actually? There is no separation, no wall to stop the trio. They can only do that themselves.
Where '15 .43 'consisted of a number of phrases, the longer '21 .21' is more a whole. The joint game comes first, although each of the musicians plays their own quirky game. The music is lively, fiery, and is put full of commitment. Only around ninth minute the volume is tempered, Lopez lays a drone with his bass, Yulsman plays sparse notes on the piano and Corsano rubs his snare and toms. Nice is how Lopez then puts an unruly counter melody under the game of Yulsman. Corsano breaks the restrained tension with the fast pace of all kinds of drums. The other two musicians do not let themselves be fooled by it and continue to move in the calm pattern, in which Lopez provides a slow but steady movement. Corsano tries it with play for the cymbals, but that also has no effect on Lopez and Yulsman. However, it ensures a pleasant disruption. Eventually Yulsman leaves the cautious zone and is worked towards another climax in which you as a listener get to see all corners of the room.
The last piece, '8.05', lets the trio hear in a more listener-friendly mood. The theme is clear. Corsano is with his play on cymbals and drums a restless factor in music, as well as the fanatic plucking Lopez. Yulsman plays melodic but often a-rhythmic, against the direction of the other two musicians. This produces an exciting contrast. Here, too, the band members are able to challenge each other and eventually become powerful musicians. Yet '8.05' sounds brighter than the previous two pieces.
Holy, Holy is the jazz idiom in which Lopez, Corsano and Yulsan operate an alternating album. The trio finds each other in busy squish and roar as well as in restrained play. The music is never really quiet, because at least one musician is always disruptive. Although every member of the trio makes its own mark on the music, the emphasis is on the combination. In this, the three convince the most on this deliciously unpolished jazz record."
One of the best recordings of improvised music from behind Wielka Woda this year, published in Manchester Tombed Vision (this time CD)! The head of the venture is double bassist Brandon Lopez, supported by Chris Corsano on drums and Sam Yulsman on the piano. Three titles, three quarters of music, which according to the author is composed (a kind of quoted suggestions), and then creatively developed by musicians who are the most important in the whole process (in other words - simply improvisation!)."
- Spontaneous Music Tribune
released October 13, 2017
Sam Yulsman - Piano
Chris Corsano - Drums
Brandon Lopez - Double Bass/Composition
Recorded by Kellzo at Columbia University, mixed by him as well. Mastered by David Vanzan at the Jooklo Estate somewhere in between Venezia and Ferrara.
Tombed Visions is a Manchester based cassette label specialising in improvisation, ambient music, experimental electronics
and noir aesthetics and aims to showcase the fringes of contemporary independent music. All releases are limited edition and packaged with care, combining a love of graphic design, photography, typography with the wondrous sounds released....more