Burnt Hibiscus

"The melodies provoke a simple, crisp lyricism... a quality the ensemble exploits to launch into intricate rhythmic passages and harmonic excursions that stretch far out from the song's opening moments. Massively creative at both conception and conclusion, and one of the very best albums to come out in 2016. Perhaps the very best."                                                                                                                                     

-Dave Sumner, Bird Is the Worm
 

"Drones of one sort or another lend the work a subcontinental flavor throughout, and the music feels both familiar and exotic, incorporating conventional jazz instrumentation as well as Bringi's traditional folk instruments - bansuri flute, harmonium, Celtic harp... The tunes never push, never scream, never hammer at the door of the sacred, but charm open the way to a higher reality."                     

-Mel Minter, Musically Speaking
 

"Multi-instrumentalist/band leader Jon Armstrong's new album "Burnt Hibiscus" is a prime example of continued artistic evolution of the form. He eschews concern over genre label for the restless curiosity which has always served him well."

-Maxwell Chandler, Our Man on the Coast
 

"...a gorgeous, elaborate suite for 10- piece jazz ensemble meant to evoke a love of life in Los Angeles, and incorporating harmonium, bansuri, harp, and sung poetry in admirable ways."                                                                                                            

-Steve Smith, The Log Journal

Jon Armstrong Jazz Orchestra

Debut release from composer and saxophonist Armstrong, and featuring a bevy of strong players from the L.A. scene. Easily the most exciting aspect of this recording is the ebb and flow transitions between rich veins of rhythmic activity and the most delicate solos from the wind section. One of the albums where the ensemble doesn’t play it straight with straight-ahead music, creating a sense of something different in the midst of everything familiar. Amongst the ensemble, some familiar names to this column like Trevor Anderies, Daniel Rosenboom, Gary Fukushima, and Andrew Lessman. Plenty of big sounds on this recording, but often delivered with a patience that really draws out the emotional impact for all kinds of dividends.”

-Dave Sumner, Wondering Sound.

 

“Jon Armstrong’s new jazz orchestra album Farewell offers something new but clearly built off of what had come before him… …Jon’s work does not strictly adhere to genre formula(s) and the entire album is all the more better for it. It stands up to repeated listenings. It has substance but is never so forward thinking as to turn off the more casual listener.”

-Maxwell Chandler, Our Man On The Coast.

 

“The gifted Los Angeles tenor saxophonist may have assembled a 23-piece band of fairly traditional instrumentation, but he is a composer and arranger who dares to imagine…  Seldom resorting to the full blast of massed horns, he prefers to draw out shifting patterns of colours, textures and dynamics, using structures that sometimes dare to reach beyond the hackneyed head-solos-head format.  Improvising becomes a conceptual part of the pieces.”

-John Shand, The Sydney Morning Herald

 

“Composer/arranger Armstrong delights in rubbing the orchestral textures against one another, and he gives his soloists great latitude. Each of the five tunes begins simply, and once Armstrong has ascertained that the listener’s seatbelt is securely fastened, the flight begins. It is a thrilling ride, passing through exuberant harmonies and changes in direction and altitude that are as unexpected as they are inevitable. From the Scots march of the opener, “Ardnave,” to the ghostly “Dream Has No Friend,” which sounds like program music for a psychic adventure, to the elegiac finale of the
title track, Armstrong and friends carry the listener through five satisfying musical narratives that quicken the heart and brain.”

-Mel Minter, Musically Speaking

 

 Slumgum

“After hearing them in Aspen this past summer, NJMH Directors Loren Schoenberg and Christian McBride agreed that Slumgum was a brilliant band … we were both knocked out by their originality and artistry. We decided right then and there to bring them to NYC as soon as we could.”                               

-Christian McBride and Loren Schoenberg, National Jazz Museum in Harlem

“A brightly twisted product of CalArts’ music program, the quartet Slumgum has played off-center local incubators like the Blue Whale and the Steve Allen Theater’s experimental showcase ResBox. Rising out of Rory Cowal’s flickering Fender Rhodes keyboard, “Hancho Pancho” expands into a growling storm led by saxophonist Jon Armstrong, and the thoughtful “Afternoon” showcases the band’s care with slow-burning acoustic atmosphere … the group’s vivid sense of melody and relentless drive for exploration mark it as a quartet to watch.”                                                                                                                                               

 -Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times

“[Slumgum] opened with a relaxed set keynoted by Jon Armstrong’s warm tenor sax. The drums and bass of Trevor Anderies and Dave Tranchina switched from pushy groove to breezy scatter while Rory Cowal … hinted at Vienna and India, Spain and Coltrane.  Slumgum switched moods — pastoral, cheerful, meditative, romantic — yet retained a casual group identity formed by years of collaboration, and maintained a web-like hold on the audience. It could play anywhere.”                                                            

-Greg Burk, Los Angeles Times (Live Review)

“Those with the good fortune to hear either of Slumgum’s recordings … or catch the band live stand the chance of obtaining a mind-expanding double-whammy. This quartet … specializes in the sort of original modern jazz that maintains an unshakable eye towards to the future while acknowledging, and drawing upon, the music’s storied past.  Slumgum’s compositional and instrumental abilities put it in the very top echelon of forward-looking, up-and-coming jazzers. While the band’s name and the CD’s odd title might suggest a scruffy, underground orientation, there is nothing scruffy about its music.”                                  

-Dave Wayne www.allaboutjazz.com     

“Thoughtful and adventurous, the quartet makes the listener feel at home with beautiful melodies and familiar elements from diverse musical traditions … unlike many avant-garde groups, these musicians do not abjure consonance or the simple triad. From that comfortable platform, the group launches itself and its audience into unexpected and wonderfully uncharted places … As varied as Slumgum compositions are, ranging from hard-driving postbop epics to short impressionistic poems, most share another quirky characteristic: unexpected but nonetheless well-integrated shifts in texture, rhythm, genre or mood. An unusual compositional technique accounts for those shifts”                                                                       

-Mel Minter, The Alibi

“The California quartet Slumgum has a unique approach to genre and technique: they blend jazz and contemporary classical music in a way that beautifully muddies the boundaries between composition and improvisation … Slumgum’s daring ‘a little bit of this, a little bit of that’ technique results in a sound that’s rich, compelling and, most of all, pure.”                                                         

 -Sophie Gandler, www.beaconpass.com

“Slumgum’s new album, Quardboard Flavored Fiber, is reminiscent of Miles Davis’ quartet with Shorter and Hancock, but they deviate with their own sound that is very powerful. Their music is both simple and virtuosic, with a constant joy of invention and play. The timing of the songs is perfect, not a moment is wasted. The musicians each play as individuals yet together they form a seamless whole unit. The overall shape of the music has a classic feeling that allows the listener to enjoy the comfort of familiar territory, but the music is imbued with a great freedom that adds a pleasure of newness and discovery. The engineering by Wayne Peet, about whom I can not say enough good things, gives the group a presence, an amazing consistency and energy.”                                                                                                                    

  -Noël Tachet, improjazz

“With their new album, Slumgum creates an intricate mesh of vibrant acoustic sounds, woven into pieces which are at times dense and full of energy … and at others much more refined. What is consistent throughout however is their clever use of space, and how instruments continually interact with each other … on five of the shorter ‘Big Fun’ pieces, they demonstrate just how extensive their range is, from the almost rock slant of ‘New Ruckus’ to the peaceful and ethereal ‘Natural Liberation’ to the more contrasted and experimental ‘Buzz Saw Flower Blossom’ … ‘Quardboard Flavored Fiber’ is a pretty impressive piece of work all round. Feeling at times pretty classic in its format, yet infused with very contemporary energy and vision, it is at once fresh and imaginative, and is yet another fine addition of the Accretions catalogue.”        

 -www.themilkfactory.co.uk                                      

                                                                                                                    

                                                Vinny Golia Sextet                                                        

An obvious anchor of the group is Jon Armstrong's punchy electric bass and Andrew Lessman's sympathetic and driving percussion. The song "Maboo" is a wonderful example of the interplay between musicians. The woodwind solo churns, grinds and builds into a knotty and beautiful mess of notes. This is followed by Alex Noice's killer guitar solo. It rocks, shreds and then explodes, propelled by some creative percussion work from Lessman.”                                          

-Paul Acquaro, Free Jazz

Opening with "A Light In The Kecksburg Forest," long melodic unisons from Templeton and Rosenboom ricocheted while Golia wove deep counterpoint on baritone sax below. Noice and Armstrong locked into a leviathan ostinato then split into individual, independent discourse. Armstrong was a terrific force--always moving the music forward with a song of his own--and Noice is a delightfully original and modern guitarist-- his extended solo screamed, sang and spun waves of melody.                                          

 -Robert Bush, San Diego Reader (Live Review)