http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.com/ Kirk Knuffke, Federico Ughi, Chris Welcome - Garden Of Gifts (577 Records, 2009) ****½ Drummer Federico Ughi created with the 577 Records label a series of great albums with like-minded spirits such as Daniel Carter and Ras Moshe. On this album he is joined by trumpeter Kirk Knuffke and guitarist Chris Welcome, two upcoming musicians with a style of their own, but working in the tradition of Other Dimensions In Music (if that exists!), with long slowly elaborated pieces that explore sounds, moods and interaction. The slowness gives the music a sad, sometimes spiritual or contemplative feeling, while the open interaction leads to surprises and creative exchanges. Even if rhythm and melody are unclear, the music is relatively accessible, without shock element, or too much use of extended techniques of the instruments, whose basic sound is the norm here, with the musicians most of the time trying to play as quiet as possible. The nice thing about the music is to be found in the openness of the texture, the feeling that anything is possible, yet at the same time the three musicians to their utmost to play in a very restrained and focused way. The overall effect is almost organic in nature, without any straight lines or repetitive elements, in contrast with most man-made constructions, with sounds flowing in reaction to other sounds, like water finding its way through rocks, like leaves growing in many directions, but still growing on the same stem. Their total lack of urgency, especially their sublime use of silence and knowing when not to play, especially exemplified in the last track, gives the music a soft, meditative quality, appreciative of the moment itself, of the sound, of the creation, but then one with sufficient tension and vital force to make it all very captivating. A beautiful and very free-spirited album.


Exclaim.ca Glen Hall July 2008 Chris Welcome Quartet
This is wonderfully spacey music. Filled with eerie moans, hushed thumpings and soft whisperings, guitarist Chris Welcome¹s compositions get reverential readings by his co-conspirators Shayna Dulberger on bass, John McLellan on drums, and Jonathan Moritz on tenor and soprano saxes. Pieces have no titles to give the listener something to hold onto. Instead the numbered tracks convey the ineffability of time, pitch and space with a sparseness that is made all the more compelling by the musicians¹ mature self-restraint. Quartet isn¹t a free improv blowfest. Instead, it is a thoughtful, evocative and deeply intelligent musical conversation made by people who clearly are interested in what each other have to say. As much as the sounds convey a noirish vibe, the most outstanding thing about Welcome¹s music is how hard the musicians listen to one another. This recording is well worth tracking down.


WFMU By Scott McDowell June 10, 2008 Dark Summer: Chris Welcome Quartet & Alfredo Costa http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2008/06/dark-summer-chr.html Monteiro
I don't know what it is about summer. The last several weeks I've either been listening to reggae (mostly the Studio One comps on Soul Jazz), or Black Mayonnaise or Merzbow or my Joy Division Zune (dude, I'm joking!). The reggae thing is understandable, but until the NJ heat got officially oppressive a few days ago, the blackness less so. Two of my other favorite releases to come through the WFMU new bin of late have been pretty dark as well so we'll just go with it. Well, to be fair the Chris Welcome Quartet album (on the terrific Tigerasylum label), simply called Quartet, is not so much dark as it is plain spooky in the Hitchcockian sense. This record comes out of the free jazz tradition, at least I think so, but it has such a refreshingly light touch to it; it is slow burning and almost quiet, as opposed the the Arthur Doyle school: The Birds vs. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Also, one gets the sense that the compositions, simply numbered 1-15, are more of the game here than the deft musicians are letting on, a series of mini controlled explosions, putting all senses on heightened alert. Chris Welcome, who plays guitar, is content to gently supply the mystery, while the saxophone (Jonathan Moritz on tenor and soprano) darts around rootlessly, adding to a mounting ennui. The rhythm section (Shayna Dulberger, bass and John McLellan, drums) is impressively reactive and almost stilted, there's hardly a steady groove to be found, creating a sense of suspense akin to wondering what that noise is in the woods, is it coming closer and will it kill me.


All About Jazz By Terrell Kent Holmes (2008) Chris Welcome Quartet
The eleven tracks here seem to be painted as much as played and the music is sometimes about effects as much as notes. The sequential numbering of these spare compositions, all penned by guitarist/ leader Chris Welcome, recalls the method of numbering paintings in a series, thus underscoring the artistic parallel. The songs revolve mostly around the sax work of Jonathan Moritz, whose brooding ruminations on soprano and tenor unfold slowly while Welcome, bassist Shayna Dulberger and drummer John McLellan fill the spaces on the canvas behind him with spirited, laconic riffs. For his part, Moritz sometimes breathes into his mouthpiece for effect before playing and his clever use of harmonics, the upper register and atonality serve as the album's thematic foundation. There are a few moments, however, when the band falls into more conventional playing. "4" has a free jazz bent that recalls Ornette Coleman; Welcome plays rapid-fire riffs like a man unshackled, his single note lines sounding sharp enough to break the strings. On "3" Moritz' skyscraping soprano mimics a flute and Dulberger's arco on "8+15+6" moans somewhere between an Indian raga and a Tibetan monk chant. These moments of inventive mimicry widen the scope of the performances and raise the album above the level of plainness. The atmosphere ranges from somber to lively to almost forbidding. The songs are carefully crafted and played by a group of distinct and talented musicians who manage to convey their unique and cohesive message amidst the mysterious, stark landscapes.