Click here to [close]

Kaja Draksler/Eve Risser (p)

BASF Gesellschaftshaus, Ludwigshafen, 10/11/2018. Photo by Martin Schray.

Tom Rainey Obbligato

Tom Rainey (dr), Ingrid Laubrock (ts), Ralph Alessi (tp), Drew Gress (b), Jacob Sacks (p); Karlsruhe, ZKM, 10/12/2018. Photo by Martin Schray.

Luc Houtkamp (cl) and Martin Blume (dr)

Manufaktur, Schorndorf, 10/5/2018. Photo by Martin Schray

The Attic: Gonçalo Almeida (b), Rodrigo Amado (ts), Onno Govaert (dr)

Bonn, Dialograum Kreuzung an St. Helena. August 2018. Photo by Martin Schray

Vario 34: Paul Lovens (dr), Alexander Frangenheim (ba), Mats-olof Gustafsson (sa), Thomas Lehn (el), Günter Christmann (ce)

studioboerne45, Berlin Germany, August 2018. Photo By Cristina Marx

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Evan Parker & Eddie Prévost - Tools of Imagination (Fundacja Słuchaj!, 2018) ****½

By Nick Metzger

With Tools of Imagination we are treated to a tremendous long form improvisation from Evan Parker and Eddie Prévost recorded in the clubroom of Poland’s Pardon To Tu in September of 2017. Eddie Prévost, a co-founder of AMM and the group’s only physical constant is one of the foremost proponents and practitioners of free improvisation in the world today. His companion for this improvisation is the great English saxophonist Evan Parker, another pillar of the European free improvisation community that’s made this strange and wonderful music his life’s work. The two have recorded together fairly extensively, both as a duo and as part of a larger group, always with spectacular results. Here is no exception as the two masters interlace ideas unhurriedly and with great care for the details.

The single track, Tools of Imagination, begins with the sounds of Prévost’s reverberating bowed metal to which Parker offers refined, bubbling shapes, surging occasionally into squelches of harmonics and resonance. Prévost is a master of atmosphere, having honed his skills in his 50+ year career as a professional noise maker. I have no idea how he achieves some of the sounds he does with his bow-work, but it’s fascinating to listen to. Groans and deep shudders are intermingled with piercing scrapes and razor barbs. Parker’s tenor gushes like an artesian well of molten chrome, a turbulent outpouring of aural globules that flow like a river across Prévost’s extraterrestrial atmospherics. At ~ 20 minutes in, the track shifts gears, the din receding momentarily before revealing Parker playing plaintively over gong-work that reminds me a little of La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela’s Study for the Bowed Disc. Parker continues to push forward, to weave webs of ectoplasm in his distinct cadence, his circular breathing technique tracing its heavy fractals in the thick ambience stirred up by Prévost. At around the midpoint the song shifts gears again and the musicians regroup into a quiescent hum interrupted intermittently by cymbal clatter and supine sax shapes. For the final half Prévost gets back to work bowing, scraping, and striking at his contraptions, framing Parker’s saxophone playing with a dense thicket of sound that he plays off and against, alternating between subtle percussive tongue slapping and breathy multiphonics. The final 10 minutes or so begin probing and sparsely adorned before bursting back into Parker’s woven harmonics and the groaning, squealing sound world of Prévost.

There are certain practices that in my opinion really benefit from preparation and experience, free improvisation being among them. For as free as the playing is on this release, it’s refined in a way that is almost inexplicable to those that are not well versed in it. That’s not to say that there aren’t any surprises here, it’s just that these gentlemen know how to take surprises and run with them. A highly recommended release, there isn’t a dull moment with this one.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Two releases by Martin Blume

By Martin Schray

German drummer and percussionist Martin Blume has been part of the improvising scene since 1983 and he has played with almost all the alpha dogs - especially in Europe: Peter Brötzmann, Peter Kowald, Johannes and Conny Bauer, Phil Minton, John Butcher, Georg Graewe, John Edwards, Joëlle Leandré, Phil Wachsmann, Mats Gustafsson, Fred Van Howe - the names of his collaborators fill half an almanac of freely improvised music. Blume, who is involved in the scene around the Loft in Cologne (he lives quite close in Bochum in Germany’s Ruhr region), is also a prolific organizer of events like the Ruhr Jazz Festival and he supports concert series like Soundtrips NRW. Apart from the excellent Low Yellow with Wilbert De Joode and John Butcher, he has released another two recommendable albums recently.

Luc Houtkamp, Steve Beresford, Martin Blume - Live in Prague 2017 (POW, 2017) ****

Improvising is everyday business. Recently, the trio of Dutch reedist Luc Houtkamp, British pianist Steve Beresford, and German drummer Martin Blume was scheduled for a gig at the Manufaktur in Schorndorf, Germany. On the day of the event Werner Hassler, the booker of the Manufaktur, received a message from Beresford that his flight from London/Gatwick was deleted without replacement (it was a no-frills airline). He couldn’t make it for the concert. So what should they do now? Should they cancel the gig? Houtkamp and Blume decided off the cuff to play as a duo, something they haven’t done before. In the end, it went really well, although I suppose that the performance might have been even better with Beresford. What the audience missed can be heard on Live in Prague 2017, the trio’s only release so far (their plan was to record another album at the Loft in Cologne after the Schorndorf show).

Martin Blume is not a drummer who pushes himself to the fore all the time (this sounds like a truism but I’ve seen drummers who do so), the aesthetics of his playing stresses the idea of entering a challenging and exciting musical dialogue with his partners. His characteristic feature is his drum kit, which he has extended according to the modular system. It consists of a huge array of little cymbals, bells, woodblocks, sticks etc. Additionally, he caresses his drumskins with the palms of his hands, with the fingertips, with different mallets and brushes. His approach contrasts very nicely with Luc Houtkamp’s saxophone philosophy, which is a rather traditional one - hardly any extended techniques like circular breathing, clicking and clapping on the keys of the tenor, hisses or guttural sounds. He prefers to play a plaintive melody here and there but he’s also able to be boisterous and harsh. All in all, he reminds me of the great free jazz blues man Joe McPhee. However, the actual sensation is Steve Beresford. He leads the way of the improvisation throwing in stride piano riffs, Tayloresque clusters, and he accelerates the pace with arpeggios and propulsive, contrasting chords that instigate Houtkamp to use guttural, forceful sax runs (listen to the first track around the 22-minute-mark). Yet, out of the blue, Beresford is able to switch to the interior of the piano and in combination with Blume’s little instruments he can change directions to microscopic sound explorations. His balanced use of electronics adds nice new sound colours as well. In a nutshell, Live in Prague 2017 is a very nice album for fans of the Schlippenbach Trio, for example.

Live in Prague 2017 is available as a CD and a download:

Watch the trio at a gig in Groningen here:

Martin Blume, Tobias Delius, Achim Kaufmann, Dieter Manderscheid - Frames & Terrains (NoBusiness, 2018) ****

Due to the similar line up, the music on Frames & Terrains has some things in common with Live in Prague 2017. At the same time, it’s also very different. Martin Blume has set up the band and said that he “"ikes bringing musicians together whose combination might sound fresh and new". Like Blume, Tobias Delius (saxophone, clarinet), Achim Kaufmann (piano), and Dieter Manderscheid (bass) are members of the Cologne scene (even if Delius lives mainly in Berlin). The quartet is assembled around Blume and Manderscheid, who have been playing together for a very long time,
both being able to switch effortlessly between pulse and coloration. Especially their quartet FOURinONE with the late Johannes Bauer and Luc Houtkamp is worth to be re-discovered. Compared to Live in Prague 2017 it’s obvious that Achim Kaufmann differs from Steve Beresford as to his harmonic subtlety and his structural style. Similar to Blume, his approach is often close to new classical music, being poetical, energetic and asymmetric. Additionally, Tobias Delius - although involved in the Amsterdam scene around the ICP Orchestra - is a very different player compared to Luc Houtkamp. On the one hand, he also combines traditional swing and hard bop sounds with elements of the blues and an old school free jazz attitude. On the other hand, he does use circular breathing, key claps, multiphonics and microtones. That said, it’s clear that he can offer a bigger variety to the music of this project.

The albums starts with Delius’ saxophone chasing turned up melody fragments into the room, hectic rushes, tension, quiteness, and exuberance are present from the very first moment. Kaufmann literally builds up the frames and terrains, in which the four musicians are able to interact. It’s true that the tenor saxophone and the piano grab the ear, yet it's a four way exchange about sound and structure. After seven minutes, Kaufmann is left alone by his combatants finishing his thoughts before a bass pattern opens a new terrain for the others to join in. All of a sudden the atmosphere has changed from cheerful gaiety to a gloomy frown, typified by Delius on clarinet in a duo with Manderscheid’s arco bass. Percussion and piano creep back into the piece almost imperceptibly. In general it’s a pure pleasure to listen how the highlights ricochet within the group, to find out who leads and who’s holding back. Whenever you think that everything has fallen apart, that there’s no rhythm anymore, no melody, when all energy seems to have left the music, suddenly an inner connection emerges, a compelling rhythm is found that often invites another little melody. A perfect example of this is the ending of the album, which displays a very tenderly introduced piano trio, delicately conceived with Manderscheid in the center, gradually picking up dynamics and speed. Twitching piano runs and firm chords open a last terrain: the trio is joined by Delius’ tenor for a light-footed, jubilant conclusion.
Frames & Terrains is available on vinyl (limited to 300 copies) and as a download.

You can listen to the music here:

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Elliott Sharp/Carbon ‎- Transmigration at the Solar Max (Intakt Records, 2018) ****

By Nick Metzger

Multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp’s long running Carbon ensembles were formed in the epicenter of the artistic energy roiling in the downtown New York scene of the late 70’s/early 80’s. Some of the first Carbon shows were played alongside such NYC luminaries as Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, and the Swans. Carbon, like Sonic Youth, harnessed the sounds of punk and no wave and transformed them into something more than just instrumental abstract expressionism. But while Sonic Youth tended more and more towards mainstream music, Carbon has taken free guitar playing into noisier, more abstract, and more psychedelic domains. Sharp has tied the compositional and improvisational core of Carbon to extended timbres, and on this offering we get them in the form of drones, guitar squall, and percussion clusters. Joining Sharp this time out are Carbon ensemble veterans electric harpist Zeena Parkins and drummer Bobby Previte. Parkins is a regular in the downtown NYC scene and has collaborated with everyone from John Zorn to Pauline Oliveros to Björk. Previte, another downtown trouper who doesn’t need an introduction is a close associate of Elliott, John Zorn, and Tim Berne and has been a part of the scene since the late 70’s.

In Annalema Sharp chugs out rhythmic outlines and harmonics over Previte’s bolting toms as Parkins adds pointillistic jots of electricity over the increasingly thick tangle of sound. The song segues back and forth between the chaotic swirls of sound and quieter, more probing half-formed melodies. Sharp and Parkins invoke a pall of drone for the dense Perihelion which Previte breaks up with his forward pushing percussion. The piece unravels over the din as the drums fade, leaving the strings to wail, creak, and squeal. Over the last two minutes a sequence of string harmonics is played, the song ending in chime and chatter. Orrery presents irregular percussion and clusters of tapped out notes over a sustained electric storm. Sharp switches to the soprano saxophone for Aurora, playing off of Previte’s rustling drums and Parkins’ particularly psychedelic sound palette. Sharp electronically manipulates his lines, pleating out cartoon horn noises and quivering strands of sound. He returns to his guitar for the latter third, joining Parkins and Previte in interplay that is both snarled and rhythmic. Anthelion closes the album with the trio playing against a massive electro-acoustic din, their individual instruments reduced to flames flickering from the embers.

A fantastic album overall and a nice addition to the Carbon continuum this is certain to please fans of electric-guitar-based textured improvisation. Dissonance and coherence run hand in hand, just when a structure seems to be dissolving completely it explodes, and vice versa. It’s headspace music that throws you off balance just enough to keep you guessing.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Bad Luck - Four (Origin Records, 2018) *****

As Bad Luck, Neil Welch (tenor saxophone & live electronics) and Chris Icasiano (drums) have played roughly 60 shows a year for over 10 years. Their latest CD out on Origin Records, Four, displays the mature, complex seamlessness which comes from two players who know what the other is about.  Welch’s dexterous chops atop his use of drone and chorus pedals (plus studio work by Randal Dunn) combine with Icasiano’s tom-heavy drumming to produce an exhilarating sonic experience. Welch’s tone moves from gorgeous to scolding to Pharoah Sanders cries. Icasiano can do it all with his drum kit: bombast, light touches, dense unrelenting low patterns, sermons of light and darkness.  The six compositions here are sometimes smooth, sometimes angular, sometimes a cross between tight metal and prog rock; at other times they invoke the patient, caressing ethereality of Sigur Rós, with Welch’s soaring tenor playing the role of the untranslatable, invented language.

Welch and Icasiano are and have been fixtures in the Seattle improvised music scene for a decade. In addition to being among the 6 or so founders of the Racer Sessions (Seattle’s free jazz/creative music weekly jam, now nearing its tenth year), they have separately and together performed in 1000s of shows in various settings— from standards gigs to modern creative dance (using accelerometers to manipulate sound) to ragas with master sitar players, to an opera house performance of Roscoe Mitchell’s “Nonaah” (with the master himself in attendance). It is lovely for them to put out such an ambitious and successful record.

Sonically, Four feels like a road-trip through the badlands: driving, zoning out to gorgeous vistas, striated canyons, breathing the occasional sulfur rising from prehistoric ponds, the otherworldliness of endless horizon, at night just the dark, stars, the highway markers, and, now and again, headlights coming full-on. Some of the tunes operate at three levels: Icasiano’s rolling toms create a roiling current; Welch establishes one or two shifting trenches of long notes on his pedal board, and then soars over atop on his gorgeous tenor. Another approach they use is to play in tight, synchronized cell structures, like paired modern dancers working the mat in an esoteric, physical vocabulary. Welch and Icasiano credit Randal Dunn, who recorded, mixed and co-produced the record, as chief sonic sculptor in the studio.

Track 1 (“Four”) encapsulates the whole record: crying sax over energy drum-fills over slow-shifting choral effects. “Four” opens with tom beats, and sax squeals, and then shifting blocks of chorus pedal mark out the tune’s sonic boundaries.  Some Pharoah Sanders plaintiff cries, some Sigur Rós cloudscapes.  Now relax, strip it down to the shifting chordal blocks under ride cymbal sheen; breathe. Very filmic. The CD’s back cover depicts a cold stream through snowy barrens, leading to low bluffs in the distance.  This tune could easily be the soundtrack on a frigid, upward trek: wind brisk in your face, heat rising under your jacket, the dizzy you experience when you close your eyes after exertion. There’s some exhilaration and some mystery fear. The sax returns and the drums gets busier.  Then a fade-out. It works with headphones.

Track 2, “R.B.G.,” (yes, named for the esteemed Supreme Court Justice) starts with an angry twitch, softens slightly, briefly, and flows into rolling, frenetic toms and multiphonic sax cries.  It becomes a study in intensity, and then a break until the next cell starts: a driving into a storm motif, until Welch really lets loose: quick tonguing, crying, lifting us into stratosphere, swept into multi-colored clouds without an airplane. Around 4:30 the backdrop peels away and they launch into something like prog rock, where the sax/drums play patterned hits in unison. They reach a silent precipice, and Icasiano unexpectedly goes into a Caribbean dance beat, over which Welch wails, a menacing held note rising in back. If we are still thinking R.B.G, we have here Justice Ginsberg dancing and ruefully laughing at what fate has thrown at her: so many steps forward, so many steps back. At some point they switch into pure energy mode, continuous fills making for a rhythmic tapestry, Welch in the upper range singing with banshee determination and possession.

Track 3, “Index,” is the shortest cut at 6 and 1/4 minutes. The backgrounding techniques are made the foreground.  As mood music, imagine a mouse moving through a labyrinth slowly losing the certainty of its location.  It opens with brushes on snare and that undergrowth of shifting sound blocks. Enter some softly held sax dissonant harmonics, woven with their electrified echoes and modulations.  It is a gentle piece, with just enough edge to keep the experience real.  Track 4, “Capital,” opens with some rising toms that turn into rapid, spasmodic sax notes in unison with rim-shots, snare, and cymbal hits.  Again the anxiety of losing one’s way in a maze, anxious to find the thread of escape.  When the electronics and the pacing tambourine kick in (at 3:35), something soothing happens in the multiphonics which take us to safety.  The timbre of the sax really comes through on this piece.

Track 5, “Bends,” grows into what is perhaps the most terrifying song in the collection: intense wails and drumming that is a drubbing, patiently upping the ante over a long-form electronic, undulating drone background.  Around ten minutes in, a myriad of bells enter as the intensity loosens, and we are held aloft in an elegant sound garden of resonant objects. Track 6 (“Big Sky”) opens calmly, with large gestures, timpani, and cymbal swells.  It shifts to a kind of rocking, thumping, and foregrounds some modulated sax notes, some buried electronic blips and bleeps. Then begins the low thunder out a-ways yonder in them dark clouds.  Icasiano’s seething tom rolls and cymbal swells produce an atmosphere of foreboding, Welch provides the sheet lightning behind the storm, and the whole leads upward to an extended drum roll (a la Godspeed You! Black Emperor), and then Welch’s tenor reaches for the human sublime.

Bad Luck treads its own path. If last century, Coltrane and Ali’s Interstellar Space (recorded in1967) set the table for the sax/drums duo, Bad Luck leaves behind the question of handing off the torch, and draws instead on so many other traditions all at once. This music is not jazz, it is not rock or metal, it is not ambient, it is not techno. Its admixture of electronics and acoustic elements, its cinematic, creative use of time and song form amounts to a neo-expressionism for the new century.

Friday, October 19, 2018

BROM - Sunstroke (Trost, 2018) ****

The Russian. Moscow-based group BROM - БРОМ - was founded in 2008 but until recently has been a well-kept secret, unknown to the most of the world. BROM’s eight album, Sunstroke, is the first one to be released internationally and may do justice to this group thanks to the enthusiastic endorsement of Swedish sax titan Mats Gustafsson.

BROM - bass player Dmitry Lapshin, sax player Anton Ponomarev, drummer , Yaroslav Kurilo and new member, electronics player Felix Mikensky - began to act as an anti-statements to the post-rock hype, but later pushed heavily into crossing over free-improv, noise rock and free jazz. Gustafsson asks in his liner notes how such a band can make “something personal within the given frames? When so much already has been done?”. His typical answer: “Break the frames? Love the frames? Hate the frames? Dismantle the frames? Just fuck the frames? Use the frames?”

And as Gustafsson advices, BROM uses and fucks all given frames, straight in-your-face, especially the seminal frames of Gustafsson’s own The Thing, Peter Brötzmann’s Last Exit and John Zorn’s Naked City (and Gustafsson adds many more sources of influence, from Led Zeppelin to Radian). BROM sounds at times as sharing the same gene pool with these groundbreaking musicians, but insisting to inject their proud gene mutation. The influence is so strong that you can recognize the phrasing of Gustafsson in Ponomarev playing or the manic bass attacks of The Thing’s Ingebrigt Håker Flaten in Lapshin licks. But BROM edits this kind of high-velocity, intense legacy into its own personal vocabulary and syntax. Still, as Gustafsson preaches, channeling and transforming this rich legacy into a its own defying call to fight the everlasting stupidities of the world.

BROM's sonic statement is clear and loud from the very first second of the opening piece “Plunge into an ice hole”. Brutal, dense and super-intense kick ass attacks that reach into unbearable stratospheres and then pushes even more, suddenly sneaks to a breezy cinematic detour before resuming the manic grind. “Tuna” and the title-piece sound as twisting the mean rhythmic onslaughts of Italian Zu with Naked City post-modern sonic pastiche into a supersonic cacophony. Mikensky’s electronics on “Queue” add a subversive, irritating layer to Ponomarev's powerful sax theme. “Urtica” suggests BROM in a head-on collision with The Thing, including the open flirt with  a dramatic metal narrative. “Hematoma” offers BROM in its most free-improvised version, eager to experience any adventure and take all risks but also to bare its gentle side. The last “Mingus 30°C” actually boils with an infectious theme, repeated over and over while borrowing from the light, harmolodic pulse of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, the shiny elegance of Naked City and the massive nuclear reservoirs of The Thing.

Hard to believe that these Russian guys were stricken by the sun, but you can be sure that they were hit by something as powerful and nourishing as the sun. Seriously badass!!!, as Gustafsson says.

People Band 10-14-18. Exploratorium, Berlin.

The People Band (l-r): Paul Jolly, George Kahn, Terry Day, Mike Figgis, Charly Hart, Davey Payne.
Photo courtesy Fotoarchiv exploratorium berlin
By Paul Acquaro

Tucked away on an upper floor of a re-purposed chocolate factory in Berlin's Kreutzberg neighborhood sits the Exploratorium. Hosting workshops and concerts with a focus on improvised music, the center has provided me, so far, with two wonderful musical experiences - the first, the Schlippenbach Trio’s Winterreise tour on my first visit to the city back in 2012, and just this past week, the legendary People Band.

The People Band is a musical collective with its roots in late 1960's London. I became aware of the band via Trevor Barre’s detailed examination of the UK free music scene, and was excited for the chance to see them in the flesh.

Tonight the group's evolving line-up consisted of all original members, adding an extra boost to the anticipation. Terry Day, on drums and percussion, was physically and musically the center piece of the group. His playing both rhythmic and colorful, driving the band when the tempo picked up, and centering the group when the mood was explorative. Mike Figgis on trumpet and electric guitar provided texture and hypnotic riffs. Charlie Hart on electric bass, and in the second set, violin, was also key in providing momentum - some of the most interesting passages came when his bass work grew agitated and kinetic. On saxophone and flute, George Khan and Davey Payne flanked the group, providing excited solo moments and reacting to the goings on in the rhythm section with both musical agreement and disagreement. Paul Jolly, poised towards center left on bass clarinet, saxophones, and flute, brought other textures to the group sound and offered several powerful saxophone, and deeply resonant bass clarinet, solos.

The first set was a dramatic, tension filled, 45 minutes (or more? I didn’t really keep track), starting with Payne wandering about an eclectic array of chimes, gongs, and bells. It rose to a climatic outpouring of emotionally melodic snippets and fierce runs, and ended in a hushed whisper. The second set took on a totally different approach, also with sublime moments mixed with the infuriating (i.e. the ‘Earth Angel’ progression). Overall, it was an exciting, adventurous, and fulfilling night of the musically unexpected.

Some other exciting shows coming up at the Exploritorum include the Tiger Trio with Joëlle Léandre, Myra Melford and Nicole Mitchell on Nov 11th, and renowned bassist Barre Phillips with the Ensemble de Musique Improvisée en Résidence on December 16th. Check it out here:

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Denman Maroney, Leroy Jenkins, Rich O’Donnell - Unknown Unknowns (Live) (2018, self-released) ****½

By Keith Prosk

Maroney (“hyperpiano”), Jenkins (violin), and O’Donnell (percussion) have appeared together before on Leroy Jenkins’ Driftwood’s 2005 The Art of Improvisation, also featuring Min Xiao-Fen on pipa. Recorded in 2004, it is among Jenkins’ last recorded performances and in the midst of Maroney’s fruitful partnerships with Mark Dresser and Ned Rothenberg. Both recordings display a mastery of musical time, space, timbre, and soul but, whereas the primary draw of The Art of Improvisation’s succinct 42 minutes is the interplay of Min and Jenkins, Unknown Unknowns’ 149 minutes provides a fuller exploration of the core trio’s communicative capabilities.

Unknown Unknowns is comprised of two sets. The first, “Cooler in the Shade,” covers 85 minutes across six tracks and was recorded in 2003 as part of the New York music series of the same name. The first track provides a digest of what this group is about: Jenkins bows haunting vamps, allowing Maroney and O’Donnell to timbrally run wild, until eventually the trio converges and then they’re off, guiding each other through changes in structure and volume and space until climaxing with Jenkins sawing, with O’Donnell scraping cymbals and drum heads, with Maroney producing what sounds like a circus organ of nightmares. Jenkins’ fusion of jazz, blues, classical, and gospel is here along with the full gamut of extended techniques for violin. When O’Donnell isn’t matching the stringy timbres of Maroney and Jenkins, his playful technique reminds me of Gerry Hemingway and Gunter Sommer. And Maroney’s tonal transmogrification of the piano is on full display. The next three tracks are modular performances recalling the beginning of Cecil Taylor’s One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye, with duos of Maroney/O’Donnell, Jenkins/Maroney, and Jenkins/O’Donnell, before the united trio returns for the last two tracks. The second set, “New Music Circle,” covers 64 minutes across four tracks and was recorded in 2005 as part of the St. Louis music series of the same name, of which O’Donnell was music director at the time of recording. The set demonstrates a continued exploration of the dynamics presented on both “Cooler in the Shade” and The Art of Improvisation, but the trio is more instantly reactive to each other here and able to satisfactorily express their language much more efficiently.

Each set stands alone perfectly. However, if you can spare two and a half hours, the release is not exhausting like some longer releases can be. It’s a varied journey that could be mentioned in the same breath as Jenkins’ solo, Revolutionary Ensemble, and AACM outings, or Maroney’s work with Mark Dresser, Ned Rothenberg, and Hans Tammen.

Unknown Unknowns (Live) is a digital-only release.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Rempis / Piet / Daisy - Throw Tomatoes (Astral Spirits, 2018) ****

By Lee Rice Epstein

Last year, Dave Rempis, Matt Piet, and Tim Daisy debuted their new trio with Hit the Ground Running and Cure for the Quotidian, two excellent sessions that impressed several reviewers of this blog. Now they’re back with Throw Tomatoes, which features the group’s third and fourth shows together. Altogether, the three releases tell the story of less than a year’s worth of collaboration, improvisation, and inspiration. Beginning with Cure for the Quotidian, recorded November 9, 2016, continuing with Hit the Ground Running, January 21, 2017 (a pair of auspicious dates here in the States), and picking up with May 8 and July 2, 2017.

On “To Play Is the Thing,” recorded last May at Chicago’s Elastic Arts, Daisy opens with melodic cymbals, introducing and accompanying Piet. As we’ve discussed here numerous times, Daisy is a remarkably musical performer, with a style and approach that defies the personnel listing “drums” (just as Rempis is much more than “saxophones” and Piet beyond “piano”). Rempis enters a couple minutes in, and the three tackle a circular, pointillist interlude, with Piet employing some preparations.

It’s not just the name Matthew that brings to mind Shipp in Piet’s playing. There’s a similar depth to Piet’s approach to the piano as a complete instrument, with the full range of its keyboard and dynamics simultaneously deployed, as on his first solo section in “The Thousand Natural Shocks,” recorded at The Hungry Brain last July. Daisy is in a particularly driving mood on this date, shifting into a mellow swing at one point, before urging Rempis and Piet back into high gear. All three seem to be constantly supporting, poking, and prodding each other.

In the liner notes, Piet writes about a moment near the 20-minute mark of “To Play Is the Thing,” when he and Daisy tried to end the performance. Daisy adds some solid punctuation to Piet’s playing, but in context it does sound unfinished without Rempis. The proper ending is much weirder and more surprising, and therefore apt.

I mentioned to someone recently that Rempis has reached a new stage in his playing. Maybe it’s the modern horror show we’ve been cast in against our will, but I’d mark Perihelion as the point when something notable changed. For a saxophonist who always seemed capable of doing anything, Rempis now does absolutely everything. Throughout the album, Rempis plays with an open, fluid voice, which pairs well with Daisy’s resonant pitches and warm rhythms. And his sly references and unvarnished fury cut straight through Chicago’s thick night air.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Albert Cirera / Abdul Moimême / Alvaro Rosso - Dissection Room (Creative Sources, 2018) ****

By Eyal Hareuveni

The Lisbon-based trio of Catalan sax player Albert Cirera, Portuguese prepared electric guitar player Abdul Moimême and Uruguayan double bass player Alvaro Rosso, also known as the AAA Trio, was established in 2015. The debut album of this trio was recorded live at the experimental space of Lisbon, O'Culto da Ajuda, on December 2017.

The title Dissection Room already suggests the approach of these fearless improvisers - a methodical exploration, deconstruction and reconstruction of various extended techniques, never surrendering to the known and the familiar. Cirera, Moimême and Rosso are seated and each on his own highly independent way investigates the uncharted, topographical organs of this free-improvised body of music. This kind of Frankenstein, mad sonic scientists approach promises an uncompromising, demanding and often otherworldly journey. But, somehow, as Stuart Broomer comments in his insightful liner notes (the notes are titled after John Dryden’s poem “A Song for Saint Cecilia’s Day”, the patroness of musicians), throughout the fragile and reserved interplay Cirera, Moimême and Rosso still communicate and weave a “shroud of harmonics, a transparent veil through which one another’s activities pass discreetly”.

Cirera, Moimême and Rosso use different kinds of objects to alter and expand the sonic range of their instruments. Cirera injects objects into the bells of his tenor and soprano saxes and sketches fractured, percussive patterns, He also employs extended breathing techniques that introduce electric-ethereal drones. The prepared guitar of Moimême has nothing common with an electric guitar. It becomes an imaginative sonic lab with a vulnerable and tangible resonating entity. The extended bowing techniques of Rosso dig tortured sounds, and more tortured overtones and cries from the double bass, transforming it to an instrument with a seductive, human voice. Mid-piece, around the 28-minute mark, as Broomer adds, something happens, a sudden blackout, and the interplay instantly shifts to a nervous and urgent mode. From this moment on Cirera, Moimême and Rosso begin to build the climax, injecting more bizarre components, confront wild hallucinations and struggle with frightening colors and shades of this Frankenstein body of music.

But when you dive deeper and deeper into this music, allowing your ears to grow to it, you may realize that this kind of Frankenstein music is highly addictive.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bobby Naughton/ Leo Smith/ Perry Robinson - The Haunt (No Business, 2018) ****

By Stuart Broomer

Lithuania’s No Business label has a fine track record for bringing lost music to light, and this 1976 session led by vibraphonist Bobby Naughton is an excellent example. Naughton became interested in free jazz in the late 1960s, meeting clarinetist Perry Robinson in New York, and was active in the loft scene of the 1970s. He met trumpeter Leo Smith in Connecticut and would appear with some regularity in Smith’s ensembles of the ‘70s and ’80s. Naughton had a few credits on some other major recordings as well, including documents of Anthony Braxton’s 1978 European Creative Orchestra and his Ensemble (Victoriaville) 1988 and recordings by Roscoe Mitchell and Mario Pavone. Much of Naughton’s time, however, has been spent away from music, earning a living as a locksmith before recently returning to music. In the 1970s he released a few recordings on his own OTIC label, of which The Haunt is the first to appear on CD. Hailed on its first release, it’s a lost masterpiece by musicians of the first rank.

It’s a music based on keen familiarity. The absence of anything like a rhythm section immediately places it in the special creative lineage of the chamber jazz avant-garde, one that began with the Jimmy Giuffre Three circa 1961 with Steve Swallow and Paul Bley and developed with the Creative Construction Company of Anthony Braxton, Smith and Leroy Jenkins. The pieces heard here are all Naughton‘s compositions—pieces in which written and improvised elements flow together, whether the movement is from composed ensemble to solo or collective improvisation. Naughton’s works here are distinguished by an abstracted lyricism, a floating quality with an immediately engaging collective sonority. There’s literally nowhere to hide in this music, with each voice cast in high relief whether in solo or ensemble.

In the first moments of the opening title track, the three voices arrive alone, first Robinson with a keening wail and a wide vibrato that will link him to Sidney Bechet, albeit by way of Albert Ayler, then Smith, lower, more reflective, assembling materials, then Naughton, pianistic rather than percussive, notes ringing under the others. Some of his writing here has an Ornette Coleman feel, a vocal and rhythmic inflection that lives here even without bass and drums. On “The Weight” and “Slant” the improvisation is insistently collective, a spirit of continuous creative dialogue shaping the music. Sustained individual statements arise on the pensive “Places,” first Smith, all concentration, then Robinson tending always toward flight, even here sounding like his clarinet might come untethered and soar, but instead fading gently into a collective passage that’s literally both improvisation and theme (Robinson eventually explodes into wild squiggling lines in the upper register, but it takes an added alternate take of “Slant”). That commitment to Naughton’s music is evident everywhere here, arising again in the quietly intense, naked knitting of sounds that distinguishes “Rose Island.” By the time one reaches “Ordette,” the final track in the original LP configuration, the album’s cumulative identity is so strong that you feel the presence of the trio even in the series of unaccompanied solos, the music assuming its shape in the concentrated presence of the other musicians.

The special challenge presented by The Haunt’s spare, subtle intensity may be what has kept it so alive during its decades of neglect.