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Chris Corsano (d), Kelsey Mines (b & voice), Casey Adams (d)

Casa del Xolo, 1/16/2024, Seattle, WA. (pic: Gregg Miller)

Absolutely Sweet Marie: Alexander Beierbach (s), Anke Lucks (tb), Steffen Faul (tp), Gerhard Gschlößl (Tu), Lucia Martinez (d)

Panda Theater, 12/2023, Berlin

Dead Leaf Butterfly: Els Vandeweyer (v), Maike Hilbig (b), Lucía Martínez (d), Lina Allemano (t)

Jazzwerkstatt, 12/2023, Berlin

Han-earl Park (g), Camila Nebbia (s), Yorgos Dimitriadis (d)

Morphine Raum, 12/2023, Berlin

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Lara Jones - Sunday Interview

Photo by Jess Rose

  1. What is your greatest joy in improvised music?

    The sharing of an unspoken language and the ability to express and communicate with people you might hardly know before playing together. It’s magical and after you know that you have shared a part of yourself with each other. It takes a lot of trust and when it works, it’s beautiful.

  2. What quality do you most admire in the musicians you perform with?

    Their boldness

  3. Which historical musician/composer do you admire the most?

    Ahhh I find it so hard to pick one musician or composer or a favourite anything. I’ve been inspired by so many incredible composers and performers and I don’t think I can pin it down to one. I suppose I’ll never forget first listening to John Coltrane ‘Love Supreme’ as cliche as it is, that was a pretty pivotal moment for me.

  4. If you could resurrect a musician to perform with, who would it be?

    SOPHIE, may she rest in power.

  5. What would you still like to achieve musically in your life?

    I’d love to perform in more countries around the world. I’ve always wanted to travel and traveling with my music is definitely a dream of mine.

  6. Are you interested in popular music and - if yes - what music/artist do you particularly like

    I like a lot of popular music, i think it serves a purpose that the world needs. I rate Troye Sivan and Kylie and Britney will always be my gals.

  7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

    Lots of things hah! Mostly I have a terrible memory, i’d love to be able withhold information for longer and also I would get rid of my anxiety!

  8. Which of your albums are you most proud of?

    Mm probably ‘Enso’ which was my first solo release and the first time I started to prioritse making what I wanted to make.

  9. Once an album of yours is released, do you still listen to it? And how often?

    No, never. I spend so much time listening to my music when producing and mixing that once it’s released it’s a marker to me that it’s done and my time with it is complete. It’s no longer mine, it’s everyone else's. You gotta hand it over and let it all go.

  10. Which album (from any musician) have you listened to the most in your life?

    I don’ t think I can answer this, there are soooo many albums I’ve listened to on repeat and many albums I’ve transcribed which means i’ve listened over and over intently. It honestly could be anything from Paul Desmond to Eminem…

  11. What are you listening to at the moment?

    Recently i haven’t been able to stop listening to ‘Playing Robots into Heaven’ I’ve played it so many times a day since its been released. Also Lowkey.

  12. What artist outside music inspires you?

    I’m really inspired by athletes mostly women's football - that’s an art right?

Lara Jones' Saxophone - Ensō was reviewed in the compilation "Solo Sax".

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Fire! - Testament (Rune Grammofon, 2024)

By Martin Schray

On the one hand, Fire! (as always Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin) are absolutely predictable. That’s not meant in a negative way at all, it’s a bit like drinking a spectacular wine you know, but you haven’t had it for three years - and now you’re looking forward to tasting it again. Anticipation is the greatest joy, we all know that. Also, because on the other hand, Fire! albums are never the same.

On Testament, their eighth album, the trio concentrates on the essentials for the first time: saxophone, bass, drums. No flutes (which Gustafsson has recently discovered for himself in his other projects), no electronics (actually an integral part of Fire!), no guests and no other bric-a-brac. The album was recorded live in the studio on analog tape at Steve Albini’s studio (of Nirvana/Shellac/Stooges etc. fame) with the master himself at the controls. It’s a bit as if what belongs together has come together here.

Fire! have always been about finding the essence by getting to the core of the music. On Testament, it becomes clearer than ever before how strongly the trio literally refers back to the roots of ancient jazz and blues structures. Field hollers, call-and-response, an interplay - in this case of three instruments - that have a kind of conversation with each other and thus create a certain density and tension. This is particularly evident in the opener “Work Songs For A Scattered Past“ (but also in the following three pieces). Johan Berthling’s bass is the basis, Werliin's drums support him more stoically than usual, and Gustafsson lets his dark lines buzz over this base. Intensity, tempo and sound are then varied, Gustafsson pivots on Berthling’s bass motif to give Werliin room for excursions. In its simplicity, this is simply great art and almost tears your heart out.

This approach is further refined in the second piece, even more minimalist, three notes on the bass, the drums almost like a metronome. Gustafsson plays long, lonely lines, interspersed with an interlude of short outbursts that seem as if a guest musician has snuck in. A highlight of the album is “Running Bison. Breathing Entity. Sleeping Reality“. The bass is as light as a feather, the drums almost free of tom, bass drum or snare, even the saxophone floats free of suffering or longing. It’s the continuation of Fire!’s masterpiece She Sleeps She Sleeps, especially when the obligatory outburst comes in the middle of the track and the bass then returns with even more verve. You might even want to jump from your sofa and dance - just to realize that the last track, “One Testament. One Aim. One More To Go. Again“, is different. All three instruments spin freely, there is no longer a gravitational center, it seems as if one is drifting completely free through the orbit. The piece is a throwback to the band’s other mainstay, namely krautrock/progrock - and here Can in particular (coincidentally, the review was written the day after Damo Suzuki’s death). Like Can, Fire!’s music also oscillates between demonstrative boredom and ecstatic outbursts, you think you know what’s going to happen - just to find out that your expectations won’t be fulfilled.

It’s only February, but are we talking about an album of the year? Hell yeah. 100%.

Testament is available as an LP (in a limited edition on clear vinyl), as a CD and as a download.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Guiseppe Doronzo - Futuro Ancestrale (Clean Feed, 2024)

By Sammy Stein

Guiseppe Doronzo is one of the most innovative free music musicians currently on the scene. Focussing mostly on his baritone saxophone, Doronzo explores music and creates his distinctive voice, which brings together influences including contemporary classical, jazz improvisation, non-western sounds, and rhythms. He has worked with Michael Moore, Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, Han Bennink, Robin Eubanks, Steve Potts, Benjamin Herman, and Jim Black to name just a few.

Doronzo’s ability to draw international musicians to his music is demonstrated on Futuro Ancestrale (Cleanfeed Jan 2024) where UK guitarist Andy Moor (Ken Vandermark, Paal Nilssen-Love, Thurston Moore) and Puerto Rican drummer Frank Rosaly (Thurston Moore, Fred Lonberg-Holm trio, Jason Adasiewicz) join him. All three have bases in the Netherlands and the live recording was made in Amsterdam. Doronzo lays baritone saxophone and Iranian bagpipes on the album.

To comment that this album is eclectic and features essences from many diverse sources would be an understatement. The journey through this album is intense, variable, and, at times, challenges perceptions. Even given the varied backgrounds and influences of all three musicians, the sounds produced at times seem to come from some new place, where the music voyages into previous unchartered voids places avoided before but Doronzo, unwavering in his determination to explore unchartered areas, launches fearlessly into – with astounding results. From the weird, barely decipherable voiced background line of ‘Digging The Sand’ – a track which incidentally has an appropriate title because it evokes a sense of pulling through something that keeps giving way, changing and shifting as the track develops – to the strange ascensions from the guitar and driving rhythms developed by the baritone saxophone in ‘Hopscotch’, the album challenges, entrances and delights in more or less equal measure.

‘Hopscotch’ deserves more mention because this extended, mesmeric track is an outstanding development of free music, with an intimate connection between the musicians as they listen to each other, connect on an intrinsic level, and create music that extends that communication to the listener, bringing them into the sonic journey.

‘Magma’ features flavours from the Orient and is a noisy, beautifully worked piece, including the ethereal phrases of the Iranian bagpipes, with their lusty keening adding a distinctive voice to the track while ‘ Graduate of Witchcraft ( Bonus track) is a shorter but very sweet interaction between the three musicians in a melodic, rhythmic number which is as entrancing over the short period it plays, as any other track on the album.

The album is impressive (another understatement) and although it is just January, it is going to be difficult for any improvising group to better this. The communication, expertise and musicianship are phenomenal. The rise and fall, the ebbs and flows of this music, give it continuous energy and dynamism which means the listener finds themselves constantly surprised – and there is more revealed with each listen, for example in the final track, there is an intricate back beat carried on in the percussion – and so it goes on, more to discover, more to enjoy and engage with – improvised music at its best.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Gush - Afro Blue (Trost Records, 2024)

By Ferruccio Martinotti

First thing first, for the sake of the transparency to the readers, in our less than humble opinion Mats Gustafsson is the one and only legitimate heir of Kaiser Brotzmann, an indispensable, larger than life musical landmark who encompasses all the features of a true artist: open, brave, maverick, insane, outrageous, label-less, pigeonhole-less, unstoppable, untamable, drive-forward only. Luckily for us, the Man is also hyper-prolific on the 360 degrees of his musical scope, offering to our insatiable palates a gorgeous menu made of bands (Fire!, Fire! Orchestra, The Thing, The End, Fake the facts, Nu Ensemble etc); lateral projects (Hidros etc); countless collaborations (Brotzmann, Sonic Youth, Moore, O’Rourke, McPhee, Vandermark, Merzbow, Nilssen-Love, Chippendale, Zu etc); solo works and even an exhilarating book about his “discaholic” addiction as compulsive records collector. Simply put, a sheer free soul. Shouldn’t be enough (surely, it’s not enough...), thanks to the always commendable Trost Records we have now the chance to discover some shining pebbles from his past: four pieces captured live in Stockholm at the Jazzclub Fasching on December 17, 1998, under the flag of Gush, a trio that, along with Mats (soprano, tenor sax) sees Sten Sandell (piano) and Raymond Strid (drums). 

To shine a light on what Gush was (is?), let’s listen to the story as told by Mr. Gustafsson himself in the liner notes of the disc. The group, born as a drone-oriented project inspired by the sound of the duduk, an Armenian double reed instrument made of apricot wood, soon developed onto new sounds and sailed towards roaring sonic waters, investing a tremendous amount of time in rehearsing, playing and travelling together. Frozen the group on a long hiatus, after 25 years Raymond Strid discovered by chance the original DAT of the above mentioned gig that has been then mastered by the Austrian guitarist Martin Siewert, granting an astonishing sound to our grateful ears, hearts and minds. The core of the recording is the 19-minute song that named the album, a Mongo Santamaria tune, delivered to the immortality by John Coltrane, the perfect paradigm of Gush’s music, described by Mats as “composed ideas, drone based structures with clear harmonic centers”. We could’ve been able to find a better claim. It's just imperative to add that, if the sax is already quintessentially Gustafsson, it deserves to be highlighted the terrific, colorful, with some Monk-esque nuances, piano of Sten Sandell, that sometimes is paving the way for the telluric Mats’ blasting screams but often is pouring himself nitroglycerin to the fire. Waiting for a better understanding if Gush will (hopefully) be fully back on the tracks, don’t miss such a beautiful piece of the infinite puzzle built along the years by this incredible musician, because, quoting him in the end, “NOW is the time. NOW is always the time. It is ALL about time. It is all about now...NOW”.

Gush - Afro Blue (Trost Records, 2024)

By Stef Gijssels

John Coltrane's "Live In Japan" (1991), starts with a phenomenal thirty-eight minute long rendition of the Latin jazz composition "Afro Blue" by Mongo Santamaria from his 1959 album "Mongo". (On the same Coltrane album, "My Favorite Things" lasts even fifty-seven minutes!). The original Coltrane version appears on "Live At Birdland" (1964), and Coltrane and band demonstrated already then how a joyful and entertaining tune can be moved to a completely different plane, one of authentic emotional power and depth, of spirituality and aesthetic vision. The tune became a standard in Coltrane's repertoire, as much as "My Favorite Things", "Naima", "Impressions" and a few others. 

It's a challenge to bring a rendition of Coltrane's favorite tunes, and to make it work. The Swedish power trio of Mats Gustafsson on saxes, Sten Sandell on piano and Raymond Strid on drums take the risk. And they do more than survive, so much so that I have been replaying the same tune again and again for the last days. All three musicians give it their best, and Gustafsson's howling tenor is truly magnificent, as are Sandell's dramatic and ominous piano parts, and Strid's rumbling percussion. It is a phenomenal track that made me laugh out loud of sheer listening joy. It lasts around nineteen minutes, half of Coltrane's performance on "Live In Japan", and I truly wish that it did not stop. But it does, with a tremendous finale, and with a solid dry beat on the drums. So replay. Again. Gustafsson howls and wails and roars like only he can do it, with a wonderful sense of keeping the tune somewhere intact flying through this sonic hurricane. 

The album starts with two strong Sandell compositions, "Behind The Chords V" and "Behind The Chords VI", two equally long tracks, excellent pieces, very much led and structured by the piano, and with Gustafsson again outperforming himself. The compelling compositions come from Sandell's album "Behind the Chords", which was just released then in 1998, when this live performance took place at Jazzclub Fasching in Stockholm. Both pieces are long enough to give each musician ample solo time, including a truly captivating percussion solo by Raymond Strid, halfway the first track. Sandell's playing incorporates many styles, from subtle lyricism over grand chords to percussive powerplay. 

The album ends with a near silent encore, just two minutes long, a kind of lullaby to calm our spirits after all the incredible tension. 

Don't miss it!

Repeat button ...

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Joe McPhee & Clifton Hyde - New Forms, New Sounds - Music for Alain Kirili (Acitoxe Records, 2023)

By Don Phipps

This fascinating duo consisting of the remarkable multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, whose contributions to the free jazz idiom are most noteworthy (check out his work with Trio X!), and Clifton Hyde, a noted film composer who has played with the likes of Michael Stipe (R.E.M), Patti Smith, Philip Glass, Lou Reed, and The Kinks Dave Davies, offer up an album that documents a 2006 live performance at the Roulette (located in lower Manhattan at the time of the recording but which has since moved to Brooklyn) in honor of then living French sculptor Alain Kirili.

Kirili was an artist known for creating new and innovative ways to not only view sculpture, but to experience it as well. And the 15 pieces here likewise encapsulate new and innovative avenues of sound experiences.

While a virtuoso on both saxophone (tenor, alto, and soprano) and trumpet, McPhee here stays with the alto sax and pocket trumpet. Hyde, a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, mandolin, zither, piano, baritone saxophone, and French Horn (among other instruments), uses only guitars and the mandolin. Together, the two produce a kaleidoscope of music that shatters and reforms, like some kind of CGI reversal of reality. Both musicians create sputters and outbursts that at times suggest the energy of a bucking bronco, while, in other moments, use long legato notes to blow or strum solemn, almost reverent lines.

The music here has a wide emotional range that is both captivating and at times jarring. For example, towards the end of “Lacoon Deux,” the notes sound like a kind of chemical experiment gone haywire. On “Improvisation Tellem,” Hyde provides a bluesy undercurrent, revealing his Mississippi roots. On “Nudite,” Hyde adds vocal utterings and screams like someone being murdered in a dark foreboding forest while McPhee’s sax wails like a screaming eagle. On “Generations,” the music has a sadness, like a stray dog wondering what’s next in life.

Hyde adds unusual texture to the music by using his guitars to create percussive effects. He at times reverts to hillbilly-like strums while McPhee develops phrases in response. Sometimes the music breaks into a demonic dance while at other times it sounds like foghorns in the distance, an early morning harbor call between ships.

Hyde performs a wonderful solo rendition of Ornette Coleman’s masterpiece, “Lonely Woman.” Oddly, the title given is “Femme Seule,” which according to one translation, means “a woman alone.” One wonders why the piece was renamed on this album.

McPhee ends the concert with a soliloquy that reflects on the “difficult” and “dangerous” life of the artist. He says that it’s up to each person to decide “what’s real and what’s not real.” Most telling is his statement that “listening (to free music) is not a passive experience…. It’s an active experience.” True words – and this concert is most certainly active, a fascinating interplay of two masters of their instruments and the sounds they create.

Joe McPhee & Clifton Hyde – Live at the Stone, NYC (March 27,2007) (Acitoxe Records, 2023)

By Don Phipps

This set of live duets (recorded in 2007 at the Stone – an experimental NYC music venue created by John Zorn) captures multi-instrumentalists Joe McPhee (here on alto sax and pocket trumpet) and Clifton Hyde (guitars and mandolin) navigating the contours of music in both intense and intimate ways. It follows on the heels of their excellent recording of a similar meeting a year earlier at the Roulette (“Joe McPhee & Clifton Hyde - New Forms, New Sounds - Music for Alain Kirili”).

Hyde again uses the guitar for percussive effects (those poor guitars!) and strums, picks, and fashions challenging replies to McPhee’s sax and trumpet phrases. For his part, McPhee gives listeners an assortment of stop and go runs and dances.

There are also surprises. Take “Centering Posts Amok,” which begins with Hyde’s march strums as McPhee orchestrates long legato notes that fill the space. There are sax blasts that flash and blind (“Losing the Ring”) atop Django Reinhardt-like guitar. And the somber reflections and energetic blasts posed by the music in “Gales of Winter” give voice to the space and eerie sounds of a snowy windy night.

McPhee’s technique remains flawless on both sax and trumpet. Given the totally different embouchure requirements required to play both instruments, he puts on quite a display of virtuosity. Take for example his ability to play the trumpet in an almost imperceptibly shushed manner. Or the way he creates musette-like tones from the alto sax. Or the sax overtones and circular breathing he elicits on “The Players Are Ready.” And even though his music is spontaneous and improvised, it is also extremely disciplined. Hyde does not falter in reply. You can hear flamenco, tango and blues as well as a bit of Robert Fripp in his playing. There are even times when his guitar sounds like a koto.

The result? Music that ranges from peaceful to violent, smooth to discrete, quiet to howling and everything in between. On this album, these two expert musicians demonstrate that they can create soundscapes that both surprise and confront.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Free Jazz Blog on Air: Black History Month

Listen to Free Jazz Blog's Martin Schray and radio host Julia Neupert on SWR2 for an exciting hour of Free Jazz talk and music, this Wednesday, February 21st, at 9 p.m. (CET) on SWR 2 - and streaming online for the following week.

Martin explains, "The show is on Black History Month and about how Black history is told by jazz musicians. There will be music by Jason Moran, Matana Roberts, James Brandon Lewis, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Wadada Leo Smith and Matthew Shipp."

Guillaume Belhomme - Eric Dolphy: A Musical Biography And Discography (Wolke Press, 2023)

By Paul Acquaro

A couple of years ago, the French publisher Lenka Lente published a slim biography on the ever influential and somewhat enigmatic Eric Dolphy, and at the end of 2023, an English version appeared from the German Wolke Press. At 112 pages, the book is like an energy bar of biographies, packing all of the calories in an easily accessible packet. Rich with information, Eric Dolphy: A Musical Biography And Discography provides a thorough and concise overview of the musicians life and development, but this also comes with a gentle warning: the translation could use a little more work.

Sentence structure aside for the moment, what Eric Dolphy: A Musical Biography And Discography does really well, and with an absolute economy of words, is present well developed sketch of a gentle musical giant. Dolphy (at least to me) was always a bit of a mystery because the avant-garde aspect of his playing was so well integrated into whatever structure or setting he was in. My first recording of his was the oft published Conversations, recorded in 1963, and as I found out from the book, a part of a session organized by Alan Douglas that also yielded the title Iron Man. However, as I also learned through the book, Dolphy's ability to color so well inside and outside the lines was both his USP, as well what perhaps has kept him a bit mysterious. Further revealed throughout the book is how this approach was very much tied to his reserved and rather adaptable personality. So, along with requisite recording dates and personnel listings, the book makes gentle connections between Dolphy the person and Dolphy the musician, suggesting that with his untimely and avoidable early death from diabetes, that the artist had not yet achieved the music that he was likely capable of creating - obvious when someone passes away in their mid-30s, but poignant nevertheless to read and ponder anew. Additionally, Dolphy's work and connection with Coltrane and Mingus are equally explored and detailed. The book has chapters of about three to four pages, each one, as the title expresses, it is more a sketch of the life and times of Dolphy, with an account of all the known sessions he took part in.

Now to turn to that tiny elephant in the room, the translation. Perhaps, I am a bit over sensitized to language, as a residue of my professional activities perhaps (Quick note, I am also aware that I could be much better with my own writing!), but what I want to simply convey is that some sentences and passages can be a bit confounding as they resolve into a certain poetry. Not a deal breaker, just a gentle warning. 

Eric Dolphy: A Musical Biography And Discography is an excellent book for both the Dolphy-aware and the Dolphy-curious. While it may not cover previously unknown bombshell insights into the inner workings of the saxophonist who was, for his time, Out There and Out to Lunch, it does provide a really nice grounding in his life story and development of as a musician. I've personally found myself returning to the aforementioned recordings, as well as the newly discovered and released Evenings at the Village Gate with John Coltrane from 1961 with a renewed inquisitiveness.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Kyle Jessen - Primitive (Relative Pitch, 2023)

By Jury Kobayashi

Hailing from Omaha, Kyle Jessen is a saxophonist making really compelling and powerful music. His latest and first full-length album release Primitive is a raw and uncompromising solo saxophone album. This album is another wonderful release from Relative Pitch Records in their series of solo instrumental albums.

I have always had a soft spot for solo albums and this one does not disappoint. The first thing that struck me when I listened to this album is the complexity of Jessen’s sound. The initial track, Death Trap, bursts out with a barrage of multiphonics, blisteringly screaming from the saxophone. Jessen wields these sounds with care and crafts a complex language that yields a tune built out of layers of multiphonics. Ambushed By The Spray of Lead, takes a different approach, a clear tone slurps up to a whistle and back down with growls interjecting throughout.

I am struck constantly by how patiently this album builds each improvisation. It is not a relaxed album but the methodical nature by which Jessen dissects, grows, or expands each musical gesture feels calm and calculated. Despite the screams and violence mentioned in the album description provided on Bandcamp there is also tranquility in the way that Jessen sculpts each song; this album is somehow both minimal and maximal at the same time.

My favourite track is the title track of the album that appears last on the record. Jessen covers the range of the saxophone squeaking out perfect altissimo pops against low bellowing notes. The dimensions of the altissimo multiphonics are staggering, and the bending of pitches, are almost harmonica-like. The leaps in register catch me by surprise in each listening of the track.

Primitive is a really exciting, impressive, and carefully crafted album. I encourage everyone who is a fan of this music to check it out.