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Shoji Hano (dr), Hans Peter Hiby (ts)

Manufaktur, Schorndorf, May 2022

Elisabeth Harnik (p), István Grencsó (s), Paul Lytton (d), Ken Vandermark (s)

KM28, Berlin. May 2022

Frank Gratkowski (bcl), Wilbert De Joode (b), Achim Kaufmann (p)

W71, Weikersheim. May 2022

اسم[ism]: Pat Thomas (p); Joel Grip(b), Antonin Gerbal (d)

Autopsi Pohl, Berlin. May 2022

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Cologne Jazzweek (Day 2)

By Martin Schray

Apart from the music, the defining aspects of the last two days have been the noise and the sweat, especially when they occur in combination. The unbearable, long-lasting heat, particularly in the west and south of Germany, makes it very difficult to stay outside. Nevertheless, you do that because you can’t just hang around at home. However, as soon as you get back and somehow want to get some rest, you start to sweat indoors - unless the rooms are air-conditioned (and that is hardly the case in Germany). The sweat mercilessly seeps out of all your pores. Even at night it hardly cools down, so that even open windows are of little use. If then loud music is played on the streets and people rage through the streets, it becomes difficult with the necessary sleep. All the more, you hope that the music of the festival is able to provide a little comfort.

Unlike the first day of the festival, when it was possible to attend all three concerts because they took place at the same venue, from the second on you have to choose. There were five shows on the program, starting with Almut Kühne/Francesco Bigoni/Mark Slobbery in the Green Room of the Stadtgarten, then Christopher Dell’s Das Arbeitende Konzert (The Working Konzert) at the Loft, followed by Real Live Jazz (Alexei Aigui / Dietmar Bonnen / Lothar Burghaus) in the Filmhaus and Laura Totenhagen / Eve Risser / Maria Reich (again in the Stadtgarten), before Deadeye brought the day to an end at the Jaki. I have to say that I like the concept of having to choose between several acts, because then you don’t run the risk of getting too much - especially if you consider that the festival lasts eight days. For Sunday I chose Christopher Dell and Laura Totenhagen / Eve Risser / Maria Reich.

Christopher Dell’s The Working Concert

The decision for Christopher Dell’s The Working Concert was also made because it took place at the Loft, one of my favorite places for improvised music in general. Before the concert started, the audience was given some helpful information. While the The Working Concert project has been around for a while, the formation that day was a world premiere, although it was the ninth revision of the idea. The ensemble consisted of Dell on vibraphone, Elisabeth Coudoux on cello, Kathrin Pechlof on harp, Anna Neubert on violin, Evelin Degen on flutes, Pascal Klewer on trumpet and Stefan Karl Schmid on clarinet. Dell explained in advance that there would be three blocks of 30 minutes each plus breaks. The breaks would also be part of the concept, as would the discussions of what should be played. The question of the concert itself as a medium would be crucial. Attitudes as to playing would also be addressed (e.g., the musicians’ relationship to notation). Basically, the music was divided into so-called form blocks, which were very different. And this was then proven. The first form block was almost pointillistically plucked, with the composition repeatedly condensed and equalized by means of speed and volume, resulting in great intensity. Form block 2 was a concerto for harp and ensemble, which was a diametric contrast to form block 1. Dell only conducted here, and the harp took center stage only very briefly. Rather, the composition seemed to consist of many small parts, which Dell always introduced and ended with a hand signal. The third form block was then even more gauzily dabbed than the first; it was an exercise in silence almost reminiscent of John Tilbury’s celebration of his 80th birthday (ironically, also at the Loft). The notes were presented as light as a feather, as if one didn't even dare to play them. As a sequence, they often resulted in ravishing arpeggios.

The second part of the concert began with a discussion of what to play. Dell made several suggestions, and they were accepted without objection. In general, it can be said that Dell, unlike his other ensembles, kept a very low profile. Actually, the project seems to be based on a striving for transparency. In the second part of the second block, Klewer, Coudoux and Neubert played a trio that perhaps came closest to the term “jazz“. What was exciting here were the various timbres that emerged sharpened by the trio context. Unfortunately, I had to leave the concert after the second part in order to still be able to see Laura Totenhagen/Eve Risser/Maria Reich in the Stadtgarten.

Eve Risser/Maria Reich/Laura Totenhagen

Since I had to walk to the next venue I came there just in time to experience something which turned out to be the exact opposite of Theo Beckmann and Billy Test the day before. Laura Totenhagen (vocals) didn’t sing lyrics or even words, instead she presented the whole spectrum of human emotions and the sounds around us. She hummed, chirped, cooed, croaked, she sounded like a church bell, like a cuckoo, she squawked like a toddler, imitated water drops - sometimes I thought she sounded like the entire sound spectrum of a stalactite cave. She was supported by Eve Risser on prepared piano, whose percussive playing complemented Totenhagen very well. The same was true of violinist Maria Reich, whose sweeping melodic arcs rounded out the whole. As an approach, I liked that much more than the duo on the first day. Unfortunately, the trio decided to add a 20-minute piece after the first one, which already lasted about 40 minutes. That was a bit too much of a good thing.

All in all, the music did provide some comfort to the stress of the day. Since the street party in front of my hotel was over and the weather forecast promised some lower temperatures there was the chance to get some sleep.

See also: Day 1

A L'arme Festival Vol. 10 (Part 2 of 2)


By Paul Acquaro

My first visit to A L'arme was for it's second installment in 2013 when I was still bedazzled by the shaggy chic of Berlin. It was there that I met up with my Free Jazz Blog colleague Martin Schray for the first of many times at the festival and took in the neighboring 'beach bar,’ just one of many that dotted the Spree river as it flowed through the city. These were typically scrappy shacks, on the sandy river embankment, that sold bratwurst and a beer for 3 euros and may or may not have offered a volleyball net for anyone interested in gathering a group to play. Nowadays, these have been mostly replaced by luxury condos and office buildings. 

This evening, next to the Radialsystem's grounds, a building was going up where the sand bar used to be, a luxury condo building, lots concrete and glass. "Things change," I thought, as I dug through the crates of LPs and CDs offered by the local dealer, No Man's Land, "but it doesn't seem that I will."
Nakama. Photo by Carlos H. Juica.

Tonight at A L'arme was the most free jazz of the nights, starting with Nakama. The Norwegian group's inspiration comes from Japanese culture, or as the program states, they "mix Japanese anime, minimalism, and Zen Buddhism." The group is Christian Meaas Svendsen on bass, Andreas Røysum on clarinet, Klaus Holm on saxophone and clarinet and Ayumi Tanaka on piano and Andreas Wildhagen on drums, and their music runs the gamut from said minimalism to colorful free improvisation. In the main hall, the group began quietly, with only a sprinkle of notes from the piano and breath from the woodwinds. Meaas Svendsen, in a hushed voice, recited lyrics. As the intensity of the band slowly increased, they achieved a delicate bittersweet balance. Between the hopeful chord voicing from the piano and darker tones from the others, they created an uncertain atmosphere that lasted until an extended drum solo. After, chanting from Meaas Svendsen began anew, and the two woodwindists engaged in a fluttery exchange. This clarinet duet grew stronger and more melodic with slight dissonances, then more dissonant with slight melodic moments, and finally to a folk-like melody that the band took over. Then came my favorite moment - nothing can squeal and squawk like a bass clarinet, and Røysum's turn on the instrument did just that, playing fantastically inside and outside tonality. A second piece, apparently based on the Sony PlayStation zombie game "Last of Us" gave saxophonist Holm the opportunity to play an evocative micro-tonal solo on his alto. The group ended with a hushed plink plonk of sounds and a recitation of a Buddhist chant.


(L-R) Macie Stewart, Ludwig Wandinger (out of view), Ken Vandermark

The next set came together through an unlucky situation, percussionist Claire Rousay, who was scheduled to play with woodwindist Ken Vandermark and violinist Macie Stewart, had been in a car accident in the U.S.. Luckily, she was reportedly not severely injured, nonetheless, unable to travel*. Her replacement was Berlin based drummer Ludwig Wandinger, who seemed to actually be quite a natural fit with Vandermark and Stewart whose own musical relationship now spans many years with the group Marker and other projects. This evening, Vandermark kicked off the set with a burst of notes, Stewart reacted with a blend of violin and voice, and Wandinger used a foil space blanket atypically for rhythmic purposes, after which focusing on his drum kit and adding some electronics. The trio acted as a cohesive organism, listening and reacting closely. Pointed, high energy moments suddenly stopped, almost telepathically. Wandinger's drumming was strong, but lithe, and Stewart instinctively wove her sometimes gentle, sometimes assertive textures around Vandermark's clarinet or sax playing. It was a wonderful set of free improv, mostly acoustic with just a smattering of electronics thrown in by Wandinger. It was pretty damn perfect.


Frank Bretschneider and Jan Jelinek

The synthesizer work of Frank Bretschneider and Jan Jelinek followed in the same hall. The two Berlin based electronic musicians used modular synthesizers to create an evolving sound-world. The video screen above the stage added quite a bit to the performance, filling in a missing element of electronics shows, namely, how does one ’see' the music making? The video, providing a changing perspective of the performers, offered at times a birds-eye or ‘hands-on’ views. The audience could see all of the switches and controls, a joystick that was used to bend the waves or control the attack, giving a more visceral feeling to the performance. Through these complex set ups the musicians created drones, crafted sine waves, and stirred the sense with oscillating bass frequencies.


Vincent von Schlippenbach, Farida Amadou and Warren G. Crudup III

The final set was by bassist Farida Amadou, who, like Vandermark, was a return performer to A L’arme, drummer Warren G. Crudup III, and Vincent von Schlippenbach (a/k/a DJ Illvibe). The trio effectively blended the bass and drum format with the exploratory vibe of a free jazz concert. It seemed that without any preconceived notions, the group went at it with at it with fervor. The first out of the gate was Schlippenbach, whose dynamic scratching invited Crudup and Amado to play a simple beat to begin. Heads started bopping and it seemed to be starting out as fairly straightforward, danceable set, however, it wasn’t too long until Crudup began shifting the beat around, separating from Amadou, who’s plectrum struck precise and thick notes and who also began bending time. Slipping in and out of each others rhythmic orbits, Schlippenbach held the center with his textural samples and scratching. Sometimes slowing down to search for a new core idea, the group mixed the hypnotic joys of drum and bass with the excitement of free improvisation.

A L'arme Vol. 10 still had one more night to go, and the program looked like a solid cross section of all the bold styles that the festival has been covering since 2012. A nice way to wrap the tenth anniversary and onward to 2023! 

 See part 1 of the A L'arme Vol. 10 write-up.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Cologne Jazzweek (Day 1)

By Martin Schray

Normally the Berlin À l'armé Festival or the Festival Météo in Mulhouse are the summer festivals I attend. But having covered the Berlin festival three years ago, before Covid (and the ones before as well), I wanted to try something new this year. After its successful launch last year, the Cologne Jazzweek is entering its second year and the program seemed promising to me. Moreover, I have always liked Cologne as a city for its diversity and its ambivalence. As expected, I was not disappointed. The city is hot and dry, the Rhine river has shockingly little water, directly in front of my hotel is a street festival, in which early in the afternoon a lot of the typical Cologne beer (Kölsch) is consumed and cheap pop hits are bawled. At this point, I hadn’t even checked in at the hotel yet. As you might imagine, I was very excited about the first concerts.

The opening performance of Theo Bleckmann/Julia Hülsmann, Philipp Zoubek’s Placebo Domingo and Lucia Cadotsch AKI took place at the Stadtgarten, a nice location for jazz and alternative music. However, the Stadtgarten is a rather small venue, which can be rather easily sold out. For a thoroughly ambitious festival, this was a bit bashful, a bit more courage would have been quite appropriate.

The first concert by Theo Bleckmann and Julia Hülsmann was then on the verge of being cancelled because Hülsmann was ill with a severe stomach flu and Bleckmann needed a replacement at short notice. He found him in pianist Billy Test, one of his students at the Manhattan School of Music, and, it can be said in advance, Test did a really good job. Since Bleckmann is a rather well-known singer, he can obviously serve the mainstream and has also released on major labels such as ECM. Therefore, it was no wonder that the first show was packed. The average age of the audience was relatively high, but there were more women than usual at free jazz concerts. The whole thing was rather reminiscent of a theater evening. In that respect, it was actually fitting that Bleckmann and Test began with a version of Bert Brecht/Kurt Weill’s “Mack the Knife“, a tribute to Bleckmann’s 2015 A Clear Midnight album with Julia Hülsmann. But even here, the problem with Bleckmann’s artistic approach became apparent. He’s certainly an excellent singer, but why giving Brecht/Weill’s depiction of 1830s London a sound reminiscent of Scandinavian fjord landscapes is beyond comprehension to me. In the following, Bleckmann and Test covered several pop classics, at first gaining new aspects especially from the Bee Gees classic “Stayin’ Alive“, since their melancholic touch actually fits the lyrics even better than the hedonistic one of the original. But the fact that Bleckmann then encouraged the audience to sing along destroyed the carefully created atmosphere. At the end there was Massive Attack’s “Teardrop“, which was interpreted not so far away from the original. Bleckmann showed here what he can do with his voice and that he is quite capable of sounding like Phil Minton. All in all, it was an ambivalent start, because although much was too emotional and mainstream. Yet, the concert was very entertaining. The audience rewarded it with a lot of applause, but already then I wondered how they would react to the next item on the program.

Placebo Domingo are the Philip Zoubek Trio, with the man himself on e-piano and electronics, David Helm (guitar, electronics) and Dominic Mahnig (drums), being reinforced with Ava Mendoza (vocals, guitar) and Jozef Dumoulins (e-piano and electronics). It’s easy to imagine that this was a total contrast to the first concert, but this is also in the spirit of the programming, because the organizers want to represent as many facets of the Cologne music scene and the scene beyond. Placebo Domingo played improvised space jazz rock in the style of the Miles Davis bands of the 1970s. All this they did very loud and Mendoza let her melodies shimmer over the electronic surfaces of the keyboards, reminding as so often of the unjustly forgotten SST guitarist Sylvia Juncosa and of course of Jimi Hendrix, if he had jammed with Frank Zappa. Particularly exciting were the rhythmic breaks, which sounded as if Sun Ra had fallen into Aphex Twin’s particle accelerator and been spat out again electronically contaminated. If one had underlaid the whole thing with a drum’n’bass beat, one could have danced to it. But then you wouldn’t have needed the great Dominic Mahnig, who steered the direction of the improvisation several times with his interludes freed from any beat constraints and who was responsible for making you feel as if you had gotten into Edgar Allen Poe’s A Descent Into the Maelstrom .The drive that the improvisation developed was jazz rock at its best; there was justified scene applause after the first part. On the other hand, many people left after 15 minutes. The missed large parts of the best band of the day.

The evening was closed by Lucia Cadotsch AKI at Jaki, the basement location of Stadtgarten. Here the connection to the opening concert was made again, because Cadotsch (vocals) played with her band - Kit Downes (piano), Connor Chaplin (bass) and James Maddren (drums) - compositions, which they recorded a month ago and which will be released next year. In doing so, the band reminded of a classical piano trio with vocals. While their approach is less perfectionist than Theo Bleckmann’s, there was something more DIY about it. This was quite likeable and the packed basement (the concert was free) thanked it with warm applause.

After leaving the concert, one was directly confronted with the Cologne nightlife reality. Marauding twens sang “Daylight in your Eyes“ by the casting band No Angels and pushed a shopping cart full of alcoholic beverages in front of them. The street party in front of my hotel was in its final throes, drunks staggered onto the bike path. Jazzweek seemed like a parallel world in comparison.

A L'arme Festival Vol. 10 (Part 1 of 2)

By Paul Acquaro

Since its inception in 2012, Berlin based organizers Louis Rastig and Karina Mertin's A L'arme festival has carefully avoided being defined as only a free-jazz festival. Sure, through the years free jazz icons such as Peter Brötzmann, Sven-Åke Johansson, Irène Schweizer, Han Bennink, John Butcher, Ken Vandermark, Lotte Anker, Ikue Mori, William Parker, Hamid Drake and Connie Bauer (among others, see our coverage over the years) have played the festival; however this is just one side of what they want to present. Heavy rock and progressive metal acts such as Steamboat Switzerland, Bill Laswell's Method of Defiance, Mohammad, and this year Shining, have played a major part in the programming, as have electronics. In fact 2018's festival paid homage to Polish/Swedish electroacoustic composer Zbigniew Karkowski and featured several electronics based acts.

This year, for the 10th anniversary of the festival, the programming was just as diverse, taking a wide view of experimental music in Berlin and beyond. The free jazz aspect was primarily represented on the third night of the festival with sets by the Norwegian group Nakama and a trio featuring Ken Vandermark, Macie Stewart, and Ludwig Wandinger. Other nights of the festival featured metal, drum and bass, indie rock, poet Moor Mother who debuted a new project, "Jazz Codes," experimental vocalist Maja S.K. Ratkje, and many more (check out the full program here). The first night of the festival, Wednesday the 10th, was held at the crematorium turned performance space Silent Green, however, we pick up here on day two at the 'traditional home' of the festival, the Radialsystem.

Thursday, August 11th, Radialsystem

ILOG. Photo by Carlos H. Juica.

Upon entering the river side performance space Radialsystem, I missed the bowls of earplugs located near the entrance to the two halls, perhaps mistaking them for candy. What a mistake it was, the first group of the night, Berlin's ILOG, Oliver Steidle on drums and Ignaz Schick on electronics and saxophone, were surprisingly loud. Moving as far as possible from the stage, which was located in the center of the hall, I found an spot with a good view of the duo's animated sound-making as well as the electronic screens located above that showed a birds-eye view of the performers. Tonight, ILOG's approach was on the brutal side, Steidle playing insistently and up-tempo while Schick employed a barrage of short samples and deep liquid electronic tones. At some point, Steidle settled in to a somewhat consistent groove and Schick settled into a longer sample with a robotic voice, which instantly reminded of the 1980 video game "Beserk." Then, shifting dynamics, they entered a exploratory passage, interestingly much like an improvised free jazz set. They eventually found thier way back to level of intensity similar to the start, with Schick getting physical with his turntables, picked one up, turning it sideways, and shaking it for effect. A short encore piece featured Schick on the baritone sax, a nice digestive from the heavy set we just ingested.
European Sports Car. Photo by Carlos H. Juica.

Next was Rastig's own, new project, European Sports Car. The group, Rastig on various keyboards and synthesizer, Reiko Okuda on synth and violin, and Marcel Drescher on drums, in keeping with the opening act' volume and intensity, played an intriguing progressive avant-metal. Facing inwards, at each other, animated through the feverish spotlights, they began by creating a dense rhythmic underlayment which Okuda improvised furiously over. A second song found Rastig in a Rick Wakeman mood, playing a grandiose organ introduction while Okuda scratched lightly at the strings of violin. For Rastig, a passage on electric piano followed before he switched to the synth. He and Okuda, also back on synth, then got into an intense exchange in an industrial vein. Finally, Rastig switched to an acoustic handheld pump organ and brought the song to an end. European Sports Car was a nice surprise, and one for which I was happy that I had discovered the complimentary ear plugs!

Shining. Photo by Carlos H. Juica.

The final act of the night was the Norwegian group Shining, who tried to take what was left of my ears. The performance title "Shining Plays Blackjazz" was an intriguing, and though with roots long ago in jazz, their sound is pretty extreme metal and not quite my thing. And though after a few songs, I shuffled out, it was not without appreciation. The audience was enthralled, showing how attuned the curators are with the experimental music scene in its many forms. The sensibility of what can work together and how to introduce it to an audience is integral for the music to continue growing, changing, and attracting listeners.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Falling (Mats Gustafsson & Christof Kurzmann) - Prosperity (NEXT Festival Records, 2022)

By Eyal Hareuveni

Prosperity is the sophomore album of the Falling duo - Swedish reeds and live electronics player Mats Gustafsson and Viennese ppooll software magician Christof Kurzmann, following Falling and 5 Other Failings (Trost, 2016). The new album was recorded at the NEXT Festival in Bratislava, Slovakia in a dark, bluish space in December 2020. It is released as a limited edition vinyl plus a download option

Prosperity deepens the unsettling and experimental atmosphere of the debut album of the duo, and the description of Ken Vandermark (a close collaborator of both Gustafsson and Kurzmann) of that first album as “abstract hymns for the left as we are faced with the advance of the right” still fits perfectly. The restless Gustafsson and Kurzmann are still looking for compassionate and poetic ways of creating music that matters and would be relevant to the decaying state of our world and global politics.

Prosperity is divided into three “Prosperity” pieces. The first side of the album features the “First Prosperity” that begins with a quiet drone, articulated by Gustafsson’s flute and soprano sax playing and disturbed by Kurzmann’s rustle of vintage electronic sounds. Slowly the sonic envelope expands and intensifies with Gustafsson’s abstract live electronics and urgent, percussive sax sounds, still, with Kurzmann’s monotonous sounds. But mid-piece Kuirzmann begins to sing, in his unique poignant, and unassuming delivery, the lyrics about falling into “a frame of despair”, and a sense of failure. The raw electronics of Gustafsson and his bass sax quiet musings capture the melancholic and claustrophobic spirit of Prosperity.

The second side of the album employs similar patterns. “Second Prosperity” begins with an urgent and thorny electronics mayhem. with Gustafsson and Kurzmann making electronic noises. The sonic storm somehow settles when Gustafsson picks the flute and plays meditative, mournful lines. Kurzmann, as always, surprises with the choices of the lyrics that he adopts, and this time it is the sarcastic “The Song Of Investment Capital Overseas” of the British avant-rock band Art Bears’ (Chris Cutler, Fred Frith and Dagmar Krause, all former members of the legendary Henry Cow): “Out of town, my work takes me / Out of town / I empty villages / I burn their houses down / I set up factories / Lay out plantations / And bring prosperity to / The poorer nations…”, from Art Bears third album, The World As It Is Today, Rē Records, 1981). The situation of the world has worsened in the last four decades since Krause first sang this song, but its lyrics are still relevant as there is no real prosperity on the horizon. Falling turns this cover into a twisted ballad, empties the amused pathos of Krause and injects urgent yet sober realism into this song.

The last “Third Prosperity” begins with Gustafsson using his baritone sax to suggest contemplative and gentle musings, while Kurzmann offers fragile drone sounds, as the lighting setting brightens. Kurzmann surprises even more with the song he picked to cover, “Clandestino” of Spanish-French Singer Manu Chao (from his album Clandestino (Esperando La Ultima Ola...) / Bloody Border, Because Music, 2019), with Spanish and English lyrics that relate directly and simply to the refugees' crisis: “I cannot go forward / I cannot return / And the land in front don't want me / Look the land behind me burn / (Como una raya en el mar) // I am stranded on the sea / With an unknown destiny / (Como una raya en el mar) / No home to return to / Nobody waiting for me / (Como una raya en el mar)”. The quiet and touching reciting of the lyrics disregards the festive, rhythmic atmosphere of the original version. Kurzmann chose to color this song with disturbing and chaotic electronics (he also plays with rubber bands on his laptop and creates weird percussive effects) with Gustafsson’s fast extended breathing sounds, all intensifying the horrific experience described in this song.

Provocative and inspiring as ever.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Martin Küchen - Utopia (Thanatosis Produktion, 2022)

By Stef Gijssels

The solo work of Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen is almost the opposite of his work with his ensemble "Angles". 

"Utopia" sounds more like a 'dystopia', with no discernable moments of joy and a dark mood throughout. Küchen plays in different layers, combining the sustained sounds of his tenor and alto with electronics, tambora, snare, speaker and radio (providing ambient sounds, including singing). The album fits in a series of other comparable work like "Hellstorm" (2012), "Lieber Heiland, Lass Uns Sterben" (2017), and "Det Försvunnas Namn" (2020).

On "Utopia", there is a constant scraping background noise that is hard to describe in words, with resonating sympathetic strings, through which the sax tries to pierce with deeply sad sounds, intimately and oppressed, with a voice that is often hoarse, or whispering, fragile, vulnerable. His slow improvisations are lyrical and memorable. They stick to you, as is the intensely somber atmosphere of the album. 

Küchen is a person very concerned with the injustice in the world, with inequalities, the barbarism of war and other human atrocities. While some of his other music is intended to lift us up and break through this darkness by communal joy and dance, here his sound is one of compassion and deep sorrow. 

The title track gives us a minute and nine seconds of silence. Utopia has no voice anymore, or it stopped existing.

There is letter that Franz Kafka once wrote about literature. He writes "Wir brauchen aber die Bücher, die auf uns wirken wie ein Unglück, das uns sehr schmerzt, wie der Tod eines, den wir lieber hatten als uns, wie wenn wir in Wälder verstoßen würden, von allen Menschen weg, wie ein Selbstmord, ein Buch muß die Axt sein für das gefrorene Meer in uns. Das glaube ich.” (But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.)

There is no question that Küchen knows how to wield that axe and break through the frozen sea in us. His music may be uncompromising at times, but that's exactly what makes it great. 

Like the other albums, I can only recommend this one very highly. 

Listen to the beautiful "Martha"

Abdul Wadud - RIP

Abdul Wadud, from the LP Julius Hemphill + Abdul K. Wadud – Live In New York
Album Photography By G. Gallina, M. Mangiarotti

On August 10, cellist Abdul Wadud passed away at the age of 75. Wadud is one of those musicians whose impact on listeners and musicians has been significant, even if his output as a leader has been relatively limited. 

I think every jazz lover's heart will jump up at the first drums and cello notes of "Dogon AD", the brilliant composition by Julius Hemphill on the album with the same name. Its phenomenal rhythm, its haunting bowed cello, the crisp drums by Philip Wilson, the astonishing performances by both Hemphill and Caroll on horns, make this music even today still a revelation. I can encourage you to listen to the entire album and enjoy it in full. Wadud shines on all pieces, navigating the most complex rhythms and adding a lot to the overall sound.

Wadud was born on April 30, 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio as Ronald Earsal DeVaughn. He started playing sax and cello at the age of 8, played in school bands, and later studied at Youngstown State University 1966-1967 and at Oberlin College Conservatory 1968-1970. At Oberlin, Wadud made his debut recording with the Black Unity Trio with their recently re-released Al-Fatihah Here is a long and interesting interview with Wadud in Point of Departure, with Joel Wanek and Tomeka Reid as interviewers. 

As a (co-)leader he only released seven albums, but he was very much in demand to perform with other iconic jazz musicians, with Hemphill of course, but also with Frank Lowe, Arthur Blythe, Charles Bobo Shaw, Oliver Lake, David Murray, George Lewis and even with Miles Davis. 

Wadud stopped performing in mid-career, burnt-out by the efforts and the little reward. In a way he seems to have regretted this: "It’s been fruitful. I miss it. I’m sometimes wondering what would have happened if I continued a little longer." On the other hand, not many musicians have been able to have had the impact that Wadud had, not to mention the joy to hear him play. I think not only cellists, but all jazz fans will share that feeling. A heartfelt thanks from all of us for the limited gems of music he offered us.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends. 

- Stef Gijssels

Friday, August 12, 2022

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity - Elastic Wave (ECM, 2022)

By Martin Schray

According to Peter Brötzmann, Manfred Eicher’s ECM label "cuts the balls off powerful groups," with the result that they all sound the same, which he finds awful*. Now, if you only consider Gard Nilssen’s first two albums with his Acoustic Unity** (which is Nilssen on drums, André Roligheten on saxophones and clarinet and Petter Eldh on bass), - especially the outstanding triple album Live in Europe released on Clean Feed in 2017 - you’d be inclined to agree with the German fire-breather. But of course, it’s not that simple. Already To Whom Who Buys a Record (Odin Records, 2019), the band’s third album, didn't sound as wild and free as Live in Europe, instead one could sense a strong hardbop influence. In addition, there were also ballads like "Broken Beauty," which pointed to where the journey with the Acoustic Unity could go. Moreover, Nilssen has recorded for ECM before, for example on Mathias Eick’s Skala (2011) and on two albums by the Maciej Obara Quartet (Unloved, 2017 and Three Crowns, 2019). So, the step to present their new album Elastic Wave on the Munich label was somehow logical.

Even though the Acoustic Unity doesn’t sound as brute as it did in their beginning, dynamic interactions, a sense of swinging pulse, and bold, sharply delineated themes are still among the trio’s defining characteristics. Another one is their stylistic flexibility, which has its roots in shared experiences; the three have known each other since 2005.

Many influences come together in the trio’s music. In Roligheten’s saxophone playing you can hear Ornette Coleman, and when he plays the clarinet, Jimmy Giuffre’s style shines through. In general, the Giuffre Trio has clearly influenced the sound and harmonies of this album (e.g. in “Dreignau“). On “The Other Village“, he plays tenor and soprano saxophone simultaneously, which sounds as if Roland Rahsaan Kirk was playing Mediterranean bagpipes. On the whole, the trio offers a comprehensive overview of modern jazz history. This can be heard in the opener “Altaret“, a piece by Petter Eldh that comes across as freely contrapuntal, indicating to the trio’s concept of openness and freedom in improvisation and composition.

Gard Nilssen has named Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Ed Blackwell, Roy Haynes and Jack DeJohnette as influences that have shaped his drumming style. But Jon Christensen’s well-known "Waves of Sound" approach has obviously also been an inspiration. To pay tribute to ECM’s drumming tradition, he brought one of Christensen's cymbals to the "Elastic Wave" session and integrated it as a second ride cymbal into the overall sound of his drum set. The title of the track "Lokket til Jon, og skjerfet til Paul" (Norwegian for: The lure for Jon, and the scarf for Paul) alludes to Christensen on the one and and on the other hand to a scarf that Paul Motian had once left behind in a studio, and which is used here to soften the bass drum’s resonating harmonics.

Finally, even those who appreciate the old Acoustic Unity will also find what they are looking for here: with its hard, lively drive "Acoustic Dance Music" is a piece reminiscent of the Ornette Coleman Trio’s recordings at the Circle in Stockholm.

All in all, Elastic Wave is simply a very diverse and coherent album in itself, which rather focuses on airiness and sound range. To say that the music would have no balls seems definitely too harsh.

Elastic Wave is available as a CD and as a download. You can find it on the usual streaming devices and you can listen to a short snippet here:


* Christoph J. Bauer: Brötzmann Gespräche (Posth Verlag, p. 75)

** The two album’s on Clean Feed are named Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity, while the last two album are filed under Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Jazz em Agosto 2022 (Part 4)

By Paul Acquaro

Saturday, August 6th and Sunday August 7th

Heading south east on Av. Alvares Cabral, a mere kilometer over a hill from the Reservatório da Mãe d'Água das Amoreiras (see part 3), is another neighborhood park, the Guerra Junqueiro Garden. It's similar to the other park with plenty of wonderful old trees, like the giant Ficus macrophylla behind the bandstand and that has an old bench sinking into its enormous root system. There is also a small pond, waterfall, cactus garden, and multiple cafes. It also turned out that the first Sunday, which it just happened to be, there is a crafts fair. In fact, crafts-folks were setting up alongside one of the many walking paths and a quick glance at the first couple of stands left a good impression. A seller who builds small boxes featuring vintage comic book characters, explained that the market only accepts vendors who make their own products - everything handmade - ever drawings, photograph, article of clothing, bar of soap, jewelry and the like. It was a nice discovery for an early Sunday morning.

In previous years, I have described the Gulbenkian Foundation's impressive mid-century modern gardens (see here, for example) but not their first class art museums. There are in fact two, one for modern art (which is currently undergoing a multi-year renovation), and the main Gulbenkian building which holds the classics, a collection that spans an impressive range of work from ancient Egypt, the Islamic world, Asia and Europe. A visit to the collection takes time as there is simply so much to take in, beginning with Egyptian pieces, to the impressive Islamic carpets and tiles, to the Rembrandt paintings, up through the Art Nouveau jewelry of René Lalique. Additionally, an excellent temporary exhibition is currently displaying a selection of the work of the haunted Armenian born abstract artist Arshile Gorky alongside the contemporary work of Lisbon painter Jorge Queiroz. The artist curated exhibition (by Queiroz) explores connections and similarities between the works, and it serves as a good introduction to both artists.

These were two very different art experiences, one crafts that you can touch, hold, and buy, and the other, priceless works that you can marvel at, both enjoyable. 

Saturday, August 6th

Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano, 6:30 p.m.

Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano. Photo: Gulbenkian Música – Vera Marmelo

In the small auditorium, behind the drum kit, sat New York based drummer Chris Corsano, whose career spans the rock and free improvisation and includes work with saxophonist Paul Flathery, the band Harry Pussy (with his partner tonight, Blll Orcutt) as well as Bjork. To his right sat guitarist Bill Orcutt, of Harry Pussy fame and collaborator to folks such as Peter Brotzmann and Loren Mazzacane Connors.

Orcutt's set up was a Telecaster directly connected to a Fender amp, no pedals, no electronics, and the sound from the guitar was like a fresh breeze. Orcutt began with some jangling notes followed by an array of Americana-flavored riffs, rife with dissonance. Corsano played expertly along with the intense folk-like lines coming from his partner, together building a rich tapestry of pulse and texture. For the second tune, Orcutt dropped the capo and strummed an open and somewhat warbly chord, at first basking in the reverb and then rapidly strumming, from time to time allowing single notes to pop out from the wash of chords. Corsano, a supportive and guiding collaborator, helped bring the churning riffs to a boiling point. By the third song, they went immediately for the jugular with a tough piece made from overdriven shards of sound. Then, they dialed back the energy and Orcutt played some open, twangy chords, sounding a bit like an overheating John Fahey. 

Orcutt's use of the naked guitar and amp brought to mind the idea of a secret guitar festival inside the main festival. We had heard the feedback driven work of Tashi Dorji (See #2), the electric psychedelia of Jorge Nuno (Voltaic Trio), the rich stylistic pallet of Ava Mendoza, the acoustic drive of Marcelo dos Reis (with the Turquoise Trio), the contrasting styles of André Fernandes and Pedro Branco (in Joao Lencastre's Communion), Susan Alcorn's pedal steel and the explosive Julien Desprez (with Seven Storey Mountain), and still to come, the dizzying fretwork of Julian Lage. What a cross section of styles, and for a guitar fan, a real treat. If one were to ask Jazz em Agosto's artistic director Rui Neves if this was on purpose, his reply likely would come wrapped with a sly smile, neither completely confirming nor denying. So, even if not purposeful, it was a delightful accident.

(Corsano and Orcutt released Made Out Of Sound on Palilalia Records last year)

Borderlands Trio, 9:30 p.m.

Borderlands Trio. Photo: Gulbenkian Música – Vera Marmelo

"It's really good to be here," said the trio's bassist Stephan Crump before the trio began their bequiling set, "one reason is that it is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and another is that I can be here playing with Eric McPherson on drums and Kris Davis on piano."

The generous ensuing set from the Borderlands Trio in the outdoor amphitheater, was, judging by the enthusiastic response of the audience, a fest-goer favorite. To pinpoint a standout from the standout, Crump, with his exquisite bass work and who, aside from taking on the role of the MC, also seemed to be more than one-third of the band on stage this evening.

The music began with a soft, slightly askew introduction from Davis. Crump and McPherson hit on the off-beats, or maybe there were no real beats at all, just a gentle breath. A slow accumulation of sound followed, Davis locking into a questioning pattern of chords, McPherson upping the pulsations and Crump's bowing, building the base of sound. Davis' simple chord progression held the center while Crump stretched the tempos elastically. McPherson's touch was light but driving, as he held the tempo steady with even-handed mix of straight ahead grooves and coloring outside the lines.

Crump's first solo did not go for virtuosity (at first), but rather texture. He played a slowly devolving line until picking up the bow and diving deep into an emotional solo. Davis began by adding light accompaniment. Picking up on something, Crump found the right notes between the piano's, and played light glissandos over the fretboard. McPherson, who had stepped away from the drums, came back and began to ratchet up the energy. 

The set cascaded through sections of prepared piano (which Davis prepared as the other two played) and which caused the acoustic piano to sound almost like a synthesizer, to a long passage that sounded like a classic piano trio, and finally, to a drum solo in which McPherson methodically explored each of the instruments in his kit. The final moments of the performance found the trio escalating the intensity to a more than satisfactory end. Their short encore was like the whole set in miniature, with the trio building from scratch to another tasteful groove.

(Borderlands Trio last released Wandersphere on Intakt)

Sunday, August 7th

Matt Mitchell and Sara Schoenbeck, 6:30 p.m.
Matt Mitchell and Sara Schoenbeck. Photo: Gulbenkian Música – Vera Marmelo

Pianist Matt Mitchell and bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck musical careers and interests straddle many worlds. Mitchell's collaboration with Tim Berne's music is bordering on legendary and Schoenbeck has taken her classical instrument into new and unusual territory with Anthony Braxton’s 12+1(tet) and the Tri-Centric Orchestra, the Gravitas Quartet with Wayne Horvitz, and beyond.

Their duo set in the small auditorium was contemporary classical nature, with many delicate moments, fragile and beautiful in their austerity and quirkiness. A highlight of the set was multi-part suite, written by Mitchell, which featured some very compelling piano work. The last song they played was the most accessible, cinematic in sound and scope, with Schoenbeck playing a distinct melody that flowed through Mitchell's undulating chords. Overall, the music seemed to be constructed from tenuous connections and parallel play that came together only to drift apart again.

(A duo collaboration appears on Sara Schoenbeck's self-titled album on Pyroclastic Records)

John Zorn's New Masada Quartet, 9:30 p.m.

John Zorn's New Masada Quartet. Photo: Gulbenkian Música – Vera Marmelo

Back on the outdoor stage, John Zorn's New Masada Quartet played the closing show of the festival. John Zorn on sax, Julian Lage on guitar, Kenny Wollesen on drums, and tonight, Trevor Dunn on bass, sounded looser and more charged than ever. Perhaps it had something to do with the last minute substitution of bass players (Dunn for Jorge Roeder), or perhaps it something to do with Zorn's relationship with Jazz em Agosto (he had special edition of the festival dedicated to his music in 2018) but whatever it was, even the ever cool guitarist seemed stirred up.

They hit with full force, Wollesen kicked things off with a fast tempo and Zorn erupted quickly into a full throated squall. Then, after a sudden and brief pause, the group launched into a tune with a distinct Ornette Coleman like melodic hook. Throughout the set, Zorn directed the band through hand gestures given between his own playing, imbuing the set with something both visually as well as musically exciting. Lage was particularly fierce. Coming in after a quick drum break, his solo was angular and punchy, his typical mind-bending fluid lines becoming darting fists.

Lage kicked off the second tune with a sweeping arpeggio and over the rustle of drum and the thrust of the bass, Zorn played a forlorn, yearning melody. Dunn and Lage then introduced a vamp over a straight forward beat over which Zorn played arching scales and dynamic figures. The band picked up the pulse and moved to on top of the beat and reached a peak of energy that carried them to the next tune. Here, Dunn pulled off a magnificent solo, wrenching brilliance from his fingerboard. Wollesen too gave an urgent performance as Lage and Zorn seem to be colluding to the side of the stage.

The New Masada Quartet offers a new take on the beloved book of Masada and in this closing concert, the quartet took these new interpretations to a higher level. The tune's heads are familiar to fans of the various Masada bands, and even if one wasn't known, the tunes are so infectious that they instantly feel familiar. It would have been pretty difficult to find a disappointed listener in the audience.

(John Zorn released the New Masada Quartet recently on Tzadic)

See: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Jazz em Agosto 2022 (Part 3)

By Paul Acquaro

Thursday, August 3rd and Friday August 4th

Let us start back at the park, the Amoreiras Garden / Marcelino Mesquita Garden, like many of the small neighborhood parks in Lisbon, the park has several playgrounds for kids, gravel paths to saunter on and a small cafe. Typically reasonably priced and stocked with an assortment of drinks and pastries, like the ubiquitous and delicious pastel de nata (cream cup), these cafes make for a perfect stop during long city walks. 

This park though has the Reservatório da Mãe d'Água das Amoreiras, the last built piece of the ambitious and fantastic Águas Livres Aqueduct (see part 2), put in place in 1746. When it was finally finished, church bells ran in celebration of the stately indoor reservoir, which was built not only for its utility but to also be a beautiful, serene space, like a church, with marble columns rising from the deep blue waters and an intake pipe from the aqueduct featuring a dolphin's head. Overhead, there is a viewing platform with nice views of the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. This is part of the Museu de Agua, which pops up at important parts of the antique waterworks and for a few euros lets you in to this fantastic monument, when it's open... the building is so unique that there are themed light shows that take place in the afternoons.

Around the corner, on an other side of the park is another treat, ready for you after your third or fourth pastel de nata of the day, the Árpád Szenes-Vieira da Silva Foundation which houses a small, exquisitely curated museum dedicated to the 20th century abstract artists, Lisbon born Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and Hungarian born Arpad Szenes. In fact, if you took the subway to the Rato stop, you would have already seen a work by Vieira da Silva on one end and Szenes on the other. 

Their story and art is interwoven in the history of the 20th century. The pair had met in France while studying art and after a while married, both losing their respective citizenships in the process. They lived in Brazil during second world war and upon return, applied for and denied Portuguese citizenship and therefore settled in France, where they were accepted. In the final years of Vieira da Silva's life, a foundation for her and her husband's work was created in Lisbon and a museum was built in a former silk factory on the edge of the park. Vieira da Silva had the chance to select which pictures to show, but never saw the completion of the museum. A new digital component has also been recently added, which animates aspects of her paintings, inviting the viewers to engage with the art in new ways. Set to a unique soundtrack, many such digital projects are often rather dull or miss the point of the art entirely. In this case, quite the opposite is true.

There seems to be ever more to discover in Lisbon, however, for now, we go back to the Gulbenkian gardens where more music awaits us.

Thursday, August 4, 9:30 pm

Ava Mendoza

Ava Mendoza. Photo: Gulbenkian Música – Vera Marmelo

It was noticeably cooler out, a breeze rustled the leaves around the stage as Ava Mendoza walked out on the stage. Alone with her six string, she looked like a post punk gunslinger, ready to show us what she's got. Greeting the audience, she said it was her third time at Jazz em Agosto, strummed a chord and let loose a run of notes with a particularly spaghetti western twang. 

Strikingly, her introduction was the most 'traditional' use of the guitar so far at the festival. Not 'traditional' in terms of jazz or any specific style of playing, but rather how she was playing the instrument: a strum, picked notes, a melodic impulse, a grunge rock riff, a mix of chords and melody. Her tone was overdriven but clear, she played a few big, open chords, manipulated some pedals to create a drone and used ample reverb to thicken the sound.

Mendoza is a storyteller at heart. After veering a bit from her original impulse, she went back down the path of Morricone-like melodies, tripping dissonance-bombs along the path. Reaching a peak, she dropped the distortion and played a clear set of chords, a breath of fresh air after a long slog through the chapparal. Then, she began a progressive rock inspired chapter, namely the middle point of the classic story arc in which the hero has accepted their mission and sets off to fight the good fight. With a set of real-time loops, she launched into a soaring solo, building a rock-ribbed musical fortress of air around the amphitheater.  For a final piece, the resolution part, Mendoza showed her singer/songwriter side. Signing over an open tuned blues based riff, her voice slightly husky with a slight No wave affect.

(Ava Mendoza's solo album New Spells is available from Relative Pitch)  

João Lencastre's Communion

João Lencastre Unlimited Dreams. Photo: Gulbenkian Música – Vera Marmelo

As the festival continued, one could start sensing multiple connections between the groups. Some of these connections are overt, like the festival's theme "Chicago, New York, Lisbon," and some much less so. These connections may not be precise, or even definable, but they do not feel accidental. Case in point, Lisbon based drummer João Lencastre's Communion - a project whose intertwining musical connections to Mendoza's set were as ephemeral as they were crystal clear.

The eight piece group came quickly to the stage, two saxophonists, two guitarists, two bassists (one on electronics as well), one pianist, and last but not least, the drummer, composer and leader, Lencastre. Electronic blips, textural drumming, and the tinkling of the piano introduced the group, then a thick riff from the electric bass thrusted it forward. The power of the octet could be felt like a seismic rumble under the accessible, legato melodies. One could think of it in context of the Miles Davis classic In a Silent Way but with much more underlying pressure.

During the set, agitated, ear-worm worthy melodies crashed into block chords from the piano and prominent stick work. High energy solos from saxophonist Ricardo Toscano and Albert Cirera often played off tensions with the rhythm section. Likewie, Pedro Branco on his new Flying-V guitar, was a mass of uncontained energy, shooting off distorted lightening bolts, while André Fernandes, with a more reserved semi-hollow body, began with a jazz inflected solos only to end up in Crazy Horse territory. One couldn't be blamed for hearing as much Radiohead and Muse in the music as they did jazz, Lencastre's compositions are as wide-ranging as his listening habits. The final piece, 'Unlimited Dreams,' is striking in its subconscious allusions to Ornette Coleman's 'Lonely Woman' in the opening melody, setting up a very effective contrast to the jazz-rock explosion in the middle of the piece. At one point, the drummer could be even be heard ecstatically letting out a shout over the mounting energy of the group.

The combination of modern rock and modern jazz and the solo guitar set that proceeded it were certainly quite different; however, they both played off stylistic forms, uncompromisingly used the language of rock without eschewing other musical sensibilities, and delved into electronic and effected textures without sublimating the sounds of the instruments.

(João Lencastre's Communion - Unlimited Dreams is available on Clean Feed)|

Friday, August 5th, 9:30 pm

Rodrigo Pinheiro and Pedro Carneiro

Rodrigo Pinheiro and Pedro Carneiro. Photo: Gulbenkian Música – Vera Marmelo

In the darkened Gulbenkian auditorium, the opening show was a mind-boggling feat of musical telepathy. Sensitive and reactive, the Lisbon based duo of Pedro Carneiro on marimba and Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano was uncannily precise and note perfect; however, there was no music to follow, no notation to read, everything was unspoken and unplanned.

It was not jazz, but unlike the other days where the overarching musical approach leaned in the direction of rock or even noise, the duo turned towards classical as their starting point. Pinheiro (whose work with the RED Trio is well documented on the Free Jazz Blog) along with Carneiro develop intimate motives with flowing energy and ripe melodic invention. Pinheiro's ideas seemed to pour forth in concise statements that were complimented and refactored by the marimbist. The pianist sometimes lingered in a certain register, often on the lower side, adding the occasional higher pitched accents, or was very dynamic and covered the whole keyboard, but no matter how he proceeded, each improvisation unfolded like a complete song.

The development of each whimsical miniature was not driven by only one of the musicians, rather the songs formed through the continual interplay, interlocking parallel ideas. The second piece began with a gentle melody, the marimba sounding delicate, almost brittle, and then answered with percussive energy the open ended statements in the pianist's melody. A later piece began with Carneiro using an unusual mallet, with four evenly spaced heads on each, to create a focused and evocative pattern that Pinheiro absorbed and built on. The music, dynamically and unbelievably precise, was a real high note to the start of the evening.

(The duo has an album on Phonogram Unit entitled Kinetic Études)

Nate Wooley's Seven Storey Mountain VI with the Gulbenkian Choir

Nate Wooley's Seven Storey Mountain VI. Photo: Gulbenkian Música – Vera Marmelo

New York trumpeter Nate Wooley's Seven Storey Mountain is a multi-faceted work based on the 1948 autobiography from the American monk and author Thomas Merton. The current version, number six, is a large scale work that combines an 11 piece band comprised of three guitarists (including Susan Alcorn's pedal steel), two keyboards, two violins, and Wooley's trumpet along with, this evening, members of the Gulbenkian choir (with direction from Wooley's collaborator Megan Schubert). The setting in the grand indoor auditorium lent an even more impressive air to the concert, starting with the group rising from below the stage and taking to their respective instruments on the risers. Then, without warning, an unseen choir began singing a wordless hymn from the balcony and the curtains behind the musicians began to slowly open, revealing the beautifully lit lush gardens behind the floor to ceiling panoramic windows. The feeling was quite 'holy'.

Gulbenkian Choir. Photo: Gulbenkian Música – Vera Marmelo

The musicians on stage entered via the unique vibrations of the pedal steel guitar, a perfect segue between the haunting hidden choir and the group on stage. Next, the three percussionists added a light textural layer and the outlines of the hymn-like chord structures were outlined by Alcorn. The gentle harmonic melody began to flow from the keyboards.

Unconnected to the music - perhaps? - a woman could be seen walking past the windows in the closed gardens. As she disappeared from view to the right, a set of official looking flashlights appeared through the leaves on the left. They seemed to following the walker's path. Though it was impossible to know what was happening, it did provide an unexpected visual component. Now, back to the music.

It was French guitarist Julien Desprez who first broke through the slow moving heft of the music. His eruptive passage seemed surprisingly loud and disruptive. Like the unexpected scene outside behind the stage, one wondered if he was meant to be this way, so voluminous and cacophonous. Soon the squelching began to not only raise the tension, but also fit in. A sound of desperation, even terror, began mounting in the group. Then a wall of sound followed as the three percussionists began pounding at their sets, Ava Mendoza on the other guitar began screaming along with Desprez. The violins added additional color the group's epic wail, while the two keyboards kept an even center of gravity. The group reached an unbelievable intense climax and then they stopped, only the piano's continuing on. The choir re-entered, this time with words, singing parts of “Reclaim the Night” by Peggy Seeger, a song about sexual violence and rape. Following the intense music, the words were affecting and powerful.

The audience filtered out of the sold out auditorium quietly, visceral impacted by the performance.

(Seven Storey Mountain VI is available from Pyroclastic Records)


See: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4