Click here to [close]

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Brötzmann / Bennink - Schwarzwaldfahrt (Trost, 2022)

By Eyal Hareuveni

Schwarzwaldfahrt (Black or Dark Forest Ride in German) is an iconic and seminal free jazz meets free improvisation of Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink, originally released by FMP in 1977. Brötzmann and Bennink already played together in the legendary trio with pianist Fred Van Hove, and this was their second recording as a duo (Ein halber hund kann nicht pinkeln, FMP, 1977, was recorded about two months earlier), out of six duo albums (the last one is In Amherst 2006, BRÖ, 2008, not including assorted tracks in compilations and other ad-hoc formats up until recently), and is part of their long-term, close music bond.

Schwarzwaldfahrt is still special due to the unique manner that it was deceived and recorded. Brötzmann and Bennink recorded the album in three days in June 1977, completely in the open air, at the mythic and gloomy German Black Forest, using a vintage Japanese, portable reel-to-reel Stellavox recorder. Bennink and Brötzmann were duetting with the birds, playing in the water, drumming on great natural xylophones made of logs and catching the sounds of airplanes strafing the skies. Their instruments list included e-flat clarinet, b-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, birdcalls, viola, banjo, cymbals, wood, trees, sand, land, water and air.

The re-release of this album - as a 120-page black and white photo book plus a disc - proves that these titans of free music, are Still Quite Popular After All These Years, if I would borrow the title of another duo album of theirs (BRÖ, 2004). Brötzmann supervised this re-release of the original recordings (a previous re-release of the album was issued in 2005 as an expanded double album by the now-defunct Atavistic label, produced by John Corbett), and he and Bennink contributed photos of themselves from this recording adventure. Scottish writer David Keenan (the partner of pedal steel player Heather Leigh, a recent collaborator of Brötzmann, who recorded with him five albums since 2015), contributed a poetic introduction.

Keenan claims that Brötzmann and Bennink became the mirror of the Dark Forest in a quest for timelessness. They decided to play in the forest after they were invited in 1976 by Joachim-Ernst Berendt to play in Free Jazz Meeting Baden-Baden, and then made their first exploration of the forest. “It sounded like music, like lamenting music, far off, or hopeful cries, in the distance, perhaps”. Berendt funded the recording trip. They were given a freezing, modest guest house, Gasthos Hirschen, (“Home, Sweet Home” in the book, and snow was falling during the time of the recording), and an old car to carry their instruments and recording equipment, but by day, “they sang the songs of the birds”, playing “like kids do, or lovers”.

Schwarzwaldfahrt is a great album, and still radiates an inspiring urgency and a unique sense of rare musical bond and resourceful invention. Brötzmann and Bennink play in a totally free and playful mode that can be replicated anywhere else. As Keenan writes, this is amusic of “endless expansion, and every improvisation is a sounding of a particular time and space, a song, once st in space, that goes on singing”. The many photos expand the listening experience from many angles, taking photos of each other, of their lodgings, of their ritual communions, and of their route into, and out of the forest. A timeless treasure.

More info here.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Mat Ball – Amplified Guitar (The Garrote, 2022)

By Guido Montegrandi

Amplified Guitar is about guitar, amplifier and feedback and some by-products like fuzz and distortion. Talking about his work Mat Ball says: “it’s definitely an exercise to me, a decision to just keep it as simple as possible (…) see if I could make a record of just like single take performances, no overdubs”.

Simple but not simplistic and focused on making music interact with the environment.

Each of the three piece has different renditions (To Catch Light I, II, III, Within The Billow I, II, III and Steel Wound Arteries I, II) exploring the possibilities of an idea, of a relation between guitar and amplifier.

Defining feedback the Oxford dictionary states: “1. The return of a fraction of a signal from one stage of an electric circuit, amplifier etc, to the input of the same; the signal so returned 2. (in biology and psychology) modification or control of a process or a system by its results or effects, especially by the difference between a desired and actual result”.

Amplified Guitar has to do with both of these and the result is a series of meaningful pieces that engage the senses and the mind of those who are willing to listen.

Now some useful general information...

Mat Ball is the guitar player of BIG|BRAVE a Montreal trio founded in 2012 and operating in the realm of heavy hypnotic experimental music (just to use some, probably not very meaningful, labels). This solo work has been produced by Godspeed You! Black Emperor Efrim Manuel Menuck in Montreal Hotel2Tango studios.

The record is coupled by: “Accidents” a collection of images which operates “as a visual analog to the Amplified Guitar LP, the work in Mat Ball's book Accidents is also based on chance: chance in discovery, chance in process, or chance in accidental results. Whether found at rest and documented in that natural/untouched state, or assembled/touched by Ball's hand, the aleatoric element in each piece is vital.” (from the press release of

Just as the photos in the book portrait instants: deserted spaces, empty landscapes, corrupted images, these pieces, recorded as single takes, are acts dealing with space and objects and time and the relation they establish with each other - feedback.

Amplified Guitar is reminiscent of Tony Conrad (to which Mat Ball dedicated Four Amplifiers, a 2020 reinterpretation of Conrad’s Four Violins) but also of Neil Young’s Dead Man both for its relation with images and for the sense of storytelling that runs through the tracks. That said, it remains a very personal and captivating piece of work.

Online you can find the album trailer with images and thoughts about the making of the record that Mat Bell shares with us and a video made by Joshua Ford at the Garrote premises for To Catch Light III presenting a fascinating minimalistic sequence for one of the best piece of the album.

The tracks on the record are ordered grouping all the first renditions of the three series of tunes, then the seconds and the thirds, you can follow this order or rebuilt the playlist by your self concentrating on one tune and its variations; in both cases a rewarding experience.

You can purchase both the record (in physical or digital form) and the book on bandcamp

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Anne Efternøler & Lige B​ø​rn (Hobby Horse Records, 2022)

By Stef Gijssels

We like to give new talent attention, and this one sounds very promising. Anne Efternøler is a Danish trumpeter who had the courage to release her first album in an unusual ensemble with three bassists: Thomas Morgan, Danish bass player Anders Christensen and  Danish/Faroese/Icelandic bass player Richard Andersson. Not only the line-up is relatively unique, so is Efternøler's daring to go beyond expectations musically. The music is partly composed, with discernable themes, melodies and sometimes rhythm, yet otherwise freedom reigns. She says: "”I love how, in art, we can reject all conventions, even the laws of nature and just decide yes this is possible! That is so liberating…”.

And that's how the music feels: liberated. The band explores the melodies and themes, the deep sound of the basses resonate well with the warm tone of the trumpet, and they offer some great trialogues among themselves. The music is welcoming - at least to open ears - gentle but with the touch of inventiveness and freedom that makes it interesting and captivating. Her music can be called elegant, gentle, intimate, but also authentic and straight from the heart. 

A warm sound for the christmas period. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

gabby fluke-mogul & Joanna Mattrey - Oracle (Relative Pitch Records, 2022)

By Keith Prosk

gabby fluke-mogul and Joanna Mattrey play eight fantasias for violin, viola, and stroh violin on the 41’ Oracle.

fluke-mogul and Mattrey previously appeared together on the releases Death In the Gilded Age with Matteo Liberatore and Ava Mendoza and Live in Accord with Fred Lonberg-Holm but Oracle is their first duo release. And for me it has been an enthusiastically anticipated duo release since first listening to threshold , discovering both performers were in NYC and already working together, and having already been so struck by Veiled .

The pairing probably feels comfortable surficially from the noisy textures that have come to characterize the approach of each and those are definitely here. In something like the nasal Doppler shift of a fly buzzing about a cloud around your ear. The dampened repetitive action more mechanical than musical. The fury, the frenzy of ungreased corroded metal on metal. The Saran wrap serenades. The pull, prod, pluck, and flick of strings that then sing, whine, sigh, and moan. But the tensions these textures carry also threads through cross-cutting structural relationships, romantic swings in speed and volume and movement, the protean viscousness of their time that turns fast fiddling into long tones and back again, a sneaking desublimation of a half-remembered melody from the noise or a subtle shift from dissonance to warm accord. With them the boundaries of sound parameters are folded upon themselves and in shear and at these liminal locations they play their rituals as reflected through the titles and in converging the future and the present that knows the past they emerge with something new.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Gordon Grdina’s Haram - Night’s Quietest Hour (AttaBoyGirl Records, 2022)

By Eyal Hareuveni

It took Canadian guitarist and oud player Gordon Grdina ten years to record the second album of his ensemble Haram, dedicated to the exploration of the Classic Arabic repertoire, beginning with Iraqi folk music and the great era of Egyptian radio music in which Oum Khalsoum and Farid Al Atrash, and now also covering Sudanese music from the '60s and '70s. Haram relies on the same ensemble that recorded its debut album, Her Eyes Illuminate (Songlines, 2012) - Canadian musicians from the Vancouver jazz scene with Syrian-born vocalist and ney player Emad Armoush, and with special guest, guitarist Marc Ribot, who joined Haram for two concerts in Vancouver just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit all.

Night’s Quietest Hour injects fresh, and sometimes even explosive doses of blues, funk and free jazz into the original Aiming compositions, but aiming to keep the spirit of tarab, the ecstatic feeling of elation inherent within these classic Arabic compositions. A few decades ago we called such meetings East Meets West (and vice versa), but Haram does much more. It is not a polite meeting between distant cultures, but the way Grdina and Haram assimilate these cultures and enrich each other, with deep respect for the original compositions and familiarity with the traditional forms and scales. Haram blends these traditions and finds similar sensibilities in the improvisation strategies in Arabic music and in jazz., in an effortless coihesion, The presence of the ever-inventive Ribot, who is not well-versed in Arabic music as the Haram musicians adds a bold sense of danger.

The opening “Longa Nahawand” relies on the four-beat longa and in the melodic mode nahawand, but the duet between Ribot and Grdina, who plays only the oud on this album, turns this classic form, made famous by famous Egyptian composer Riyâdh As-Sambâti, into a sensual, funky blues. The following “Sala Min Shaaraha A-Thahab” (سال من شعرها الذهب, old Streamed Down from Her Hair) by Sudanese singer Salah Ben Al Badiya, enjoys the hypnotic beat of drummer Kenton Loewen and percussionists Tim Gerwing and Liam MacDonal. Ribot adds a psychedelic aroma to the singing of Armoush and the driving beat and brings the song into a cathartic coda. The traditional “Dulab Bayati” is an instrumental, rhythmic piece in the form of dolab and in bayati maqam, attributed to Egyptian composer Muḥammad ᾽Abd al-Raḥīm al-Maslūb. It is interpreted as a series of fast calls - played by Grdina - and answers - by the Haram Ensemble, but when Ribot joins the ensemble he sends this rhythmic piece into stratospheric skies with a wild, distorted solo. Haram interprets one of the most famous and popular Arabic pieces “Lamma Bada Yatathanna” (لما بدا يتثنى, When She Begins to Sway), most likely based on a poem by Andalusian poet Lisan al-Din Ibn al-Khatib, in the poetic form muwashshah of the Nahawand maqam. Here Haram and Ribot improvise over the familiar theme and turn it into an ecstatic free jazz blowout. The last song “Hawj Erreeh” (حوج الريح, Violent Wind) by Sudanese singer Ahmad Al Jaberi becomes an infectious song, with Grdina and Ribot, intensifying the choros with an inspiring, tight duet.

Well worth the long waiting. A great record that demands more follow-ups.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Andy Moor, Tommaso Rolando – Sessione Pre Angiou (Torto Editions, 2022)

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Is it possible to reinvent yourself often or regularly? Is it a given for improvisation or something sought for, even for the most radical side of experimental music? Those are basic questions posed for and by artists like Andy Moor, a guitarist who has travelled a long way for than three decades now. Be it the avant-punk deniers of music business The Ex, his associations with Yiannis Kyriakides’ Unsounds label (check out his latest duo with saxophonist Christine Abdelnour) or his numerous small scale collaborations, his guitar is always flexible and well travelled.

Double bassist Tommaso Rolando is a new and very welcome addition to my personal list of favorite bassists. Haven’t listened to his music before (even though his 2019 vinyl duo with Jean Rene on the viola, again on Torto, has immediately become a favorite), I instantly felt the connection between the two improvisers. This recording firstly surfaced, as a digital only release, on the always worth checking Catalytic Sound co-op, but in 2022 Torto Editions made a CD out of it for us lucky fetishists.

But how about the music? The two tracks that comprise Sessione Pre Angiou, clocking just over fifty minutes, never saturate the listener with an attack of chords. Nowadays there’s a big tradition of what to expect when you listen to an electric guitar and a double bass. Many times it’s just chords, chords, chords, feedback and ferocious plucking. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong about all that, apart from the fact it can become a mannerism and many times it is.

The two musicians avoid the easy paths on both tracks of the CD, called Vobbia part 1 and 2. The sound palette varies. They can become quite angular and energetic, presenting an edgy affair for the listener. At other points the sounds are less audible. Moor, a veteran of the guitar, has mastered the ethics or alternative tuning, of, generally, trying always for something new, reinventing, going back and forth on an instrument so heavy from this “rock” tradition and not only. Rolando seems to prefer a more noble approach, using the bow a lot, giving space and time to the guitar.

Sessione Pre Angiou was recorded live (this was the first time they played together, believe it or not…) at an old barn north of the city of Genova and in front of a lot of children! If I had to invent a new term, I would call their music spiky esoterica. Apart from any label that puts music in a box, this is a fine release going all the way to my best-off for 2022.

All proceeds from sales will go to, so you can listen to here:


Sunday, December 25, 2022

Free Jazz Blog's Top 10s of 2022

Winter Landscape with CDs, by DALL-E

I am assuming that by now you have heard about the surprisingly advanced writing capability of the ChatGPT artificial intelligence. My first thought (like I assume many others) was "well, that's it, there goes another irreplaceable profession." However, embracing my mantra of being the change that I fear, I asked the AI to help me out and "write an introduction to a top 10 list of avant garde and creative jazz recordings from 2022." Aside from that "experimental jazz fusion" quip (machines can be quite cold!), the AI did a perfectly anodyne job. So, without further ado, here is ChatGPT:
Welcome to our top 10 list of avant garde and creative jazz recordings from 2022! This list highlights the best of the current jazz scene, featuring a diverse array of styles, sounds, and influences. From experimental jazz fusion to free-form improvisation, these recordings showcase the overwhelming creativity of the jazz world. As you explore each of these recordings, you'll find something unique and inspiring in each one. So, let's dive in and explore the top 10 avant garde and creative jazz recordings of 2022!
Granted, ChatGPT isn't privy to all the nuances of our work here, so let me editorsplain ... below you will find the top 10 lists from the writers of the Free Jazz Collective -- the intrepid, open-eared engineers behind the Free Jazz Blog. From each list, the most listed recordings were culled to produce the following list of top 10 recordings of the year. Our rules are simply, anything that appears on a list must have been reviewed by someone on the blog (or by the reviewer personally, somewhere). So, you will be able to search for any of the recordings here and read a review of the recording. Our next step is to collectively vote on the top album from the list below for our top album of the year, which we will present on January 1st.

We also welcome your thoughts on the top recordings of 2022 in the comments.

Drawn from the lists below, the Free Jazz Blog's 2022 Top 10:

  • ATTIC (Rodrigo Amado / Gonçalo Almeida / Onno Govaert) - Love Ghosts (NoBusiness Records)
  • Christoph Erb, Magda Mayas, Gerry Hemingway – Bathing Music (Veto Records)
  • Eve Risser Red Desert Orchestra - Eurythmia (Clean Feed)
  • Fred Moten, Brandon López, Gerald Cleaver - Moten/Lopez/Cleaver (Relative Pitch Records/Reading Group)
  • Zoh Amba - Bhakti (Mahakala Music)

And now, alphabetically by first name, the top 10's from the writers...

Eyal Hareuveni

  • Ruben Machtelinckx + Arve Henriksen - A Short Story (Aspen Edities)

  • Kobe Van Cauwenberghe - Ghost Trance Septet plays Anthony Braxton (el NEGOCITO)

  • Gordon Grdina’s Haram - Night’s Quietest Hour (AttaBoyGirl)

  • Torben Snekkestad / Søren Kjærgaard - Another Way of the Heart (Trost)

  • Gammelsæter & Marhaug - Higgs Boson (Ideologic Organ)

  • René Lussier - Au diable vert (ReR Megacorp/Circum Disc)

  • Mats Gustafsson & NU Ensemble - Hidros 8 - Heal (Trost)

  • Paal Nilssen-Love Circus - Pairs of Three (PNL)

  • Gerry Hemingway - Afterlife (Auricle)

  • Satoko Fujii - Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams (Libra)


  • Brötzmann / Van Hove / Bennink – Jazz In Der Kammer Nr.71 (Deutsches Theater / Berlin / GDR / 04 / 11 / 1974) (Trost)

  • Brötzmann / Bennink - Schwarzwaldfahrt (Trost, Book + Disc)

  • Daunik Lazro / Jouk Minor / Thierry Madiot / David Chiésa / Louis-Michel Marion - Sonoris Causa  (NoBusiness)


  • Markus Müller - FMP: The Living Music (Wolke)

Fotis Nikolakopoulos

  • Pat Thomas & XT (Seymour Wright, Paul Abbott) with Will Holder - “Akisakila” / Attitudes of Preparation (Edition Gamut)

  • Küchen/ Fernández / Kaučič - The Steps That Resonate (Not Two Records)

  • Agnel/ Butcher - La Pierre Tachée (Ni-Vu-Ni-Connu)

  • Dave Rempis/ Avreeayl Ra - Bennu (Aerophonic Records)

  • Leroux/Van Isacker/Vanderstraeten – Als Ik Niets Meer Van De Kano Zie (Aspen Edities)

  • Susie Ibarra & Tashi Dorji – Master Of Time (Astral Spirits)

  • Christoph Erb, Magda Mayas, Gerry Hemingway – Bathing Music (Veto Records)

  • Masked Pickle - 7 (Relative Pitch Records)

  • Rachel Musson, N O Moore, Olie Brice, Eddie Prévost - Under the Sun (Matchless Recordings)

  • Andy Moor & Tommaso Rolando - Sessione Pre Angiou (Torto Editions)


  • Masayuki Takayanagi, New Direction - Station '70: Call In Question / Live Independence (Black Editions)

  • Akira Sakata & Takeo Moriyama - Mitochondria (Trost Records)

  • Peter Brötzmann/ Milford Graves/ William Parker - Historic Music Past Tense Future (Black Editions Archive, 2021)


  • Markus Müller – FMP: The Living Music (Wolke)
    For anyone interested in European Improvisation

Gary Chapin

  1. Mary Halvorson - Amarylis/Belladona (Nonesuch)

  2. Julie Tippets and Martin Archer - Illusion (Discus)

  3. Matthew Shipp and Chad Fowler - Old Stories (Mahakala)

  4. Daniel Carter, Ayumi Ishito, Eric Plaks, Zach Swanson, Jon Panikkar - Open Question, Volume 1 (577)

  5. Fred Moten, Brandon Lopez, Gerald Cleaver - Moten/Lopez/Cleaver (Relative Pitch / Reading Group)

  6. Ivo Perelman - Reed Rapture in Brooklyn (Mahakala)

  7. Tim Berne and Matt Mitchell - One More, Please (Intakt)

  8. Liba Villavecchia Trio - Zaidín (Clean Feed)

  9. Nate Wooley - Ancient Songs of Burlap Heroes (Pyroclastic)

  10. Kobe Van Cauwenberghe - Ghost Trance Septet Plays Anthony Braxton (el Negocito)


  • Julius Hemphill - The Boyé Multi-National Crusade For Harmony (New World, 2021)

Gregg Miller

  • The Attic - Love Ghosts (NoBusiness Records)

  • Martin Küchen - Utopia (Thanatosis Produktion)

  • Matthew Shipp Trio - World Construct (Esp-Disk) 

  • Adams, Dunn, Haas - Future Moons (Ansible Editions)

  • The International Nothing - Just None of Those Things (Ftarri)

  • Pedro Alves Sousa - Má Estrela (Shhpuma)

  • Anna Kaluza & Jan Roder - Am Frankfurter Tor (Relative Pitch)

  • Wadada Leo Smith - The Emerald Duets (Tum)

  • Forbes Graham - Another Day, Another Vector (Relative Pitch)

  • Cameron/Horne/Flaten/Thomas - Place is the Space (Personal Archives)

Guido Montegradi

  • Bill Orcutt - Music for Four Guitars (Palilalia)

  • Pat Thomas & XT (Seymour Wright, Paul Abbott) with Will Holder - “Akisakila” / Attitudes of Preparation (Mountains, Oceans, Trees) (Edition Gamut)

  • Rob Mazurek - Father's Wing (RogueArt)

  • Fire! - Requiēs (Rune Grammofon)

  • Thurston Moore, Mats Gustafsson, Stephen O'Malley – Born Without Word/At A Worn (Slowboy, 2021)

  • N. O. Moore - Llanfechain (Scatter)

  • Derviche – Murs Absurdes (Ayler)


  • William Parker - Universal Tonality (Centering Records/AUM Fidelity)

  • Soft Machine – Facelift - France & Holland (Cuneiform Records)

Keith Prosk

  • Jacob Wick - Standards (Full Spectrum Records)

  • Jessica Pavone - When No One Around You is There but Nowhere to be Found (Relative Pitch Records)

  • Fred Moten, Brandon López, Gerald Cleaver - Moten/Lopez/Cleaver (Relative Pitch Records/Reading Group)

  • Hugjiltu 胡格吉乐图 - Cycle 循环 (Dusty Ballz)

  • gabby fluke-mogul, Joanna Mattrey - Oracle (Relative Pitch Records)

  • Markus Eichenberger & Christoph Gallio - Unison Polyphony (ezz-thetics)

  • Kobe Van Cauwenberghe - Ghost Trance Septet plays Anthony Braxton (el NEGOCITO Records)

Lee Rice Epstein

  • Fred Moten, Brandon López, Gerald Cleaver - Moten/López/Cleaver (Relative Pitch/Reading Group)
    From the moment I heard this, I was under its spell. López and Cleaver are brilliant improvisers, and Moten’s poetry is some of the most evocative and captivating in recent years.

  • 2. Pat Thomas & XT (Paul Abbott and Seymour Wright) - “Akisakila” / Attitudes of Preparation (Mountains, Oceans, Trees) (Edition Gamut)
    As I wrote earlier this year, this album is “deliriously engaging, frenetic and charged with a hot energy that burns brilliantly.” Months later, it burns as brightly as ever. I’ve listened to it dozens of times and will surely listen to it dozens more.

  • 3. Myra Melford Fire and Water Quintet - For the Love of Fire and Water (Rogue Art)
    A couple months ago, I caught Melford’s quintet live at the Angel City Jazz Festival. Already the music leapt from the speakers, and live, the quintet was every bit as energetic and delightful.

  • 4. Wadada Leo Smith - The Emerald Duets (TUM Records)
    Another banner year for the great Wadada Leo Smith, and the music on The Emerald Duets seemed like the peak amidst his highest mountains. Politically engaged, philosophical, and deeply felt, this set of trumpet-drummer duets is an instant classic.

  • 5. Eve Risser Red Desert Orchestra - Eurythmia (Clean Feed)
    I’ve been waiting for the proper recording of Risser’s Red Desert Orchestra since I first saw clips, shortly after the release of her landmark White Desert Orchestra. Its arrival surpassed expectations, textured and thrilling and fulfilling any and all promise.

  • 6. The Attic (Rodrigo Amado / Gonçalo Almeida / Onno Govaert) - Love Ghosts (NoBusiness Records)
    It’s impossible to deny Amado’s Refraction Solo (Live at Church of The Holy Ghost) is one of the all-time best solo albums. The Attic trio slightly nudged ahead on my personal list as they remain one of the most incredible free trios. Love Ghosts, recorded just before the pandemic, is all fire and heart.

  • 7. Survival Unit III - The Art of Flight: For Alvin Fielder (Astral Spirits)
    As mentioned in the liner notes, this was recorded the same night as McPhee’s final performance with the great Alvin Fielder. That Survival Unit III’s finest should be dedicated to his memory is lovely and poetic.

  • 8. Kirk Knuffke Trio - Gravity Without Airs (Tao Forms)
    A spectacular double album from Knuffke, Michael Bisio, and Matthew Shipp. Bisio is something of a connective tissue between Knuffke and Shipp, on their first recording together, but the comfort and ease the trio displays gives the feeling of a long-time conversation, inviting audiences to listen deeply and linger at length.

  • 9. Ra Kalam Bob Moses & Damon Smith - Purecircle (Balance Point Acoustics)
    Smith has a catalog filled with fantastic duos, and this one featuring the legendary Moses is truly exceptional. Each of them is a sensitive and inspired improvisor, and Purecircle is daring, rich, and dynamic.

  • 10. Daniel Carter, Ayumi Ishito, Eric Plaks, Zach Swanson, Jon Panikkar – Open Question, Volume 1 (577 Records)
    I’m not sure what I expected once Carter and Ishito teamed-up, but through Playfield and now their Open Question quintet, they seem to have unlocked something exciting in each other. I continue to look forward to anything they might be working on, and I really hope to hear more from this group soon.


  • Cecil Taylor - The Complete, Legendary, Live Return at The Town Hall NYC November 4, 1973 (Oblivion Records)

  • Peter Brötzmann / Fred Van Hove / Han Bennink - Jazz in der Kammer Nr. 71 (Trost)

  • Curlew - CBGBs, NYC, 1987 (Cuneiform)

Martin Schray
(In order):

  1. Pat Thomas & XT (Seymour Wright, Paul Abbott) with Will Holder - “Akisakila” / Attitudes of Preparation (Mountains, Oceans, Trees) (Edition Gamut)

  2. Zoh Amba - Bhakti (Mahakala Music)

  3. Oxbow feat. Peter Brötzmann - An Eternal Reminder of Not Today: Live at Moers (Trost)

  4. Ballister - Chrysopoeia (Not Two)

  5. McPhee Marker - McPhee Marker (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

  6. Oren Ambarchi / Johan Berthling / Andreas Werliin - Ghosted (Drag City)

  7. Zoh Amba (with William Parker and Francisco Mela) - O Life, O Light Vol. 1  (577 Records)

  8. Rodrigo Amado - Refraction Solo (Trost)

  9. Myra Melford - For the Love of Fire and Water (Rogue Art)

  10. Keiji Haino - My lord Music, I most humbly beg your indulgence in the hope that you will do me the honour of permitting this seed called Keiji Haino to be planted within you (Purple Trap / Black Editions)


  • Albert Ayler - Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (Elemental)

  • Peter Brötzmann / Fred Van Hove / Han Bennink - Jazz in der Kammer Nr. 71 (Trost)

  • Derek Bailey - Domestic Jungle (Scatter)

  • Peter Brötzmann/ Milford Graves/ William Parker - Historic Music Past Tense Future (Black Editions Archive, 2021)

Matty Bannond

  1. Georg Demel Quartett – Pale Blue Dot (Unit Records, 2021)

  2. Spacepilot – Hycean Worlds (Orbit 577)

  1. Taxi Consilium – Spiritual Car Wash (PMGJazz)

  2. Wolves and Mirrors – Wolves and Mirrors (Klaeng Records, 2021)

  3. Zoh Amba – Bhakti (Mahakala Music)

  4. Basher – Doubles (Sinking City Records)

  5. Adams, Dunn, Haas – Future Moons (Ansible Editions)

  6. Marta Warelis – a grain of Earth (Relative Pitch)

  7. Denis Gäbel – The Good Spirits Part 2 (Mons Records)

  8. Volker Jaekel – Short Stories (Jazzwerkstatt, 2021)

Nick Metzger

  • Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, Enrico Rava - 2 Blues for Cecil (TUM Records, 2021)

  • Tyler Mitchell featuring Marshall Allen - Dancing Shadows (Mahakala)

  • Myra Melford’s Fire and Water Quintet - For the Love of Fire and Water (Rogue Art)

  • Ra Kalam Bob Moses & Damon Smith - Purecircle (Balance Point Acoustics)

  • Fred Moten, Brandon López, Gerald Cleaver - Moten/Lopez/Cleaver (Relative Pitch Records/Reading Group)

  • Isaiah Collier & Michael Shekwoaga Ode - I Am Beyond (Division 88)

  • Die Hochstapler - Beauty Lies Within (Umlaut)

  • Pat Thomas & XT (Seymour Wright, Paul Abbott) with Will Holder - “Akisakila” / Attitudes of Preparation (Mountains, Oceans, Trees) (Edition Gamut)

  • James Brandon Lewis - MSM Molecular Systematic Music (Live) (Intakt, 2022)

  • Makaya McCraven - In These Times (International Anthem)


  • Cecil Taylor - The Complete, Legendary, Live Return at The Town Hall NYC November 4, 1973 (Oblivion Records)

  • Albert Ayler - Revelations - The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (Elemental)

  • Elton Dean Quartet (Dean, Tippett, Miller, Moholo) - On Italian Roads (Live at Teatro Cristallo, Milan, 1979) (British Progressive Jazz, 2022)

  • William Parker - Universal Tonality (Centering Records/AUM Fidelity)

Nick Ostrum

  • Wendy Eisenberg – Bloodletting (OOYH, 2021)

  • I AM (Isaiah Collier & Michael Shekwoaga Ode) – BEYOND (Division 81)

  • Wills McKenna / Norman W. Long / Ishmael Ali / Bill Harris – Anemoi (Amalgam)

  • Joe McPhee – Route 84 Quarantine Blues (Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2021)

  • New Monuments – Language is the Skin (Torn Light)

  • Fred Moten/Lopez/Gerald Cleaver – S/T (Relative Pitch)

  • Mali Obomsawin – Sweet Tooth (OOYH)

  • Eldritch Priest - Omphaloskepsis (Halocline Trance)

  • Wadada Leo Smith – Emerald Duets (TUM)

  • URUK – Ame (Live at Artacts) (Trost)


  • Peter Brötzmann/Han Bennink/Fred van Hove – Jazz in der Kammer 1974 (Trost)

Paul Acquaro

  • Myra Melford - For the Love of Fire and Water (Rogue Arts)

  • Rodrigo Amado - Refraction Solo (Trost)

  • Samo Salamon - Dolphyology: Complete Eric Dolphy for Solo Guitar (Samo Records)

  • Anna Kaluza & Jan Roder - Am Frankfurter Tor (Relative Pitch)

  • Cécile Cappozzo Quintet - Hymne d'automne (Ayler)

  • James Brandon Lewis Quartet - MSM Molecular Systematic Music (Live) (Intakt)

  • José Lencastre - Common Ground (Phonogram Unit)

  • Patricia Brennan - More Touch (Pyroclastic)

  • Dave Gisler Trio with jaimie branch and David Murray - See You Out There (Intakt Records)

  • Colin Stetson, Billy Martin, Elliott Sharp & Payton MacDonald - Void Patrol (Infrequent Seams)


  • Cecil Taylor - The Complete, Legendary, Live Return at The Town Hall NYC November 4, 1973 (Oblivion Records, 2022)

  • Soft Machine – Facelift - France & Holland (Cuneiform Records, 2022)

  • Sam Rivers - Caldera (NoBusiness, 2022)

  • Peter Brötzmann / Fred Van Hove / Han Bennink - Jazz in der Kammer Nr. 71 (Trost)


  • Markus Müller – FMP: The Living Music (Wolke)

  • Phil Freeman - Ugly Beauty (John Hunt)

Sammy Stein

  • Mats Gustafsson and Tony Lugo - Vertical (Superpang)

  • Tyler Mitchell featuring Marshall Allen - Dancing Shadows (Mahakala)

  • Sothiac Feat Paul Jolly (with Phase 3) - Superluna (33Xtreme)

  • Tamarisk - Plays a Word for Sun (Waveform Alphabet)

  • The Bad Plus - The Bad Plus (Edition)

  • Kobe Van Cauwenberghe - Ghost Trance Septet plays Anthony Braxton (El Negocito)

  • Ivo Perelman (and many others) - Reed Rapture in Brooklyn (Mahakala Music)

  • Sun Ra Arkestra - Living Sky (Omni)

  • MC3 - Sounds of The City (Phonocene)

  • Mats Gustafsson and NU Ensemble - Archival Series 002 (Self release)


  • Peter Brötzmann, Milford Graves & William Parker - Historic Music Past Tense Future (Black Editions Archive, 2021, recorded 2002)

  • Albert Ayler - Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 ( Fondation Maeght Recordings)

Stef Gijssels

  1. Rob Mazurek - Father's Wing (RogueArt)

  2. Wadada Leo Smith – The Emerald Duets (TUM)

  3. Pedro Alves Sousa - Má Estrela (Shhpuma Records)

  4. Lisa Ullén, Elsa Bergman, Anna Lund - Space (Relative Pitch)

  5. Almeida, Gibson, Melo Alves, Trilla, Vicente - Dog Star (Spontaneous Music Tribune, 2021)

  6. Joe McPhee, Jen Clare Paulson, Brian Labycz – The Mystery J (Corbett vs Dempsey, 2021)

  7. Torben Snekkestad & Søren Kjærgaard - Another Way of the Heart (Trost)

  8. Myra Melford - For the Love of Fire and Water (Rogue Art)

  9. ÜberMartin Küchen - Utopia (Thanatosis Produktion)

  10. Christoph Erb, Magda Mayas & Gerry Hemingway Trio - Bathing Music (Veto)

Stuart Broomer

  • John Butcher/ Angharad Davies/ Matt Davis/ Dominic Lash/ Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga - nodosus (Empty Birdcage Records)

  • Cécile Cappozzo Quintet - Hymne d'automne (Ayler Records)

  • Keiji Haino - My lord Music, I most humbly beg your indulgence in the hope that you will do me the honour of permitting this seed called Keiji Haino to be planted within you (Purple Trap / Black Editions)

  • hyper.object (Rodrigo Pinheiro/ João Almeida/ Carlos Santos/ Hernâni Faustino/ João Valinho) - inter.independence (Phonogram Unit)

  • Rachel Musson, N O Moore, Olie Brice, Eddie Prévost - Under the Sun (Matchless)

  • John Oswald, Henry Kaiser, Paul Plimley - At One Time (Improvisations for Cecil Taylor) (Metalanguage, 2021)

  • Jeff Parker ETA IVtet - Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Academy (Eremite)

  • Eve Risser Red Desert Orchestra – Eurythmia (Clean Feed)

  • Pat Thomas & XT (Seymour Wright, Paul Abbott), with Will Holder - "Akisakila" / Attitudes of Preparation (Mountains, Oceans, Trees) (Edition Gamut)

  • Nate Wooley Columbia Ice Fields - Ancient Songs of Burlap Heroes (Pyroclastic Records)


  • Peter Brötzmann/ Milford Graves/ William Parker - Historic Music Past Tense Future (Black Editions Archive, 2021) (recorded 2002)

  • Daunik Lazro, Jouk Minor, Thierry Madiot, David Chiesa, Louis-Michel Marion - Sonoris Causa (No Business) (recorded 2003)


  • Markus Müller - FMP: The Living Music (Wolke)

Troy Dostert

  1. Tyshawn Sorey Trio +1 (With Greg Osby), Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (Pi Recordings)

  2. Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double, March (Firehouse 12)

  3. James Brandon Lewis Quartet – MSM: Molecular Systematic Music - Live (Intakt)

  4. Eve Risser Red Desert Orchestra - Eurythmia (Clean Feed)

  5. Sélébéyone - Xaybu: The Unseen (Pi Recordings)

  6. Pat Thomas and XT - “Akisakila”/Attitudes of Preparation (Mountains, Oceans, Trees)(Edition Gamut)

  7. Ches Smith - Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic)

  8. Zoh Amba - Bhakti (Mahakala Music)

  9. Myra Melford’s Fire and Water Quintet - For the Love of Fire and Water (RogueArt)

  10. The Attic (Rodrigo Amado, Gonçalo Almeida, and Onno Govaert) - Love Ghosts (NoBusiness)

William Rossi

  • Keiji Haino/Jim O'Rourke/Oren Ambarchi - “Caught in the dilemma of being made to choose” This makes the modesty which should never been closed off itself Continue to ask itself: “Ready or not?” (Black Truffle, 2022)

  • Ben LaMar Gay - Certain Reveries (International Anthem, 2022)

  • Mats Gustafsson & NU Ensemble - Hidros 8 - Heal (Trost Records, 2022)

  • Christoph Erb, Magda Mayas & Gerry Hemingway Trio - Bathing Music (Veto, 2022)

  • Antoine Chessex, Francisco Meirino, Jérôme Noetinger - Maiandros (Cave12, 2022)

  • Wolves and Mirrors - Wolves and Mirrors (Klaeng Records, 2021)

  • Fire! with Stephen O'Malley and David Sandström - Requiēs (Rune Grammofon, 2022)

  • Wadada Leo Smith - The Emerald Duets (TUM Records, 2022)

  • Mali Obomsawin - Sweet Tooth (Out Of Your Head Records, 2022)

  • Mind Fiber - Ya Cha Ban (Dusty Ballz, 2022)

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Matthew Shipp Trio - World Construct (ESP-Disk', 2022)

By Gregg Miller

The fifth of 5 excellent albums since 2015, Matthew Shipp’s trio (Michael Bisio on bass, Newman Taylor Baker on percussion) now presents World Construct, a summation and extension of their singular sound. Free-playing within the constraint set by Shipp’s distinctive musical grammar.

The opening Latin groove is a throw-away, musical humor, a false start. The record truly opens with the second piece, solo piano entitled “Sustained Construct,” which is as delicate a phrasing as Shipp has ever recorded. Within the context of a life-long development of a driving technique, this sudden beauty. The third piece, “Spine,” gives us the realized ideal of this group. Bisio and Baker’s colorings are just perfect. Full complementarity producing transcendence from within. (It picks up on the mood of “Dark Sea Negative Charge” from the trio’s 2020 release, The Unidentifiable.) The fourth track, “Jazz Posture,” opens with the duo of Bisio’s energetic bass scatterings mixed with Baker’s tasteful propulsion. Shipp enters with pitched percussive lines, quickly drawn melodic phrases, and the occasional, stepped chordal cluster. At the closeout, Baker's soloing creates a little world unto itself. On the fifth track, “Beyond Understanding,” the trio works in the space of delicacy opened by “Sustained Construct.” Cymbal work and toms; high plucking and arco bass; slow cadences, each gesture a partial, outer aspect of that which cannot be fully brought to presence. A lovely little dreamsong. “Talk Power” continues in a calming vein, at times like a series of slow-release contractions. Then the bombshell, “Abandoned,” an onslaught piece, the heaviest and most dense piece here. Here they offset the gentle mystery of patient discovery with the gas open at full throttle.

“A Mysterious State” opens with Bisio walking. Baker accommodates with a snare-forward groove. Eventually the snare hits give it a martial feel. Shipp offers a counter-walk to Bisio, like we’re looking through two sides of the telescope at the same time. The three each work oscillating grooves to the point of discomfiture, and then find new patterns. Throughout this tune, there are cross-purposes at work, like wind hitting from all sides, like reluctant soldiers not really wanting to line up, maybe listening for the right moment to disobey marching orders, to throw down their arms, or turn on their commanders. “Stop the World” renews the more contemplative mood. Bisio’s plucked bass sings the song, Shipp’s held chords provide the framework. (Baker sits this one out.) Bisio, it turns out is a genius.

“Sly Glance,” has nu bop bones: A strong melodic statement, occasional desconstructive elements, pushed ever forward by flowing, driving pulse. A bit loose, but good. The groove brings to mind some of Shipp’s earlier work on Harmonic Disorder (Thirsty Ear, 2009), the Root of Things (Relative Pitch, 2014), and certainly the title track of this trio’s first record, The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear, 2015). Still kicks, though. The last tune, the title tune, “World Construct,” is patiently introduced by Shipp developing a mode which seems to slowly rotate until we’re somehow hearing it from the inside out. Bisio enters strumming the beat and then echoing the turning melody. Baker arrives and moves into a shuffle, Bisio starts walking, and suddenly the whole landscape shifts. It’s like they’re all doing parallel cartwheels, dancing to a pulse that they all feel without anyone having been assigned to directly provide it. Ideas come and go in waves. Five minutes in, the tune actually becomes kind of a mess, but the mess of jazz giants, a free-for-all within a world delineated by rules that the players have intuited; utter freedom becomes collective intention. Wonderful!

As a whole, this record delivers. The delicate moments are gorgeous. The dense moments ride the pulse between swing and drive. Shipp's sonic world is fully realized here, the work of three masters. Delightful.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Steve Noble/ Seymour Wright –EFV (Ping Pong Productions, 2022)

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

That night at Café Oto -September of 2019 it was- is one of those gigs that I’d really like to attend. Having listened to and watched live my share of free jazz, like many of you, I’m not easily impressed, or at least I pretend not to be. But this duo of two important figures of the London free jazz/free improv scene surely makes a difference.

Wright’s duos and trios (to name a few: Gamut with Eddie Prevost, Blasen with Sebastien Lexer, About Trumpet and Saxophone with Nate Wooley) are mostly playful, less noisy and surely introvert events. EFV, on the resurrected Steve Noble’s Ping Pong Production, is much different than the aforementioned. Noble and Wright have known each other for quite some time, played together a lot. On this live date their focus seems to be the transcendence to a higher level of energetic and passionate playing.

I mentioned Wright’s playing earlier because his free jazz blow outs (now that’s an aphorism, I know) were audible in rare moments in his recorded playing. On the contrary on EFV, he lets his voice be heard with intensity. At the same time his playing leaves enough room both for the listener to focus but also for Steve Noble to adjust, play along or lead. Since you follow this site, you are probably familiar with his prolific career that spans over three decades.

Noble is one of the most important percussionists of our time in improvisation and that is no exaggeration. I, the listener, am the receiver of a constant flow of ideas and sounds from his drum kit. He has built a unique style of his own that engulfs total flexibility, in adapting with fellow players. But what about their playing as a duo?

Well, in the small interview that accompanies this text, I am wondering if EFV is, something like at least, a culmination of their playing together. This is improvised music and the most enjoyable moments (I won’t say the “best”) come unannounced and impromptu. This cd provided the thought that certain ideas, like sketches, existed beforehand, materializing, though, into something not exactly as predicted. Which is great, isn’t it? I mean, this is the essence of improvisational music, if I’m allowed the liberty to give it some kind of definition…

So, probably the biggest quality of this cd (apart from their playing which I enjoyed) is that you do not know what to expect next and that is the greatest quality in music I believe.

Interview with Steve Noble

Fotis N: You have an extended discography (as a fan, i'm pretty aware of this...), spreading in over three decades. What new does this duo bring to it?

Steve Noble: I have been intending to re start Ping Pong for a few years, but for many reasons it has not been till now (summer 2022) that it has happened.

EFV (the duo with Seymour) is the first but there are many more to come.

Here is the list:

  • PPP005- 4ts - duo with pianist Pat Thomas (already released).
  • PPP00 - Forth to 4th - trio of Alan Wilkinson, John Edwards and myself (the cds have just arrived today).
  • PPP008- Will be a duo with Alex Ward is almost ready for production.
  • PPP009/10/11/12- This is a 4 cd box set entitled HEMP. It's an homage to 4 drummers who have been a constant inspiration since the day I bought my first drum set back in 1972- they are H= Han Bennink, E= Ed Blackwell, M = Milford Graves, P = Phil Seamen. This should be released in a few weeks. It is a series of solos and duos with Alex Ward, Gabriel Wonck, Alan Wilkinson and James Allsopp.
  • PPP013- A duo with trumpeter Alex Bonney- hopefully ready for production in a few months time…

There are plenty more planned, but I think it is best to get the above mentioned cds out and hopefully sell them-

Each release is 300 cds-

-You have been playing with Seymour Wright for a long time now. Is this cd something like a culmination of your shared time and ideas? Was it material that, both of you, felt an urgency to get it out there?

Seymour and I have been meeting up to play on a weekly basis for many years. This has been greatly helped by having access to the Cafe Oto Project Space- this is where we did the recordings and the two photos were also taken in this space. It is also where I am able to do my daily practice.

I wouldn't say it is a culmination, but more like an insight into what the regular meetings

Have developed into. We are still playing most weeks, so maybe it is just the end of chapter one and the start of chapter two (or 3 or 4) after the release of EFV(Energy/Frequency/Vibration).

I invite other musicians too - James Allsopp and Alex Bonney are some.

-You seem to record and play, mostly at least, in small ensembles. Is this a coincidence or something you prefer?

I do prefer smaller groups The duo is probably my favourite -plenty of space and nowhere to hide! But solo concerts have also been quite regular over the last seven years.

Larger groups are of interest. I have a new trio (SOStrio) with 2 younger players, bassist Otto Wilberg and alto sax player Sam Andreae (a cd release is forthcoming) and a quartet with Yoni Silver, Ute Kanngiesser and Alex Paxton -I need to make a recording soon.

-Is it possible to make a living as a musician in the covid dystopia? How has it changed your daily routine, practice, opportunities?

It is never "easy" if you choose to play a music that is very much marginalized and the last 3 years have not been easy - and what is to come may be just as bad!

I am able to play between five to seven gigs a month (mainly in London) and use the Oto Space on a daily basis and I must say I feel very positive about my music/ drumming- maybe I needed a period of reflection - and it definitely gave me the impetus to start releasing cds again.

-Is improvisation, in any musical field not only in jazz based musics, still important and do you feel people are still interested in improvisational music?

Improvisation is and will always be important, regardless of whether it seems it is 'in ' or 'out' of a certain hipster mentality. It is fundamental not just to music but to everyday life.

I have no intention of changing my ways- just to keep on keeping on!


Thursday, December 22, 2022

Catherine Sikora - Winter Solos (s/r, 2022)

This is a bit unusual, it is a review of a recording that is still being made. Saxophonist Catherine Sikora has undertaken an ambitious project to record a solo piece every day for the month of December and add to Winter Solos, available in its evolving form from Bandcamp.

The first track, 'Winter Solos #1,'  is by far the longest track (so far) at 16+ minutes. It is a contemplative piece that unfolds slowly and deliberately. Close your eyes and just listen, soon you are drawn into the contours of subconscious thought and melodic intuition behind the sounds. Halfway into the piece, the pace picks up and the intervals get a bit wider, skip to the end and the notes have begun to fray and the melody comes to an end that immediately segues into track 2, 'these are the clouds'. The pieces that follow are much shorter, approximately three minutes each, and each one has its own characteristics. Track 2 continued with the searching melody of the first, while track 3, 'Solo #3,' hangs in the higher register with quick, biting, and tightly wound runs. As of writing, Winter Solos is up to track 20, which is a more up-tempo piece, but still underscored with a bit of longing to its sound. 

Listening to Sikora's strong, round tone she explores the winter days (or nights? I know not when she recorded these) is an enjoyable, meditative experience. Now, open your eyes and check out the lovely images of winter landscapes that accompanies each song.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

When ancient art inspires modern sounds

 By Stef Gijssels

Without wanting to write a musicological essay on "third stream" or "cross-over" - the regions where classical music and jazz merge into something new, there are some interesting new albums out that are inspired by history, including the sounds of music or art from centuries ago. They are worth highlighting because it shows the breadth of scope modern jazz and even free improvisation can have today. To know and understand musical heritage can lead to fascinating new works of art and interesting new perspectives on music. I am not talking about classical music being performed with a jazz form, there are zillions of technically brilliant musicians who have done that (see Uri Caine as a good example), but music that qualifies as free music or avant-garde jazz inspired by classical sounds. 

So here is a weird amalgam of ancient inspiration in avant-garde music. 

Didier Lasserre - Silence Was Pleased (Ayler, 2022)

17th Century

Possibly the most stunning and unusal album in this list is French drummer Didier Lasserre's "Silence Was Pleased", inspired by the John Milton's (1608–1674) "Paradise Lost", and then especially the following few lines of this lengthy poem. 

"Now came still Evening on, and
Twilight gray Had in her sober livery all things clad;
Silence accompanied; for beast and bird,
They to their grassy couch, these to their nests
Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale.
She all night longer her amorous descant sung:
Silence was pleased". Now glowed the firmament
With living Saphirs; Hesperus, that led
The starry host, rode brightest, till the Moon,
Rising in clouded majesty, at length
Apparent queen, unveiled her peerless light,
And o’er the dark her silver mantle threw;

... Silence ... (added)

The album's track titles are all taken from this poem in the right sequence. The text is sung by Laurent Cerciat, whose baroque alto falsetto is uncanny in this environment of forward-thinking musicians who weave a texture of sonic lace based on Lasserre's compositional instructions. They are among the crème-de-la-crème of French musicians, with - next to Cerciat on voice and Lasserre on percussion - Benjamin Bondonneau on clarinet, Christine Wodrascka on piano, Jean-Luc Cappozzo on trumpet and flugelhorn, Gaël Mevel on cello, with Denis Cointe creating live ‘tinnitus’ sounds, and Loïc Lachaize offering sound machinery conception & recording. 

Needless to say that the music evolves around silence, its presence the essence around which Lasserre's composition is built with clear anchor points to which the musicians have to work their way, slowly and gradually. On most tracks, the number of musicians is limited to just a few playing at the same time. 

Even if silence and quiet interaction are predominant, this does not mean that outbursts of high volume intensity are avoided (the clarinet, piano and drums at times have their moments of power), resulting in an experience of stark contrasts and maintained tension. 

Even if it is Lasserre's first ambitious compositional work, it is a winner from the start. It may take some time to accept the baroque voice in the context of avant-garde music, but it works. Lasserre demonstrates the quality of music without historical boundaries. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Dave Douglas - Secular Psalms (Greenleaf, 2022)

15th Century

American trumpeter Dave Douglas also created this ambitious work, "Secular Psalms", inspired by the "Ghent Altarpiece", work of the brothers Jan and Hubert Van Eyck, painted in the mid-1420s and finished in 1432. It shows the "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb of God". The masterpiece just underwent a massive restoration, and I can recommend anyone who visits Belgium to go and visit it at the Sint-Baafs cathedral. 

Dave Douglas comments on the triptych: "... it is a very difficult piece! So much of life and philosophy are in there, but told in such naked and plain way. The strangeness and mystery of this period in art has always touched me. This was made not long after the plague which decimated Europe in the late 14th century. Not too long before Martin Luther changed many people’s views of this religion. But, at the root of it, the humanity. These are real figures, even the painted stone sculptures he has included. Even the donors! It is often remarked about Van Eyck that he was a master, and possibly one of the first masters, of portraiture. But in The Altarpiece they also have space to create a real story, one representing all walks of life. I hear music when I see art like this". 

Douglas assembled a Belgian-international ensemble of young musicians, with Berlinde Deman on serpent, tuba and voice, Marta Warelis on piano, prepared piano and pump organ, Frederik Leroux on guitars, lute and electronics, Tomeka Reid on cello, and Lander Gyselinck on drums and electronics. 

The music oscillates between modern jazz and old religious sounds, or it mixes both, but it is an album of story-telling, with narratives for each piece, dramatic changes in the composition, moments of quiet contemplation mixed with unexpected intensity, avant-garde moments of noise or jubilant exaltation, and sometimes even all in one composition. The older forms used in the music are inspired by 15th-Century Flemish composer Guillaume Dufay, one of the first to employ the more mellifluous harmonies, phrasing and melodies characteristic of the early Renaissance. 

Yet is is overall still a Dave Douglas album, more rooted in modern jazz, and needless to say with exceptional musicianship. Even if ancient instruments like pump organ, lute and serpent are used, this does not give the music a real ancient feel. 

The album was commissioned by Handelsbeurs Theater, Ghent to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the painting, and the theater's artistic director, Wim Wabbes, has been instrumental in making the initiative work. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Tony Buck & Gianni Gebbia - The Fruitful Darkness (Objet-A, 2022)

16th Century

The album's cover art depicts a detail from Caravaggio's "Marta e Maria Maddalena" (approx. 1598). The musicians are Gianni Gebbia on Bb soprano, Eb baritone saxophone, cornettophone and electronics, with Tony Buck on drums and percussion. 

We mentioned earlier and here that Gebbia's music is inspired by old medieval and renaissance music. 

Even if the title - The Fruitful Darkness - refers to a book on zen buddhism by Joan Halifax, the musical environment is much influenced by religious music of the 16th Century. The first track, "Lament", does what it says: a slow and repeated theme expresses deep sorrow and sadness. Gebbia's sax explores the same theme with timbral variations, while Buck's percussive intensity creates a wonderful support and contrast to the sax, possibly showing the inner conflict and the outer form. It's a wonderful introduction to the lengthy "The Lorraine's Mirror Suite", a multilayered polyphonic composition based on a core theme that slowly expands and develops. Some parts escape from the early harmonies to become real fierce dialogues in modern fashion between horn and percussion, even if Gebbia's lyricism keeps referring to non-jazz sonic scales. Buck is exceptionally good, playing up a storm, and using his percussion more as a harmonic instrument than as a rhythmic one. The music is built on the concept of a Lorraine Mirror - or a black mirror as some call it - a tool used by painters because it reflected a landscape in saturated colours, and here used as an idea to intensify the music's sonic possibilities, including the strong juxtaposition between the real free jazz outbursts and the ancient harmonies. 

The album ends with "Ophikleide", a quieter piece performed on a soprano saxophone with no mouthpiece, with the same technique or embouchure of a cornetto. The warm sound is somewhat more wavering and hesitant, again contrasting with Buck's incessant power on his kit. 

Like on Gebbia's previous albums, the quality is high, including in the merging of old and new, the innovative use of old instruments and musical compositional methods, and here becoming even more powerful in the wonderful dialogue with the magnificent percussionist that Tony Buck is. 

Easy to recommend!

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Bastarda & Holland Baroque - Minne (Pentatone, 2022)

11th Century -17th Century

Three years ago, we reviewed "Ars Moriendi", by the Polish trio Bastarda, with Paweł Szamburski on clarinet, Michał Górczyński on contrabass clarinet, and Tomasz Pokrzywiński on cello. On this album they are accompanied by "Holland Baroque", an ensemble consisting of Judith Steenbrink, Katarina Aleksić, Giorgos Samoillis, Chloe Prendergast, Andrej Kapor, Emma Williams, Anna Jane Lester, Joseph Tan and Kirsti Apajalahti on violin, with Tineke Steenbrink on organ, accordeon, harp and harmonium, and Marie van Luijk on vocals. 

The common member of both ensembles is cellist Tomasz Pokrzywiński. The collaboration with the larger string ensemble gives Bastarda's music a more classical feel and more depth, but it also allows for stronger dramatic effects in the compositions. 

"Minne" in medieval Dutch means "love", and here in the context of the love poems by the 13th Century Brabant (now both in Belgium and the Netherlands) mystic Hadewych, whose love for Christ almost receives a respectful physical quality in all its spiritual yearning for unification, that is impossible to happen. 

The collaboration of both ensembles for this project is relatively unique, and the music's genre is boundary-breaking. It is not jazz, not folk and not classical music either, but a modern fusion of these styles into a meaningful and coherent new sound. The combination allows for easy melodies, orchestral arrangements, unexpected sonic explorations and theatrical moments that could be the soundtrack for a movie. Several of the pieces use material by medieval and baroque composers, such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594), Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), Heinrich Isaac (ca. 1450-1517) and Melchior Franck (ca. 1579-1639).

For avant-garde and free jazz fans this album may be a touch too welcoming, a little bit on the safe side, and insufficiently adventurous, yet the quality of the playing, including the improvisations, and the music will please most music lovers. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Battle Trance - Green of Winter (New Amsterdam, 2022) 

13th to 16th Century

Battle Trance is still something else. The band consists of four tenor saxophonists: Travis Laplante, Patrick Breiner, Matt Nelson and Jeremy Viner. Even if they do not directly refer to medieval inspiration for their music, it comes as close to Flemish polyphony as free jazz can get (or vice versa). With impressive circular breathing techniques, the quartet weaves a tapestry of different voices that move in the same direction but at different layers and at a different pitch, creating an unusual mesmerising sound that is both iconoclast and reverend. 

The medieval polyphony was originaly based on four male voices, called a "motet", derived from the Latin word "movere" or "moving", although other explanations exist, that it comes from the French "mot" or 'word', and was characterised by a lead voice - the cantus firmus - around which simultaneous contrapuntal melodies  were created and by the use of repetitive patterns or modes.

Willingly or not, Battle Trance's music fits perfectly in that tradition. The music is searching for an aesthetic that is lyrical, spiritual and moving, brought by complex compositional structures, including rhythm changes, with four voices that as easily develop into dissonance as into unexpected unison themes. 

The project is the result of a 20-day retreat when performances were stopped because of the pandemic. "Battle Trance found the perfect sound in the Big Barn, a warm and resonant structure, where the quartet spent hours experimenting with the old post-and-beam building’s tones before uncovering the best possible acoustical responsiveness for "Green of Winter"".

The result is music that defies categories but that possibly requires modern jazz and free improv fans to fully appreciate the quality of the music. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Micah Frank & Chet Doxas - The Music of Hildegard von Bingen Part One (Puremagnetik, 2022)

12th Century

Hildegard von Bingen (c. 1098 – 17 September 1179) "also known as Saint Hildegard and the Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German Benedictine abbess and polymath active as a writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary, and as a medical writer and practitioner during the High Middle Ages" (Wikipedia). 

It wouldn't be the first time that Hildegard von Bingen inspires jazz musicians. John Zorn's "Femina" (2009) is an example, as is Jan Garbarek's work with the Hilliard Ensemble on ECM: "Mnemosyne" (1999) and "Remember Me, My Dear" (2019), but also and lesser known on Noël Akchoté's "Loving Highsmith" (2020) and possibly a few more. 

This album is not really jazz, more ambient rather, even if musicians like David Torn (guitar), Jason Nazary (drums) and Michael Formanek (bass) participate on it. The music's true sound is created by the synthesizer of Micah Frank and the woodwinds of Chet Doxas, with programming by Kodomo on one track. 

Chet Doxas explains the nature of the music: “My counterpoint teacher spoke about her holistic approach to writing music. The natural world played a big part in her compositional voice. I’ve gleaned inspiration from her, allowing outside influences in my life to blend with my musical ideas. When I improvise with Micah, he often includes drones in his sound, while I play single note melodies or improvisations. This pairing is similar to early music, with a melody over the cantus firmus.”

The album presents a quiet soundscape in five parts, with different approaches to composing, improvising and working with the sound itself, as can be read in the liner notes. 

It is a pleasant album, not really groundbreaking or radical in its delivery, but worth checking out.

Listen and download from Bandcamp