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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Fiasco – Anger Artist (Unit Records, 2024)

By Don Phipps

Sonically intense, Fiasco’s Anger Artist is a mix of funk and abstract themes offered up in an unabashed prog rock setting. The result – first rate provocative yet enjoyable music that moves the soul while stretching the imagination.

Take the challenging title cut “Anger Artist,” which explodes virtually at the seams. Dougherty’s opening abstract guitar line exhibits robust vitality before settling into a solid rock rhythm. Combined with Arnold’s muscular bass plunks, Butler’s hard snare strikes, and Frankhouse’s sax rambles, the music climbs and swirls like stirred cream in coffee. As the song progresses, the piece (devolves-evolves) into bizarre electronic war zone effects and Frankhouse generates a dark and foreboding line that sounds like it comes from the unknown reaches of the galaxy.

This intensity is followed by the decidedly sedate “Before Times,” a gorgeous number that reflects a slow-motion landscape – almost as though one is climbing some new mountain trail, the cool wind blowing gently – making skin come to life. Dougherty’s lyrical arc floats like a feather and the effect is reinforced by Frankhouse’s broad legato phrasing.

While the band relies on electronic distortions, this does not hide the beauty of the various album compositions. Instead, it brings it home. One can mosh to the hard rock beat of “Golden Parachute.” Or shake to the prog rock energy of “Drop Test,” as Frankhouse’s fuzzed up sound adds to jarring but exciting music; and later, when combined with Dougherty’s abstractions to create a unified chorus, carries the listener on a fascinating journey to the number’s surprisingly sudden end. And the funky “Content,” with its swooping lines, feels like a bird gliding effortlessly over hard-blowing wind currents.

Finally, the composition “Bleak _ Dark” manages to distill the beauty of this album into a singularity. One can marvel at Dougherty’s gentle picks as Frankhouse’s sweet sax enters above. Then the theme emerges – as guitar and sax play a soaring, broad anthem in unison. As the song continues, a heavy beat emerges that seems to climb upward as Frankhouse’s squeals push the energy along.

There is much to admire in this effort – one might even use the word love. Certainly, a live concert would be of interest – where the artists likely explore their muscular offerings endlessly without time constraints. As it is, Anger Artist is Fiasco’s glorious offering – a wonderful combination of bitter almond and sweet fragrance.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Brandon Lopez, Chris Corsano, Sam Yulsman – The Mess - Alive at Issue (Eshu) (Self-Released, 2020)

By Matty Bannond

Empty space punctuates this album. Recorded live at the ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn during 2020, it’s a free improvisation divided into two tracks that are split again into segments. Sounds rise up, recede, reset and return. Tempers change and meteorological systems pass. It’s music to put listeners on the edge of their seats, sure. But it also feels like music that pulls the players closer to their instruments, straining to catch the sound before it flies out into the room and gone.

Sam Yulsman operates the piano via keyboard and hands reaching in beneath the lid. Brandon Lopez plays the double bass, via plucking and bowing (at least). They are joined by Chris Corsano on drums, who uses every micron of the kit to deliver a startling range of sounds and ideas. Across its many moods, the album is always marked by sensitive and generous interplay.

Track one, “Alive”, makes a tentative start. Spookiness dissolves into silence. It’s a pulsing performance with shapes and shades jumping in and out of view. Fingertips shiver on skins and cymbals. The temperature rises and there are fidgety sections, but the group finds drone-driven moments too. And always, empty spaces pop up to wipe the slate clean before the next sketch.

“ESHU” is another slow burner. The bass is chattering and the percussion adds a clicky, bird-beakish sound. Piano puts new energy in the room after four minutes and the velocity rises. Listeners get a wider assortment of extended techniques here, nestled between those breaks in the weather. The record’s only truly hectic passage arrives close to the end of the track.

This trio brings together rising figures in the experimental scene—and the young improvisers don’t rush in. Corsano, Lopez and Yulsman permit the music to emerge and re-emerge organically. Their imaginations combine, re-combine and re-re-combine with mesmerizing variations. Let this music pull you closer to your speakers before it flies out into the room. And gone.

The album is available on vinyl and as a digital download here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Pharoah Sanders - Thembi (Elemental Music, 2024)

By David Cristol

In addition to its limited-edition archival releases of Cannonball Adderley, Yusef Lateef, Sun Ra, Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy, and Chet Baker & Jack Sheldon, the Catalonian Elemental Music label reissues Pharoah Sanders’ album Thembi on 180g vinyl. The gatefold cover reproduces the original art of the 1971 release on Impulse! with a large black and white photo of Sanders in action covering two-thirds of the open panel, plus smaller photos of musicians, a poem by Keorapetse Kgositsile, track titles and complete credits. Also identical to the original edition, the round stickers on both sides of the LP itself. Musically, the album has perhaps more in common with Sanders’ “Tauhid”, (1967) than with “Karma” (1969, both on Impulse! as well) and its lengthy statement The creator has a masterplan, with follow-up sides digging into the same groove, to great effect as on “Black Unity”. Unlike those, “Thembi” is an album of contrasting sounds, colors and moods. It was made in two sessions by a core trio of Sanders (on soprano and tenor saxophones, flutes, bells, koto, fife and percussion), Lonnie Liston Smith (acoustic and electric piano, percussion) and Cecil McBee (bass), joined on side A (recorded November 1970 in Los Angeles) by Michael White (violin), James Jordan (ring cymbals) and Clifford Jarvis (drums) and on side B (committed to tape January 1971 in New York) by Roy Haynes (drums) and a quartet of African drums and percussion players.

Each side has three compositions of moderate length, three by Sanders, one by Smith, one co-credited to Sanders and Smith and one by Cecil McBee. Astral traveling is a seductive opener, with its waves of hyper-vibrating electric piano, its raspy but restrained saxophone playing and its supple and warm bass contributing to the meditative atmosphere. Smith would reprise the tune on his 1973 album, unsurprisingly also titled “Astral Traveling”. Things get wild on Red, Black and Green, multiple gripping saxophone screams superimposed on top of each other in the introduction. The song progresses from that initial cry to less hostile waters while maintaining the superloaded approach to the end: one for the free jazz anthologies. Thembi (Sanders’ South African wife’s name, abbreviated from Nomathemba) is by contrast a miniature, lighter and upbeat version of the extended workouts Pharoah is known for. The association of instruments works wonders, Michael White’s violin a particular highlight. The spiritual quest continues on side B with Love (a freeform bass solo by McBee), that segues into Morning Prayer, starting off with koto and morphing into a magic carpet ride swarming with percussion and the leader’s breathy flute and mighty tenor, and Bailophone Dance , where hard-hitting African drums are joined by several wind instruments in succession from Sanders (tenor, flute, fife), with shouts and bird chirps courtesy Smith and McBee.

Those elements make for a satisfying listen and are a reminder that Sanders (1940-2022) had found a singular path after his association with John Coltrane. Over five decades later, the best manifestations of his visions still stand the test of time. 

N.B. This reissue of Thembi is licensed for Spain and Portugal exclusively.

Available from Jazz Messengers (Lisbon & Spain) and Guerssen (Barcelona)


This review is also appearing on the Portuguese Jazz website, in Portuguese here.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Matthew Shipp and Ivo Perelman – Magical Incantation (Soul City Sounds, 2024)

By Sammy Stein

What is it about the musical connection between Matthew Shipp and Ivo Perelman? Both are accomplished musicians, and both can hold attention on their own, but it is when they record together that the heart of each musician is revealed just a little more. It is conceivable that due to the number of recordings they have made together, the time may come when the music becomes predictable. However, that time feels a long way off. Because both are complex musicians with multiple influences and the ability to execute changes of style, tone, and atmosphere in a heartbeat, the possibilities are endless – and while they may have explored a small section of their musical potential, Magical Incantations, out on Soul City Sounds on 3 rd May 2024, demonstrates they are not done yet. The duo finds more ways to interact, react, and interpret ideas. Their exploratory natures mean they bounce ideas off each other – some work, some not so much – but the intention to push the boundaries of piano and tenor saxophone and the way they combine and converse, means they find new roads to travel musically and seem to relish the different approaches.

Watching the evolution of a musician is interesting and because Perelman records so prolifically with a range of different musicians, his journey is ongoing. Like Shipp, he has many influences and both musicians have a history steeped in musical education and experiences. On ‘Prayer’ for example, Perelman delivers a warm, melodic, introspective rumination and remains in the lower register, proving his respected altissimo is not the only register he can communicate in with profound effect. Shipp, meanwhile, intuitively contrasts with gentle counterpointed melodies on the piano.

The music on this recording ranges from fast, gentle but furious anecdotes swapped and batted back and forth – such as on ‘Rituals,’ where Shipp lays down tricky rhythms while Perelman shifts from altissimo to lower register and back in full flow – to gorgeous, rounded sections such as those from both players on ‘Lustihood’. Musical intuition abounds on tracks including the stand-out ‘Enlightenment’ where Shipp delivers a wealth of ideas that Perelman takes, shapes, and throws across the top for Shipp to capture and reflect. The concluding section of this number is beautiful.

On ‘Sacred Values’ there is an atmosphere of mystery and awe with both players introducing a sense of respect and almost tentative entry at times. The deep rolling piano provides the perfect backdrop for Perelman’s delivery at times, while at others, Shipp withdraws, leaving Perelman floating exposed across the top. The rising section is magnificent from both players as Shipp connects with what Perelman is doing and the texture and volume swells.

‘Incarnation’ is jumpy, forceful, and packed with energy, while ‘Vibrational Essence’ is as fugal as a two-part piece can be, with Shipp delivering classical-influenced lines transcending the keys in equal intervals and eloquent changes before Perelman enters.

Magical Incantation is atmospheric, thoughtful, and subtly powered by Shipp as he introduces changes of key and emphasis, to which Perelman reacts in Perelman fashion with a series of switches, ascensions, and descents of the keys. His musical reflexes are on point.

Perelman and Shipp have delivered another piece of their continuing musical dialogue – as beautiful and profound as much of their work before. Their multiple influences can be heard, from blues and classical music to freeform and complete improvisation and their ability to tell stories with music is a delight. One issues an invitation by pressing on with a distinct rhythm or pattern and the other either accepts the invitation and backs the other or invites the other to follow them as they diverge from the original concept – or maybe they come back to it. There is structure to the pieces however and they are not simply improvised meanderings that have no beginning, middle, and end. It is this structure that reflects the hardened learning of both musicians and displays their understanding of how music needs to make sense, to prevent it becoming simply noise. Shipp and Perelman prove music is a continuous journey and here, it feels as if two outstanding improvisers who understand each other have found the perfect partner to travel some of that journey with.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Clean Feed Tribute: Shhpuma Too!

Our celebration of Clean Feed records comes to a close today with a focus on Shhpuma Records, Clean Feed's sister label.

Stuart Broomer:

Luís Lopes - Love Song: Post Ruins (Shhpuma, 2019)

Luís Lopes might be the artist appearing most frequently on Clean Feed and the sister Shhpuma label. He’s an intensely engaged guitarist who covers a range of approaches with many collaborators. His bands can range from free funk (Humanization 4-tet) to hard-edged composition (Lisbon Berlin Quartet) to large ensembles, always embodying intensity, a sense of freedom and commitment that can jolt. Even his solo music covers a remarkable range, from the noise solos of Lisbon Paris (Stereo Noise Solo) to the subtle nylon-string acoustic play of Love Song, Emmentes. Love Song: Post Ruins stands out, for this writer, as one of the most original and sustained – in every sense -- solo guitar works I’ve heard, his usual thin-line archtop lightly amplified, adding just a certain brightness and sustain to its sonic character. Lopes describes it as a nocturne: “To listen alone. somewhere between after 1 o’clock in the morning and 1 hour before sunrise."

It's quietly involving from start to finish, a wonder of psychological states and relations: always considered, yet spontaneous; always continuous, yet surprising, essaying a changing mood at once reflective and tinged with revelation. It’s sufficiently intimate to suggest a man talking to a guitar, or perhaps, more accurately, a guitar talking—reflecting, consoling, exploring moods, shifting positions, always constructing a space as alive to revelation as consolation or reconciliation. There are moments when semi-tones will gather in tense conclave; others when a bright single tone will repeatedly ring out until it eventually gathers a reaction, whether supportive or questioning, the guitar echoing the sustained concord or close-knit caution. Harmonics can ring out like a choir.

It's a sustained work (37:28) of late-night, contemplative, wondrous guitar music, sui generis, but with a certain quality of elemental kinship – nothing you could pin down to harmony or methodology, country of origin or astrology chart – to certain performances of the highest order, Grant Green’s Idle Moments or Derek Bailey’s Ballads.

An interview with Clean Feed's Travassos

To wrap up our celebration of Clean Feed, we reached out to Travassos, designer of Clean Feed's covers, curator of sister label Shhpuma, and electronic musician to tell us about his work and influences. Album cover images were drawn from the rich collection on Shhpuma's Bandcamp site. Throughout the week's celebration of Clean Feed, many other of Travassos' designs have been featured.

Photo by Petra Cvelbar

FJB: What is your greatest joy in improvised music?

T: My greatest joy it's breathing the feeling of freedom. No other form of music has the same open field as improvisation. It's an art of expression, an art of listening, of concentration, of imagination and instinct, of sharing the right amount of energy. It's not for everyone. It requires a lot of expertise and mastery. That's probably why my favourite improvised projects are the working bands, the ones that continuously explore the possibilities and know their partners from the heart.

Even so it's a very established form of making music with lots of vices and repetition of the same methods over and over. Reinvention is always urgent.

What do you look/listen for when you choose what releases on Shhpuma?

Shhpuma was born with the intent to release music without a fit on Clean Feed. In the beginning we were interested in releasing more marginally related jazz music. Rapidly, we changed that pathway and  started to accept all the music as long as we believed it was worth it.

What I look at when listening to a new proposal is to be fascinated with music more out of the box, different, inventive and original. Sometimes I listen to a record more than 20 times to make sure it´s the right one.

I'm really proud of Shhpuma´s late release: Caveira - Ficar Vivo, it's a blast.

What quality of the music for which you design covers influences your aesthetical choices the most?

If I genuinely like the music presumably, I will feel an extra excitement. But I consistently try to be a professional and take the most satisfaction from each design.

Which historical designer or label's design do you admire the most?

Blue Note and covers by Mati Klarweinis are an inescapable reference. Recently, I've liked Rune Grammofon and Astral Spirits. Anyway, I never felt directly influenced by any, I'm rather interested in following my own path.

If you could redesign any historical album's design, what would it be?

I don't have that dream. Those covers will always be related to that specific record. Bad covers in Jazz are, unfortunately, abundant compared with other genres. Mostly a consequence of precarious low budgets and some scarcity of visual culture. So I wouldn't know where to start. In the end I just hope to give my contribution to improve the overall scenario.

What would you still like to achieve design-wise in your life?

I would wish to continue to impress myself and to keep pushing boundaries like an endless search - fighting to not fall in the easy ways of doing it. Discipline, abstraction and love are necessary.

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

Off courseI love all the music. Pop music is an inevitable reference to all of us. Recently, I've been curating playlists of pop music for my daughters and it has been a great joy. Just to name a few: The Doors, Queen, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Rolling Stones, PortisheadTalking Heads, B52, Prince, The Clash, Radiohead, The Cure, Joy Division...this list is endless.

I confess that I don't pay much attention to pop music these days. But I do like the Idles and Marina Herlop very much.

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

I wish I could be less anxious. I´m working on that every day.

Which of your album designs are you most proud of?

I have now made almost 800 covers, it's difficult to choose. I'm proud of the majority of them.

Once an album with your design is released, do you revisit it? And how often?

I always love to feel in my hands the printed outcome of a design, and make a complete analysis of the final result. I revisit them predominantly if the music interests me.

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

I'm not the kind of person fixed in certain albums. Although I can say that the artist that I have listened to the most in my entire life is Monk. I never get tired of it. But also Sun Ra, Morton Feldman, Pharoah Sanders, The Stooges, Suicide or Oren Ambarchi, among many others.

What are you listening to at the moment?

I'm constantly listening to music all day. I'm completely addicted.

Besides all the stuff from Clean Feed and Shhpuma, here is a list of things that I've listened more than once in the last month: The Vampires' Sound Incorporation - Psychedelic Dance Party, Darius Jones - fLuXkit Vancouver, Zoviet France (Several), Terry Callier - What Color Is Love, Oren Ambarchi - Sagittarian Domain, Chat Pile - God's Country, Philip Jeck & Chris Watson - Oxmardyke, Hotel Spojár
 - Škvíry & Spoje, Emily Robb - If I Am Misery Then Give Me Affection, Angelika Niescier/Tomeka Reid/ Savannah Harris - Beyond Dragons, Steven Stapleton & David Tibet - The Dead Side Of The Moon, Xenakis - Persepolis, Éliane Radigue - L'Île Re-Sonante.

What artist outside music inspires you?

I don't have any special artists. I like to be influenced by everything. The sum of all the small parts contributes to form us as an entity and human being. 

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Bill Frisell at XJazz Festival, Lausitzer Platz, Berlin, 5/9/2024

Photo by Beat Halberschmidt / Victor's Places

The pulse of doof-doof resonates throughout the contemporary church, psyching up the Berlin punters for a night with the gentile American guitar legend, Bill Frisell. Soon after, the beat is switched up to a kind of Sunday chill-out groove, contemporary soul; the volume, slightly lowered. Before long, the techno is back. Only in Berlin.

In an act of public defiance, one anarchic, heavy-set man ignores the safety barrier to sit on the church organ stool. Soon after he is shooed away by a shocked sound engineer. It’s a rebellious city, this one. There are a good handful of Frisell clones in the audience and one guy who looks strikingly like bass player Nick Dunston. Turns out it is Nick Dunston. He’s in the support band. Most of the Bill fanboys hover around the guitar side of the stage, taking photographs of Bill’s resting guitar and his little collection of stuffed animals, all within grabbing distance. The crowd is split into two distinct areas: the guitar side, which is dense, and the piano side, sparse. Lotta greys in the church tonight but there was one silver-haired lady with a lip stud piercing, reminding you once again of the city you’re in.

Tonight's demographic? Old, white, but interesting. Bill is apparently some kind of style icon. He alone is responsible for the look of the circular glasses, the likes of which so many have since adopted. Is this a coincidence? An homage? For every clone, there is an atypical, younger counterpoint. The woman with the Kraftwerk Autobahn tote wins the merch game this evening.

Support act trumpeter Anthony Hervey commands the stage in his electric blue oversized shirt covered in bright yellow fans. The print is as fun and confident as the bouncy compositions.

“We play the way we live,” Hervey announces, “We’re gonna have a good time.”

It’s the speedier second piece that really wins over the crowd. The first trumpet solo cracks the ice and is met with thunderous applause which resonates up into the church’s high ceiling. Jesus is giving a thumbs up.

Pianist Johannes Von Ballestrem’s sock game is strong: rainbow argyle. At one point, he is offered the space for a sweet and delicate piano solo that segues into one of those jazz songs that comes on in the movie when the protagonist is strolling along in the moonlight, alone in the rain, wondering where it all went wrong in his life, possibly contemplating suicide, but most likely just in need of some tenderness and understanding, in the form of hard liquor. You know the kind of tune I’m talking about. During a ballad, some guy with a set of keys on his belt wanders the periphery of the room offering a free Wollesonic massage to every seated person he passes, and smacking one woman in the face.

Hervey’s anthem “Soul Food” is hard to resist. Guest singer Natalie Greffel is so contagiously joyful - she lights up the room with her happiness. When Hervey picks up the trumpet during the following song, folks in the audience are hyped and shouting "Woo" and "Yeah" before his solo is even over. It’s really infectious. The passive side is bopping. The "Bill" side is even starting to catch on. At any rate, the support act is qualified and fun. I’m so happy that Anthony decided to learn to play the trumpet because he is so good at it.

During the pause, the lines for the bar and the loo extend out the door of the church. Strategically, drinking is a bad idea as both queues are glacially slow. A few people appear to have obtained the elusive blood of christ, thanks be to the bar staff.

Beat Halberschmidt / Victor's Places
There is no bathroom backstage. This becomes apparent when the man of the hour is escorted through the crowd to use the one in the lobby – it's occupied. Everyone is playing it cool and just casually ignoring the awkward situation. Moments before the concert starts a conversation is overheard: “As these legendary musicians age, sure they lose their technical virtuosity but they gain… something else.”
Maybe it's patience. From time to time as he’s playing, a small smile escapes Bill’s lips. He’s famously gentle and introverted, yet confident and sure of his aural statement. Inquisitive picking and delay-pedal combos make for some satisfyingly obtuse harmonies. It starts out as mysterious, tending towards becoming a little repetitive, but soon enough we are blessed with some slightly prettier delayed loops to balance things out. A beer bottle rolls past in amateur accompaniment.

Bill seems totally elated and humbled by all the attention. During his only stage banter for the night, he can’t help but comment on the warm adoration and vast sea of fans, of which he is right in the middle: ”It’s like the Beatles or something!”

There is no doubting Frisell’s ability to write a tune, and indeed to play, still. You just have to be willing to come along on his journey, which is conducted at his pace. For some, that pace might be a little slow, but for the guy next to me, this was probably the best night of 2024. Maybe even his whole life. Not a song went by without an audible gasp, or an exclamation of joyous disbelief, both in German and English. Some people did appear to start yawning, others swayed with closed eyes. Sometimes Frisell just gets absorbed into his little world and it just loops around; mesmerising and hypnotic. It’s a mood.

People are getting tired of standing so they begin casually sitting down. The space and the music allows for it though, and it’s not particularly awkward. Rudy Royston’s drum solo brings the house down - a testament to just how restrained he has been this whole time. Actually, Rudy often steals the show, ever so subtly.

Beat Halberschmidt / Victor's Places
A good Frisell song feels like coming home to a familiar embrace with someone who has missed you very much. They've been wondering how you are, and can't wait to hear all your stories. One can't help but be moved by a slightly overdriven, lead-break over a seemingly familiar main melody. But it’s never too long before the dissonance returns, as Bill doesn't seem to want to let anyone get too emotionally attached all at once. He still has more than a few secrets and surprises left.

Bill’s classic version of the theme from On Her Majesty's Secret Service closes out the evening and some audience members appear to be having a religious experience. It’s an effortless encore and Bill returns to the stage, genuinely overjoyed at the thunderous ovation. Berlin absolutely loves him, and seeing his humble delight was nothing short of heartwarming. He deserves the spotlight, and all the accolades. Sure, at 73, he’s in his autumn years, but Bill is all set - a beautiful church performance like this guarantees his entry to the Pearly Gates. Long may his entry be delayed.

Bill Frisell, guitar
Thomas Morgan, bass
Rudy Royston, drums

Anthony Hervey, trumpet
Johannes Von Ballestrem, piano
Nick Dunston, bass
Ugo Alunni, drums
Natalie Greffel, vocals

Clean Feed Tributes (3/3)

 Be sure to see day 1 and day 2 of our celebration of Clean Feed.

Stef Gijssels:

 Clean Feed and the discovery of modern jazz bands

Clean Feed also has had the knack to identify new bands who never released any albums before. The label's reach was relatively broad, ranging from what we could call 'modern creative' jazz to fully improvised music. Regardless of the style or subgenre, the musicianship together with the quality and coherence of the music always determined the selection for the release, but possibly even more so was the band's singular musical voice and approach. Needless to say that the recording quality is also excellent.

I select a few albums that illustrate this for me. From the tender story-telling of Baloni, the free chamber americana of Ballrogg, the trancendental sound of the Alipio C. Neto Quartet, the psychedelic listening experience of The Godforgottens, the marching band of Fight The Big Bull, the re-hashed bluesy tunes of Roots Magic, the ephemeral avant-garde of Memorize The Sky, to the terror jazz of The Ames Room, these are all albums that are artsy, 'independent' in movie critic terms, bands that stood out of the crowd because of their interesting and creative vision on how music could sound, familiar and yet innovative and boundary-breaking at the same time, welcoming and requiring active attention by the listener ... and of course the inimitable and infectious Angles, a band that was a kind combining all of this. 

There are of course many more examples, but looking back, these records showed something else, something that few other labels would invest in, because of their unconventential sound. "Who is the audience?" I hear other labels ask. 'It's too unusual for traditional jazz lovers, it's too gentle for free jazz addicts, it's too composed for free improv afficionados'. Clean Feed showed that they cared about the music, less about the mental boxes. Thanks for all these great discoveries. All these albums remain little treasures to cherish. 


Petra Cvelbar, photographer:

Clean Feed was one of my doors of entry into a new world of improvised music. I started to follow the label in 2010, at a time when I was also getting serious about photographing music. The most special album for me is Angles 8's By Way of Deception, Live in Ljubljana. Graphic designer Travassos used one of my photos for the cover and it was our first collaboration. I loved the band, which was a fresh discovery and I liked how everything turned out – both the music and the layout. The follow-up album Angles 9 Injuries is also often on my playlist. Another dear album is Joe McPhee's Sonic Elements. Hearing Joe’s music for the first time at the concert blew me away, after which Travassos & Pedro Costa picked some of my photos for the cover and inner sleeve. It’s actually pretty hard to choose out the albums from the great legacy of the label, but for sure they influenced and broadened my music photography language in many aspects.


Sarah Grosser:

The Killing Popes - Ego Kills (2021)

On Bandcamp it says that there are 200 limited edition green vinyl pressings of The Killing Popes Ego Kills, but I know for a fact that there are just 199, because the one I ordered in the mail was completely obliterated by the post. It was as if someone had folded the vinyl it in half on purpose. I will never forget the sound it made when I unpacked it: the sound of splitting plastic, crumbling into pieces against the cardboard packaging - shattered, like my heart.

Thank heavens Oli Steidle sent me a replacement because the music slaps.


Nuno Catarino, critic and editor at

Adam Lane / Ken Vandermark / Magnus Broo / Paal Nilssen-Love - 4 Corners (2013)

Reunited at the suggestion of Pedro Costa (Clean Feed), Ken Vandermark, Magnus Broo, Adam Lane, and Paal Nilssen-Love forged their collaboration as a quartet in the city of Coimbra, Portugal, during the Jazz Ao Centro festival in June 2006. Over three consecutive nights, the quartet played late-night sets at the warm Salão Brazil, in an “after hours” ambiance. The two North Americans, Lane and Vandermark, brought the compositions and the two Nordics, Broo and Nilssen-Love, got along. Vandermark left aside his usual tenor saxophone and showcased his versatility playing clarinet, bass clarinet, and baritone saxophone, displaying mastery across all three. Broo's trumpet soared with supersonic energy, adding layers of intensity. Lane's bass provided a robust foundation, occasionally incorporating distortion, while Nilssen-Love's drums drove the rhythm. From fiery close-to-hardbop numbers to tender ballads, the quartet demonstrated impeccable chemistry and musicianship. The audience observed the growth of the group along those three nights as the quartet set Coimbra on fire with its electrifying contemporary jazz. Fortunately, these performances were preserved in this album, a pure gem within a rich catalogue.


Marcello Lorrai, writer and critic with Il Manifesto and Radio Popolare:

Rob Mazurek – Milan (Clean Feed, 2024)

At Radio Popolare, an independent radio station in Milan founded in 1976, we have a little auditorium with a stage and 99 seats. I have attended many of Rob Mazurek’s concerts over the years, also his wedding in Sardinia in 2012, and have developed a friendship with him. Last year in May, I invited Rob to take part, along with Corrado Beldì, the artistic director of Novara Jazz, in my weekly radio program “Jazz Anthology” for a live presentation of the upcoming 2023 edition of the festival – where Rob was playing with the Exploding Star Orchestra and others projects – and to perform something during the show. Rob was pleased to find a piano in the auditorium and played two solo pieces with piccolo trumpet, piano, bells and voice. He enjoyed the acoustics of the place, and felt good with our technicians. 

The next evening during dinner, Rob reminded me of his solo album recorded in 2014 in Rome at the Italian State-owned radio-television Rai studios by the program “Rai Radiotre Suite Jazz”, resulting on the Clean Feed album entitled Rome and said: “What about a solo album recorded at Radio Popolare and entitled “Milan”? I can ask Clean Feed if they would publish it.”  

In the following weeks we agreed for a three-day residency at Radio Popolare in September, and I suggested beginning with a solo performance broadcasted live during the show. On September 25th, 2023 at 11 p.m. “Jazz Anthology” was on the air with a dozen friends in the room. After a short introduction, Rob started his solo. We agreed on letting the performance go non-stop until about 10 minutes before the end of the program, so we could have a little live talk after it. The solo turned out amazing. At 11.50 Rob stopped : I didn’t understand for sure if he was taking a break or if it was the end of the piece, and in doubt I preferred not interrupting the magic; from his side, seeing that I was not speaking, Rob thought he had to play some more, and played until a few seconds before the end of the program, just in time for me to thank the audience for their attention. It was a fortunate misunderstanding. We had a 50-minutes solo, perfectly rounded by the wonderful last ten minutes. During the next two days Rob recorded new material with the technicians, also in the auditorium. We listened to and mixed the new tracks, and Rob was satisfied with the result, thinking of releasing the “studio” recordings.

We didn’t listen to the recording of the live performance; I just told Rob that in my opinion that first evening of performance during the show had a strong and beautiful coherence, with great artistic value. At the last moment – almost for doubt’s sake – Rob agreed to listen to those live recordings. He immediately felt it was something of worth, and decided to use the live recordings – without any editing, only mixing – for the Clean Feed record Milan.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Clean Feed Tributes (2/3)

 Be sure to see day 1 of our celebration of Clean Feed.


Taylor McDowell:

Cortex - Avant-Garde Party Music (2017)

Certain albums - the combination of the music, title and cover art - evoke feelings and solicit expectations. Cortex’s Avant-Garde Party Music does so for me. Should we expect danceable, hummable, jubillous and free-wheeling sounds from this strain of party music? Hell yes, we should! Consider the cover art: an older woman, suit-clad in mustard yellow, slightly hunched and facing away; the tongue-in-cheek aloofness/politeness to be the face of such outrageously free and swinging music. And lastly the musicians: a sort of A-team of Norweigian improvisers - Thomas Johansson (trumpet), Kristoffer Alberts (saxophones), Ola Høyer (bass) and Gard Nilssen (drums). The result? One of my favorite albums of this last decade. It’s unpretentious, it’s fun, and it’s full of soul. It’s got all of the raw, abrasive skronk to feed my inner free-jazz fiend, but is still chock-full of memorable melodies and hearty swing. Dare I say, should I play it at the next social shindig it would hold court to some of the more adventurous party-goers.


Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra - Les Deux Versants se Regardent (2016)

You always find new artists with new labels, and thanks to Clean Feed I got to know the French pianist Eve Risser, a composer-improviser-bandleader with a rich and completely unorthodox imagination. Les Deux Versants se Regardent (The Two Sides Look at Each Other, reviewed for the Free Jazz Collective by Lee Rice Epstein) is one of six albums that Risser released through Clean Feed and the only one with White Desert Orchestra (she released another album with the Red Desert Orchestra, Clean Feed, 2022), and still one of my favorite albums of hers. It reflects on a mystical experience Risser had when visiting Bryce Canyon in Utah, where the thousands of fairy chimneys reaching to the sky seemed to her “an enormous choir of singers ready to intone the most powerful of earthly songs”. The chamber tenet - White Desert Orchestra, with Risser on prepared piano - radiates beautifully Risser’s inclusive and always poetic sonic universe that embraces and experiments with intricate elements of contemporary music, jazz, post-rock and ambient, often at the same time, but never surrenders to familiar courses. It is inventive and dreamy, playful and wild. Pure magic music that transforms the timeless vibrations of the earth into healing vibrations. Thank Eve Risser, Clean Feed and Pedro Costa for such a great album.


Don Phipps

Why the Chris Pitsiokos Clean Feed album “Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years” Deserves Special Recognition

It was tough to narrow the selection to a single album from the Clean Feed discography and say this one deserves recognition above all others. Suffice it to say, there were five most excellent finalists:

  • Matthias Spillmann Trio: “Live at the Bird’s Eye Jazz Club”
  • Ilia Belorukov, Gabriel Ferrandini: “Disquiet”
  • Caterina Palazzi Sudoku Killer: “Asperger”
  • Chris Pitsiokos: “Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years”
  • Chris Pitsiokos, Susana Santos Silva, Torbjörn Zetterberg: “Child Of Illusion”

All of these albums are excellent and worth spending time with for sure! But there can be only one winner. And the winner is?

What makes the album the crème de la crème?

When I reviewed this album for another website (All About Jazz), I used the following words to describe it: “adventurous, hair-raising, mind-bending, dense, fibrous, layered, hallucinogenic, twisted.” Why these words? Pitsiokis’s album is extremely trippy and defies categorization. I described it as “Beyond Jazz.”

The album contains three definitive masterpieces: “Positional Play,” with its accelerated future sound, the title cut “Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years,: which features Pitsiokos’ breathless sax play and some ear-bending guitar work (courtesy of Sam Lisabeth), and “Anthropod,” with its eerie phrasing and disturbing, gruesome musical imagery.

I loved it then and I love it now. And as one in the autumn of his years, it truly is a silver bullet. Enjoy!

Is this, to borrow a phrase, the shape of jazz to come? Or perhaps this might be the shock of jazz to come. Like a drug-induced trip to Burrough's Interzone, the beyond jazz music of Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years awaits.


By Nick Ostrum:

Angles – Every Woman is a Tree (2008)

I had followed Martin Küchen through various projects by the time I came across this album: Exploding Customer, Trespass Trio, a couple gradualist releases on Creative Sources. Every Woman is a Tree, however, opened my ears. It spoke with a soulful melodicism laying somewhere between Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. Yet, somehow, it sounded fresh. Anyone familiar with the Angles series – now eleven releases deep – or the work of the other Norse contributing to this first incarnation – Magnus Broo, Mats Äleklint, Mattias Ståhl, Knell Nordeson, Johan Berthling – likely already knows some of the contours of this these earnest and pleaful lamentaitons that pointedly burst with ebullience, but at the time it was a revelation to me.

Evelyn Davis, Fred Frith, Phillip Greenlief - Lantskap Logic (2018)

In 2019, I wrote a rather gushing review of this first (of two) releases by this trio. Referring to the first track, Your ever-loving arms, I said, “The tones elevate. Rather than evoking gloom as some of the albums I recently reviewed have, this one evokes light and elevation. Rather than congestion, one feels space, motion, and, at the end, elation. Listening to this track is like traveling a path towards some abstract state of elation. The textures are deep, varied, and changing.” The second track was both lurid and dark, comprised of curious origin.(Nod to Greenlief for correcting at least one of my misattributions of these.) In the end, I referred to it as “absolutely stunning.” Upon revisitation, it still is. This album remains as enigmatic and enchanting as it was a half-decade ago.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Clean Feed Tributes (1/3)

Dear readers, in case you are wondering about the focus on Clean Feed this week, let me briefly explain. Earlier this year, we were shocked to see a message from Clean Feed head Pedro Costa announcing that after over 20 years it was likely that the label would be shutting down at the end of the year. Contemplating this bleak news, we felt we needed to do something.


David Cristol:

After I got into jazz and improvised music, it took a long time before I had a notion of an existing Portuguese scene in those fields – only the name Carlos Zingaro was vaguely familiar, playing with French proponents of the latter approach and appearing on labels closer to home. Clean Feed was therefore entirely responsible for opening my consciousness, and ears, to a wide and ever widening pool of creative artists, in the same manner as Tzadik and Avant from New York were opening my vistas to lesser-known contemporary composers (through the "Composer series") or Japanese performers (the "New Japan" category) I had only heard about. 

If landmarks are useful up to a point, what I like about Clean Feed is that it has no categories, hierarchies, no flag-waving or obvious indication of where the music comes from or what it’s going to sound like. Records and bands are not separated under banners, all albums appear equal, with only the listener's ears and curiosity to make out the music and forge an opinion about it. Like entering into a movie theater without knowing what the film's about. At most you recognize some names on the cover or poster. So, you get the maximum effect from the work itself, without preconceptions or prejudice. You're in for some surprises, mostly good ones. Music is an artform that doesn't need borders, as it doesn't need too many words attached to it. Finally, each release feels like a labor of love from all involved.

Favorite records include Rodrigo Amado's "Wire Quartet" (with Hernâni Faustino, another early Clean Feed associate, on bass), Hugo Carvalhais' "Grand Valis", Avram Fefer's "Testament", "Ticonderoga" by Joe McPhee, Jamie Saft, Joe Morris and Charles Downs, Baloni's albums, Warriors of the Wonderful Sound playing the music of Muhal Richard Abrams, Tony Malaby's "Tamarindo Live", "Ninth Square" by the Evan Parker/Joe Morris/Nate Wooley trio, "Sounding Tears" by the Evan Parker/Mat Maneri/Lucian Ban trio, Pharoah Sanders' collaboration with Rob Mazurek Chicago/Sao Paulo Underground (a live recording split between a LP and a CD), Ivo Perelman/Daniel Levin/Torbjörn Zetterberg's double CD "Soulstorm", Luis Lopes and  Julien Desprez's "Boa Tarde" LP on Shhpuma.  Recent listens are just as revelatory such as Caveiras' "Ficar Vivo" on Shhpuma. The label's legacy is such, however, that there remain dozens of albums I haven’t heard yet.


Paul Acquaro:

My introduction to Clean Feed occurred many years ago (in 2010), when I came across a review by Stef of an album by Portuguese bassist Carlos Barretto. Labirintos by Barretto's Lokomotiv quartet had just the right combination of rock and avant-garde leanings to really capture my early developing interest in experimental music. I was coming from a steady diet of main-stream jazz, fusion (ohh, way too much of it), and rock, and Lokomotiv hit all the right notes. Going back and listening to this album and the earlier self-titled Lokomotiv is a nice marker for me of how different my listening habits are now, and also just how good this music still sounds.
Another album that caught my ear, a little later, was the post-rock / out-jazz quartet of Lawnmower featuring the duel guitars of Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton, the gritty saxophone of Jim Hobbs, and the drumming of Luthar Gray. The group spun ambient textures that were new to my ears, and along with t11he moments of explosive energy, really served to expand how I was hearing music. I let go a little more of my need for obvious structures and allowed alternatives to fill their function.

Then, just two years later (2012), I am a fully fledged member of the Free Jazz Blog and have 'drunk the (experimental music) Kool-Aid,' as they say. On guitarist, woodwindist and above all, composer, Elliot Sharp's trio outing Aggregat, the melodic strands are strong and captivating, but its the diffuse interlocking of the rhythm section that really worms it way into my brain. Upright bassist Brad Jones and drummer Ches Smith keep the music flowing so well - tightly connected but loosely affiliated - that when Sharp unstraps himself from the forms that he has established, he never tumbles into pure chaos. For me, guitar and bass clarinet are instant attractions and the music on Aggregat supports this bias handily.

Now, taking a leap in time to 2020 ... a year that we all want to collectively try to forget ... I had the good fortune to travel to Lisbon for the "Jazz 2020" festival. It was between lockdowns and travel was difficult and risky, which meant that for a weekend I had Lisbon basically to myself as a tourist, and it was great. Adding to that euphoria, I also got to hear The Selva for the first time. In a sense, the music from the trio of cellist Ricardo Jacinto, bassist Gonçalo Almeida and drummer Nuno Morão was a culmination of a journey of musical openness for me. I heard their minimalist groove and the electronic colorations in a new generous way and found myself simply transfixed by their set. They have a series of album on Clean Feed, starting with the eponymous 2017 release through last year's Camarão-Girafa. Each album has captured the group at new stages of evolution and each one is equally enjoyable. Thinking about it in this way, I would also venture that my own musical evolution is far from complete - phew!

Last mention that I'd like to make is the Humanization 4Tet from Lisbon guitarist Luis Lopes. This groups taps into my deep-seated need for robust musical expression. Yes, I have learned to appreciate textural and nuanced atmospherics in music, I have let go of obvious musical structures of chord changes, and set aside a need for purty diatonic melodies and congruent rhythms, but I still like them. My first introduction to this group with, in addition to Lopes, saxophonist Rodrigo Amado and the rhythm section of brothers Aaron and Stefan González (bass and drums) has all of those components in some shape and unexpected form. It was their lst album, 2020's Believe, Believe that spent months in my car stereo and never grew stale. It contains Free Jazz, but Amado steers clear of the atonal abyss, Lopes modulates - from quick melodic bursts to explosive textures, and the two brothers keep the pieces connected with solid, but flexible, time.

There are many other albums that I could mention, but I'll leave it this for now. My simple hope is that Clean Feed finds a way to continue, their contribution to my musical growth and enjoyment has certainly benefited, and I suppose that is true for many others as well.

Clean Feed and the Promotion of Portuguese Jazz

By Stef Gijssels

In the early 00's my interest in music was almost inevitably channeled to the Portuguese Clean Feed label. The step from the known New York crowd to Lisbon was a small one. Checking out new albums with free jazz icons such as Steve Swell, Ken Filiano and Lou Grassi led me to "The Implicate Order at Seixal", and my love for the music of "The Nu Band", also led me to the same label, with their "Live At The Bop Shop".  The label was then also accessible through "", at that time one of the easiest sources for downloading digital music, and a very cheap one for improvised music because the cost was measured per track. Some one-track albums were as a result really unusually cheap. Other musicians that were released on Clean Feed were Gery Hemingway, Denis Gonzalez, Kevin Norton, Ken Vandermark, Whit Dickey, Steve Lehman, Ivo Perelman, to name just a few. The list is sheer endless and the quality of the albums remarkable. 

But among those American musicians, either in separate albums or within international bands, we got acquainted with the musical power of Portugal, with top musicians like Rodrigo Amado, Carlos Zingaro, Bernardo Sassetti, Carlos Baretto, Luis Lopes. Even if the initial years of the label were surprisingly characterised by all the free jazz luminaries, gradually these Portuguese names became familiar in the same movement and effort. How else would we have come across this extraordinary RED Trio with Gabriel Ferrandini, Hernani Faustino, Rodrigo Pinheiro, or with the unusual sound of Sei Miguel's trumpet and voice? The brilliant trumpet playing of Susana Santos Silva? The equally stupefying work by Luis Vicente on trumpet and Marcelo Dos Reis on guitar? Or Gonçalo Almeida on bass? Or Pedro Melo Alves on drums? These musicians all have some common factors among their obvious differences, and that is a strong and unique voice, a personal sound that is as free and unconvential as it is lyrical and musical, creative without being off-putting, fascinating also for the less trained listener. Credit to Pedro Costa for giving them this level of exposure next to the long list of established musicians. 

If the Portuguese government is serious about the promotion of its own art and culture, they should ensure that the work of Clean Feed is recognised and rewarded for their efforts. I do not think any other organisation has done as much to give Portugal a place in international modern arts as Clean Feed. 

Pedro Costa and his team threw their net very wide, and managed to become the pinnacle for the top artists from the US, the UK, the Nordics, and many other European countries. The label's portfolio offers the "Who Is Who"of free improvisation, creative modern jazz and the avant-garde, including the more genre-bending explorative work on the Shhpuma sister label. Clean Feed created artists, by giving them an international exposure they would not have received otherwise, and I think the Swedish band "Angles" ranks among the top of those. 

Here is an overview of my favorite Clean Feed records by Portuguese musicians. I can only recommend that you check them out, listening joy is guaranteed.