some believe to be the very first jazz musicianmay (or may not) have recorded in 1904. Fast forward to modern times, a quick scan of eBay and the exorbitant prices bid for long out-of-print Free Music Production (FMP) LPs or alternative releases. $150 for Peter Brotzmann
's alternative takes of "Marmaduke" anytime. I promise."
This zeal, while destructive were it to fall into the wrong hands, also preserves and, in a strange way, perpetuates the music.
At least, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.
In the same vein, I will shortly embark on an exciting and challenging listening experience. Next to my stereo is the complete boxed Instant Composers Pool catalog, 52 CDs and 2 DVDs, lovingly compiled with a huge book of Pieter Boersma's photographs, in a limited edition. The box documents 45 years of ICP, from drumme4r Han Bennink
's solo performances to the large ensemble concerts. I'm certain this experience will deepen my appreciation of the New Dutch Swing, and my passion for creative music. Anyone else on this journey, email me and we can trade notes. Also, if you have a copy of that Lounge Lizards Japanese pressing of Big Heart and are bored with it, please feel free to send it my way.
's sideways glance at composition and improvisation offers intrepid listeners the opportunity to contemplate any and every sound as music. Speech cadence and patterns turn into melodies, as does electronic fragments and field recordings. From his roots in minimalist improvisation, the singer/electronics manipulator has blossomed into a composer of musical errata that coagulates into various moments of euphonic satori.
On We Who Had Left, he partners with pianist Chris Abrahams
), whose performances generally entail lengthy repetitive hypnotic improvised music. With Bosetti, his keyboard explorations are magnified and elevated by his partner's sampling and occasional repeated word speech melodies.
The presence of Abrahams' piano is an elixir for consuming Bosetti's principles. He forms a context to the spoken reiterations of "We Cannot Imagine" and the one cover tune, pianist Bill Evans
' "Waltz For Debby," where he plays straight man to Bosetti's electronic plink/plonk and spoken/sung-in-the-shower rendition. Elsewhere, the exploration of extended melodies and Abraham's taste for slowly developing music are heard on "When They Are Overhead." His patented repetitive piano progression is augmented by Bosetti's electronic chirps, rumbles, whirls and purrs. At nearly fourteen minutes, the track is an abbreviated journey for fans of The Necks' hour-long crescendos, but it also casts a new light on both players' native musical languages.
Sven-Åke Johansson/Lars Greve/August Rosenbaum
Come for the history, stay for the show. The attraction here is the iconic Sven-Åke Johansson, percussionist, drummer, and architect of the European avant free music scene. His history with the likes of Peter Brötzmann, pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach
and pianist Andrea Neumann into his circle in the '90s. Here, he can be found with the Danish musicians Lars Greve (reeds) and August Rosenbaum (piano).
The seven unnamed tracks are all quiet, slowly developing improvised pieces. Rosenbaum, whose vinyl-only Live LP (Hiatus, 2011) was a coming-out party for the pianist, changes gears here favoring an introverted sound, void of cliché. Same for Greve, who shows a minimalist's restraint, favoring breathy passages and fluttered tongue quotes.
The drummer neither monopolizes the session nor dominates the sound. Like his partners, he quietly goes about his business. A scraped cymbal here, tapping tom-tom there, and the whole of the session vibrates with the unstated and understated. Then again, sometimes silence speaks much louder than sound.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
The final installment of saxophonist extraordinaire Colin Stetson
's New History Warfare series, Vol. 3: To See More Light expands the inventiveness of his groundbreaking saxophone technique. Stetson commands his saxophones (usually a bass saxophone) using a combination of circular breathing, key tapping, over-blowing and vocalizations that are recorded with multiple microphones. That said, it remains almost incredible that he records in single takes without overdubbing. But, indeed he does.
While these solo recordings are heroic feats, he can also be heard with the pop groups Bon Iver and Arcade Fire, while he recorded a duo with fellow saxophonist Mats Gustafsson
What is overdubbed here are the vocal tracks by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. He applies a heavy metal barking growl to "Brute," and some heavenly harmonizing "Who the Waves Are Roaring For (Hunted II)" and the opener "And In Truth."
The physicality of Stetson's efforts are apparent here. The longest track at 15 minutes, "To See More Light" is his crowning triumph. Stetson maintains the structure of the piece, building upon his circular breathing to create a hypnotic and trance-like state. About halfway through, he slows the proceedings to produce a heavier vocalization and thumping sound that crests into a zenith of growling energy.
Jack Wright/ Bob Falesch
I'd Rather Be A Sparrow
Spring Garden Music
"You can't handle the truth! I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom...You have the luxury of not knowing what I know... And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.... I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way." Those are actor Jack Nicholson's lines, borrowed from the 1992 movie A Few Good Men. They could easily have been said by improvising saxophonist Jack Wright
, a troubadour of jazz freedom for nearly forty years.
His catalogue and incessant touring have created many followers and a few detractors. That is because he plays music with intransigency and a belief that there is no middle ground to be had with improvisation. Each new disc he releases seems to be the definitive Jack Wright release.
Here, he partners with Chicagoan Bob Falesch, a composer and computer-electronics improviser. Their association dates back to 2000 and their previous disc Clang (Zeroeggzie, 2002) found Falesch on metapiano.
The pair recorded these eight tracks (72 minutes of music), not with Falesch processing Wright's saxophone, but improvising along with the great man. The process is similar to Evan Parker
's duos with FURT -Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer. Falesch creates these electronic flashes, something out of a sci-fi (sometimes horror) junkyard for Wright to react to. The pair neither smothers each other nor does it require crescendos. Wright's saxophone slays each and every electronic dragon conjured by Falesch.
Ich bin N!ntendo & Mats Gustafsson
Ich bin N!ntendo & Mats Gustafsson
The Dead Kennedys (the band, not the political family) and other hardcore punk bands like Black Flag, Minutemen, and Hüsker Dü taught that its music could be either loved or absolutely hated, but irrespective, its passion and energy were to be admired. Its process over product made Hüsker Dü shows more memorable than its recorded output.
That sentiment might also be the point of the power trio Ich bin N!ntendo's live set with Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson
, recorded in Oslo in 2012. The guitar/bass/drums trio eschews jazz licks for a noisy tug-of-rope battle with Gustafsson's baritone. He gives as well as he gets, having honed his hardcore skills with his band The Thing
has become something of an improvising phenomenon. Mi Casa Es En Fuego is the trio's third disc, this one self-released, as was its original Bastard String (2011), and follows Mechanisms (Clean Feed, 2012). It is uncertain if the recordings are the fountainhead of Ballister's sold-out shows or if the successful tours lead to more recordings. Does it really matter?
This trio, one of at least a dozen in which each musician leads or performs, has created a niche sound, one stoked by high energy improvisation and flat-out intensity.
Recorded live in Montreal in April, 2012, the engineer has captured each player's distinct sound. Nilssen-Love's ferocity on the three lengthy tracks is palpable. He muscles, coaxes and wrestles the beat throughout. He is first choice these days for improvisers like Peter Brötzmann, Frode Gjerstad
and Rempisall saxophonists capable of huffing, puffing, blowing a house down. Like the prior releases, there is plenty of that to satisfy here. But, wait; there's more. The quieter passages are sublime. Lonberg-Holm is a landscape painter who can draw out long lines and accent them with a sharp thrust of color. Doubling on electronics, he twists the gentler moments into near-minimalism and winches up the adrenaline on the energy jazz. The challenge here is to name a leader for this group. The congruent nature of this trio suggest a conspiracy of creation and a desire for construction.
can do more with a 4/4 time signature than most players can do with their entire career. The proof is in the opening twenty minutes of Live At Zebulon, where he squeezes the entire history of bebop intoor perhaps out ofhis horn. Together with drummer Kassa Overall and one of today's most in-demand bassists, John Hébert, Evans tears through lightning fast runs and ridiculously difficult passages with a nonchalant sprezzatura not normally heard in jazz trumpeters.
The virtuoso trumpeter first came to the attention of the jazz world in Moppa Elliott
, and he also plays contemporary notated music with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). He also leads a quartet, quintet, octet and has released four stellar solo recordings.
Credit here certainly goes not only to Evans, but to Hébert and Overall for meeting the challenge of the trumpeter's music. The band maintains its virtuosity throughout. When Hébert solos, there is a collective breath taken, as if batteries are being recharged. The four lengthy tracks wind their way through swift and slow passages, Evans preferring to keep things at near breakneck speeds. He even blows passages with circular breathing, a trick once thought only available to saxophonists. Evans' trio not only wows, but also moves.
Federico Ughi Quartet
Someday scientists will discover the DNA gene sequence that explains musical improvisation. They may even be able to break down the elements that make up jazz, because it surely isn't just a blues hybrid, a mish-mashed marching band and African sound. Today it is played by urban and suburban kids, Australians and Canadians in clubs, universities and concert halls. Like the universe, jazz seems to be ever-expanding.
To put it in a nutshell, jazz is folk music. It was a kindred sound in New Orleans 1905, in 1959 when saxophonist Ornette Coleman
The Italian-born native of New York brings the folk and classical traditions imprinted in his DNA to this quartet recording. Folk, as in Coleman's folk, but also the people's music of saxophonist Albert Ayler
Ughi presents gorgeous music. Like the music of Coleman and Ayler, the tunes seem familiar; simple melodies expand unpretentiously through improvisation. A blues "Ange" is an achingly heartbroken composition rendered with Ughi's brushes, the bowed bass and unison horns. The changes in "Second Day Syndrome" expand a fable of familiar, as does the candid melody of "Technicolor." Hum along or dance, the familiarity of this music appeals to jazz's familial nature.
Jeff Kaiser & Phil Skaller
Who doesn't like endless pie? Maybe that's the motivation behind these two discs of trumpet/prepared piano improvisations by musical rapscallions Jeff Kaiser and Phil Skaller. Kaiser, a tireless organizer, promoter and participant in the West Coast creative music scene continues his more experimental work here playing electronically manipulated trumpet together with Skaller's prepared piano.
Recorded in real time, these 18 pieces on two discs vary from noisy processed sounds like "Anticipated By Bacon" to the minimalist improvisation of "Two Unknowns, The One Being," where Kaiser processes his trumpet with echoey sounds reminiscent of fellow trumpeter Jon Hassell
. Skaller has a preference for percussive keyboard attacks and some inside-of- the-piano explorations. The pair favors relatively short improvisations, for the most part. The majority of the tracks are brief explorations, with electronics that skitter and snap, or a cartoon soundtrack that rushes by. Kaiser and Skaller make up melodies on the fly, some better than the others, but always there is another. Sometimes the music is ineffably beautiful, as on "Backward Intersection," other times intentionally nonmusical, where the players employ scratching, pops and breath, and vocalizations.
Each disc also presents a lengthy opening track, "Unchangeable Fundament" and "The Puppet Does Not Have A Soul," both clocking in at over thirteen minutes . Perhaps the focus of the album, these extended improvisations are complete statements in and of themselves. Perhaps the shorter pieces are preparations for the whole pie.
It Ended Up Being a Great Day, Mr. Allende
Creative music has no accent, nor does improvisation adhere to geography. But new music from far-flung places does perk up the ear. Beirut's Charbel Haber, the Lebanese equivalent to Oren Ambarchi, began with the noisy rock band Scrambled Eggs and then progressed into improvised music. He can be heard on Chicago percussionist Michael Zerang
's Cedarhead (Al Maslakh, 2007), a compilation of duets.
The four lengthy solo tracks on It Ended Up Being a Great Day, Mr. Allende showcase a pertinacious guitar sound that borders on almost ambient presentations. Haber delivers long tones, accented with effects and reverberated loops to create hypnotic soundscapes. He builds tension through incremental volume and the layering of sound. On "Wandering Women Of Letters," he loops his crystal- sounding notes over the beats of his soundboard, bells, and varying electronics. "Two Germans At the End Of The Earth," a title taken like all others here, from Roberto Bolano's work, exercises restrained feedback to build, not so much momentum as architecture. These constructions are the brilliant revelations of a solo artist.
Alexei Borisov/ Olga Nosova/ Dave Phillips
Sometimes noise constructions lack context. There is never any romance before Masami Akita pummels with sound. Maybe that's why the industrial/electronic/free improv sounds of Alexei Borisov and Olga Nosova and their guest, bassist Dave Phillips
, are so gratifying. That is, if industrial/electronic/free improv can ever be characterized as gratifying.
Borisov and Nosova are Russian musicians who have collaborated with the likes of Thomas Buckner, Alessandro Bosetti, and Jandek. They create a sort of improvised version of noise bit-by-bit, organizing sounds often industrial into coherent structures. They collaborate here with Phillips a former member of the hardcore Swiss band Fear Of God. In addition to bass, Phillips also delivers field recordings of animals and nature to the mix. Naturally, the animals is scary and the weather is intemperate.
Nate Wooley & Mivos Quartet/Music of Bojan Vuletić
Ignoring Gravity Music
Back in 1983, a very young trumpeter named Wynton Marsalis
won a Grammy Award in both jazz and classical music. For many a fan, it was an introduction to the immaculate and well-ordered trumpet. In classical music, that is.
Fast forward to 2011 and the chamber compositions of Bojan Vuletić for trumpet and string quartet. Gone are the boundaries between jazz and classical, rhythm and noise, and perhaps poetry and sound. Vuletić has written a cycle of twelve compositions for twelve artistshere, on Atemwende, a turning of breath for poet Paul Celan. He employs no spoken words, because words would be redundant with trumpeter Nate Wooley in the mix. This suite of nine movements blurs composition with improvisation. Wooley and the string quartet execute the pieces with an effervescent animation.
Wooley's presence pushes the performance from chamber music into the new realm of extended trumpet technique. Like his compatriot Peter Evans
, Wooley is a pioneer of circular breathing, minimalism, over-blowing, and pitch-shifting. It is, though, his sensitivity to the composed music that makes this session a success. His breathy tone, squawking notes and growling passages might just be the equivalent to the spoken words intended.
Polish trumpeter Artur Majewski and drummer Kuba Suchar share a jazz Ghetto with simpatico bands Chicago Underground Duo (Rob Mazurek
) and São Paulo Underground (Mazurek and Mauricio Takara).
By pinning flags to a map, it is easy to see the progression of electro/acoustic music across North and South America and Europe. Before conspiracy theorists conjure UN world domination (with, of course silent black helicopters) narratives, the roots of this music were sown decades ago with the travels of trumpeter Don Cherry
Absent Minded is the group's follow-up to Revisit (Delmark, 2010). Like Mazurek's bands, Mikrokolektyw (pronounced "microcollective") mixes acoustic trumpet and drums with both musicians doubling on electronics, all of which is stripped down to a Spartan sound of crackling soundscapes and breathy growling trumpet. The music speculates how trumpeter Miles Davis
's intonations and gentle swing. The tracks are all rough sketches and bare bones ideas, set out for the imagination to fill in the gaps.
With the globalization of music, give thanks that there still remains a jazz ghetto. A place not to imprison people, but for them to feel the security in their segregation and fellowship.
I Never Meta Guitar Too
Ladies and gentlemen, the current state of the guitar in modern creative music is sound. Pun aside, adventurous listeners are always searching for the next "new thing" in music. Thankfully here, guitarist Elliott Sharp
' operatic acoustic sounds on "Aerial," and Joel Harrison's blues-tinged ghost music of "Loon," alongside the slash and burn of Yasuhiro Isui's "Headland" and Italian Downtown favorite Marco Cappelli's "Sits At the Other Side Of The Table."
Those unfamiliar with the extensive catalog of David Grubbs will find his "Weird Salutation" a meditative acoustic wandering, while Hans Tammen applies his guitar to a software program for some exceptionally curious music-making.
Each piece is an invitation to expand one's ears in any direction deemed desirable.
Let the journey begin.
Jason Mears Electric Quintet
Book Of Changes: Part 1
Sometimes knowing how the sausage is made persuades you to order a salad.
That is assuredly not the case with Jason Mears' Electric Quartet set. The liner notes reveal that this music is based on a notation system he developed studying with Wadada Leo Smith, where a performer simultaneously read a composition and improvised. He writes, "there are no bar lines or time signatures, only long and short notes."
With the caliber of musician he employs in this quintetAngelica Sanchez
(drums), Kevin Farrell (bass), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar)he certainly could have provided a notated score, or for that matter, presented a freely improvised outing.
Mears, a saxophonist who doubles on clarinet, is best known for his work in the Empty Cage Quartet. His direction here was to begin this exploration with a 1970s electric Miles Davis groove and blossomor perhaps mushroomfrom there.
This electric band (Wulitzer piano, bass and guitar) frames the music as Davis' Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) from the launch of "The Taming Power Of the Great," with its rocked-out beat. The same goes for the closing "Receptive," with its spacey, blasé nonchalance. But Mears is not content to recreate the past, he (or is it any player?) redirects each piece, opening new channels, changing pace, and expanding into improvised spaces. Music shifts from groove to open time space music, making for some very adventurous, yet highly accessible music.
David Dove & Jawwaad Taylor
These Are Eyes, See?
Trombonist David Dove understands geologic time. Where AM radio (okay, iTunes today) required a song to be three minutes, his singles clock in at over 30 minutes. Like the great glaciers, his movement can be barely noticeable, yet it leaves a deep impression.
These Are Eyes, See? is his second collaboration with rapper Jawwaad Taylor. The pair produced a CD-R, Scattered Remains In The Now (El Cangrejito, 2008). Here, the duo favors the sluggish pace Dove's trombone createslong lines tempered with effects, pauses, electronic interference. Like fellow trombonist Stuart Dempster, he blows notes and pauses, waiting for their reverberations.
The collaboration engages Taylor's spoken word poetry and growling flutter trumpet, both footslogging at Dove's glacial pace. The notes suggest this music should be played on a system capable of reproducing ample sub-bass frequencies. Dove's amplified trombone is heard and felt deep in the chest. His music maybe better described as physical sound, a rumbling reverberation. With Taylor, the sound takes shape as theatre and the performance is a moving experience.
Tracks and Personnel
We Who Had Left
Tracks: We Also Dress Today; We Arrange Our Home; We Cannot Imagine; We See Infancy; When They Are Overhead; Waltz For Debby.
Personnel: Alessandro Bosetti: electronics, voice; Chris Abrahams: piano.
Tracks: 8:59; 8:14; 8:06; 1:06; 5:19; 6:52; 1:30.
Personnel: Sven-Åke Johansson: percussion; Lars Greve: saxophone, clarinet; August Rosenbaum: upright piano.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
Tracks: And in Truth; Hunted; High Above a Grey Green Sea; In Mirrors; Brute; Among the Sef (Righteous II); Who the Waves Are Roaring For (Hunted II); To See More Light; What Are They Doing in Heaven Today; This Bed of Shattered Bone; Part of Me Apart From You.
Tracks: Puckfisted Coxcomb; Bonny Bony Doublebed Cony; Kerry Twingle-twangler; Clapdash And Foreshop; Salady Salmafundi; Lust-beleperd And Unwell; Nibbled Up Lettuce; I'd Rather Be A Sparrow.
Personnel: Jack Wright: saxophones; Bob Falesch: electronics.
Ich bin N!ntendo & Mats Gustafsson
Tracks: Start First; End; Second.
Personnel: Christian Skår Winther: electric guitar; Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard: electric bass; Joakim Heibø Johansen: drums; Mats Gustafsson: baritone saxophone.
Mi Case Es En Fuego
Tracks: Cockloft; Smolder; Phantom Box System.
Personnel: Dave Rempis: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello, guitar, electronics; Paal Nilssen_-Love: drums, percussion.
Live At Zebulon
Tracks: 3625; Lullaby; Broken Circles; Carnival.
Personnel: Peter Evans: trumpet; John Hébert: bass; Kassa Overall: drums.
Federico Ughi Quartet
Tracks: Quantunque; Song For Charles; Letter A; Technicolor; Ange; Second Day Syndrome; Line; Circled Square; May; Wearing A Wire?.
Personnel: David Schnug: alto saxophone; Kirk Knuffke: cornet; Max Johnson: bass; Federico Ughi: drums.
Tracks: (CD 1) Blueberry: Unchangeable Fundament; Image of a Punctiform; People from the Machinations; Two Unknowns, the One Being; Galileo Uses Propaganda; Anticipated by Bacon; No Immediate Theoretical; Alongside a Moving Tower; (CD 2) Cherry: The Puppet Does Not Have a Soul; Backward Intersection; Occured without Noticeable; Absence of any Proper Notion; Behave Very Much Like After-Images; We Must Retain; The Problem of Telescopic Vision; As Some Relics; Well-Determined Exceptions; This Paratactic.
Personnel: Jeff Kaiser: trumpet, flugelhorn, voice, electronics; Phil Skaller: prepared piano.
It Ended Up Being a Great Day, Mr. Allende
Tracks: Itinerant Heroes or the Fragility of Mirrors; Wandering Women of Letters; Two Germans at the End of the Earth; Magicians, Mercenaries and Miserable Creatures.
Personnel: Alexei Borisov: guitar, electronics, voice; Olga Nosova: drums, electronics, objects; Dave Phillips: bass, electronics, voice, field recordings.
Tracks: Du Darfst; Ich Weiss; Fadensonner; Todesfuge; Prinzessin Nimmermüd; Ein Wurfholz; Zähle Die Mandeln; Die Fleissegen; Sprachgitter.
Personnel: Nate Wooley: trumpet; Olivie De Prato: violin; Joshua Modney: violin; Victor Lowrie: viola; Isabel Castellvi: cello.
Tracks: Vacuum; Dream About Mind Master; Sonar Toy; Thistle Soup; Fossil Stariway; Dream About City Backwards; Trilobite; Trouble Spot; Superconductor; Crazy Idea Of Jakub S.; Little Warrior; No MAgic; Dream About The One.
Personnel: Artur Majewski: trumpet, cornet, electronics; Kuba Suchar: drums, percussion, electronics.
I Never Meta Guitar Too
Tracks: Mandible Moonwalk; The Gatekeeper; Ballet; Guitar Song (Shouwang); Loon; Headland; Aerial; Sits At The Other Side Of The Table; The Servant; David GrubbsWeird Salutation; Spiracles; Thus Gone; The Day King Arthur Married On Cyprus; A-Ka; For Electric Guitar #1; Untitled.
Personnel: Ava Mendoza: guitar; Ben Tyree: guitar; On Ka'a Davis: guitar; Shouwang Zhang: guitar; Joel Harrison: guitar; Yasuhiro Usui: guitar; Steve Cardenas: guitar; Marco Cappelli: guitar; Alan Licht: guitar; David Grubbs: guitar; Han Tammen: guitar; Zach Layton: guitar; Thomas Maos: guitar; Zachary Pruitt: guitar; Richard Carrick: guitar; Manuel Mota: guitar.
Book Of Changes: Part 1
Tracks: The Taming Power of the Great; The Creative; Joyous Lake; Receptive.
Personnel: Jason Mears: alto saxophone, clarinet, compositions; Jonathan Goldberger: electric guitar; Angelica Sanchez: wurlitzer piano; Kevin Farrell: electric bass; Harris Eisenstadt: drums.