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Art Strike!

Mark Corroto By

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"Would you support an art strike?" That's the question I've been asking musicians for the past few months. "Will you agree to stop writing and performing music for one year?" In 1990 the London artists Stewart Home and Mark Pawson proposed that all artists cease to "make, exhibit, distribute, sell, or discuss their work" for three years. They also called upon galleries, museums, alternative spaces, clubs, and concert halls to cease operations for that period.

Their goal was to draw back the curtain on "Art" (capital 'A') and the mystical act of its production, and reveal the truth about the marketing and consumption of said Art, thus refocusing the attention on the artist. Certainly jazz musicians understand this dilemma. Saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio wrote, " a musician is someone that puts $5000 worth of gear into a $500 car to drive 100 miles to play a gig for $50." The proponents of Art Strike admitted their proposed walk out would fail, but endeavored to move the attention from mainstream media and marketing back to the craft and skill of the artist.

In the 21st century, their message might be even more apropos. With the consolidation of the major recording labels, music now operates on almost polar opposites. Mega-corporations produce and promote one-hit wonders by musically challenged artists for immediate-splash short-term downloads in large Walmart quantities, and small labels (often artist run) release higher quality, lengthier projects by skilled musicians. The mega-corps don't consider their product a 'hit' unless it sells 3 million copies, while the small labels call sales of 3,000 units a triumph.

You and I appreciate those gifted musicians and those important small labels. We've been sifting through used LP bins for years, not to steal a beat or a break, but to find that lost gem by David S. Ware or Art Pepper. This stuff is important. We appreciate the construction of a Winter & Winter paper CD case, the ongoing reissue of Sun Ra performances, and most of all, the live performance by that artist or group that has just driven 100 or even 500 miles to perform in our town. Maybe the guy in the next cubicle at work has no appreciation for Steven Joerg's AUM Fidelity music label, Pedro Costa of Portugal's Clean Feed, or the June launch of saxophonist Dave Rempis' Aerophonic Records, but you do.

Duo Ab Baars/ Ig Henneman

Autumn Songs

Wig

2013

After thirty years together and playing as a duo since 1999, Ab Baars and Ig Henneman have established their own vocabulary. The pair, musicians from The Netherlands thriving improvisation scene and life partners, glide, float, whirl, and waft these ten minimal compositions written for extended improvisations.

The saxophonist Baars, an important component in the large ensemble The ICP Orchestra, also leads his own trio and quartet plus he has collaborated with members of The Ex and in differing lineups organized by Chicago's Ken Vandermark. Henneman is a member of Queen Mab trio and leads the Ig Henneman Sextet. The duos previous disc was Stof (Wig, 2007).

This recording came after their fifteen-city 2012 tour of the United States. The pair toured, playing these minimally composed these pieces, inspired mostly by poets from William Blake to Rainer Maria Rilke to Wallace Stevens. Once back in Amsterdam, the document of their work was completed. The mostly restrained and quiet session acts as a colloquy on these autumnal themes. Baars doubling on tenor saxophone, clarinet, and shakuhachi suppresses the urge to bluster. Instead he takes a chamber approach to these pieces, responding to Henneman's viola. The music balances breathy notes against woody tones, as the pair recite their musical wordless poetry.

Massimo Barbiero

Sisifo

Splasc(H) Records

2013

Before there was spoken language, there was music, and certainly the first music was percussion. The earliest humans probably communicated through beating on objects. Sticks on logs, then drums made of animal hide, and eventually gongs and bells.

Early instruments are the implements percussionist Massimo Barbiero utilizes on his solo recording Sisifo. The gong, the drum, bells and a simple electronic drum- pad, the wawedrum. Like the Greek King Sisyphus, Barbiero carries the entire load. But, unlike the mythic character, his chore is not in vain.

Barbiero's soul is orchestrated by percussion. He leads the large ensemble percussion and dance band Odwalla, and is the engine behind the long standing Italian supergroup Enten Eller, who released a big band recording E(x)stinzione Vol 1&2 (Splasc(H), 2012). His previous solo percussion disc was Nausicaa (Splasc(H), 2009).

The thirteen pieces presented here maintain the ancient language forms of percussion. Superbly recorded, the sound surrounds and envelopes with waves of vibration and the palpable textures of wood, metal, and skin. Barbiero applies his craft as if it were spoken poetry. He tempers his approach by modulating his sound to describe oceans, kings of Italy, and pharaohs, India, and memory. It is an irresistible and seductive ride.

Daniel Bennett Group

Clockhead Goes To Camp

Manhattan Daylight Music

2013



Saxophonist Daniel Bennett composes music with a nod to sidelong humor and surreptitious jazz. Like all great jazzmen, he reconfigures rhythms and harmonies to engineer an imaginative and genuine sound.

Clockhead Goes To Camp is the group's fourth release, and it follows the self-released Peace and Stability Among Bears (2011). The band's music has coalesced into a a kind of nursery rhyming-folk-jazz.

To describe the music of the Daniel Bennett Group one might imagine an alternate universe where Paul Desmond and Jim Hall are members of John Lurie's 1990s band Lounge Lizards. Bennett favors catchy melodies played over varying time signatures from African to folk, swirling Steve Reich chamber sounds against pop and near classical riffs.

The handclaps of the opener give way to his flute chamber piece (did they play some surf guitar in there?) and an oddball digitally enhanced poem "Whatever It Might Be" by Rimas Uzgiris. Bennett isn't opposed to borrowing a waltz "John Lizard And Mr. Pug" or delving into the theatre of the absurd for the word-salad piece "Cabin 12 Escapes Into the Night." With guitarist Mark Cocheo he has found his huckleberry, the music is offbeat, nonconformist, and peculiarly attractive.

Fred van Duijnhoven

Breuk

P.J.J.

2013

"Less is more" said Mies van der Rohe. Dutch drummer Fred van Duijnhoven might say, "more or less, less is indeed more." This mostly solo thirteen and a half minute ep contains 5 very brief tracks, that sound like much, much more.

Best known for his work in I Compani, the Dutch jazz band that covers Fellini soundtracks, the music of Nino Rota, and more recently their own music. He has issued two prior solo drum records Bellbird (2005) and Bird's nest (2005). He can also be heard with Ab Baars and Ken Vandermark on Goofy June Bug (Wig, 2008).

His three brief solo pieces utilize a minimal kit and, styled like poetry, the musing seems more important than the sounds. His pulse is tempered by a measured deliberation. Muted are his colors, and without deliberate rumination, their gestures are easily missed.

The two guest tracks are a marimba/drum duet and a marimba/drum plus vocals. Van Duijnhoven with brushes works over a sly blues with Eugène Flören's marimba and the pair cover Burt Bacharach's "Close To You" with vocalist Amber van Nieuwburg. The somewhat saccharine pop song gets a new treatment by stripping it down to bare bones. What once was a tune that annoyingly might have got stuck in your head, can now be welcomed back.

Rich Halley 4

Crossing The Passes

Pine Eagle

2013



If we had a house band here at AAJ, it would probably be saxophonist Rich Halley's quartet. The Oregon-based musician has devoured the modern saxophone gobbling up Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Ken Vandermark, Joe McPhee, and Albert Ayler. His compositions speak their language but with a nonpartisan dialect.

Crossing The Passes is his fifteenth releases and follows Back From Beyond (2012) and Requiem for a Pit Viper (2011). All three releases feature Halley's quartet of trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed, and drummer Carson Halley.

The trombonist has been a favorite side man since the 1980s. At one time or another either he or cornetist Bobby Bradford has enlarged the saxophonist's trio into a quartet. Where Bradford is the Don Cherry to Halley's Ornette Coleman, Vlatkovich is the Roswell Rudd to Halley's Archie Shepp. The pair can stretch out passages into free jazz realms or spin a tight duet. Their versatility is on display throughout this recording, from the funky bottomed "Smooth Curve Of the Bow" to the falling down "Duopoly," the two entangle, twist and lock horns to make sense out of (sometimes) chaos. The latter track is driven by the urgency of Carson Halley's drums and the insistent bass of Storrs. The saxophonist tries on many hats here. From the cinematic heavy to the gentlest touch, he can frame a song so that it hangs oddly crooked but sounds perfectly straight.

Jason Roebke & Tobias Delius

Panoramic

Not Two

2013



The blender effect, that is what we'll call it. The phenomena of mixing languages, cultures, and in this case, jazz scenes. Where a mechanical blender may chop, liquefy, and even puree, this blending of Chicago bassist Jason Roebke and Amsterdam- based saxophonist Tobias Delius makes for a synthesis and common language.

Roebke, a key player in the ever expanding Chicago scene, can be heard in Mike Reed's People, Places and Things, The Jeb Bishop Trio, Jason Adasiewicz Rolldown, Jason Stein's Locksmith Isadore, and bands led by Keefe Jackson and Aram Shelton. Born in Great Britain but now claiming Amsterdam as his home, Delius is a regular member of the ICP Orchestra, Available Jelly, and Sean Bergin's MOB. He also leads his own quartet and has a steady duo with bassist Wilbert de Joode.

The eight improvised tracks presented here are an audiophile's dream. The deft tactile recording captures every breath, vocalization, and stroke. We hear saxophone keys fingered and bass strings pulled, plucked, caressed, and grazed. Roebke and Delius are satisfied to apply a coolheaded, imperturbable sound here. They promenade each piece without conflicts. The music draws from a traditional sound like Lester Young or Dexter Gordon and Charles Mingus or Oscar Pettiford, refurbished for a 21st century context by applying extended technique and freedom from strict song forms.

Masami Akita & Kiyoshi Mizutani

Merzbow Duo

Tourette Records

2012



If Masami Akita, aka Merzbow had a Teo Macero, he would be a household name. Well, at least he would be an improvised music lover's homestead favorite.

It wasn't until after the death of Miles Davis that Sony Records began releasing all the raw studio material the trumpeter recorded for albums like In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969), Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970), and A Tribute To Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1970). Sometimes, hearing the final product players like John McLaughlin and Chick Corea could barely recognize their studio work. Miles, actually more like producer Teo Macero, took pieces and parts of studio sessions, snipped, cut, and looped tape (manually because there were no digital studios back then) to assemble the now famous LPs.

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