All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

5

Henry Kaiser & Ray Russell: The Celestial Squid

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
The Celestial Squid is an unprecedented summit meeting between two renowned guitarists: legendary British session ace Ray Russell and idiosyncratic Bay Area experimentalist Henry Kaiser. Although best known as a veteran studio musician, Russell's groundbreaking early records revealed a penchant for unbridled free jazz, culminating in his 1971 masterpiece Rites and Rituals (CBS). Since then, Russell has enjoyed a lucrative freelance career, working with artists ranging from Gil Evans to David Bowie, but other than a few recent fusion-oriented endeavors, he hasn't returned to the provocative expressionism he helped pioneer in the early seventies—until now.

Kaiser's reputation as an eclectic virtuoso of catholic taste is well-documented on numerous unclassifiable releases, including high-profile collaborations with many of his heroes, like guitarists Fred Frith, David Lindley and Richard Thompson. In the same cooperative spirit, Kaiser asked Russell if he wanted to revisit the sonic experimentation of his seminal efforts. The rest, as they say, is history.

Kaiser assembled an impressive cast of West Coast musicians at Berkeley's Fantasy Studios for this freewheeling session, which utilizes simple head melodies and skeletal frameworks as guideposts for extended improvisations. An expanded rhythm section flanks the guitarists, with bassists Michael Manring and Damon Smith on electric and acoustic instruments, and Weasel Walter and William Winant manning the drums. The lineup is further augmented by vanguard saxophonists Steve Adams, Joshua Allen, Phillip Greenlief and Aram Shelton, who evoke the boisterous horn sections featured on Russell's first albums.

With throbbing electric basslines and lockstep polyrhythms underpinning skronky guitars and caterwauling reeds, the ensuing thicket subtly recalls the Downtown sound of Bill Laswell's 1980's productions. The opener, "guKTen LIMPo," sets the mood with a thorny post-bop motif underscored by sustained electric tones, percolating bass and clarion horns. "That Darn Squid" invokes the aforementioned era's cagey post-modernism in a series of dynamic episodes, ranging from woolly collectivism to pointedly lyrical guitar exchanges.

It's not all Sturm und Drang though: the spectral euphony of the ethereal ballad "In Another Life" is hypnotically beguiling; and "The Enumeration" begins acoustically with Kaiser's introspective pointillism, slowly building in intensity to showcase Russell's blistering fretwork. "Disinterested Bystander" employs a bluesy, noir-inflected theme and a shuffling gait to fuel probing solos, culminating in Kaiser and Russell's most ardent interplay. The finale, "Conversation #14," is the most elaborate, composed and conducted by Allen using Cecil Taylor's intricate cell structure notation.

Although six-string pyrotechnics abound throughout the date, this is no mere cutting contest; Kaiser and Russell elicit some of the most inventively conversational guitar playing of recent vintage, bolstered by their bandmates' spirited contributions. Rivaling Kaiser's prior collaborations with fellow guitarists, The Celestial Squid ranks among his finest releases, and even more importantly, stands tall as a bold career milestone for Russell.

Track Listing: Gukten Limpo; In Another Life; That Darn Squid; The Enumeration; Victims; Disinterested Bystander; Construction #14

Personnel: Henry Kaiser: guitar; Ray Russell: guitar; Steve Adams: sax; Joshua Allen: sax; Phillip Greenlief: sax; Aram Shelton: sax; Michael Manring: bass guitar; Damon Smith: acoustic bass; Weasel Walter:drums; William Winant: drums.

Title: The Celestial Squid | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Ocean of Storms

Ocean of Storms

Self Produced
2017

buy
Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets

Friends & Heroes:...

Self Produced
2017

buy
Plane Crash Two

Plane Crash Two

New Atlantis Records
2015

buy

Related Articles

Read Fat Daddy CD/LP/Track Review
Fat Daddy
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Short Stories CD/LP/Track Review
Short Stories
by Gareth Thompson
Published: September 19, 2018
Read UHHM CD/LP/Track Review
UHHM
by John Bricker
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Decoy CD/LP/Track Review
Decoy
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller CD/LP/Track Review
Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Change In The Air CD/LP/Track Review
Change In The Air
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 18, 2018
Read "Circle of Chimes" CD/LP/Track Review Circle of Chimes
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 27, 2017
Read "Together Apart" CD/LP/Track Review Together Apart
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 24, 2017
Read "g a b b r o" CD/LP/Track Review g a b b r o
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 5, 2017
Read "Tokyo 1975" CD/LP/Track Review Tokyo 1975
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 11, 2018
Read "Autotelic" CD/LP/Track Review Autotelic
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: July 1, 2018
Read "Historias Del Pasado Reciente" CD/LP/Track Review Historias Del Pasado Reciente
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 30, 2018