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Peter Brotzmann / Majid Bekkas / Hamid Drake:
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A powerful, spiritual and warmly dynamic album of international and cross-cultural free improvisation meticulously recorded live at Jazzfest Berlin in 2022 from the trio of German reedist Peter Brötzmann on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Chicago drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake, and Moroccan guembri player and vocalist Majid Bekkas. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman Quartet (w/ Shipp / Helias / Rainey):
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After shattering the mouthpiece he had used for years, tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman searched for a replacement, choosing the same mouthpiece used by Paul Desmond, provoking a shift in style to more melodic lines, as heard in this studio album performed with the exemplary quartet of pianist Matthew Shipp, double bassist Mark Helias and drummer Tom Rainey. ... Click to View


Joel Futterman / Ike Levin Duo:
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Two spontaneously composed original improvisation from the collaborative partnership of Ike Levin on tenor saxophone and Joel Futterman on piano & Indian flute, their long history together allowing great depth of connection, passionate expression and periods of reflective contemplation, weaving their playing with meticulous detail inside an impressive and masterful journey. ... Click to View


Henry Kaiser:
The Lost Chord (Metalanguage)

Includes a free copy of Trouble with the Treble while quantities last!
Focused around a poem by Adelaide Anne Procter title "A Lost Chord", West Coast guitarist Henry Kaiser invokes the spirit of Procter's words through a stunningly beautiful album of both contemplative and technically excellent work, his first solo album performed on the lower tuned baritone guitar, in 10 tracks inspired by Frith, Xenakis, Evan Parker, Ligeti, &c. ... Click to View


Polwechsel:
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BACK IN STOCK! The current Polwechsel quartet of Werner Dafeldecker, Michael Moser, Martin Brandlmayr and Burkhard Beins — merging improvisation and contemporary forms for outstandingly paced and conceptualized performance — are joined by luminaries John Butcher, Klaus Lang, Magda Mayas, Andrea Neumann and Peter Ablinger, released in a deluxe 4-LP box set with a 32-page booklet. ... Click to View


Otomo Yoshihide :
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Part of a concert to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of Ftarri's physical store in Suidobashi, Tokyo, drawing on performers from the Improvised Music From Japan imprint, turntable and sonic legend Otomo Yoshihide performed this solo concert in two sets, first using a turntable and the Ftarri store's harmonium (pump organ), and then on the turntable alone. ... Click to View


J. Gregg J. / David Van Auken:
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After meeting through mutual esteem of their individual SoundCloud presences, these Oregon string players met to develop their compellingly engaging work in rehearsal, David Van Auken's guitar arrangements the perfect canvas for the sitar melodies of J.J. Gregg; after touring together they went into the studio for this album's 8 tracks, plus two live recordings. ... Click to View


Nomi Epstein:
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Marco Baldini:
Maniera (Another Timbre)

Seven works from Italian composer Marco Baldini, a follow-up to his well received 2023 album Vesperi, this album introducing a variety of recent chamber works for strings from trios to quintets, performed by members of London's Apartment House ensemble, with the pieces "Selva", "Plutone" and "Otto" written specifically for Apartment House. ... Click to View


Florian Wittenburg :
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Translating to "rain pattering", German-born international sound artist Florian Wittenburg uses a MetaSynth and the Kyma visual programming language for sound design to emulate the sounds of rain pattering from aperiodic to periodic in two parts, along with heating noises in two parts, and a clock ticking; compellingly structured accompaniment to your personal ambiance. ... Click to View


Oliver Schwerdt / Barry Guy / Baby Sommer:
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An enthusiastic and energetically powerful trio meeting between three masters--Oliver Schwerdt on grand piano & percussion, Barry Guy on double bass and Baby Sommer on drums & percussion--performing live in 2021 at naTo, in Leipzig for two extended improvisations of remarkable communication, incredible virtuosity, but most importantly, incredible and compelling creative drive! ... Click to View


JAKAL (Fred Lonberg-Holm / Keefe Jackson / Julian Kirshner):
Peroration (Amalgam)

Formerly known as J@K@L, this Chicago trio has explored hard hitting improvisation since 2014, the band name an amalgamation of the performer's names--Keefe Jackson on tenor & sopranino saxophone & tube, Julian Kirshner on drums and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, tenor guitar and electronics--in a dynamic and exciting 2022 concert at Elastic Arts, in Chicago. ... Click to View


The Remote Viewers :
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UK Composer David Pett's Remote Viewers present two large works: "Inside the Blizzard" in five parts of configurations from solo to quintet; and "Trivia", a quintet work in eight parts; solid, compelling work of forceful confidence from members Adrian Northover, Sue Lynch, Caroline Krabbel & Petts on sax, John Edwards on bass, Hutch Demouilpied on trumpet and Rosa Theodora on piano. ... Click to View


Teiku (Harlow / Taylor / Shahid / Formanek / Leafar):
Teiku (577 Records)

Teiku, a Talmudic acronym that roughly translates to "unanswered question", was co-founded by pianist Josh Harlow and percussionist Jonathan Barahal Taylor to explore each of their family's unique Passover vocal melodies through improvisation and sonic exploration, performed in a quintet with Art Ensemble/Sun Ra bassist Jaribu Shahid and reedists Peter Formanek & Rafael Leafar. ... Click to View


Jorge Nuno:
Labirinto (Phonogram Unit)

After recovering from heart surgery, Portuguese guitarist Jorge Nuno (Ensemble MIOA, Isoptope, Voltaic Trio, &c) records this solo improv album to show his resilience, performed primarily on acoustic guitar in a balanced journey of assertive and introspective playing, accompanied by an insert of a text work by Rui Baião. ... Click to View


Bruno Duplant / Rutger Zuydervelt:
Edge Of Oblivion (Machinefabriek)

The third collaboration between sound and electronic artists Bruno Duplant and Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) is a darkly heavy and dramatic work of subtle motion that slowly unfolds and shifts through vast sonic environments, fueled by acousmatic sources that take the listener to the edge of darkness and then pulls them back in warm waves or rich ambiance. ... Click to View


Felix Profos / Peter Conradin Zumthor:
Grund (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Since 2021 Swiss composer Felix Profos and drummer Peter Conradin Zumthor have performed as the duo Grund, Profos performing on harmonium and on the 1973 Italian organ Bontempi Pop3, Zumthor on bass drum, gong, bells & snare, their extended work on this self-titled album a tranquil and meditative work of slow transitions with moments of terse activity, receding with grace and serenity. ... Click to View


Leap Of Faith:
Emergent Spacetime (Evil Clown)

The core of the Boston improvising collective Leap of Faith Orchestra are the duo of cellist Glynis Lomon and reedist and multi-instrumentalist David Peck, here joined by Eric Woods on analog synth and new collective member Jared Seabrook on drums & percussion, for two examples of Peck's broad palette concept yielding evolving transformations through free playing ... Click to View


Expanse:
Reach (Evil Clown)

Perhaps the most synthetic of Evil Clown releases, Expanse represents space and restraint, this the 8th album from the Boston improvising collective of David Peck on reeds, winds, synths and percussion, Robin Amos on synths, Michael Knoblach on percussion (including egg beater, humpty dumpty toy, and teething rings) and Joel Simches providing real-time processing; inexplicably interesting. ... Click to View


Ethnic Heritage Ensemble:
Open Me, A Higher Consciousness Of Sound And Spirit (Spiritmuse Records)

Celebrating 50 years, percussionist Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble as the trio of El'Zabar, Corey Wilkes (trumpet) and Alex Harding (bar. sax), joined on tracks by James Sanders (violin) and Ishmael Ali (cello), reinterpret classics including "Great Black Music", "Ornette" and Aretha Franklin's "Compared to What", along with Miles' "All Blues" and McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance". ... Click to View


Simon Hanes:
Tsons of Tsunami (Tzadik)

Drawing on a far-ranging set of influences--jazz, rock, contemporary, surf & exotica--California-born improvising guitarist Simon Hanes (of Trigger, who covered Zorn's Bagatelles) now resides in NYC, appropriately releasing an album of eclectic, generally upbeat, sometimes quirky, typically melodic instrumentals performed with an octet ensemble of incredible musicianship. ... Click to View


Joel Futterman:
Perspicacity (Soul City Sounds)

Five extended improvised piano solos from Joel Futterman recording in his home base of Virginia Beach, each an incredible journey in free playing that quotes and comments on the history of jazz piano, living up to the album's title through insight, perceptiveness, wit and intuition, Futterman's technique and mastery expressing narratives of amazing confidence and solid direction. ... Click to View


Kimmel.Ali.Harris (Jeff Kimmel / Ishmael Ali / Bill Harris):
Flora Oblique [CASSETTE w/ DOWNLOAD] (Amalgam)

The third release for the Chicago collective improvising trio of Jeff Kimmel on clarinet & electronics, Ishmael Ali on cello & electronics and Bill Harris on drums & feedback, acoustic interplay in the foreground with electronics adding layers of intriguing sonic pressure as their playing evolves through clear and cohesive conversation over punctuated & textural foundations. ... Click to View


Anthony Donofrio :
These Calm Words (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

An exquisite recording of composer Anthony Donofrio 1972 work for solo vibraphone captured at the University of Nebraska where Donofrio teaches and directs their new music ensemble, this extended work for solo vibraphone performed by Donofrio himself, living up to its title in a delicate advancement from clear playing to unusual vibraphone timbres and technique. ... Click to View


Eva-Maria Houben (Kei Kondo / Takahiro Kuroda):
His Master's Voice / Aus Den Fliegenden Blattern Eines Fahrenden Waldhornisten / Lose Verbunden (Ftarri Clasical)

One of two albums capturing a May 15th, 2023 concert in Tokyo by composer Takahiro Kuroda at the Ftarri performance space, titled "Square of Thoughts Vol. 2: Eva-Maria Houben and Horn + x", this album presenting two Houben works for solo horn performed by virtuoso horn player Kei Kondo, and one solo piano piece performed by Kuroda on upright piano. ... Click to View


Eva-Maria Houben (Takahiro Kuroda / Kei Kondo):
Echo Fantasy II (Ftarri Clasical)

The second of two albums capturing a May 15th, 2023 concert in Tokyo by composer & pianist Takahiro Kuroda at the Ftarri performance space, titled "Square of Thoughts Vol. 2: Eva-Maria Houben and Horn + x", this album presenting a 2018 Houben composition for horn and piano titled "Echo Fantasy II", performed by virtuoso horn player Kei Kondo and Takahiro Kuroda on upright piano. ... Click to View


Rutger Zuydervelt :
Kites (music for a performance by Roshanak Morrowatian) (Machinefabriek)

Music for a solo dance piece performed by Roshanak Morrowatian and composed by Netherland electronic artist Rutger Zuydervelt, the subject of the dance reflecting on the experience of young asylum seekers forced from their native countries to grow up somewhere unfamiliar, the music in seven parts weaving fragments of Iranian popular music into Zuydervelt's abstract electronics. ... Click to View


Simulacrum:
Mimesis (Evil Clown)

Expanding on their 2023 Homunculus, the Boston-based collective ensemble Simulacrum with a core of David Peck on reeds, percussion, keys and direction, Eric Woods on analog synth and Bob Moores on space trumpet & guitar are expanded with Cecil Taylor bassist Albey OnBass, synthesist Eric Zinman, reedist Michael Caglianone and drummer Michael Knoblach. ... Click to View


John Butcher + 13:
Fluid Fixations (Weight of Wax)

Commissioned for the 2021 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, John Butcher's fantastic work for 14 improvisers of unique approach employs what Butcher refers to as "psychological orchestration"--imagining how each performer might respond to particular ideas & their sonic company--the score, which includes photographic imagery, directing specific solos, duos & small groupings. ... Click to View


Phantom Orchard (Ikue Mori / Zeena Parkins):
Hit Parade of Tears (Tzadik)

Distilling their ensemble to its original duo configuration, New York improvisers Zeena Parkins and Ikue Mori reflect on the stories of Japanese author Izumi Suzuki through ten mysteriously eclectic and beautifully developed compositions of harp (acoustic and electric), electronics, percussion, harmonium, ondes martenot, and much more; wonderful, imaginative and evocative work. ... Click to View



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  When They Write the Book  

Pianist Lewis Porter's Creates an Encyclopedia of Jazz


By Matt Rand 2003-03-28

There's a fundamental difference for documentarians between exploring the past and organizing the present. The historian who mines the past is a detective, searching for ways to expand the scope and the cohesion of information that has been dwindling. Lewis Porter Clues abound, but they aren't growing. With each year, the potential for errors magnifies, and the uninspected moments recede into quiet solitude. The chronicler who gives order to the present, however, has to make sense of more information than he could sift through in a lifetime. The present is everywhere, is ever changing, and so the historian has to pick and choose, define general movements and trends. Sometimes, though, a historian comes along and wants to catalog everything, to leave no stone unturned. More power to him, the rest of us think. Let him be our Sisyphus.

For much of his career as a jazz historian (as well as a jazz pianist), Lewis Porter, the director of the Masters Program in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers University, has focused on the past. In one of his better known works, John Coltrane: His Life and Music, Porter investigated a life already much written about. But he took on the subject by starting at the beginning and taking nothing for granted. One example is the discrepancy he noticed between Coltrane's previously reported years of military service (December, 1945 - June, 1946) and the actual way in which military service generally plays out. How could he have started in the Navy band, as was previously reported, when he first started in the Navy? What about basic training? As it turns out, the date most biographers had used came from an interview where Coltrane said he was in the band from December, 1945 to June, 1946, not that he was in the military from December, 1945 to June, 1946.Military service records are publicly available, so Porter checked on it. Sure enough, the earlier figure was wrong, and Coltrane actually served from July, 1945 to August, 1946.

So what, right? We care about Coltrane the musician, not Coltrane the short-term soldier. But Porter insists, and makes a very convincing case, that this is exactly what is important. First, it gives fluidity and cohesion to a musician's life. Musicians are people, after all, with birthdays, anniversaries, family and sometimes also military service. Porter explains that "one thing that's missing in all the other reference works and a lot of what's written about jazz is any sense that jazz musicians have families. Look at a biography of anyone who's not a jazz musician: the first thing they go into is the family history. Whether you're looking at Edward R. Murrow, or any book about any president, or about James Joyce or Ernest Hemingway, the first thing they do is say his father was named this, his mother was named that and this is where he came from. So you have a sense that they didn't just land on this planet - Miles Davis didn't just land on the planet in 1926."

The second reason that comprehensive (and accurate) information is important is a little less direct, but is just as compelling. Jazz has always been an also-ran for historians, and even, more specifically, for musicologists. The discourse on Bach is very different from the discourse on John Coltrane. Keeping the history, then, becomes a struggle for the validity of jazz and its musicians. Huge institutional strides have been made of late, but we still look at its past with the kind of wonder that we usually save for mythology, or for things we don't know much about. Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker are colossal figures who could pick up rail cars with their bare hands and bend street signs with their minds.

For Porter, jazz musicians are real people living in real places, and that they are part of a community of musicians that they both affect and are affected by. This has brought him headlong out of the past and into the present. He is presently working on a jazz encyclopedia, but it won't be like the ones that came before it. Porter is aiming to include all living jazz musicians in his encyclopedia. Yes, all of them.

"It's great to have the Grove [New Grove Dictionary of Jazz] and the one that Leonard Feather did that was revised by Ira Gitler [The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz]," he said, "but they do a lot of picking and choosing of who quote-unquote 'deserves' to be in an encyclopedia. What I'd like to see out there is not to have anybody deciding whether you deserve to be in there or not, just a place to find anybody that you may hear on a recording or go see out in the club... The only bottom line is they have to be performing on a professional level."

Though don't take that to mean that a musician has to earn all of his money playing jazz, just that he plays actual gigs. Sisyphus, indeed, is in the building. ("Oh, no question about that," Portet said. "This rock is going to roll right over me.")

As biographical information goes, the encyclopedia is going to have everything. It'll have information on the musicians' parents, siblings, spouses and children; on radio, film and TV broadcasts and appearances; on unissued recordings; newspaper and magazine articles; awards; websites; contact information, and photos. There will be indexes based on last name, birth year and instrument. And, "because I'm a jazz historian, I have files on probably about 5,000 jazz musicians, of things that are in the news, things that I've observed myself and things that they've told me." Those will find their way into the book, as well.

There are a couple caveats (that the mam moth task requires superhuman patience is merely an aside). "The day it comes out, two things are going to happen," Porter said. "One is I'm going to have dozens of emails from musicians saying 'Oh, I changed my website or my phone number,' or 'I forgot to tell you something.' And the other thing that's going to happen is there'll be a whole new group. I'm sure there are going to be dozens of musicians a day saying, 'I didn't know about this - how did I not know about this? How come I'm not in there?'" But of course, he added, "that'll be the impetus for a new edition."

Another issue that will come up is that some musicians will pass away during the process of putting the book together. "I'm being a little bit flexible about that, because some cats have passed away in the last year or so. In some cases I'm in touch with the family. For instance, I know the widow of Ken McIntyre, and she says, 'you know I can give you a biography; I'm his widow; I know stuff that nobody knows.' And he just passed away, so why not?"

Porter understands that, for the encyclopedia to be a valuable reference tool, it must develop a context for the musicians. And so he aims to capture the essence of the jazz scene at this particular point in time. But he won't be writing articles on the music, like those that appear in the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. What he will be doing to foster this context is letting the musicians write their own entries, which he says about a third of them have done so far (with Porter acting as fact-checker). Porter hopes that by encouraging musicians to write their own entries, they'll be able to share their stories as they see them, and in so doing, will create a collection of accurate representations of what's actually going on in jazz.

There are, of course, drawbacks to this system. Porter had initially intended to collect all of the information by January 1 of thi s year, but that hasn't happened yet. He's not drastically off-schedule, but he is certainly knee-deep in a lot more information than he expected. "It's been hours a day, getting my email, sorting it into files, making an index of who's responded so far," he said.

And the entries keep coming in. Porter said he's been surprised by the number of international submissions he's received from musicians he hadn't heard of, but who are very well-known in their home countries. They've been rolling in from the Netherlands, from Poland, from Finland. He's also been surprised by some of the big names who have personally sent him submissions, players such as Joe McPhee, Jane Ira Bloom and Roy Campbell. Initially, he thought he'd be doing most of the work for the musicians he knows of. ("Wynton Marsalis and Joshua Redman won't be sending me submissions.") So it's hard to step away from it all, although he knows he'll eventually have to. "There's going to be a point where I just have to call it quits. I'll just have to say, 'Okay, that's how big the book's going to be,' because it certainly could go on forever."

Until then, the pile of submissions grows, and the unturned stones are becoming harder to spot. It seems Dr. Porter might almost be getting this rock to the top of the hill. He comes back to explaining the value of contact information for the musicians, which Leonard Feather's encyclopedia had included, as well. Porter laughs and then says, "It's kind of fun, actually. You browse through it and it'll say 'Thelonius Monk,' and it'll have his address at West 64 Street." Time has a funny way of making history.

Lewis Porter is accepting entries for his jazz encyclopedia through May 15, 2003. He can be contacted at lrpjazz@aol.com



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