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Satoko Fujii: Solo (Libra)

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The fifth album from the French and Japanese quartet Kaze, initiated by drummer Pter Orins, with two trumpeters--Christian Pruvost and Natsuki Tamura--and pianist Satoko Fujii, all using extended and unusual techniques as they perform innovative compositions from Fujii, Orins, and Tamura with a balance of serious and playful approaches; brilliant. ... Click to View


Fire!: The Hands (Rune Grammofon)

The genre-defying trio Fire! with Mats Gustafsson on saxophones & electronics, Andreas Werliin on drums, percussion and effects, and Johan Berthling on upright and electric bass, blend heavy and dark elements of free improvisation, free rock, free blues, sound and noise, and sampled overlays in their latest, cultured and crude album of brooding and gripping music. ... Click to View


Fire!: The Hands [VINYL + CD] (Rune Grammofon)

The genre-defying trio Fire! with Mats Gustafsson on saxophones & electronics, Andreas Werliin on drums, percussion and effects, and Johan Berthling on upright and electric bass, blend heavy and dark elements of free improvisation, free rock, free blues, sound and noise, and sampled overlays in their latest, cultured and crude album of brooding and gripping music. ... Click to View


Lisa Mezzacappa : Glorious Ravage (New World Records)

San Francisco Bay Area composer, acoustic bassist, and bandleader, Lisa Mezzacappa used the 1872 writings of British world traveler Isabella Bird "I am doing what a woman can hardly ever do ..." as the basis for lyrics for her adventurous ten-part "panoramic song cycle for improvisers, with Fay Victor handling the vocals with a stellar ensemble of modern improvisers. ... Click to View


George Lewis: Assemblage (New World Records)

Composer George Lewis leads an ensemble that bridges compositional and improvisation skills through four large compositions written between 2012 and 2014 using the concept of "assemblage," a pragmatic, material, non-teleological approach to composition on four differing themes, yielding fascinatingly complex yet diverse, thrilling and embraceable results. ... Click to View


Daniel Levin / Chris Pitsiokos / Brandon Seabrook: Stomiidae (Dark Tree Records)

A collective trio of vanguard improvisers and frequent New York collaborators, Daniel Levin on cello, Chris Pitsiokos on alto saxophone, and Brandon Seabrook on electric guitar, a working band captured here in the studio at Firehouse 12 for a powerful set of idiosyncratic and exhilarating improvisations with tracks and the title named for a family of deep sea fish. ... Click to View


Jaap Blonk / Terrie Ex: Thirsty Ears (Terp Records)

Ex guitarist Terrie Ex improvises with Dutch sound poet and electronicist Jaap Blonk for 9 stories and sonic works, using unusual phonetic interpretations in strange stories with electronic asides and interventions, a truly unique album drawing on the evolution of their duo since 2012 that includies performances in Ex's Ethiopian "Soundpoetry" series of concerts and workshops. ... Click to View


Plan B (Joe Mcphee / James Keepnews / David Berger): From Outer Space [VINYL with DOWNLOAD] (Roaratorio)

Spinning an unusual story, the trio of saxophonist and pocket trumpeter Joe McPhee, guitarist and laptop artist James Keepnews, and drummer David Berger envision the first encounter between alien life and a delegation of earthlings, while giving a nod to jazz's original man from another planet, Sun Ra, with a side-long suite dedicated to him. ... Click to View


Rutger Zuydervelt (w/ Ilia Belorukov / Rene Aquarius): The Red Soul (Sofa)

Music for the movie "The Red Soul" by Jessica Gorter, a chilling and fascinating look at the legacy of Josef Stalin, from an electroacoustic trio of Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) editing and processing the playing of saxophonist Ilia Belorukov and percussionist Rene Aquarius, a dark and muted set of 14 emotional tracks that reflect a dark history. ... Click to View


Lasse Marhaug: Void [7"] (BeCoq)

Two dark works of sound creating a mysterious chasm of drones, pulsations, electronic stretches, and mysterious percussive engines, a strange pair of recordings that definitely fit the title of this 7" record from Norwegian sound experimenter Lasse Marhaug. ... Click to View


Makoto Kawabata / Richard Pinhas / Tatsuya Yoshida: (Bam Balam Records)

Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple), Richard Pinhas (Heldon), and Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins), modern and prolific explorers in the 21st century evolution of so-called progressive rock, reunite at the Studio Condorcet in Toulouse (France) to record a series of fiery improvisations and experimentations blending free noise, blues, and psychedelia. ... Click to View


Makoto Kawabata / Richard Pinhas / Tatsuya Yoshida: (Bam Balam Records)

Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple), Richard Pinhas (Heldon), and Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins), modern and prolific explorers in the 21st century evolution of so-called progressive rock, reunite at the Studio Condorcet in Toulouse (France) to record a series of fiery improvisations and experimentations blending free noise, blues, and psychedelia. ... Click to View


Dominik Karski : GLIMMER Flute o'clock (Bolt)

... Click to View


Cortex: Avant-Garde Party Music [VINYL] (Clean Feed)

Cortex propels their persuasive, groove oriented approach to jazz with this swinging album that blends free jazz styles with great hard bop, in line with a band like The Thing, this Scandinavian group wants to make your body move without indulging in excess or pandering, instead following a muse that's solidly in the exuberant free jazz tradition. ... Click to View


Evan Parker / Barry Guy / Paul Lytton: Music For David Mossman (Intakt)

David Mossman is the founder of The Vortex Jazz Club in London, where in January 1983 the British trio of Evan Parker on sax, Barry Guy on bass, and Paul Lytton on drums recorded their first album together on the Incus label, "Tracks"; returning now, 43 years later, to pay tribute to the club and to record this absolutely impressive album of commanding free improvisation. ... Click to View


Amok Amor: We Know Not What We Do (Intakt)

An edgy, technically spectacular, inventive and slightly twisted jazz quartet of German-based free improvisers Christian Lillinger (drums), Petter Eldh (bass), Wanja Slavin (sax), with NY trumpeter Peter Evans (Mostly Other People Do the Killing) on trumpet, for 9 innovative compositions that thrill, amuse, and keep you on the edge of your seat. ... Click to View


Jurg Wickihalder / Barry Guy / Lucas Niggli: Beyond (Intakt)

A working trio formed from 3 generations of free jazz players dedicated to performing and recording, Jurg Wickihalder (sax), Barry Guy (bass) and Lucas Niggli (drums) spent two days at the Loft in Cologne, Germany recording this album of virtuosic skill and joyful playing, effortlessly passing from lyrical to abstract sections with always a song in their collective heart. ... Click to View


Eskelin / Weber / Griener: Sensations of Tone (Intakt)

Taking their title from a 19th century text by Hermann von Helmholtz on acoustics and perception of sound, the trio of NY saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, German drummer Michael Griener, and Swiss bassist Christian Weber present a a series of improvised pieces alternated with early jazz compositions, juxtaposing both approaches to highlight their similarities and the differences. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman (w/ Matthew Shipp / William Parker): The Art Of Perelman-Shipp Volume 1 Titan (Leo)

For more than 20 years Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and New York pianist Matthew Shipp have collaborated in a diverse set of projects that have led to more than 30 albums; this first volume of 6 albums brings the two together with frequent collaborator William Parker for a 6 part work, fittingly dedicated to Saturn's largest moon, "Titan". ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman (w/ Matthew Shipp / Bobby Kapp): The Art Of Perelman-Shipp Volume 2 Tarvos (Leo)

For more than 20 years Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and New York pianist Matthew Shipp have collaborated in a diverse set of projects that have led to more than 30 albums; this second volume brings the duo together with legendary drummer Bobby Kapp, who's nimble and relaxed approach showcases himself and the duo of Pereleman Shipp with grace. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman (w/ Matthew Shipp / William Parker / Whit Dickey): The Art Of Perelman-Shipp Volume 3 Pandora (Leo)

For more than 20 years Brazilian/NY saxophonist Ivo Perelman and NY pianist Matthew Shipp have collaborated in a diverse set of projects that have led to more than 30 albums; this 3rd volume brings David S. Ware's (or Shipp's Trio) rhythm section the studio for a turbulent and ultimately fiersome album of free improv that only such long relationships can invoke. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman (w/ Matthew Shipp / Michael Bisio): The Art Of Perelman-Shipp Volume 4 Hyperion (Leo)

For more than 20 years Brazilian/NY saxophonist Ivo Perelman and NY pianist Matthew Shipp have collaborated in a diverse set of projects that have led to more than 30 albums; this 4th volume celebrating that partnership adds another long-term compatriot, NY bassist Michael Bisio, for a 10 part series of improvisations exploring a diverse set of approaches. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman (w/ Matthew Shipp / William Parker / Whit Dickey): The Art Of Perelman-Shipp Volume 5 Rhea (Leo)

For more than 20 years Brazilian/NY saxophonist Ivo Perelman and NY pianist Matthew Shipp have collaborated in a diverse set of projects that have led to more than 30 albums; this 5th volume celebrating that partnership brings the duo together with bassist William Parker and drummer Whit Dickey, where the long-term bonds of all 4 players push each to great heights. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman (w/ Matthew Shipp): The Art Of Perelman-Shipp Volume 6 Saturn (Leo)

For more than 20 years Brazilian/NY saxophonist Ivo Perelman and NY pianist Matthew Shipp have collaborated in a diverse set of projects that have led to more than 30 albums; this 6th volume bring us back to the core, evoking the planet Saturn in a 10-part series of duos between these two masterful players, showing fire and angular playing in mid-tempo exploration. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman (w/ Matthew Shipp / Andrew Cyrille): The Art Of Perelman-Shipp Volume 7 Dione (Leo)

For more than 20 years Brazilian/NY saxophonist Ivo Perelman and NY pianist Matthew Shipp have collaborated in a diverse set of projects that have led to more than 30 albums; this 7th and final volume brings legendary drummer Andrew Cyrille together with the duo in a subtle album propelled by Cyrille's authoritative rhythms and superb interaction of all three players. ... Click to View


Myra Melford Trio: Alive In The House Of Saints CD 2 (Hatology)

The much-anticipated 2nd volume in pianist Myra Melford's series of live performances, "Alive In The House Of Saints", documenting sublimely beautiful and innovative playing with her trio of Lindsey Horner on bass and jazz legend Reggie Nicholson on drums, performing live in two concerts in Germany in 1993. ... Click to View


Michael Adkins Quartet (w/ Russ Lossing / Larry Grenadier / Paul Motion): Flaneur (Hatology)

Much is made of Canadian saxophonist Michael Adkin's mid-tempo approach to jazz, heard here in his 3rd album, "Flaneur", which translates to "stroller" or "saunterer", an apt description of the lyrical, unhurried yet technically adept and sophisticated approach taken by his quartet with Russ Lossing on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass and Paul Motian on drums. ... Click to View


Samuel Blaser Trio (w/ Marc Ducret / Peter Bruun): Taktlos Zurich 2017 (Hatology)

With a history of work in Switzerland, NY and Berlin, trombonist Samuel Blaser brings his multi-national trio with avant improvising guitarist Marc Ducret and Dutch drummer Peter Bruun to the stage of the Taktlos Festival in Zurich, Switzerland in 2017 for a set of extended improvisations, all three players displaying a unique language of incisive and fascinating free jazz. ... Click to View


Markus Eichenberger / Daniel Studer: Suspended (Hatology)

Swiss compatriots with a long history of creative approaches to improvisation, double bassist Daniel Studer and clarinetist & bass clarinetist Markus Eichenberger join together for a studio album recorded at Radio Zurich in 2016, an album of furtive tension and suspense, each track named for a motion or subtle action that they carefully describe. ... 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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