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Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (Hot Cup)

The first release by the piano trio configuration of Mostly Other People Do the Killing and features bassist/composer Moppa Elliott, pianist Ron Stabinsky, and drummer Kevin Shea, with each composition named after a small town in Pennsylvania that contains a color, and the town of "Paint, PA" lent its name to the title, with one apt Duke Ellington cover. ... Click to View


Moppa Elliott : Still, Up In The Air (Hot Cup)

Solo double-bass improvisations from Mostly Other People Do the Killing bassist and leader Moppa Elliot, consisting of sequences of contrasting themes, or musical cubism in the spirit of Picasso and Braque, presenting 7 of 14 sequences where the improvisation is a series of disparate musical ideas that transition rapidly in an attempt to disrupt the linear progression of thematic development. ... Click to View


Leandre / Minton: Leandre / Minton (Fou Records)

Phil Minton started as a trumpeter and became one of free improv's most outside vocalists; Joelle Leandre is a double bassist who also performs free vocal improv; this is their first recorded collaboration, and it's an unusual and wonderful album of heavy tone improvisation, plucked and bowed, and a masterfully odd free association of vocalisation. ... Click to View


Talibam! : Endgame Of The Anthropocene [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam!'s 1st cinematic album of through-composed ecogothic geosonics, the "soundtrack to 2048's despotic nationalism and crumbling international infrastructure, underscoring an eco-mercantilistic tragedy and the desperate plundering of the last pristine landscape on Earth" from NY's duo of Matt Mottel on mini moog and synths, and Kevin Shea on drums, and midi mallet percussion. ... Click to View


Talibam! / Matt Nelson / Ron Stabinsky: Hard Vibe [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam! with Matt Mottel on sax, Kevin Shea on drums, Matt Mottel on Fender Rhodes and synth and Ron Stabinsky on organ take inspiration from Herbie Hancock's 70's electronics, Miles Davis' "On the Corner" and Albert Ayler's New grass in compositions that transforms aspects of rhythm changes into a disciplined sequence, a new take on psychedelic jazz. ... Click to View


Crys Cole / Oren Ambarchi: Hotel Record [VINYL 2 LPs] (Black Truffle)

A double LP and the second release from the duo of Crys Cole and Oren Ambarchi, also romantic partners, as they explore their relationship through sound and voice, each side presenting a unique approach to their collaboration while maintaining a certain somnambulist feeling over rich guitar and organ work, and other unfathomable sound. ... Click to View


Boneshaker (Mars Williams / Paal Nilssen-Love / Kent Kessler): Thinking Out Loud (Trost Records)

The third album from this international trio of powerful improvisers--Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, and Chicago/NY saxophonist Mars William-- in four odysseys that take the listener from introspective playing to out and out blowing, using technique to serve their incredible dialog. ... Click to View


Sven-Ake Johansson / Alexander Von Schlippenbach : Schraubenlieder [VINYL] (Trost Records)

Drummer Sven-Ake Johansson is also a poet, writer and visual artist; here he joined forced with Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1988 to record these songs, never previously released, sung in German and English, for a set of 9 fascinating narrations that engage the listener independent of language, as von Schlippenbach improvises with prodigious technique. ... Click to View


Annette Peacock & Paul Bley: Dual Unity (Bamboo)

Reissuing the debut album by vocalist Annette Peacock and pianist Paul Bley recorded during their first European tour in 1970, in a quartet with compatriots Mario Pavone on bass and Laurence Cook on drums, Bley using an early Moog synthesizer; unique and original avant jazz. ... Click to View


Paul Bley Trio: Closer [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Paul Bley's 2nd ESP album from 1966, a lyrical and lush trio setting with material mostly from Carla Bley, one Ornette Coleman number, and one from Annette Peacock, with Steve Swallow on bass and Barry Altschul on percussion, exploratory free jazz that uses melodic intention in assertive but not aggressive aways; a classic. ... Click to View


Pharoah Sanders : Quintet [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Pharoah Sanders' 1965 debut release on ESP, in a quinet with Jane Getz on piano, William Bennett on bass, Stan Foster on trumpet and Mavin Pattillo on percussion, decidedly a jazz album from this outside player known for his association with John Coltrane in his freeist moments, here bridging lyrical and avant worlds with powerful playing. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Najwa (Tum)

Paying tribute to musicians whose vision paved the way for modern creative players to use new approaches, language and philosophy in improvisation, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's band with four guitarists, electric bass, drums and percussion dedicates five incredible compositions to Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Billie Holiday. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Solo - Reflections And Meditations On Monk (Tum)

An intimate album of solo trumpet from Wadada Leo Smith, performing compositions by Thelonious Monk, Smith professing in an essay in the accompanying booklet that he was motivated to become a composer by Monk above other contemporaries for his ideas of composition and bands; his admiration and love of Monk's work is clear in this beautifully lyrical album. ... Click to View


Aki Takase / Alexander von Schlippenbach: So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (Intakt)

Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase assembled an ensemble of Dolphy interpreters that includes bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, saxophonist Tobias Delius, vibraphonist Karl Berger, trumpeter Axel Dorner, trombonist Nils Wogram, &c, for a fresh take on compositions from one of free jazz's most iconic composers, Eric Dolphy, captured live in Berlin, 2014. ... Click to View


Steve Noble / Yoni Silver: Home (Aural Terrains)

The two-headed snake on the cover of this album aptly describes the sublimely sinuous and dark interplay between London free jazz drummer Steve Noble and bass clarinetist Yoni Silver, their 4-part improvisation taking on sinister elements of exceptional cymbal techniques, unusual drum tones, and extended lower register tones and high harmonics; excellent. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Asian Meeting Recordings #1 (Doubtmusic)

Otomo Yoshihide started The Asian Meeting Festival in 2005 to foster creative interaction between Japanese and other Asian musicians, since 2014 curated by DJ Sniff, and here in the 2017 edition at GOK Sound, in Tokyo, Japan with a who's-who of players including Yoshihide, Ryoko Ono, Ko Ishikawa, Son X, KEITO, Yuji Ishihara, Yuen Chee Wai, &c. &c. ... Click to View


Jim Black Trio: The Constant (Intakt)

A beautiful example of the modern piano trio, led by in-demand drummer, Jim Black, with Elias Stemeseder the pianist and Thomas Morgan on bass, in a lyrical album that uses Black's compelling and elusive drumming on 9 original Black compositions and one unexpected standard, as all three deliver complex playing that sounds accessible and engaging, a true achievement. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / Barry Guy: Backscatter Bright Blue (Intakt)

Both bassist Barry Guy and guitarist Fred Frith are key artists of Switzerland's Intakt label catalog, but surprisingly the two have never shared a stage together; Intakt had a feeling about their pairing and brought them into the studio, this superb duo album being the result in 10 brilliant tracks intertwining acoustic double bass and electric guitar. ... Click to View


Fred Frith Trio: Another Day in Fucking Paradise (Intakt)

Proclaiming that he nothing more in mind then getting together with a couple of formidable musicians, guitarist Fred Frith and Mills College alumni Jordan Glenn on drums and Jason Hoopes on electric and double bass take their listeners through 13 connected pieces that reference rock, jazz and ea-soundscape in an impressive album from a remarkable new group. ... Click to View


Lotte Anker / Fred Frith: Edge Of The Light (Intakt)

An intimate dialog between frequent collaborators, UK guitarist Fred Frith and Copenhagen saxophonist Lotte Anker, both players listening carefully as they interact in a fragile dialog of profound technique and inventive approach, using texture and nuance to create unusual and captivating interchanges that demonstrate how compatible these two very different instruments can be. ... Click to View


Schlippenbach Trio (Schlippenbach / Evan Parker / Lovens): Features (Intakt)

The long-standing Schlippenbach Trio with Evan Parker on saxophone and Paul Lovens on drums presents 15 concise "Features", improvisations of great depth and diversity, from the beautifully stark solo piano that opens the album to intense collective interactions, avoiding excess in deference to the profound expression of an inspiring group chemistry. ... Click to View


Mark Dresser : Modicana [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Double Bassist Mark Dresser, a mainstay of the Downtown NY scene as an improviser and composer, and also prominent on the US West Coast and as an international touring artist, releases a powerful album of distinctive solo playing, both technically and melodically, with 2 tracks caught live at the Umea Jazz Festival and others recorded at the University of California, San Diego. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Hafez Modirzadeh / Ken Filiano / Royal Hartigan: Live at the Magic Triangle [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

A live concert at Amherst, Massachusetts in 2016 as part of the Magical Triangle Jazz Series from the quartet of legendary cornetist Bobby Bradford, Turkish saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh on tenor, in-demand New York bassist Ken Filiano, and percussionist/drummer Royal Hartigan, the band performing two Bradford compositions, with one each from Filiano, Modirzadeh and Hartigan. ... Click to View


Andrew Lamb / Warren Smith / Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Captured live at the 2016 Vilnius Jazz Festival, the free jazz trio of saxophonist Andrew Lamb and percussionists Warren Smith and Arkadijus Gotesmanas provide a unique orchestration, with the percussionists building rhythmic structures over which AACM alumni Lamb's powerful saxophone work emerges; a great album of solid exploratory free jazz. ... Click to View


Yedo Gibson / Hernani Faustino / Vasco Trilla: CHAIN (NoBusiness)

A fiery and energetic album of masterful free jazz from Brazilian saxophonist Yedo Gibson, Portuguese-Brazilian drummer and percussionist Vasco Trilla, and Portuguese bass player Hernani Faustino (Red Trio, K4 Quadrado Azul), recording in the studio for 6 dynamic dialogs that uses a variety of approaches and references to free jazz and creative improv. ... Click to View


TON-KLAMI (Midori Takada / Kang Tae Hwan / Masahiko Satoh): Prophesy of Nue (NoBusiness)

Ton-Klami was an influential Japanese free improvising band active in the 90s, and leading to the solo careers of percussionist Midori Takada, pianist Masahiko Satoh, and saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan; here the band is heard in a 1995 live concert recorded at Design Plaza Hofu in Yamaguchi, Japan, recorded by Chap-Chap Records but never released. ... Click to View


Liudas Mockunas : Hydro [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Lithuanian reedist Liudas Mockunas in an unusual record of clarinet and saxophone improvisations, from solo work of powerful technique to pieces using water prepared instruments to create a wealth of bubbling and aberrant sound on the instrument, side A presenting the 7 part "Hydration Suite", Side B the 3 part "Rehydration", and "Dehydration". ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


Sun Ra & His Myth Science Solar Arkestra: The Lost Arkestra Series Vol 1 & 2 [2 10-INCH VINYL RECORDS] (Art Yard)

A double 10" featuring unreleased and rare Sun Ra recordings, including a live track from Paris in 1983, two unreleased cuts from the "Disco 3000" concert tapes, a quartet session with Sun Ra on the Crumar Mainman synth, and three selections from the Sub-Underground series of Saturn LPs, including a ballad and new material from "Live at Temple" and "What's New". ... 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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