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Steve Lacy: Free for a Minute (1966-72) [2 CDs] (Emanem)

Four sessions on a 2 CD set, all featuring Steve Lacy and Kent Carter: (1) DISPOSABILITY, the 1965 trio record with Aldo Romano of jazz standards, originals and free improv; (2) SORTIE, the 1966 free improv quartet + Enrico Rava album; (3) previously unissued 1967 'Free Fall' Film Cues in a quintet with Rava, Karl Berger, & Paul Motian; (4) two never issued '72 quintet pieces with Steve Potts, Irene Aebi on cello and Noel Mcghie. ... Click to View


Paul Rutherford : In Backward Times (1979-2007) (Emanem)

Four very different previously unissued concert settings featuring trombonist Paul Rutherford: 2 festival solos - one from 1979 with electronics and one from 2004 without; a 1988 duo with Paul Rogers a few months before their ROGUES CD; and a 2007 trio with Veryan Weston and Marcio Mattos, which turned out to be Rutherford's last public appearance. ... Click to View


Barry Guy: Frogs [VINYL 7-inch PICTURE DISC] (Trost Records)

A 7" limited vinyl picture disc made to celebrate legendary European Free Jazz bassist Barry Guy's 70th birthday, with Guy providing "acoustic sounds" along with his collaborating frogs, Wasserfrosch (Rana Esculenta) and Laubfrosch (Hyla Arborea), size A presenting Frogs & Barry Guy, and side 2, Barry Guy & Frogs; quirkly and wonderful free improv. ... Click to View


Christian Wolff : Berlin Exercises [VINYL] (God Records)

A series of shorter works composed by Christian Wolff written to explore the process of practicing and working within specified limits, exercises for both the composer and the performers, recorded live in Berlin in 2000 by an ensemble directed by Peter Ablinger and including Wolff on piano & melodica, Robin Hayward on tuba, Anette Krebs on guitar, &c. ... Click to View


Phill Niblock: Rhymes With Water [VINYL] (God Records)

A beautiful set of minimalist compositional drone from New York composer Phill Niblock, commissioned by the performers Natalia Pschenitschnikowa on bass flute and Erik Drescher on glissando flute, recorded at PIETHOPRAXIS, in Cologne, Germany by Marcus Schmickler, and in Berlin, Germany, by Thomas Ankersmit. ... Click to View


Simon Rummel Ensemble: IM MEER (Umlaut Records)

German composer and improviser Simon Rummel presents the 2nd release from his 11-piece Simon Rummel Ensemble, blending his interest in acoustic phenomena and improvisational harmonics in an extended work that shift from beautiful tonal work to disruptive cacophony and back to melodic music blending jazz and 20th century approaches; a great achievement. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee / Bryan Eubanks: My Undocumented Alien Clarinet [VINYL] (Penultimate Press)

Recorded and presented as part of Pauline Oliveros Foundation's New Vanguard Series in Kingston, NY in 2006, the unusual duo of Joe McPhee on b-flat and e-flat alto clarinets and synthesizer and Bryan Eubanks on open circuit electronics explores unusual dynamics and psychoacoustic intersections of both acoustic and electronic instruments. ... Click to View


Blaise Siwula / Jorge Nuno: Waterscapes (Creative Sources)

Waterscapes is the performing duo of New York saxophonist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Jorge Nuno, interwining distinct approaches to acoustic and electric improvisation, creating rich sound environments and rapid interaction that draws the listener in and then sweeps them off their feet with passionate, complex and informed dialog. ... Click to View


Carlo Mascolo: My Tubes (Creative Sources)

A unique take on this large brass instrument from Italian trombonis and Free Flow Festival director Carlo Mascolo, using preparations, focusing on components of the instrument, and using extreme techniques to create a startlingly diverse set of sounds, vocalisations, microtonal output and simply bizarre utterances as Mascolo attempts bring new language to horn. ... Click to View


Alfredo Monteiro Costa / Miguel A. Garcia: Aq'Ab'Al (Mikroton Recordings)

Audio experimenters Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Miguel A. Garcia join forces in an album titled after "Aq'ab'al", the Mayan Astrology Sign about polar opposites-- dawn and dusk, hot and cold, black and white--which represents renewal and change, through a series of opposing audio events, forceful sounds of texture, feedback, and intervention. ... Click to View


John Butcher / John Edwards / Mark Sanders: Last Dream Of The Morning (Relative Pitch)

A studio album between three UK master improvisers -- John Butcher on sax, John Edwards on double bass, and Mark Sanders on drums -- the trio pushing the envelope in technique and dialog in nearly telepathic playing that transports the listener into their environment, as the music builds and releases in effortless ways that are stunning and exulant; highly recommended. ... Click to View


Fred Van Hove / Roger Turner: The Corner (Relative Pitch)

Pioneering improvising pianist Fred Van Hove at UK's Cafe OTO for the first time, captured in a duo with UK drummer/percussionist Roger Turner, their first recording together, for a night of exceptional improvised interplay, sophisticated and complex playing that is constantly buoyant and charming, an enthralling conversation between two veteran players. ... Click to View


Magda Mayas / Jim Denley: Tempe Jetz (Relative Pitch)

A pairing of two innovative players, Berlin-based pianist Magda Mayas and Australian sound and wind artist Jim Denley, Mayas playing inside and out of the piano and Denley on alto sax and bass flute, both providing field recordings adding unexpected elements in a set of extremely balanced recordings that entrance the listener with unlikely and captivating settings. ... Click to View


John Butcher: Resonant Spaces [VINYL] (Blume)

Extreme acoustic space recordings from saxophonist John Butcher, part of Arika's Resonant Spaces event, with performances from resonant and remote corners of Scotland. ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Kontakte Trio (Trevor Taylor / Ian Brighton / Steve Beresford): Kontakte Trio (FMR)

An important and well-matched trio of electroacoustic improvisers, and a welcome addition to guitarist Ian Brighton's return to active music life, with Steve Beresford on piano, prepared piano and electronics, and Trevor Taylor (Circuit) on percussion and electronics, six unhurried improvisations of intricate interplay and interchange themed on physics. ... Click to View


Viv Corringham / Lawrence Casserley: Anemoi (FMR)

Lawrence Casserley is a pioneer of real time electroacoustic music, since the 60s working with other artists and developing his Signal Processing Instrument, using physical gestures to process and morph sounds; here he works with British vocalist and Deep Listening teacher Viv Corringham in an other-worldly collaboration of voice and electonics. ... Click to View


Kamins / Smith / Fielder / Hertenstein: After Effects (FMR)

A great example of traditional free improvisation spanning generations from the quartet of Danny Kamins on baritone saxophone, Damon Smith on double bass, and two drummer/percussionists--Alvin Fielder and Joe Hertenstein--for 10 tracks of swinging free music recorded in the studio in Texas, 2016, jazz with a lyrical intention and powerful rhythmic underpinnings. ... Click to View


Pat Thomas: The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari [VINYL] (Otoroku)

Inspired by the automatic water clock invented by Iraq inventor, engineer, and father of robotics, Badi' al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari built in the 12th century, pianist Pat Thomas recorded these four exceptional improvisations of powerful solo piano with an unusual and inventive twist live at London's Cafe Oto in 2015. ... Click to View


Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza: Azioni/Reazioni 1967-1969 [4CD + DVD BOX] (Die Schachtel)

Box set CD reissue of the 2007 release of this seminal Italian free improvising group's complete recordings from 1967-69, in a deluxe box with 4 CDs, a DVD containing the original film "Nuova Consonanza" shot by Theo Gallher of their 1967 concert, and a 64 page LP-size book in English and Italian with essays, group commentary, collected reviews, &c. ... Click to View


Cilantro (Angelica Castello / Billy Roisz): Borderland (Mikroton Recordings)

Cilantro is the duo of multi-instrumentalists Angelica Castello on paetzold, ukulele, organ, tapes, & electronics, and Billy Roisz on electric bass, organ, tv, piezzo, computer & electronics, scrutinizing the activity in bordering areas between noise and silence, tenderness and rudeness, beat and drone, inner consciousness and outer awareness, control and freedom. ... Click to View


Burkhard Beins / Lucio Capece / Martin Kuchen / Paul Vogel: Fracture Mechanics (Mikroton Recordings)

"Fracture Mechanics" is the scientific study of cracks in any material, an apt title from these European experimental innovators--Burkhard Beins, Lucio Capece, Martin Kuchen, and Paul Vogel--pulling back the curtain on process and creating an impressive album crossing acoustic and electronic improv, organized sound, and inexplicable interaction; recommended. ... Click to View


The Holy Quintet (Change / Drouin / Lash / Lazardiou / Ryan): Borough (Mikroton Recordings)

The meeting of Johnny Chang (viola), Jamie Drouin (suitcase modular synth), Dominic Lash (double bass), Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga(zither, and David Ryan (bass clarinet) recording at Bourough welsh Congregational Chapel, in London in 2013, recorded by Another Timbre label leader Simon Reynell, for a unique merging of disparate approaches to ea-improv. ... Click to View


Kurt Liedwart / Andrey Popovskiy / Martin Taxt: Hjem (Mikroton Recordings)

A live concert at Dom Cultural Center in Moscow, Russia in 2015 from Norwegian tuba player Martin Taxt, Saint Petersburg violinist and object player Andrey Popovskiy, and ppool performer Kurt Liedwart focusing on sinewaves and noise, in an extended lowercase improvisation exploring harmonic and microtonal sounds. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Tipple (Frode Gjerstad / Kevin Norton / David Watson): Live at Elastic Arts (FMR)

Tipple, the trio of Frode Gjerstad on alto sax and clarinet, Kevin Norton on percussion, and David Watson on electric guitar, are captured live for an energetic and masterly concert at Elastic Arts, in Chicago, Illinois in 2015, four "Elastic" improvisations of intense interaction, from collective conversation to stunning solo statements; jaw dropping. ... Click to View


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  Big Sounds in a Small Town  

The Victoriaville Festival celebrates, or at least notices, its 20th anniversary


By Kurt Gottschalk
Photos by Martin Morissette 2003-06-19

Last year, after the 19th annual Festival International de Musicque Actuelle de Victoriaville, I asked festival organizer Michel Levasseur if he had big plans for Victo's 20th birthday. His response was, quite simply, that it was just another year and that he didn't see any reason why it should be a bigger deal than any other year.

Still, there were signs all over the small town (with a population of about 40,000, 7,000 tickets sold over the course of the five-day festival represent a noticeable swell on the streets every Victoria Day weekend) celebrating the anniversary, and a downtown bank gave away pieces of a birthday cake inscribed to FIMAV. Mentions of the anniversary from the stage, however, were rare. And while there were big sets from big names with long histories at the fest, other performances almost seemed to reinforce the idea that anniversaries are no big deal. Along with the stars and the oddities, a current of small sounds, well amplified, ran through the five-day festival.

Frith, Lussier, Etc.
Fred Frith, Maxime Lepage, René Lussier, Tom Walsh
Rene Lussier and Fred Frith performed at the first festival in 1983, and a duo set was the first release on Victo records, so it was fitting enough that the Quebecois guitarist opened the first night of the fest with Frith in his band. The nonet played deeply deconstructed folk songs from Lussier's record Tombola Rasa, with melodies sometimes only vaguely recognizable. Some pieces were played by smaller groupings of the ensemble, but when the full group played they toyed with familiar melodies and themes that would dissolve and break apart frustratingly fast, phrases filtering, sweltering, smelting, flowing, growing but never quite gelling. It wasn't until the third song, with Lussier singing, that that Franco-Dixie-St. Germaine sources became apparent (at least to a listener visiting from the States).

Excellent support was provided especially by violinist Liette Remon and clarinetist Lori Freedman, but the nine people onstage were an orchestra (as well as a big band and a hootenanny), with all the diversity and arrangement that befits an orchestra. Euro jazz, mountain music, hula, funk and, of course, the inexplicable, the actuelle and French lyrics were incorporated, reminding visitors from the south that North American music comes from all over North America.

Fred Frith returned three nights later with Montreal's Nouvel Ensemble Moderne to present three composed works (including Traffic Continues released in 2000 by Winter & Winter) intertwined into a long suite over 75 minutes.

While the pieces were a little too similar to combine into a dynamic suite, the performance was enhanced by sonically theatrical staging. Musicians rose from their seats and moved to the side of the stage, playing and speaking without microphones (as with almost all of the sets at Victo, the performers were otherwise well miked and the sound was exemplary), dropping wooden blocks on the stage floor and creating an acoustic sound field within the piano syncopation and complex, linear, nonrepeating oboe and flute lines emanating from the p.a. Frith took over the conducting from ensemble leader Lorraine Vaillancourt for brief interludes of real-time arrangements before slinking back to the side of the stage to punctuate with his prepared guitar. It was an interesting, romantic, static, intelligent and lucid suite. The pieces no doubt stand better distinct, but what should be expected from an inventive mind other than inventive ways to present its work?

The Victo festival also has a long relationship with the Montreal label Ambiences Magnetiques, which was represented in several of the concerts, including a duet by Jean Derome and Joane Hétu, the husband/wife team that co-founded and run the label.

Intimacy is a word that gets thrown around a lot in discussions of music: intimate clubs, intimate atmospheres, intimate concerts, intimate albums. But the intimacy of family, of a gracious couple entertaining guests, brings an altogether different nuance to the claim. Derome and Hétu are perfect hosts, jointly relating stories, complimenting without interrupting each other. They surely must be the sort of couple that defers conversational points to each other, depending on who "tells it better."

Joane Hetu
Joane Hétu
Hétu on alto and vocals, Derome on alto, flute, bass flute and an array of sound-making devices, both singing and vocalizing, their songs (sung in French) were miniature portraits of domesticity and getting along, imparting a feeling of cooking dinner while the news plays in the next room. Intimate enough as to simply breathe into the microphone and through the saxophone. And jazz being the macho business that it is, you have to appreciate a guy who'll go onstage and play patty-cake with his wife.

Mike Patton has more recently become a regular on the Victo program, but nevertheless pulled together a program of note. His Fantomas, playing in tandem with The Melvins as the Fantomas Melvins Big Band, had only done one previous concert before they closed the last night of the fest. They began as a double trio with two singers, two bassists and two drummers in perfect sync. Two rock bands demanding sacrifice in unision, like Black Sabbath looking in a mirror. From there they broke into bpm noise and huge thrash metal. It was the festival's closing party and it's money shot, and they rocked freakin' suitably. Flipping between anthemic speed grinds and tense, sparse, hilarious segues, the assault came to an end with all six bashing on cymbals for more than a short time. Learned listeners run the risk of overlooking them because they might not be good, or at least not especially innovative, and indeed Mike Patton has become very adept at doing other people's ideas well. But what matters about rock bands has never been if they're good. What matters about rock bands is if they rock.

Another blockbuster set was a double trio fronted by Peter Brötzmann and Evan Parker. They opened with an all-out twin tenor Coltrane attack. The two saxophones began a simple unison theme and took only moments to turn that into sheer energy. They truly were a double trio: Brötzmann, drummer Hamid Drake and bassist William Parker leaving the stage early on to give Evan Parker, Alexander von Schlippenbach and Paul Lytton the spotlight, then Parker and von Schlippenbach setting down a series of short statements, separated by brief pauses while Lytton lightly rolled across cymbals and snare.

The sextet moved beyond its double-trio structure and into a rotating ensemble. Different passages in the unbreaking piece included quintets with each of the horns stepping out, a remarkable trio with von Schlippenbach's piano and the two drummers and a bass/drum duo by Parker and Drake. The sextet ended, dissolving until a few lone notes hung in the air. An unnecessary but welcome encore brought them back to the stage, and back to the Trane. In a festival revolving so much around the new and unusual, it was great to hear free jazz this good.

Perhaps the most excitement was generated by two sets from John Zorn, and indeed it was odd coming from New York to hear over 1,000 people screaming for one of his game pieces. Zorn presented a big, fat, long Cobra, thickly coiled and taking its own sweet time to strike. And with Mr. Zorn approaching the dawn of his sixth decade, it was a more generous Cobra as well, with the leader at the prompter's pulpit offering players the opportunity to lead the piece, a move known as 'guerilla tactics' that once had to be claimed, not merely accepted, by participants. (Alternately, Zorn ended some moves early, seeming to break with game piece tradition in order to ensure a stronger musical result.)

Cobra is the most played of Zorn's game pieces, a set of rules that impose structure on improvisation and allow players to direct the performance even as they're playing. At its core, it's about using personality clashes and sympathies to create an environment automatically tailored for any set of musicians. This meeting, however, didn't explore individual or cultural divides. Zorn used the structure as a compositional tool more than he allowed players to contend against each other to build something not entirely controllable. Cobras of late have become more musical and less contentious anyway. This one was immense, monolithic and satisfying, thanks primarily to Diane Labrosse's fierce, grinding noise and guest Makagami Koichi's leaps and screams.

Electric Masada have been woodshedding a more orchestrated, fast-cut version of the latest take on the Masada songbook, but unfortunately the group was in jam band mode for their set. An unusually powerful, syncopated, melodic and structured set was presented by some other visiting New Yorkers, however. Mephista were more dynamic than ever, visually cuing each other and even referring to scores, a direction which, according to laptop percussionist Ikue Mori, the group has developed with recent heavy touring.

MINIATURES

Sparse electronic music can have a microscopic effect, like listening to photosynthesis or cells dividing. When it's done well, it can carry the feeling of the lives we live zoomed in to an unrecognizable degree. Laura Kavanaugh and Ian Birse, both Canadian, worked that angle well, pairing soft crackles and reverberating whirs with slow black-and-white videos of pedestrians shot from overhead. The walkers got nowhere, the documentation of their simple tasks slowed, reversed and repeated, displayed on four monitors surrounding the audience. It was life slowed to a crawl, mental activity not mattering, biological functions continuing.

The miniature music was amplified to epic proportions with a quintet comprised of Quebecers Diane Labrosse and Martin Tetreault and French improvisers Xavier Charles and the duo Kristoff K. Roll. The electronics-and-small-objects ensemble invited observers into the physical space, setting up in a circle in the middle of the room and asking the audience to promenade around them, revealing their many sound sources to full view. The quintet included Labrosse's laptop and Tetreault's turntable, but otherwise relied on cups of lentils, kitchen utensils, rubber bands, aluminum foil, plastic toys, cds dropped onto a zither being moved arross a tabletop scattered with rice. Charles' clarinet provided the only strictly musical sounds; his short squeaks and breathy tones would push the edges in a jazz context, but against the rattle of this giant junk drawer it sounded deceptively melodious. The rest was amplified more than it was altered, coming off deceptively like electronically generated music when it was really the sounds of inanimate life, with the volume up.

Another quintet seemed to embody not the sound but the actual movement of thousands of small objects. In an excellent set by Kazue Sawai, Michel Doneda, Kazuo Imai, Le Quan Ninh and Tetsu Saitoh, the players were in constant movement, flying under the radar of chaos. Guitar, bass and koto strings were rubbed and rubbed hard while Le Quan worked metal edges against his table-mounted bass drum. Doneda darted above and circled below with his soprano. They were frenetic, energetic, quietly fast and fantastic.

Krebs Neumann
Annette Krebs & Andrea Neumann
The microsonic plane was further explored by two essentially acoustic players, Annette Krebs on guitar and Andrea Neumann playing the strings and metal frame of a piano stripped of keys, pedals and wooden casing. With contact mikes placed on the guitar laid across her lap, Krebs applied steel wool, brushes and bows to her hypersensitive strings. Likewise, Neumann's playing had less to do with the vibration of strings than what can be made to happen upon them. The sounds themselves weren't of particular note. Instead, their aesthetic is about a shared penchant for placing the sounds, and they work quiet beautifully together.



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