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Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At The Hill Of James Magee (Trost Records)

Two legendary saxophonists--New York's Joe McPhee on alto and UK's John Butcher on tenor--meet at "The Hill" in the Chihuahuan Desert in Texas, where artist James Magee is building a set of raised buildings arranged on the compass points to house his work, providing fascinating resonant properties for McPhee & Butcher's exceptional interaction. ... Click to View


FULL BLAST: Rio [VINYL] (Trost Records)

A limited live album from German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann's long-running Full Blast trio with the precise and dynamic Swiss rhythm section of Marino Pliakas on electric bass and Michael Wertmuller on drums, captured at Audio Rebel, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016 as they tear through a tumultuous set of five burning improvisations of passionate playing. ... Click to View


Burkhard Beins / Mazen Kerbaj / Michael Vorfeld: Sawt Out (Herbal International)

Lebanese trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj, known from "A" Trio and collaborations with Franz Hautzinger, Toshimaru Nakamura, Birgit Uhler, &c., here joins two Berlin percussionist--Burkhard Beins and Michael Vorfeld--both members of Berlin Echtzeitmusik, to record this fascinating studio album of extraordinary technique and sonic control. ... Click to View


Axioms: Manifestations (Evil Clown)

Boston's Evil Clown led by reedist/multi-instrumentalist David Peck introduces a new ensemble, Axioms, a quartet with Peck, Jane, Alby onBass, and Joel Simches in a mammoth work of mysterious intent and rich sonorities, orchestrated with reeds, brass, daxophones, percussion, bells and chimes, electric bass, keys, spoken word, and real-time signal processing. ... Click to View


Derek Bailey & Cyro Baptista: Cyro [VINYL 2 LPs] (Honest Jons Records)

Reissuing the 1st CD on UK free improvising guitarist Derek Bailey's Incus label is this 1982 duo with Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, a remarkable dialog that draws percussive qualities from Bailey and lyrical aspects from Baptista, as the two push each other into inventive and exotic exchanges in an exuberant album; an incredible start to the Incus imprint. ... Click to View


Derek Bailey / Tony Coe: Time [VINYL 2 LPs] (Honest Jons Records)

An unusual pairing between UK non-idiomatic improvising legend Derek Bailey and French clarinetist Tony Coe, best known for his work with Franz Koglmann (heard on Hatology) his work with Tony Oxley, and work in avant classical settings; here they find common ground in a miniature chamber improv approach of both technical virtuosity and atonal lyricism. ... Click to View


Phill Niblock: T H I R [DVD] (Von)

Named for "Ten Hundred Inch Radii", a performance of film and music from the series "Environments" by composer and filmaker Phill Niblocks, shot in upstate New York in 1972 and released now for the first time on DVD, a mesmerizing and hypnotic film with two soundtracks: the original 1972 from analog tape, and a 2008 edition from the Nelly Boyd Ensemble updated in 2015 ... Click to View


John McCowen: Mundanas I - V (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Two clarinetists--John McCowen, also the composer, and Madison Greenstone on clarinet & bass clarinet--taking the title from Boethius' (427-524 AD) printed work on ancient Greek music: "De institutione musica", as they generate long-form drones using the harmonic interactions and interference patterns of similar tones, overtones, and difference tones; impressively intense. ... Click to View


Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Smells Funny (Rune Grammofon)

The sixth album from guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen's scorching Norwegian instrumental rock trio, having built a strong following through their impressive approach to rock, schooled from both early hard/progressive band but also driving fusion bands, with a penetrating edge in authoritative soloing and intense rhythmic interplay. ... Click to View


Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Smells Funny [VINYL + CD] (Rune Grammofon)

The sixth album from guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen's scorching Norwegian instrumental rock trio, having built a strong following through their impressive approach to rock, schooled from both early hard/progressive band but also driving fusion bands, with a penetrating edge in authoritative soloing and intense rhythmic interplay. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne : Solo Guitar Volume 2-1/3 [VINYL] (Feeding Tube Records)

Recorded in the late 1970's in Canada while improvising rock, jazz, pysch, folk, country & blues guitar madman Doctor Eugene Chadbourne was living there, this is the second of four LPs documenting his work at the time, this album presenting 6 solo pieces of profound playing amidst an unusual experimental nature and a uniquely Chad sense of humor. ... Click to View


The Momes: Spiralling [VINYL LP + 7"] (Mental Experience)

An essential reissue of the only album from this Rock in Opposition supergroup, with two from Henry Cow & The Work--bassist Mick Hobbs and Tim Hodgkinson playing "Hawaiian laptop noisy guitar" and keyboards--and Andy Wake from Unrest Work & Play, in a great set of songs with a literate and post-punk viciousness and unusual approaches to rhythm and sound. ... Click to View


VocColours & Andrei Razin: Ganglia (Creative Sources)

Four voices--Norbert Zajac, Brigitte Kupper, Gala Hummel, Iouri Grankin--sing and speak over the piano work of Russian improviser Andrei Razin in a moody and often startling album that set tone or disorient the listener through constrasting layers of vocalization, as Razin darts among them or sets an atmosphere of lingering tones; often curious, frequently stunning. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Miguel Mira / Carlos Santos: Penedo (Creative Sources)

Recorded on New Years Eve in Sintra in the Penedo region of Portugal, three strings--viola from Ernesto Rodrigues, cello from Guilherme Rodrigues, and a second cello from Miguel Mira--are joined by Carlos Santos on electronics for three extended and richly detailed improvisations, active yet concentratively controlled, using impressive and extended techniques. ... Click to View


Vandermark / Wooley / Courvoisier / Rainey: Noise Of Our Time (Intakt)

After reedist Ken Vandermark's residency at The Stone in 2016, he went into the studio with improvisers Nate Wooley on trumpet, Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, and Tom Rainey on drums to record this spectacular album of forward-reaching jazz using stunning technique and wonderful lyrical complexity, as they run through compositions from Wooley, Vandermark and Courvoisier. ... Click to View


Kaja Draksler / Petter Eldh / Christian Lillinger: Punkt.Vrt.Plastik (Intakt)

The rhythm section from the Amok Amor quartet--drummer Christian Lillinger and bassist Petter Eldh--and reforming it as a trio with pianist Kaja Draksler, to create a thrilling, twisting and turning band of quick-witted, avant jazz angles, confusing and thrilling with unexpected shifts in direction on an informed, fun-filled and thoroughly modern album. ... Click to View


Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: Time Like This (Intakt)

NY Bassist Michael Formanek composes for and leads his Elusion Quartet with saxophonist Tony Malaby, pianist Kris Davis, and drummer Ches Smith, a heavyweight set of improvisers who take on Formanek's sophisticated and elusive compositions, using unusual meters and complex yet comprehensible structures, performed with prodigious skill and passionate approaches. ... Click to View


Don Byron / Aruan Ortiz: Random Dances & (A)tonalities (Intakt)

Working together since 2014 in larger ensembles, NY reedist Don Byron and Cuban-born, US pianist Auran Ortiz find a modern yet lyrical heat in their duo collaboration in an album that includes original compositions and intimate renderings of pieces by Duke Ellington, Federico Mompou, Geri Allen, and J.S. Bach, a uniquely diverse and wonderfully embraceable release. ... Click to View


Trio Heinz Herbert (Landolt / Landolt / Hanni): Yes (Intakt)

Blending free jazz, electronic music, glitch, and collective improvisation, the Swiss trio of Dominic Landolt on guitar, effects, Ramon Landolt on synth, samples, piano, Mario Hanni on drums, effects bring a modern and experimental edge to their diverse approaches to free improv, albeit tinged with electronica and rock overtones; a fascinating brew. ... Click to View


Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra (feat. Marilyn Crispell / Evan Parker): Parallel Moments Unbroken [2CDS] (FMR)

Scottland's large improvising ensemble of around 20 musicians, merging backgrounds in free improvisation, jazz, classical, folk, pop, experimental musics and performance art, in a 2-CD release of a piece commissioned by the BBC and featuring pianist Marilyn Crispell and saxophist Evan Parker, written using graphic scores, through composition, photographs and artwork. ... Click to View


Morton Feldman (Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt): Atlantis (Hat [now] ART)

A much-needed reissue of this 2000 CD of three orchestral works from late composer Morton Feldman--"String Quartet and Orchestra" (1973), "Oboe and Orchestra" (1976), and "Atlantis" (1959)--demonstrating the evolution of his incredible control in working with tone, mood and instrumental combinations, from his earliest large-scale work to later mature works. ... Click to View


Fritz Hauser : Laboratorio - Solo Percussion (Hat [now] ART)

Swiss drummer & percussionist Fritz Hauser's solo album creates a fictional percussion center that he uses as as springboard to compose solo works for spaces within the [non-existent] environment, depicted in both spacious and active sound work, generating open-air locations with bird sounds and cymbals and areas of quick-paced activity; absolutely impressive. ... Click to View


Karlheinz Stockhausen : Historic First Recordings of the Klavierstucke I-VIII & XI (Hat [now] ART)

Originally conceived as a cycle of 21 solo piano pieces, composer Karlheinz Stockhausen only completed a section of these Klavierstucke works, eventually transforming the series for synthesizers and electronic instruments; Hat Hut now restores the original recordings from the 50s by the pianist Stockhausen dedicated some of these pieces to: David Tudor. ... Click to View


Roland Dahinden : Talking with Charlie: An Imaginary Talk with Charlie Parker (Hat [now] ART)

Bass clarinetist Gareth Davis asked composer Roland Dahinden to write for his quartet, with Koen Kaptijn (trombone), Dario Calderone (double bass) and Peppe Garcia (percussion), the result this "imaginary talk" with Charlie Parker, captured in a score involving graphic as well as more conventional elements, allowing structure and improvisation for the players. ... Click to View


Howard Riley: Live In The USA (NoBusiness)

The brilliant UK pianist Howard Riley is caught live in a US tour in the fall of 1976, recorded at 3 locations in NYC and in Buffalo, NY, each of the well-recorded improvisation a masterwork of extended form as he plays both outside and inside the piano, ranging from warm sections of lyrical quality to fast-paced streams of consciousness in a Cecil Taylor mode; magnificent. ... Click to View


James Lewis Brandon (Lewis / Branch / Stewart / Pirog / Crudup III): An Unruly Manifesto (Relative Pitch)

New York tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis leads a quintet with Jaimie Branch on trumpet, Luke Stewart on bass, Anthony Pirog on guitar, and Warren Trae Crudup III on drums, in a free jazz album dedicated to Charlie Haden & Ornette Coleman and Surrealism, modern creative music with one foot planted in the 70s and one in the 2010s. ... Click to View


Bloor: Drolleries (Astral Spirits)

Drolleries are small creatures adorning the margins of 13th-15th century illuminated manuscripts; Sam Weinberger is a Brooklyn saxophonist known for groups W-2, and this Bloor project with electric guitarist Andrew Smiley and drummer Jason Nazary, an assertive and rugged trio playing Weinberg's compositions about the perceptual phenomenon of ever-changing repetition. ... Click to View


Bloor: Drolleries [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

Drolleries are small creatures adorning the margins of 13th-15th century illuminated manuscripts; Sam Weinberger is a Brooklyn saxophonist known for groups W-2 and this Bloor project with electric guitarist Andrew Smiley and drummer Jason Nazary, an assertive and rugged trio playing Weinberg's compositions about the perceptual phenomenon of ever-changing repetition. ... Click to View


Dunmall / Siegel / Pursglove / Sanders: As One Does (FMR)

Two saxophones take the front line in Paul Dunmall's 2018 studio album, the leader on tenor saxophone with fellow tenor player Julian Siegel, also on bass clarinet, while Mark Sanders drums and Percy Pursglove handles bass and also trumpet, as the band falls into a hard bop mode, weaving lines together over wonderfully turbulent and soulful grooves; outstanding. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Philip Gibbs / James Owston / Jim Bashford: Inner And Outer (FMR)

Paul Dunmall's 2018 studio album in a quartet with James Owston on bass, Jim Bashford on drums, Philip Gibbs on guitar, and Dunmall on tenor saxophone, Gibbs's hollow-body opening up the band sound as Owston and Bashford trade rapid responses or provide solid grooves, the themes of the dialogs focused on space and time through intricate, complex and profound interaction. ... Click to View


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The Squid's Ear
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The Bottom Shelf is where artists keep the records in their collections that they might not want you to see. Revealing early influences, unusual appetites or just guilty pleasures, we offer a peek at the shelves of some of our favorite musicians.


  Anthony Coleman's Bottom Shelf  

Schlanger Jordan Parker
[Photo by Kurt Gottschalk] 
OK, here goes...My bottom shelf...well, first, a little cultural philosophy: Back in the day, there was some kind of frisson connected with liking/loving/being influenced by music that was outside of whatever was considered culturally acceptable. Jazz inched its way in slowly but surely, starting in the early '30s - and now it's part of a good Liberal Music Education. And I remember those great early days (in the '80s) where David Garlard (on WKCR at that time) would shock by announcing a "work" by Ferrante and Teicher or Esquivel with the same gravitas that another would give to the names "Mozart" or "Beethoven." But those days are over...WFMU, Zorn, Post-Modernism (in its decadent phase - if that's not a redundancy) changed all that. My Bottom Shelf is downright canonical.

How could I have found the perfect soupcon of Romantic Irony to counterpoise the weight of the mournful Sephardic songs in my Sephardic Tinge project if wasn't for the revelation of Irving Fields' Bagels and Bongos (Decca 8856). Magnificently cheesy arrangements for trio - Yiddish hits "Latinized." The version of "Belz" changed my life (in a small way). Why isn't this on cd? Fields glides over the keys with not one iota of Jazz feeling In (George) Lukacs-ian terms, that's what makes his version more "authentic" than my brooding cover version, redolent as it is with all kinds of references. He has a couple of perfectly played klezmer clarinet riffs that function as signifiers throughout the disc. I've stolen them all. He's like Ahmad Jamal - he just knows what will work on piano in a trio context and what won't. The master!

My used copy of Organ Jazz Samba Percussion by Andre Penazzi (Audio Fidelity DFS 7020) comes from the discard of the library of a Montreal radio station - CHOM. On the back is hand written "A bit of a nothing set - But???" A nothing set??? Philistines! They don't have any idea how long I looked for this one. It was a major item on the playlist at Soho Music Gallery, the record store where I worked in the late '70s/early '80s (along with Zorn, Tim Berne, Anton Fier, etc...). A nearly indescribable melange of rhythmic virtuosity, unbelievable facility with the variety of the stops available on that magificent dinosaur of an instrument - the '60s electric console organ. And a resolute, unbending, almost ascetic schlockiness. A footnote: For years this was one of the only Brazilian albums in my collection. I say that with neither pride nor shame - it just was.

Next - a whole series of discs connected to some sort of unhealthy but complex German fixation; I'll start with the most complex: Songs of the Spanish Civil War Vol. 1 (Folkways FH 5436). Let's face it, I was a weird kid. I loved this record - I knew all the songs by heart. In a way, this isn't even a Bottom Shelf record, except in how it relates to the others in this sub-group. Ernst Busch was a stirring, moving great singer. The lines from "Freiheit!" ["Die Heimat ist weit/ Doch wir sind bereit/Wir kaempfen und siegen fuer dich: Freiheit! (Far off is our land/yet ready we stand/We're fighting and winning for you/Freedom!)] still (today!) give me goosebumps. And Eisler's "Song of the United Front" and "The Peat-Bog Soldiers" are both acknowledged masterpieces.

But still . . . at the distance where we are, communism and communist anthems (especially the humorless German variety) have something touchingly kitsch about them. No such exegesis is necessary to locate the perverse moment at the heart of Hitler Is On The Air! (Radiola 2MR-8889) or Hitler's Inferno (Audio Rarities 2445). Ialso had the second one of these as a kid, and all of these discs have inspired endless reflections (which continue to this day) about the nature of the Political in music - especially when you consider the music alone and try to put the text on the side for a second (as virtually no critic in the history of rock has - even for a second). The similarities between music from the Far Left and the Far Right. The differences. The mediation of a foreign language - how that aids reflection. How it impedes it. I could write a book... Somehow, you haven't quite lived until you've heard the Storm Troopers sing "Wenn Die S.S. und die S.A. Aufmarschiert" or the Hitler Youth sing "Die Jugend Marschiert," and "On The Air" was my first exposure to the phenomenon which is Charlie and his Orchestra - the Nazi propaganda swing band. Parodies of American big-band hits - lyrics like "I hate to see the evenin' sun go down/because de German, he done bombed this town" (St. Louis Blues) played by the best jazz musicians the occupied nations had to offer... indispensable! (some of the Ernst Busch tracks are available on the CD Der Barrikaden Tauber Barbarossa (EdBa 01303-2), all Folkways are available from Smithsonian/Folkways on special order, and Charlie tracks have been lovingly reissued on a series on Harlequin (I have HQ CD 03).

OK...I could go on all day. But I'll leave you with a masterpiece of horrendous '80s Yugoslav Pop. To continue the "canonical" theme, my cd Disco by Night would have been impossible without this music. It helped me escape the dangerous tendency to fetishize the "folklorical" as the only significant product of a culture. Within its totally commodified nature, this music told important truths about the Yugoslavia of that moment in time. If they would've listened to their own truths....People often say it sounds like Turkish pop. Well, not to me, although there's no shortage of terrifying Balkan-isms. Anyway, I promisedyou a masterpiece ... The oxymoronically - titled The Best of Lepa Brena Vol.5 (JVP Vertrieb CD 018) contains her magnum opus "Sitnije Cile Sitnije," produced (unlike most of her hits) by the Brian Eno of Yugoslav Pop, Kornelije Kovac. The difference between this and other tracks is in Kovac's clever dialectical manipulation of the Western and Eastern elements: The parade bass drum of the Balkan brass band, the clarinet and accordion, the Eastern scales...and then the handclaps, the synthesizer hooks. The touch of a poet. New Year's Eve, Belgrade, 1981 turns into 1982. The Top 10 Video Hit Parade. Number 1: "Billie Jean," Number 2: "Sitnije Cile Sitnije." Do I really have to say more?




Previous Bottom Shelf Articles:
Our Own Bottom Shelves
Gary Lucas
Ron Anderson


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