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Myra Melford's Snowy Egret (w/ Miles / Ellman / Takeishi / Sorey): The Other Side Of Air (Firehouse 12 Records)

Taking the reigns as composer, performer and bandleader, New York pianist Myra Melford's exceptional quintet Snowy Egret, with Ron Miles on cornet, Liberty Ellman on guitar, Stomu Takeishi on acoustic bass guitar, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, present a brilliant album of creative jazz, with lyrical grooves and commanding soloing, a great and thoroughly modern album. ... Click to View


Myra Melford's Snowy Egret (w/ Miles / Ellman / Takeishi / Sorey): The Other Side Of Air [VINYL 2 LPs + DOWNLOAD] (Firehouse 12 Records)

Taking the reigns as composer, performer and bandleader, New York pianist Myra Melford's exceptional quintet Snowy Egret, with Ron Miles on cornet, Liberty Ellman on guitar, Stomu Takeishi on acoustic bass guitar, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, present a brilliant album of creative jazz, with lyrical grooves and commanding soloing, a great and thoroughly modern album. ... Click to View


The Dogmatics: Chop Off The Tops [VINYL] (Dogmatics)

The second album from the duo of pianist Chris Abrahams (The Necks) and clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski (The Magic I.D., Interational Nothing) has the duo decelerating for a an intimate examination of tone and harmonics through perfectly placed notes and subtly extreme technique, creating sublime sonic environments that hover and dissolve; beautiful. ... Click to View


Georg Graewe / Damon Smith / Michael Vatcher: Unhesitating (Nuscope)

Drawing on collective improvisation and compositions from Carla Bley and Annette Peacock, the trio of pianist Georg Graewe, double bassist Damon Smith and drummer Michael Vatcher recorded this album of ferocious playing through rapid-fire interaction balanced with lovely free ballads, a reflection of their tremendous skill and their insightful approach to improvisation. ... Click to View


Achim Kaufmann: Mnemon (Nuscope)

With special attention to space and density, German pianist Achim Kauffman's solo piano album presents a set of 14 original compostions, from extremely active and technically astounding playing to inquisitive and beautifully contemplative work, a mature and fascination reflection that includes 4 works inspired by the poetry of Gabriele D.R. Guenthler. ... Click to View


About Group (Mukai / Clervaux / Coxon / Thomas / Taylor): RAK [VINYL] (Treader)

The 2nd About Group album replaces drummer Charles Hayward with Rupert Clervaux, alongside Susumu Mukai on bass, John Coxon on electric guitar, Pat Thomas on piano & synth, and Alexis Taylor on synth & electric piano, using Coxon's simple and insistent guitar themes as a foundation for four extended group compositions containing a surprising collision of sounds and influences. ... Click to View


John Tchicai: John Tchicai With Strings [VINYL] (Treader)

Recorded during a rare visit to London in 2005 after the 2004 Coimbra Jazz Fest, The late Afro-Danish saxophonist, associated with Albert Ayler John Coltrane, Archie Shepp and Don Cherry, performs with orchestral strings alongside guitarist John Coxon, trumpeter/percussionist Ashley Wales, and drummer Mark Sanders; exotic, beautiful and unexpected. ... Click to View


Bernard Parmegiani : Memoire Magnetique, Vol.1 [VINYL] (Transversales Disques)

Covering the period of 1966-1990 of French Acousmatic composer and electronic music pioneer Bernard Parmegiani, this 1st volume of "Memoire Magnetique" presents never-released commercial and secret music, 17 short but intensely creative compositions that reveal a wealth of compositional strategies composed for film and performance. ... Click to View


FRANCOIS BAYLE: Electrucs ! [VINYL] (Transversales Disques)

18 never-released recordings by French electro-acousti composer Francois Bayle including the title track, an "imaginary" soundtrack, and a piece for Bernard Parmegiani, released on the 60th anniversary of Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM), which joined with Institut National de l'Audiovisuel in 1975 to create INA-GRM, with Bayle at the head of the record label. ... Click to View


Clinamen Trio : Enclins (Creative Sources)

The French trio of Louis-Michel Marion on double bass, Jacques Didonato on clarinet, and Philippe Berger on viola are heard in a live recording at Radio France, on June 12th, 2017, freely improvising in understated and rich layers of harmonics and tone, actively subdued interactions in an extended excursion of introspective chamber-oriented improvisation. ... Click to View


Amu (Fujii / Tamura / Itani / Wildenhahn): Weave [CD & DVD] (Libra)

Mizuki Wildenhahn adds an unusual percussive instrument through dance to the multi-arts Amu quartet of Wildenhahn, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, pianist Satoko Fujii, and percussionist Takashi Itani, heard on the CD and seen on the DVD of this 2-disc set of their unorthodox and absorbing live performance at Kanagawa Prefectural Lake Sagami-ko Exchange Center in 2018. ... Click to View


Satoko Fujii / Yuko Yamaoka: Diary 2005-2015: Tuko Yamaoka plays the music of Satoko Fujii [2 CDs] (Libra)

A double CD of Satoko Fujii compositions, 56 short compositions from a series she started around 2005 to expand her skills as a composer, many of which fueled her many band's repertoires; in 2018 she asked respected classical pianist and educator Yuko Yamaoka to record this set of compositions as part of her 60th birthday monthly album set. ... Click to View


Satoko Fujii : Diary 2005-2015 [Scorebook] (Libra)

A book of scores to accompany the double CD of 56 Satoko Fujii compostions titled "Diary 2005-2015", performed by respected classical pianist and educator Yuko Yamaoka, released as part of Satoko Fujii's ambitious 60th birthday monthly album set. ... Click to View


Larry Ochs / Gerald Cleaver: Songs Of The Wild Cave (RogueArt)

An extremely unique sax and drums album, as Rova leader Larry Ochs and New York drummer Gerald Cleaver take their tenor and sopranino saxophones, and drums and percussion, into the absolute darkness and stillness of the Portel Cave in the South of France, using the resonance and inspiration of the cave to record these seven incredible improvisations. ... Click to View


Wendy Eisenberg : The Machinic Unconscious (Tzadik)

Guitarist and composer Wendy Eisenberg leads her powerful Downtown trio with Trevor Dunn on bass and Ches Smith on drums as they present hard-edged work including a piece inspired by poet Alice Notley, blending experimental and rock forms into a strange brew of eccentric improvised pieces, with an angular menacing approach and a fury of irrepressible determination. ... Click to View


Adam Hopkins: Crickets (Out Of Your Head Records)

A great example of the current Downtown/Brooklyn scene, using jazz as a jumping-off point to merge free playing, fusion, and rock stylings into an enthusiastic, and technically brilliant album, as bassist Adam Hopkins provides the ompositions performed with the sextet of Anna Webber, Ed Rosenberg, & Josh Sinton on sax, Jonathan Goldberger on guitar, and Devin Gray on drums. ... Click to View


Benoit Delbecq / Jorrit Dijkstra / John Hollenbeck: Linger (Driff Records)

The long-running collaboration of Paris pianist Benoit Delbecq and Netherlands-born, Boston-area saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra is joined by Boston drummer John Hollenbeck, the pianist and saxophonist also picking up electronics and bass synth as they improvise over 10 concepts of movement through texture and distinctive approaches to their instruments. ... Click to View


Pandelis Karayorgis Trio (w/ Damon Smith / Eric Rosenthal): Cliff (Driff Records)

Contrasting his concurrent piano trio album with Nate McBride and Luther Gray, "Pools", "Cliff" is a first encounter between Boston-area pianist and composer Pandelis Karayorgis and drummer Eric Rosenthal with double bassist Damon Smith, recently migrated from the West Coast, as the three present a concentrative album of collective improvisation revealing three masterful players. ... Click to View


Pandelis Karayorgis Trio (w/ Nate McBride / Luther Gray): Pools (Driff Records)

The classic piano trio gets Boston-area pianist Pandelis Karayorgis' take on lyrical free playing, recorded in an informal studio session as drummer Luther Gray and bassist Nate McBride run through a a set of mostly Karayorgis compositions plus two collective compositions, great modern jazz informed by a variety of projects each has collaborated on. ... Click to View


Bob Drake: L'isola Dei Lupi (ReR Megacorp)

Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and song-writer Bob Drake's 10th album, an unusual and quirky journey through rock, RIO, and prog references, exploring the "The island of the Lupi" through a strange set of songs, a showcase for Drake's immense skills and enigmatic curiosity in 16 miniatures of descriptive passages, brilliant playing and exceptional production. ... Click to View


Isotope Ensemble: Lanthanum (Creative Sources)

Creative Sources collective Isotope Ensemble led by Ernesto Rodrigues performed with a large electroacoustic group continues their investigation of isotopes, focusing on Lanthanum, a soft metal used in flints, through subtly-developing interplay the band, moving as one body, reaching several highly controlled periods of passionate improvisation, contrasting with beautifully serene sections; impressive. ... Click to View


The Necks: Body (Northern Spy)

A strong start to the Australian trio The Neck's 24th album, as Chris Abrahams on piano & keyboards, Tony Buck on drums, percussion & guitar, and Lloyd Swanton on acoustic bass present a powerhouse of free improvisation in a single hour-long work, the first half evoking jazz leaning, with a free and spacious bridge that builds suddenly to a rocking groove. ... Click to View


Matt Hannafin : John Cage: Four Realizations For Solo Percussion [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Notice Recordings)

Portland-based percussionist Matt Hannafin presents 4 works from John Cage, 2 from the 60s and 2 from the 90s: "Variations II" & "Variations III", where the performer places or drops transparencies to create a graphic score; "One4" for solo percussion incorporating improvisation; and "c Composed Improvisation" for one-sided drums using instructions and chance operations. ... Click to View


Okkyung Lee : Speckled Stones And Dissonant Green Dots [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Notice Recordings)

The title reveals two tracks from New York cellist and Downtown mainstay Okkyung Lee: "Speckled Stones", using digital and analog synthetic sounds and noise in a stammering mix of rhythm and sound, ebbing and flowing on a strange journey; and "Dissonant Green Dots" which uses penetrating tones of intense dissonance in arhythmic repetition, hypnotically assaulting the senses. ... Click to View


Sarah Hennies / Greg Stuart: Rundle [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Notice Recordings)

The duo of Sarah Hennies and Greg Stuart, who are both a part of the Meridian trio, performing at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity, in Alberta, Canada, for two extended pieces using piano, percussion and objects, employing strategies and improvisation to generate indeterminate sources and sounds that create a cohesive and mysterious narrative. ... Click to View


Leap Of Faith: Topological Constructions (Evil Clown)

The core trio of the Leap of Faith Orchestra--PEK on clarinets, saxophones, clarinets & flutes, Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice, and Yuri Zbitnov on drums & percussion--is joined by fellow Orchestra violinist Mimi Rabson and special guest, violinist Elinor Speirs, for a remarkable improvised work using a huge arsenal of instruments including a new Brontosaurus Bell. ... Click to View


Oliva Block: 132 Ranks (Room40)

Commissioned for the Chicago performing space LAMPO and The Renaissance Society, Olivia Block composed this large work of drone and sound from 2016-2017, premiered on the massive Skinner Organ at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel in a free concert that included a sound installation of 6 speakers placed through the chapel playing white noise, sine tones, and prerecorded organ sounds. ... Click to View


While We Still Have Bodies (Gerstein / Ali / Foster / van Hemmen): While We Still Have Bodies (Neither/Nor Records)

Using lo-fi electronics and found objects alongside their acoustic instruments, the NY quartet of Ben Gerstein (trombone), Sean Ali (double bass), Michael Foster (saxophones) and Flin van Hemmen (percussion) freely improvise with textural, rhythmic and timbral interactions, captured live at New Museum accompanying an exhibition by video artist Cheng Ran. ... Click to View


Rob Brown Quartet: Jumping Off The Page (No More Records)

Only his third date as a leader, this 2000 release features Rob Brown on alto sax and flute in a quartet with Chris Lightcap on bass, Jackson Krall on drums, and the late trumpeter Roy Campbell, a great example of New York jazz through a set of Brown original compositions, from upbeat energetic playing to rich layered soundscapes, all with soul and conviction. ... Click to View


Roy Campbell Pyramid Trio: Ancestral Homeland (No More Records)

A masterful album that embraces jazz, African and Native American musics from the late NY trumpeter Roy Campbell's fourth album from 1998 in a trio, using a strong percussive pulse over Campbell's phenomenal soloing, at times joining on percussion alongside drummer Zen Matsuura, with William Parker also taking up percussion alongside his powerful double bass work. ... 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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reviews about releases
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