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Henry Threadgill Zooid:
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The sixth album in saxophonist and composer Henry Threadgill's Zood small ensemble project Zooid, a quintet with guitarist Liberty Ellman, tuba & trombonist Jose Davila, cellist Christopher Hoffman and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee, following Threadgill's serial intervallic language compositions to create an amazingly intricate yet warmly embraceable avant jazz; exceptional! ... Click to View


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Artifacts (Tomeka Reid / Nicole Mitchell / Mike Reed):
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Charlotte Keeffe :
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Skeeter Shelton / Hamid Drake:
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Skeeter Shelton / Hamid Drake:
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After meeting in Detroit when tenor saxophonist & flutist Skeeter Shelton subbed for a sick player in a duo concert with drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake, the two found a bond through Shelton's father, Ajaramu Shelton, who had been one of Drake's mentor at Chicago's AACM; the concert was so successful that this recording was immediately planned, based around many of Shelton's themes. ... Click to View


Archer / Keeffe / Pyne:
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Blue Lines Sextet (Rave / Maris / Wierbos / Scheen / van der Weide / Hadow):
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Leap Of Faith:
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PEK Solo / A Quartet of PEKS:
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Don Cherry:
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Following a 1964 Albert Ayler tour, trumpeter Don Cherry remained in Europe, working on new concepts of improvising based on form itself, developing his concepts with saxophonist Gato Barbieri, vibraphonist Karl Berger & bassist J.F. Jenny Clark, composing two brilliant albums: 1966's Communion with Barbieri, Henry Grimes & Ed Blackwell; and in 1967 Symphony for Improvisers as a septet. ... Click to View


Nick Fraser Quartet:
If There Were No Opposites (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

First recording in 2012 as a trio with saxophonist Tony Malaby as a guest, 9 years later Toronto drummer Nick Fraser's quartet with Malaby as a permanent member, Rob Clutton on double bass and Andrew Downing on cello show their long collaboration's strength in a set of improvisations plus compositions for Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and the DJD production, Juliet & Romeo. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman (Duos w/ Burrell / Crispell / Ortiz / Parks / Courvoisie / Fernandez / Taborn / Sanchez / Iyer):
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Referring to the brass saxophone and the piano's ivory keys, Brazilian saxophonist based in New York City Ivo Perelman celebrates his 60th birthday with this 9-CD set of diverse approaches to sax & piano duos, performed with some of world's finest improvising pianists: Dave Burrell, Marilyn Crispell, Aaron Parks, Augusti Fernandez, Craig Taborn, Angelica Sanchez and Vijay Iyer. ... Click to View


Alex Ward:
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A stunning solo album showing the widely diverse interests of UK clarinetist and guitarist Alex Ward, recording in the studio in 10 multi-track pieces using clarinets, saxophones, guitars, keyboards, electric bass and assorted software instruments in a mix of pre-composed and improvised approaches, burning the spectrum from contemplative to aggressively assertive performance. ... Click to View


Blue Lines Trio (Scheen / van der Weide / Hadow):
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With all the tongue-in-cheek aspects of Dutch improvisers, the piano trio of Michiel Scheen on piano, Raoul van der Weide on bass, crackle box & sound objects and George Hadow on drums, all hailing from a superb pedigree of European Free Improv involvement, show their connection through comprehensible playing with a wonderful sense of humor in their approach to delightfully smart playing. ... Click to View


Axel Dorner:
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A companion of sorts to the Euphorium release from Leimgruber/Turner/Dorner/da Boff/Flesh, London/Leipzig/Luzern, trumpeter Axel Dörner breaks off solo for an extended improvisation recorded at the same studio on the same day in Leipzig, employing his unique approach to the instrument in an 18-minute exploration of tone, timbre, and unexpected brass utterance. ... Click to View


Alex Reviriego:
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Spanish double bassist Alex Reviriego (Memoria Uno) in a solo album recorded by Ferran Fages in 2019, the second chapter of his "German Poets Trilogy" following his 2018 Blaue Tauben album, here inspired by the writings of Romanian-born poet Paul Celan in an intense and moving album of dense foreboding depicted through nine improvisations of heavy bowing, ruminative harmonics and dark friction. ... Click to View


Axioms:
Hypothesis (Evil Clown)

The second album of free improv with poetry from the Boston-based Evil Clown collective band Axioms of David Peck, Jane SpokenWord and Albey onBass, this album extending the trio with Glynis Lomon on cello and Steve Niemitz on drums & percussion, heard in an extended improvisation bridging the distance between poetic discussion of truths and abstract musical structures. ... Click to View


Anne-F Jacques / Takamitsu Ohta:
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Using small objects and contact microphones to create peacefully clacking, mewling and idiosyncratic utterances, sound artists Takamitsu Ohta and Anne-Francoise Jacques developed this installation shown in 2019 at the Bonjour! Gendaibunmei gallery in Kyoto, recorded by Jacques as a tour of the various sonic manifestations that a visitor to the gallery might experience. ... Click to View


Keith Tippett / Matthew Bourne:
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Two generations of remarkable pianists--Keith Tippets and Matthew Bourne--performed a series of two-piano concerts between 2017 and 2019, also recording in the studio, as heard in this 2-CD release, the first a set of consequential piano duos recorded at Leeds Conservatoire in 2019, the 2nd disc a live performance at Daylight Music at Union Chapel, London, Tippetts' final public performance. ... Click to View


Takatsuki Trio Quartet w/ Tobias Delius / Alex Dorner:
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The Berlin-based collective Takatsuki Trio of Rieko Okuda on piano, Antti Virtaranta on double bass and Joshua Weitzel on guitar & Shamisen are expanded to a Quartett in two extended live sets at Berlins' Kuhlspot Social Club in 2020, first in an expansive set with trumpeter Axel Dorner, and then an intensely active set with tenor saxophonist & clarinetist Tobias Delius. ... Click to View


The Remote Viewers :
The Remote Code [3 CDs] (Remote Viewers)

Three CDs of three concerts at London's Iklecktik Club, presenting primarily compositions by David Petts plus collective improvisations, from Adrian Northover, David Petts, Caroline Kraabel and Sue Lynch on saxophones, John Edwards on bass and Rosa Theodora on piano, with Northover, Edwards & Petts adding percussion and electronics to their cryptically rich music. ... Click to View


New Rumours And Other Noises (Ada Rave / Nicolas Chentaroli / Raoul van der Weide):
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The debut of the Amsterdam-based trio of Argentinian pianist Nicolas Chientaroli and saxophonist & clarinetist Ada Rave with Dutch bassist Raoul van der Weide, all three using preparations, objects and voice to extend their unique approach to instant composition, heard in eight succinct, animated and sometimes eccentric dialogs recorded at BIMHuis. ... Click to View


Xavier Pamplona Septet:
Play The (Casco Records)

Initiating his Netherlands-based ensemble in 2016, contrabassist Raoul van der Weide assembles younger musicians, alongside Michael Moore for one piece, orchestrated up to a septet performing a dizzying and joyfully fun array of original compositions including pieces from ICP composers Bert Koppelaar, Guus Janssen and Tristan Honsinger, and a piece from Fred Katz. ... Click to View


Homei Yanagawa:
Homura (Armageddon Nova)

Two extended pieces of solo free improvisation from Japanese alto saxophonist Homei Yanagawa, aka Yoshinori Yanagawa, who regularly performs solo, releasing this album 30 years after his first solo album in 1991, Ground and Figure, here recording in the studio for confidently active and diverse approaches to solo expression; engaging and absorbing work. ... Click to View


The Pitch (Baltschun / Nutters / Joh / Thieke):
KM28 [CASSETTE w/ DOWNLOAD] (Tripticks Tapes)

The Pitch is the Berlin quartet of Boris Baltschun on JI organ &, sines, Koen Nutters on upright bass, Morten Joh on JI electric vibes & cassette tape delay and Michael Thieke on clarinet, performing at Karl-Marx-Strasse 28 as they break off into solos, duos and trios to create spaciously reflective electroacoustic music of indirect melodic warmth and development; gorgeous. ... Click to View


An PEK Solo Orchestra of PEKs:
Prisms (Evil Clown)

The first "Orchestra of PEKS" album to feature Tim Kaiser's recent electro-acoustic instrument, this multi-track solo recording also introduces multi-wind / multi-instrumentalist David Peck's new West African Kora, in a wild electroacoustic set performed on a dizzying array of reeds, winds, strings, electronics, metallic percussion, wood percussion, sirens and thunder tube. ... Click to View


Rodrigo Amado / This Is Our Language Quartet:
Let The Free Be Men (Trost Records)

Referencing Ornette Coleman in the group name, Portuguese tenor saxophonist engages three US free jazz players--legendary saxophonist and pocket trumpeter Joe McPhee, double bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Chris Corsano--for this 2017 concert at Jazzhouse in Copenhagen, Denmark, capturing four exemplary, at times explosive, and always tightly interactive collective improvisations. ... Click to View


Mofaya! (John Dikeman / Jaimie Branch / Luke Stewart / Aleksandar Skoric):
Like One Long Dream (Trost Records)

A fiery record of collective free improvisation from the Mofaya! Quartet of American saxophonist based in The Netherlands John Dikeman, Chicago trumpeter Jaimie Branch, US East Coast bassist Luke Stewart and Slovenian drummer Aleksandar Skoric, recording live at Roze Tanker in Amsterdam for three exhilarating improvisations that embody US & European Free Jazz forms. ... Click to View



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  Goth Pop, The Ocean and Radio Shack  

The Unique Sensibilities of Marianne Nowottny


By Florence Wetzel 2003-06-20

Marianne Nowottny's name doesn't sound like you might expect: she pronounces it "Mah-ri-AH-na," not "Maryann. " The same could be said for her music, which critics in publications as disparate as The New York Times, The Wire and Tiger Beat have praised and attempted to describe. Magnet said that Nowottny's music is "like if André Breton wrote Harlequin romances." The writer meant this as a compliment, and it's as good a description as any, but Nowottny doesn't fit into a box; there's no easy recipe for her music.

Marianne Nowottony
[Photo Courtesy: Abaton Book Company]
For those unfamiliar with Nowottny's music, her new Camera Obscura release Illusions of the Sun is a good place to start. It's the 20 year old's seventh release (not counting several dozen live cdrs, videos and limited edition singles). The CD has seven audio tracks as well as a twelve-minute, three-song video. Six of the tracks were recorded at the WNYC-FM studios in New York City in 2001, another at CBGB's Gallery in 2002, and the multimedia portion was filmed at Signal 66 in Washington, D.C. in 2000. In all the tracks, Nowottny sings her original lyrics and accompanies herself on harmonium, piano, and Radio Shack keyboards.

Part of Nowottny's uniqueness is due to her ability - and courage - to allow her voice to explore its full range, from primal growl to operatic soprano to lilting pop. Combined with this wide spectrum of sound is her unusual phrasing: she stretches and compacts words in ways that make the listener hear anew. Repeated listening to Illusions of the Sun - with and without the provided lyrics as a guide - reveals deeper pleasures; as one becomes accustomedto Nowottny's unique phrasing, the unfamiliar becomes familiar, and one can even identify known elements.

"I always listen to music, and in my songs I can hear little parts that come from different pop songs," she said. "The hooks are twisted, tortured, bent, and then fit into my own songs somehow."And it's not just pop that surfaces in her music: listeners hear elements of Frank Zappa, Brian Eno, Diamanda Galas, Nico, and Sun Ra.

Other such luminaries count themselves among her fans.

"When I first heard Marianne's singing I was floored by the timelessness of her sound, simultaneously ancient and in the future," said guitarist Elliott Sharp, who has performed and recorded with the young songwriter. "It's tapped into the same strain that one hears in country blues, in Transylvanian gypsy music, and in fado."

But Nowottny did not grow up hearing these musicians and styles; her songs just came out that way. And the songs on Illusions of the Sun are also remarkable for their lyrics. Nowottny has been writing poetry for years, and her lyrics are highly original, as well as emotive and thought-provoking. In "Grey City" (recorded August 2001, but eerily reflecting the events of the next month), Nowottny writes, "I make believe just to relieve/the shrapnel sewn to my sleeve." Most of her songs concern romance and the many permutations of lost, found, and disappointed love. Reflecting on these songs, Nowottny said "For years I did self-indulgent, ultra-personal teen angst stuff. If I do sit and contemplate this music now, it makes me feel weird." Teen angst it may be, but funneled through Nowottny's sensibility it's heartfelt ("He's probably dead now/He's probably dead someway somehow") and sometimes mischievous ("Paisley or paramecium/Love or lust?"). It's music you can listen to while crying your heart out on your bed or concentrate on for its own reward.

Illusions of the Sun is Nowottny's first release on the Australian label Camera Obscura. Her previous work came out on the Abaton Book Company imprint, a label located in Jersey City and run by Mark Dagley of former Boston art band Girls, and his wife, playwright Lauri Bortz. It's fortunate to have talent, and it's equally fortunate to have people nurture and present your work in a way that preserves your integrity. Since meeting Nowottny in Newton, NJ in 1998, Dagley and Bartz have been her friends and champions, and they have produced a generous catalogue of Nowottny material, including her first release Afraid of Me (1999), Manmade Girl (2001), and SHELL! (2000), Nowottny's duet with her friend Donna Bailey. There's also limited editions of CDs, MP3s, and vinyl, as well as over fifty performance videos. Nowottny, Dagley, and Bortz also share a playful sense of humor, which is evident in Abaton's wide array of Marianne merchandise, which includes Marianne pick-up sticks, a teddy bear called Bearianne Nowottny, and - why not? - Breath of Marianne, which is exactly that, a bottle of her breath.

Nowottny's open-hearted creativity expresses itself in many mediums: music, poetry, painting, sculpture, clothing design, and modeling. It's refreshing to encounter such a genuinely artistic spirit, and as The New Jersey Herald astutely observed, "She may have such a solid following because [her music] is so original and somehow may strike a chord in others, nudging them not to be afraid of themselves, of their innate originality."

The songwriter's gifts flowered in soil that might seem particularly unsuitable for artists: suburban-rural southern New Jersey. "There's strange people down in southern New Jersey; they really took my mind for a spin," she said. "I believed in the goth thing, and there were a lot of goth hicks where I was. I thought the rest of the world was like this too." But no matter the company, Nowottny found solace and beauty in the Jersey Shore landscape. "It's really scenic where I grew up; I lived in a little house by a lake, and there were nice places to be by myself in nature. I went to the ocean every day, and I still dream of it." The unique combination of goth, spinning minds, the Atlantic ocean, and Radio Shack became part of Nowottny's development, fodder for creative expression.

Although Nowottny has received a great deal of attention since a very young age, she is remarkably levelheaded, with a healthy dose of skepticism. "When I was 16 the weird fetish was to call me a teen rocker. I didn't buy into it, and it pissed me off because I thought I was all grown up: 'I'm a woman, leave me alone!' And the main thing people said about me was 'This is really great, but too bad no one cares.' And that contradicts itself. It was sad to me, but I understand it as well - I wasn't making music to make money."

She is inspired by contemporary artists who have found a larger audience without compromising their unusual sound. "The group Einstuerzende Neubauten has a big fan base, and their symbol is everywhere," she said. "And Coldplay has ambient dark songs that are becoming hits."

She has been presenting her music at various East Coast venues since 1999. Currently she's studying at William Patterson University in Wayne, NJ; college as well as a part-time job have curbed her performing schedule, but come fall she will probably be playing out again. In the meantime, she continues creating and absorbing music. "I think about music and songs a lot in my car, and I even have a tape recorder there," she said. "I'm listening to a lot of pop engineer constructed R&B hits, bubblegum gangster music like Missy Elliott, who's amazing. Ashanti's music inspires me - I love the downbeat, and it's a happy-go-lucky, sophisticated, city-woman kind of music. I'm also listening to Fleetwood Mac from the Rumours period - I like the song 'Dreams' a lot."

There's no telling how Nowottny's external and internal influences will reflect in her future music, but however it translates, music lovers - and music connoisseurs - will surely reap the benefits.

Currently she's on the margins of mainstream music, but Nowottny recognizes that with different instrumentation and presentation she could attract a wider audience. It's an opportunity that interests her, but doesn't necessarily drive her, she said. "Music is taking a turn in evolution, but it can't appeal to a mass audience when it's lacking the basic recipe of beats and bass. My dad is tone deaf, but if a song has beats and bass, he'll listen to it. What would change is me, putting my music into something that more people can listen to."

But then, she added, "people who listen to pop music don't give a shit about art."



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