December 11, 2019:
Many thanks to our customers for the response to our Black Friday sale, and the kind and positive comments we received over the weekend. That sale put me behind in publishing in this forum, but throughout the sale I've been listening to new releases and getting caught up in the season.
We've had some excellent new albums come in over the last few weeks, including the incredible Formanex box on Mikroton: 10 CDs in a sturdy box celebrating 20 years of experimental work from the Formanex quartet (Anthony Taillard, Christophe Havard, Emmanuel Leduc, Julien Ottavi) with collaborators including AMM, Keith Rowe, Christian Wolff & John Tilbury, Michael Pisaro, &c. We also received the 7-CD box Unexpected Alchemy on the Not Two label of varying configuration from Ken Vandermark's residency in Krakow with John Butcher, Hamid Drake, Kent Kessler, Joe McPhee, Ikue Mori, Steve Noble, Eddie Prevost, Matte Rasmussen, John Tilbury, and Nate Wooley. Those boxes alongside 10 new releases from Portugal's Clean Feed & Shhpuma labels, 5 albums on Another Timber, and 4 on Relative Pitch.
The holiday season is replete with fascinating music, and I couldn't be happier! With so much to comment on, I've picked a few albums listed below that have been on my obsession pile for the last couple of weeks:
An album I've returned to many times since receiving it into our catalog, the duo of Jason Kao Hwang on viola and violin, and Karl Berger on vibes and piano, is a haunting and delicately beautiful affair, as personal as any duo. Recorded in Berger's studio with no score or previous arrangements, the two find extremely compatible ground and attitude. Both virtuosic players, their collective strength comes in their reserve, using their immense skills to express themselves lyrically, naturally, and exquisitely. Highly recommended for a beautifully peaceful afternoon or late night listen.
Berger, Karl / Jason Kao Hwang: Conjure (True Sound Recordings)
Subtle, beautiful, haunting, masterful and delicately commanding, the duo of pianist and vibraphonist Karl Berger and Jason Kao Hwang on violin and viola recorded these 8 dialogs in Berger's Woodstock studio, their familiarity from Hwang's participation in Berger's Creative Music Orchestra summoning lyrical and sensitive music, finding profundity in restraint.
To contrast that last beautiful album, The Flying Luttenbachers return with a menacing title — Imminent Death — as they slash and burn through seven electric jazz pieces of heavy grooves and a healthy does of electronics. With two guitarists - Henry Kaiser & Brandon Seabrooks (two personal favorites) and the mighty reeds of Matt Nelson handling an array of saxophones and clarinets, some altered by electronics, and Luttenbacher bulwark Weasel Walters on drums, guitar and electric sitar(!), this is an aggressive affair. That doesn't deter from it's incredible energy in soloing and truly cathartic playing; in fact, the aggressive qualities of each rhythmic foundation seems to ignite the soloists, and the blasts of energy and wild direction make this an exciting and gripping ride.
Flying Luttenbachers, The: Imminent Death (ugEXPLODE)
The ever-shifting lineup of jazz/no-wave/avant/aberrant improvisers The Flying Luttenbachers, anchored by drummer Weasel Walters, brings multi-reedist Matt Nelson, two guitarists (Brandon Seabrook & Henry Kaiser), bassist Tim Dahl and Brad Laner on synth for an aggressively informed and exitingly unpredictable album of superb playing and possibly bad intention; recommended!
After avoiding Imminent Death from the Luttenbachers, it's probably time to revel in the holiday spirit. Saxophonist Mars Williams takes us on a joyfully unique journey in a free jazz mash-up of holiday styles with a healthy dose of abstraction surrounding the melodies of the season. This 3rd volume of his An Ayler Xmas was recorded live in Krakow, Poland in a concert at Alchemia, appropriately released on the Not Two label (the previous two were on ESP and William's own Soul What Records label. Starting on a more conceptual foot, "The Hanukkah-Xmas March Of Truth For 12 Days Of Jingling Bells With Spirits" is a journey from religion to religion and melody to melody, the listener's adventure including detailing the melodic location of the trip. Each of the three extended pieces merges melodies, and the album becomes more holiday-esque as it advances, without ever becoming smarmy or overly sweet, perfect for the listener both naughty and nice.
Williams, Mars Presents: An Ayler Xmas Volume 3 Live in Krakow (Not Two)
The 3rd volume of saxophonist Mars Williams' Albert Ayler-infused holiday records, bring free jazz to the holidays in a unique holiday mash up of songs with titles like "Noel Omega - Twas The Night Before The Frosty Island Harvest Xmas", in a quintet with Jaimie Branch (trumpet0, Knox Chandler (electric guitar), Mark Tokar (bass) and Klaus Kugel (drums).
This last month, as part of the new Clean Feed December releases, we added the Daniel Bernardes album with Druming GP: Liturgy of the Birds - in memoriam Olivier Messiaen . As our store has little to do with the legacy of compositional music aside from iconoclasts and innovators like Cage and Feldman, I found it interesting that this is the 5th Messiaen album we've listed over the years. One of those, Bruce Levingston's Portraits: Glass, Ravel, Messiaen, Satie is no longer available in our catalog. The others are:
Ratsimandresy, Nadia & Matteo Ramon Arevalos: Messiaen Et Autour De Messiaen For Onde Martenot And Piano  - Recommended Records - $15.95 - view
Swell, Steve (w/ Brown / Hwang / Ulrich / Boston / Pugliese): Music for Six Musicians: Hommage a Olivier Messiaen  - Silkheart - $16.95 - view
Apartment House: Perform Olivier Messiaen and Linda Catlin Smith  - Another Timbre - $15.95 - view
It's a curiosity that Messiaen himself never showed much interest in jazz music, and yet twice now we've listed jazz albums from the composer. A relatively contempoary composer (he passed in 1992), no doubt his affinity for rhythm appeals to jazz musicians. His music also employed various conceptual approaches, particularly his "modes of limited transposition" which adhere to the composer's aesthetic for symmetry, and which he developed using his own early compositions. Living in the modern age of communication, his music also references various world musics, and a variety of modern approaches to composition that he incorporated into his own concepts. And, he was fascinated with birdsong, transcription of which are merged into his compositions. It's easy to understand how his legacy attracts today's composers, and the new Daniel Bernardes album is a great example, a rhythmically fascinating album of brilliant playing that straddles jazz and contemporary music without awkward boundary.
Bernardes, Daniel / Drumming GP: Liturgy of the Birds - in memoriam Olivier Messiaen (Clean Feed)
Pianist Daniel Bernardes pays homage to French composer Olivier Messiaen, augmenting his piano trio of Antonio Augusto Aguiar on bass and Mario Costa on drums with the Drumming GP Ensemble of Miquel Bernat on marimba, Jeffrey Davis & Pedro Gois on vibraphones, and Joao Dias on glockenspiel, a wonderful merging of contemporary percussive composition and modern jazz.
Mentioned in the last entry as an upcoming release, the new John Coltrane Impressions Graz 1962 on the ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records label is now in stock and steaming off the shelves.
Coltrane, John Quartet: Impressions Graz 1962 (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
"When John Coltrane toured Europe and Scandinavia with his quartet in the Fall of 1962, he was already embroiled in what was to develop over the years into an ongoing hailstorm of critical controversy. The program for the Graz concert was typical of the material the quartet revisited consistently throughout the tour. But the selections on this first volume have a pair of curiosities among them."-Art Lange
Taking his quartet on a European tour in the fall of 1962, Coltrane's band with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on double bass, and Elvin Jones on drums performed in Graz, Austria at Stefaniensaal, the concert beautifully recorded by ORF Steiermark and here released as the first of two volumes, showing both Coltrane's lyrical origins and expanding free inclinations.
A note: Sadly we have suspended sales of the Tomas Fujiwara 7 Poets Trio, which was listed for a few days on our site. The music is quite impressive, up until perhaps half-way through the CD, when an irritating distortion appears, heard particularly in Patricia Brennan's beautiful vibraphone work. We discovered the problem while performing the final cataloging for the CD prior to announcing it as new, and confirmed that our equipment was working correctly. We copied the files into an audio editor to see that the final few tracks on the are mastered at an excessive volume, causing the ragged edges of the otherwise excellent music. We can not in good faith sell a CD with this kind of problem, and we have contacted RogueArt. I sincerely hope the CD will be reissued soon and correctly, as the music itself was sophisticated and extremely interesting, and deserving of proper release. We'll keep our customers posted on anything we hear.
I end this section with a moment of shameless promotion, but also promotion for our partner Silber Media's new digital album Symphonic Plunder, a digital-only release of Plunderphonic material. I have a track on it, "Planeta Traviotta" (CHANGES TO blind), which is a symphonic/orchestral plunder piece.
You can hear the track or album for free, and you can download the entire album on a pay-what-you-like-basis.
Last, updates to our website and The Squid's Ear since my last entry: