February 20, 2020:
Taking a couple of days off last week, there is a little more to this entry than I typically submit, 12 days worth, in fact. As usual, it's nice to take time off, but one pays for it in the additional work piled up when returning. Here at Squidco, that work involves listening to some very fine albums, several of which are detailed below, so I'll keep my complaints to a minimum. Additionally, it's winter time, and even here in the mid-South we're expecting a few snow flurries this week, making this is the perfect timeto keep warm inside with a hot album. Many new releases over the last few weeks have been making that endeavor incredibly interesting this winter!
In case you never make it beyond my little abstract for the Bootleg Unit on the FMR label, I thought I'd share the review I wrote for the album. To say it was difficult to find information on the artists, the band, or this album, would be an understatement.
Unusual "broken jazz" and other indefinable ea-improvisation with strange interventions from the European trio of Jaka Berger (prepared drums), Jure Borsic (reeds) and Colin Petit (tape & electronics). To declare this band obscure is an understatement, as individual members link to bands I've never heard of, like Brgs, Guns and Moses, OZON ZOON, Where Were We ? Quartet, Status... the list goes on, but information about who these performers are remains clouded.
This particular trio, who present a sly sense of humor through track names like "Miles DeVice" and "Or Not Coleman", would best be described in the jazz idiom, except that they regularly drift off into ea-improv and inexplicable moments of sonic abstraction, as though going in and out of focus in a hazily intentional way. Borsic stands out as the almost conventional player here; Berger is close behind though sounding very unlike a jazz drummer despite an intense degree of rhythmic diversity; and Petit adds layers of oddity that all three play in and around.
It's hard to describe the results, except to say that this listener, steeped in "serious" free jazz, non-idiomatic improv, and ea-improv, finds the album a real hoot. Their sense of humor has had this in rotation on my stereo, and I'm still scratching my head at what they're doing.
Bootleg Unit: Honey, Did You Break All My Jazz Cassettes? (FMR)
Unusual "broken jazz" and ea-improvisation with strange interventions from the European trio of Jaka Berger (prepared drums), Jure Borsic (reeds) and Colin Petit (tape & electronics), with a sly sense of humor through track names like "Miles DeVice" and "Or Not Coleman" as they deconstruct free jazz with aberrantly excellent intentions; obscure great fun.
Honest Jon's Records has been re-issuing the series of albums mostly from the Incus label presenting Derek Bailey's "Company" project. Company, similar to his Music Improvisation Company, was a series of fully free improvisations that would typically occur over a week, each night presenting different configurations of superb free improvisers. The groupings could be as small as a solo performance, while others were full ensembles; duos and trios were perhaps most prevalent in the series. With some of the finest of what Bailey refers to as non-idiomatic performers, which is to say, playing outside of the jazz idiom, these performance weeks are the stuff of legend. Honest Jon's has done us a great service through these reissues, and has done a magnificent job in presenting them on quality vinyl and packaging.
While most of the releases have been reissues of original albums, this latest release, 1983, brings to our ears new recordings previously unreleased. These were recorded in 1983 at BBC, and the impeccable recordings are matched by the outstanding list of improvisers, as noted below. If you already own the Incus and related Company albums, this is a missing and outstanding piece to add to your collection.
Company: 1983 [VINYL 2 LPs] (Honest Jons Records)
Unreleased recordings from Derek Bailey's Company project, recorded at the BBC in 1983 with a stellar set of performers including Evan Parker (clarinet), Hugh Davies (electroncis), Jamie Muir (percussion), Joelle Leandre (bass), J.D. Parran (winds), John Corbett (trumpet), Vinko Globokar (trombone), Ernst Reijseger (cello), and Peter Brotzmann (reeds).
Montreal double bassist and composer Nicolas Caloia started the Ratchet Orchestra in the early 90s as a uniquely voice big band, blurring into chamber jazz, but clearly in the jazz idiom. Leveraging members of the Montreal Ambiances Magnetiques collective, like Jean Derome, Lori Freedman, Sam Shalabi, &c., he found a voice in the project. Over the last 30 years he has released just five album, alongside his extremely active participation in other projects including Ensemble SuperMusique, Canot-camping, The Disguises, In The Sea with Tristan Honsinger, Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra and albums with Derome, Freedman, Robert LePage, Danielle Palardy Roger, &c. &c. Nearly 30 years after initiating the Ratchet Orchestra project his new album is a marvel of succinct scoring that create fascinating results with his players, from extremely dramatic and melodic work to wonderful abstraction with unexpected twists and turns. It may be years before the next album, but this new addition may satisfy until that time; it's certain the previous records have done so.
Ratchet Orchestra: Coco Swirl (Ambiances Magnetiques)
Active since the early 90's, the superb Montreal super-group Ratchet Orchestra under the direction of Nicolas Caloia with 19 performers presents 10 works including the title track, with soloists including Jean Rene, Lori Freedman, Jean Derome, Ellwood Epps, Sam Shalabi, Craig Petersen, Yves Charuest, Joshua Zubot, Scott Thomson, Isaiah Ceccarelli, &c.
I have been a fan of saxophonist and composer Jean Derome's work for many years, since hearing his duo records with guitarist René Lussier, through his many ensembles small and large with very original and creatively innovative work; these groups include Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms, Nous Perçons Les Oreilles, his work with Éric Normand 5, Ratchet Orchestra, &c. &c. One of the aspects of his work I find impressive has been his investigation into jazz history,, and also bands like Evidence, exploring the music of Thelonious Monk, or Trio Derome Guilbeault Tanguay performing an impressive catalog of jazz compositions from Sonny Clark & Duke Ellington to Misha Mengelberg, or Mingus Erectus, presenting the late bassists compositions.
I put on his latest CD, Somebody Special without looking at it, involved in an assortment of Squidco work. A few minutes later I forgot what I was listening to as I responded to several importan email messages. And a few minutes after that I thought to myself, if this isn't Steve Lacy, then what in the world am I listening to?!? As I quickly discovered, "Somebody Special" is Steve Lacy, who had a profound influence on Derome's work. And where my unfocused ears led me to evidenced the most sincere form of homage, as it was so in the spirit of Lacy, but also so perfectly Jean Derome. Anyone who appreciates the work of Lacy's various quintet settings with is wife, cellist and vocalist Irene Aebi, will likely find this an exceptional album, from Derome's interesting selection of nine pieces from Lacy's catalog, and by the incredibly talented and sincere performance of Derome's quintet.
Derome, Jean: Somebody Special (Ambiances Magnetiques)
Drawing on Steve Lacy's quintet, Montreal saxophonist Jean Derome pays homage to the late saxophonist through a selection of 9 Lacy pieces with lyrics from Brion Gysin, Lao Tseu, Herman Melville, &c, in a quintet with Derome on alto sax, bass flute & voice, Karen Young providing vocals, Alexandre Grogg on piano, Normand Guilbeault on double bass, Pierre Tanguay on drums.
The Swedish / French Ayler Records label started it's catalog in the year 2000 under the direction of Jan Ström from Sweden, releasing albums revolving around free jazz, definitely in an Albert Ayler mold, but also covering the European Free Jazz movement; the sister label, Silkheart Records pre-dates Ayler and was also started by Jan Ström in the 1980s, mostly covering Amercian free jazz. Ayler's transatlantic viewpoint was enlightening for both sides of the ocean, exposing European listeners to American free jazz and Americans to European players. The label changed hands from Jan Ström to the Stephane Berland around 2008, whose explorative ears have released a number of exceptional albums with more focus on European performers and bands, including Marc Ducret, Killing Spree, Cecile Cappozzo, Peter Bruun's All Too Human, Joëlle Léandre, &c.
A number of Ayler's recent releases have put me into investigative mode, researching musicians I was previously unfamiliar with. I have found this continually rewarding, learning of relationships between musicians and groups that I was previously unaware of. That would mean nothing if the albums themselves weren't exceptional, and Berland's record of picking fascinating material in free and structured improvisation with a forward viewpoing has been exceptional.
Which brings us to the Frederick Galiay's Camaeleo Vulgaris album, Time Elleipsis, directed by electric bassist Frederick Galiay. The band, who's membership changes with the needs of Galiay's work, performed this riveting and dark set of compositions in live performance a dozen times before recording the studio album, resulting in the nearly telepathic interplay between all six musicians. As I was researching the musicians, most of whom I was unfamiliar with, I discovered links into groups including Rhys Chattam, Elianne Radigue, Stephen O'Malley, Frederick Galiay, ITHAK, Peter Ablinger, Umlaut Big Band, Cactus Truck, Pierre Alexandre Tremblay; names familiar to Squidco listeners, and a fine lineage of musicians across style and approach. All of which is to say, if you're as unfamiliar with this group as I was, you should definitely find the time to immerse yourself in this album.
Galiay, Frederick (Viard / Sebastien / Boudart / Galiay): Time Elleipsis (Ayler)
Dramatic, darkly thrilling with moments of sheer beauty, from French electric bassist Frederick Galiay and his Camaeleo Vulgaris ensemble, a sextet performing Galiay's compositions in a potent mix of electric guitar, electrified baritone sax, synthesizer, and two drummer/percussionists, recorded after a dozen live concerts honing the material to this riveting studio version.