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Polwechsel / Klaus Lang:
Unseen (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

The innovative acoustic free improvising ensemble Polwechsel bridging contemporary music and free improvisation in ways that sound deceptively electroacoustic, comprised of Michael Moser on cello, Werner Dafeldecker on double bass, and Martin Brandlmayr and Burkhard Beins on cymbals & percussion, are joined by Klaus Lang performing on the church organ of St. Lambrecht's Abbey. ... Click to View


Noah Kaplan Quartet:
Out Of The Hole (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Noah Kaplan is a composer and saxophonist from Topanga Canyon, CA, associated with Anthony Coleman, David Tronzo, Peter Erskine, Rinde Eckert, Joe Morris, Mat Maneri, Joe Maneri, &c., here in his 3rd album with his Noah Kaplan Quartet, in a set of Kaplan compositions and one standard performed with Joe Morris (guitar), Giacomo Merega (electric bass) & Jason Nazary (drums, electronics). ... Click to View


Christopher Fox :
Music For Piano (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Six compositions for solo piani written by English composerb Christopher Fox between 1991 and 2015, performed by Netherlands pianist John Snijders at Abbey Road Studios in London, each work uniquely approached in both writing and performance, each a concept or style that brings something unique to Fox's music while still retaining his voice and character in composition. ... Click to View


Burkhard Stangl / Dieb13:
Jardin Des Bruits (Mikroton Recordings)

Returning to their duo work together 17 years after their erstwhile records eh, guitarist Burkhard Stangl and turntablist Dieb13 explore and expand the sonic properties of their work in this new "Garden Of Noises", using electronics and recordings of soundscapes from Paris and Montreuil, recorded live at Instants Chavires in France, 2019. ... Click to View


Oyvind Skarbo / Fredrik Ljungkvist / Kris Davis / Ole Morten Vagan:
Inland Empire (Clean Feed)

A transatlantic all-star quartet of modern improvisers influenced by contemporary compositional music and creative jazz, with pieces from all four players--Fredrik Ljungkvist on tenor sax & clarinet, Kris Davis on piano, Ole Morten Vagan on double bass, and Øyvind Skarbø on drums--creating superb modern, unforseeable, and joyful music. ... Click to View


Patty Waters (w/ Greene / Pavone / Altschul):
An Evening In Houston (Clean Feed)

The distinctively unique voice and unconventional stylings of Patty Waters brings a set of standards and folk songs to a live quartet session in Houston, Texas in 2018 with the stellar backup of Burton Greene on piano, Mario Pavone on bass, and Barry Altschul on drums, covering songs by Billy Holiday, Nat King Cole & Hank Williams and a trio instrumental of Monk's "Off Minor". ... Click to View


Andre Moller O. / Christoph Nicolaus / Rasha Ragab:
Music For Stone Harps [2CDs] (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Christoph Nicolaus began working with the stone harp around 2007, a block of granite with a slanted top that is deeply notched to create fins that resemble a loaf of bread, played by "bowing" the sides with wet hands causing each to vibrate in unique and beautiful tones; this album collects 13 compositions & improvisations performed between 2008 and 2018, in rich and uniquely evocative sound. ... Click to View


Bruno Duplant / Pierre Gerard:
Soleil Clandestin (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Five "Soleil Clandestin" soundscapes using abstract voice, guitar, electronics, field recordings & percussion from sound artists Bruno Duplant and Pierre Gerard, on the surface peaceful, minimal and using space and silence, but buried inside are disquieting additions the vocal abstractions placed in unusual position to the sound; curious and captivating. ... Click to View


Milo Fine / Joseph Damman:
Acceptance Of Sorrow (Aural Terrains)

An album of improvisations culled from the long-running Minneapolis duo of amplified acoustic guitarist Joseph Damman and multi-instrumentalist Milo fine, recorded in concert at Studio Toile d'Angles in 2018, with Fine performing on percussion, a Bosendorfer imperial piano, B-flat clarinet & marimba, for 8 pieces of explorative and accomplished dialog. ... Click to View


Martin Archer :
Anthropology Band [2 CDs] (Discus)

Inspired by the music of 70's Miles Davis electric work, composer and saxophonist Martin Archer presents 15 compositions performed in two parallel sessions over two CDs, the first in a septet that includes Corey Mwamba, Pat Thomas and Dave Sturt, and the second an extended ensemble with brass and wind sections, each bringing distinctive life to these inspired compositions. ... Click to View


Tetuzi Akiyama / Herve Boghossian:
Suketchi (Tour de Bras)

Translating to "sketch", the duo of Japanese improvising guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama and French guitarist Hervé Boghossian recorded these sketches in the studio in Marseille, France, seven succinct free improvisations of an open and intuitively lyrical nature performed on acoustic guitars, in a gorgeous album of uniquely spacious interlaced string improvisation. ... Click to View


Sakina Abdou / Barbara Dang / Peter Orins:
Lescence / Gmatique (Tour de Bras)

Three musicians who are active members of the Lille-based collective Muzzix--Peter Orins on drums, Barbara Dang on grand piano, Sakina Abdou on saxophone & recorder--captured live at La Malterie, in Lille, France for two extended improvisations of minimalist conversation using extended techniques and unusual approaches to their instruments; fascinating. ... Click to View


Anticlan (Costa / Amador / Ernsting):
Close To The Bone (Creative Sources)

The second album of open-minded free improvisation of great drive, skill and and experimental determination from the Anticlan trio, a facet of the Albatre trio in the duo of Portuguese saxophonist Hugo Costa and German drummer Philipp Ernsting, with Mexican guitarist residing in Rotterdamn, Josue Amador, recording in the studio in Rotterdam, 2019. ... Click to View


Jean D. L. (w/ Hermant / Ranaldo / Young):
Forays (Shhpuma)

A set of beautiful electro-acoustic compositions, dream-like and rich in details using sources of acoustic instruments, field recordings, guitar, electronics and voice, organized into hazy and beautiful reflections, with contributions from Margaret Hermant on xylophone & violin, Jeremy Young on electroncis, and Lee Ranaldo providing field recordings and voice. ... Click to View


Dean Rosenthal:
Stones/Water/Time/Breath (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

American composer Dean Rosenthal's influential performance piece written in 2012 and performed more than 40 times throughout the world, a site-specific piece for any outside body of water with any number of performers, using stones to create percussive sounds in the water, here in five live performances from Newfoundland to New York to Wilbraham, MA (the composer's hometown). ... Click to View


Urs Schneider Peter :
Klavierwerke 1971 - 2015 [2 CDs] (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Four compositions for solo piano from Swiss composer Urs Peter Schneider, founder of Ensemble Neue Horizonte Bern, with four accompanying prose pieces with text in German from Schneider himself, Martin Luther, and Ita Wegman, unusual words to accompany Schneider's minimalist works of clear progressions, thoughtful direction and interesting concepts. ... Click to View


Guillaume Gargaud :
Miniatures (Self Released)

Twenty miniature compositions for acoustic guitar from French composer and improviser Guillaume Gargaud, each under one and a half minutes, the shortest just 53 seconds, each composed in 12 measures creating a lovely reflective and introspective set of abstract melodies, poetic and evocative music from a player dedicated to solo guitar work. ... Click to View


Weston Olencki:
Solo Works (Creative Sources)

New York City-based trombonist/composer Weston Olencki, specializing in the performance and production of experimental music & art, presents four compositions for brass instruments exploring a sound-based and psychoacoustic approach to solo performance, applying extended instrument preparations and fundamental principles of sound synthesis to this acoustic medium. ... Click to View


Simon Nabatov Quintet (w/ Speed / Robertson / Hebert / Rainey):
Plain (Clean Feed)

Russian-born Germany/NY-based pianist Simon Nabatov's Quintet with the new lineup of Chris Speed on tenor sax & clarinet, Herb Robertson on trumpet & cornet, John Hebert on double bass and Tom Rainey on drums, performing Nabatov's magnificently lyrical, sophisticated and often chamber-oriented compositions, an incredible achievement in writing and performance. ... Click to View


Luis Lopes Humanization 4Tet (w/ Amado / Gonzalez / Gonzalez):
Believe, Believe (Clean Feed)

Energetic and assertive jazzcore improv from Portuguese guitarist Luis Lopes' long-running Humanization 4Tet with saxophonist Rodrigo Amado and the near-telepathic rhythm section of Aaron Gonzalez on double bass and Stefan Gonzalez on drums, in an album recorded in the studio in front of an audience in New Orleans during their 2018 tour, finding the band in formidable form. ... Click to View


Carl Testa :
Sway Prototypes - Volume 3 (Sway)

The third volume of NY bassist, composer, and electronic/computer musician Carl Testa's amazing Sway project, giving an interactive electronic processor its own voice interfacing with any size ensemble, here with two new works--one for quintet among a set of Chicago improvisers, the other in Portland, Maine with a sextet--each uniquely voiced and excitingly unpredictable. ... Click to View


Joanna Mattrey :
Veiled (Relative Pitch)

The first solo record for NY violist Joanna Mattrey, performing also on the Stroh violin, in a deep exploration of the sound possibilities for both instruments, using preparations to alter the resonance of the viola, masking its overtly singing and beautiful nature and allowing for unexpected and unusual textures which weave around melodic lines; unique and fascinating. ... Click to View


Bedrnhard Meyer / John Hollenbeck:
Grids (Shhpuma)

Bringing together NY drummer/percussionist John Hollenbeck, also on prepared piano, with Berlin bassist Bernhard Meyer for an album that blends textural rock, electronic and jazz approaches in 9 elusively calm yet structurally turbulent pieces, using complex systems of cross rhythms against atmospheric immersion, occasionally disruptive but generally eccentrically controlled and exploratory. ... Click to View


Day & Taxi:
Devotion [VINYL 2 LPs] (Percaso)

A melodically subtle and sophisticated album of twenty improvisations composed by saxophonist Christoph Gallio and performed with Gerry Hemingway on drums and Silvan Jeger on electric bass, with Friederike Mayrocker providing words on several tracks, the compositions as short as 19 seconds and a long as 7:40, each dedicated to visual artists and colleagues. ... Click to View


Dominic Cramp / Mike Khoury / Philip Greenlief / Gino Robair:
Compassion & Evidence (Creative Sources)

Recorded live at Temescal Art Center in Oakland, CA as part of their Babylon 2018 evening, the quartet of Gino Robair (electronics), Phillip Greenlief (tenor sax and clarinet), Mike Khoury (viola) and Dominic Cramp, aka Lord Tang (lyra) improvise in 2 short and 2 extended electroacoustic conversations of detailed restraint, unique pointillism and unforseen atmospheres. ... Click to View


Jim Denley / Eric Normand:
Plant 3 [VINYL] (Tour de Bras)

The collaboration of Quebec bassist Eric Normand and Australian saxophonist Jim Denley, both dedicated experimenters, in their third duo album under the Plant name, here recording live at the 2019 Syndey, Australia NowNow Festival, with Denley also playing bass flute, fruits and objects, and Normand using objects and playing the bass amp itself. ... Click to View


Marc Edwards / Guillaume Gargaud:
Black Hole Universe (Atypeek Music)

A shredding session between French improvisational guitarist Guillaume Gargaud and NY free jazz drummer Marc Edwards (Slipstream Time Travel), recorded in Queens, NY in 2017, for 5 rapid-fire displays of pyrotechnics and attentive dialog, as they take themselves to the cliff's edge and back in a dizzying album of dense technical dexterity and harmolodic force. ... Click to View


The Necks:
Three (Northern Spy)

Three extended improvisations from the three Australian improvisers Chris Abrahams (piano), Lloyd Swanton (bass), Tony Buck (drums/percussion) in their 21st album of mesmerizing music, from the dynamic opener "Bloom" to the introspective "Lovelock" dedicated to Damien Lovelock of The Celibate Rifles, ending in the lyrical and rich groove of "Further". ... Click to View


MPH (Maguire / Pynew / Hewins):
Taxonomies (Discus)

A trio of legendary Canterbury, avant improvisation and contemporary compositional players come together for an album recorded live in the studio over two days, from Alex Maguire on piano and Hammond organ, Martin Pyne on vibraphone, drums, percussion & electronics, and Mark Hewins on guitars & electronics; inventive, sophisticated, hallucinatory & virtuosic work. ... Click to View


Alex Ward Item 4:
Where We Were (Relative Pitch)

UK guitarist Alex Ward's quartet featuring his compositions for improvisers, performed with a set of younger players on London's free improv scene--Charlotte Keeffe on trumpet & flugelhorn, Otto Willberg on double bass, and Andrew Lisle on drums--heard here in two intricately exciting 2018 concerts in London at Set Dalston Lane and at Cafe Oto Project Space. ... Click to View


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  Philz Top 18 for 2019  


By Phil Zampino 2020-01-03

Having just published our 2019 Top 50 List By Customer Orders, I started thinking about which albums from the year I found most amazing, and which I returned to multiple times during the year. The number listed is an odd one, 18, but they were the albums that came to mind as I considered this list, and really, what's in a number?

This list is substantially different from our sales list, but I suppose it represents my personal quirks and interests, that which fuels me as we plan our catalog for the year. In fact, more than a couple of these have been non-starters on the store, always a sad fate for a deserving album; I won't tell you which weren't as well received as I believed they should be. Nor will I tell you which were well received but might not have made the top 50. As I write the abstracts for each album as they're added to our Recently Released section, most of what needs to be known will be in the original listing. However, I will in most cases elaborate as an addendum my own personal interest in each.




Andersen, Arild / Clive Bell / Mark Wastell:Tales Of Hackney (Confront)

Andersen, Arild / Clive Bell / Mark Wastell
Tales Of Hackney
(Confront)

World instrumentation of shakuhachi, thai flute, shinobue, thai mouth organ, and shruti box blends with western orchestration of double bass, percussion and electronics as Clive Bell, Arild Andersen, and Mark Wastell come together in the studio after their well-received concert at Cafe Oto in London to develop these beautifully lyrical improvisations.


addendum I found myself returning to this album repeatedly as I introduced the album to our store for two reasons: one, it insinuates itself to its listeners by appearing to be a more conventional jazz album and then envelops them in a dream-like world. Wastell never fails to mesmerize me, and with Clive Bell and Arild Andersen the three use their eclectic instrumentation to create something other-worldly, at times familiar, and at times as exotic as one could imagine.




Bauer, Matthias:Spontan In Granit (Creative Sources)

Bauer, Matthias
Spontan In Granit
(Creative Sources)

Berlin double bassist Mathias Bauer, a member of Unitedberlin, Asian Art, Junge Music and mosaik, and half of the duo Alchimia Organica, presents a series of 18 solid and diverse spontaneous improvisations, most averaging under 3 minutes, captivating the listener through articulate momentum, exceptional technique, and inventive narrative.


addendum: I have become quite interested in solo performance albums over the years, which are certainly the most daring of presentations, and the most naked. I'm also an enthusiast of concise statement, and Bauer gives his listeners a succinct set of unique recordings, taking the bass into unusual territory and revealing a curious and exploratory mind.




Rodrigues / Leblanc / Lopes:Montreal (Creative Sources)

Rodrigues / Leblanc / Lopes
Montreal
(Creative Sources)

Named for the city in which it was recorded, the trio of Karoline Leblanc on harpsichord, Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, and Paulo J Ferreira Lopes on gongs & cymbals, is a mysterious and ritualistic album, Lopes' gongs slowly intoning as the strings use unusual techniques, much of the harpsichord played inside; a subtle and beautiful reflection of historic Montreal.


addendum: In 2003 I took a chance on a Portuguese label that had sent me several review CDs to consider: Creative Sources. I was under the spell of so-called lowercase or Onkyo music at the time, and found the work of violist Ernesto Rodrigues and his then small group of similar-minded colleagues exceptional. The label now has more than 600 titles, justifying my decision through an ever-evolving set of releases with an ever-expanding number of musicians, many of which would otherwise be unknown to me. All that aside, whenever Rodrigues, and now his son, cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, release an album that they perform on I'm eager and interested. Montreal did not disappoint, a perfect example of why I return to Rodrigues' work regularly. The album is a single 57 minute work, the trio using restraint, and subtle extended techniques and reverberant ambience to enfold the listener, with subtle field recordings extending the music. Having been to Montreal many times, I draw the sense of a quiet morning in the historic district, and each motion and gesture feels appropriate and focused. Turn the volume up and give the music your attention, the rewards are found in this trio's finesse.




London Experimental Ensemble:Child Ballads (Split Rock Records)

London Experimental Ensemble
Child Ballads
(Split Rock Records)

Drawn from 305 traditional ballads from England and Scotland alongside their American variants, anthologised by Francis James Child during the second half of the nineteenth century, are here sung by Ed Pettersen in the fascinating intersection of traditional lyrics and experimental interpretations of melodies, performed by the 11-piece London Experimental Ensemble.


addendum: The name of this album may be deceptive, as it refers to Francis James Child, and not to children's songs. Child anthologized traditional ballads, and the London Experimental Ensemble draws from these to create modern and, well, more experimental versions of those songs. I have returned to this album many times, spurred by the ensemble's exceptional Treatise album interpreting the music of Cornelius Cardew. I am also reminded of Lindsay Cooper's exceptional Rags album as I hear history reflected and morphed through modern ears and interpretations.




Wooley, Nate (Wooley / Sawyer / Halvorson / Alcorn):Columbia Icefield (Northern Spy)

Wooley, Nate (Wooley / Sawyer / Halvorson / Alcorn)
Columbia Icefield
(Northern Spy)

With two guitarists--Mary Halvorson and Susan Alcorn on pedal steel--and Ryan Sawyer on drums, New York trumpeter explores the Rocky Mountains Columbia Icefield, the largest icefield in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, through sophisticated compositions and superbly illustrative sound, an exceptional album of improvisation and intention from four modern masters.


addendum: There are three albums with trumpeter Nate Wooley in this list, and there's no doubt I'm a dedicated fan of his work. What I find most interesting is how unpredictable each release from him is, from creative modern improvisation (jazz) to conceptual experimental works, to work with sounds, or driven by twisted theory. His accomplices in this work are extraordinary players of our time, and he brings out the best in his performers as they seem to do to him. Columbia Icefield is a perfect example of what I find fascinating in his work, as his quartet with guitarists Mary Halvorson and Susan Alcorn, and drummer Ryan Sawyer, interpret a massive Canadian icefield in sound. If that sounds "cold", you'll be surprised at how well the concept brings that sense of vast area to life, over three long-form compositions using electronics in specific ways that complement the otherwise acoustic orchestration. "Seven in the Woods" brings the album together for me, in beautiful solos and group interaction that surprises in approach, as the piece shifts focus while maintaining location.




Dark Star Safari (Rohrer / Bang / Honore / Aarse):Dark Star Safari (Arjunamusic)

Dark Star Safari (Rohrer / Bang / Honore / Aarse)
Dark Star Safari
(Arjunamusic)

Percussionist Samuel Rohrer invited Jan Bang and Eivind Aarset to his Berlin studio to record the 10 improvisations that create the basis for these haunting songs, the band taking that material to enhance and shape resulting compositions, inspiring Jan Bang to develop the lyrics reminiscent of David Sylvian's recent work, resulting in this darkly impressive album.


addendum: The description in my abstract might say enough about this wonderfully dark and compelling album. I had no idea Jan Bang had this aspect of expressive lyricism and vocal skill, which has drawn me back to this album many times.




I Am Three & Me (Nicols, Maggie / Silke Eberhard / Nikolaus Neuser / Christian Marien):Mingus' Sounds Of Love (Leo Records)

I Am Three & Me (Nicols, Maggie / Silke Eberhard / Nikolaus Neuser / Christian Marien)
Mingus' Sounds Of Love
(Leo Records)

Following their 2016 album "I Am Three, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus", the German trio of Silke Eberhard on alto saxophone, Nikolaus Neuser on trumpet, and Christian Marien on drums invited British improvising vocalist Maggie Nicols to further explore the works of jazz legend Charles Mingus in song and spoken word in a thoroughly enjoyable and worthy tribute to his work.


addendum: I feel like all I should have to write is "Mingus" to explain this release, but no doubt there's a tremendous amount of his work interpreted already. What distinguishes this for me is Maggie Nicols, who joins saxophonist Silke Eberhard, trumpeter Nikolaus Neuser, and drummer Christian Marien, as they take a really quirky and loving take on the late composer and bassist's music. This is the 2nd release for the trio, the first four years prior, and the compatibility and seamlessness of their playing is remarkable. I get a kick out of the trio being bass-less, but somehow that's fitting for their approach to his music. Great tracks include "Weird Nightmare", "Haitian Fight Song" and "The Clown", the last read superbly by Nicols. And the strangest is Mingus' description of how to toilet train a cat. Quirky probably doesn't do justice to the album and the way the music and voice work together, but through irreverence the band shows reverence to one of the greatest jazz composers of the last century.




Fictive Five, The (Ochs / Wooley / Filiano / Niggenkemper / Eisenstadt):Anything Is Possible (Clean Feed)

Fictive Five, The (Ochs / Wooley / Filiano / Niggenkemper / Eisenstadt)
Anything Is Possible
(Clean Feed)

A tour-de-force of modern creative jazz from the quintet of Larry Ochs on tenor & sopranino saxophones, Nate Wooley on trumpet, Ken Filiano on bass & effects, Pascal Niggenkemper on bass & effects, and Harris Eisenstadt on drums, the familiar history of the musicians and the staggering skill of each bearing out the album's title, in 2 collective and 3 Ochs compositions.



continued...




The Squid's Ear presents
reviews about releases
sold at Squidco.com
written by
independent writers.

Squidco

Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Polwechsel /
Klaus Lang:
Unseen
(ezz-thetics by
Hat Hut Records Ltd)



Noah Kaplan Quartet:
Out Of The Hole
(ezz-thetics
by Hat Hut Records Ltd)



Andre Moller O. /
Christoph Nicolaus /
Rasha Ragab:
Music For Stone Harps
[2CDs]
(Edition Wandelweiser Records)



Burkhard Stangl /
Dieb13:
Jardin Des Bruits
(Mikroton Recordings)



Oyvind Skarbo /
Fredrik Ljungkvist /
Kris Davis /
Ole Morten Vagan:
Inland Empire
(Clean Feed)



Martin Archer :
Anthropology Band
[2 CDs]
(Discus)



Jean D. L.
(w/ Hermant /
Ranaldo /
Young):
Forays
(Shhpuma)



Tetuzi Akiyama /
Herve Boghossian:
Suketchi
(Tour de Bras)



Carl Testa:
Sway Prototypes - Volume 3
(Sway)



Simon Nabatov Quintet
(w/ Speed /
Robertson /
Hebert /
Rainey):
Plain
(Clean Feed)



Day & Taxi:
Devotion
[VINYL 2 LPs]
(Percaso)



Luis Lopes
umanization 4Tet (w/ Amado /
Gonzalez /
Gonzalez):
Believe, Believe
(Clean Feed)



The Necks:
Three
(Northern Spy)



MPH
(Maguire /
Pynew /
Hewins):
Taxonomies
(Discus)



Ron Caines /
Martin Archer AXIS:
Dream Feathers
(Discus)



GGRIL:
Plays Laubrock
(Tour de Bras /
Circum-Disc)



Lisbon String Trio &
Gabriel Ferrandini:
Sediments
(Creative Sources)



Dopolarians
(William Parker /
Kidd Jordan /
Alvin Fielder /
Chad Fowler /
Christopher Parker /
Kelley Hurt):
Garden Party
(Mahakala Music)



Berlin Art Quartet
(Schubert /
Bauer /
Muller /
Bruggemann):
Live At B-Flat
(Unisono Records)



Carlos Zingaro /
Ernesto Rodrigues /
Guilherme Rodrigues /
Hernani Faustino /
Jose Oliveira :
Pentahedron
(Creative Sources)







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