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Tom Chant / John Edwards / Eddie Prevost: All Change (Matchless)

Recorded in concert at The Network Theatre, Waterloo in London, 2012, the trio of Tom Chant on saxophone, John Edwards on bass and Eddie Prevost on drums present a tour de force of modern free jazz with great technical and conversational power. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / John Butcher: The Natural Order (Northern Spy)

This album documents guitarist Fred Frith and saxophonist John Butcher's first head-to-head encounter in a recording studio, two titans of their instruments playing without overdubs in a single session for remarkable creative and sonic results. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Frode Gjerstad Quartet: Silver Cornet (NESSA)

The last stop on the North American tour of The Bradford/Gjerstad Quartet (Bobby Bradford-cornet; Frode Gjerstad-alto sax & clarinet; Ingetbrigt Haker Flaten-bass; Frank Rosaly-drums), bridging generations through tremendous free improvisation. ... Click to View


John Zorn: Transmigration Of The Magus (Tzadik)

Inspired by the Gnostic philosophies of the Nag Hammadi library, Zorn invokes the mystical journey of the soul through the bardo as a tribute to the passing of Lou Reed, presented by his Gnostic Trio of Bill Frisell, Kenny Wollesen, and Carol Emanuel, plus guests. ... Click to View


Wollesen / Haffner / Naujo: Rasa Rasa (Tzadik)

Rasa Rasa members Kenny Wollesen, Dalius Naujo, Jonathon Haffner and Sean Francis Conway present the ancient polyphonic vocal music of Lithuania using a mix of ensembles, reviving the infectious grooves and ancient vocal rounds, aided by new instruments devised by Wollesen. ... Click to View


Thomas Carnacki / Vulcanus 68: Split [VINYL] (Alethiometer / Gigante)

A split LP from two Bay area electronic composers inspired by the masters of tape and electronic music: Vulcanus 68 in a nostalgic rendering of spliced and collaged tape techniques; and Thomas Carnacki in an engaging collage of identifiable or sinister sound. ... Click to View


Kevin Drumm / Jason Lescalleet: The Abyss (erstwhile)

Sound and noise artists Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet collaborate on this 2 CD set, a diverse set of sound pieces from slowly building drones to unsettling environments, with tapes punctuating the hallucinatory aspects of their rich and impressive aural tapestries. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey / Radu Malfatti: II (erstwhile)

Two works, one each from trombonist Radu Malfatti and clarinetist Jurg Frey, also credited with "instruments", field recordings and couterpoints, electroacoustic reductionist work of beautiful character that unfolds slowly and rewards attentive listeners in morphing sound. ... Click to View


Michael Pisaro: Continuum Unbound [3 CD Box Set] (Gravity Wave)

Three large works in a solid box with a 12 page color booklet of notes and images from composer Pisaro, working with Greg Stuart, Joe Panzner, Patrick Farmer and Toshiya Tsunoda, examining fragile discontinuities in the apparently continuous sound world. ... Click to View


Gen Ken & AMK: Smile [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

A collaboration of NYC sound artist Gen Ken Montgomery (Generator) and West Coast sound improviser AMK (Anthony Michael King), in an extended work of electronic improvisation presented over two cassette sides, a varied program that never overloads its listeners. ... Click to View


Chop Shop: Grey Area [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Grey is the color of these murky recordings from Scott Konzelmann, AKA Chop Shop, sounding like they were recorded inside a furnace with distant punctuation occasionally contributing to the gloom of this oppressive audio environment. ... Click to View


John Hudak: Listening To The Wind [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

John Hudak created "listening to the wind" using wind chimes, half of a phone conversation, and digital manipulation, splitting the work into an "inner" and "outer" side, altering the character of this murky emission. ... Click to View


Duncan Harrison / Dylan Nyoukis: The Many Great Necked / Jeer Sabbath [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

A split cassette, the first side presenting two live sets of vocals and tapes from Duncan Harrison; the second presenting Jeer Sabbath on vocals, tapes, trumpets, piano, clarinet, guitar, violin & other assorted instruments; both recording in the UK and reworking at Wino Lodge. ... Click to View


WHO Trio (Hemingway / Wintsch / Oester): Zoo [2 CDS] (Auricle)

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Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet (Hawkins / Edwards / Yarde): 4 Blokes (Ogun)

Blue Notes drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo's quartet with three of London's finest improvisers--Jason Yarde on sax, John Edwards on bass, and Alexander Hawkins on piano--in live studio recordings of exciting and impressive structured free improv. ... Click to View


Steve Lacy Four: Morning Joy ...Paris Live [reissue] (Hatology)

One night at the Paris Sunset Club by saxophonist Steve Lacy's Quartet with Steve Potts on sax, Jean-Jacques Avenel on bass and Oliver Johnson on drums, performing an exuberant mix of Lacy originals and Thelonius Monk tunes, remastered & expanded for Hat's 40th Anniversary. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee: As Serious As Your Life [reissue] (Hatology)

In 1996, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Joe McPhee's first solo release, McPhee recorded this remarkable album of solo reeds, pocket cornet, and electronics, using overdubbing to create gripping music including an homage to Miles Davis and unique versions of standards. ... Click to View


Chistopher Fox: Works For Piano, Philip Thomas piano (Hat [now] ART)

Four large and distinctive works by composer Christopher Fox performed by pianist Philip Thomas, who also writes the liner notes about the works, revealing and explaining the compositional elements, piano preparations, and physical requirements placed on the performer. ... Click to View


Stockhausen / Beethoven (Pi-hsien Chen): Klavierstucke/Sonaten (Hat [now] ART)

Alternating between Stockhausen and Beethoven, pianist Pi-Hsien Chen performs solo works including "Klavierstuck", "Sonata A-Dur Op. 101" and "Sonata C-moll Op. 111", contrasting and comparing the innovations of both composers. ... Click to View


Lacerda / Manso / Nilssen-Love / Zenicola: Bota Fogo (Bocian Records 2014/QTV/PNL)

A live recording of two extended improvisations at Audio Rebel's Quintavant in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from the quartet of Arthur Lacerda on guitar and electronics, electric bassist Felipe Zenicola, guitarist Eduardo Manso, and drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love. ... Click to View


Michel Doneda : Everybody Digs Michel Doneda (Relative Pitch)

A collection of solo pieces from forward-thinking French soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda, using extended techniques and utilizing every inch of the horn, creating unconventional and captivating sonic expressions from the instrument. ... Click to View


Lee Noyes: Truth In Opposition [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Sound artist Lee Noyes based this improvised laptop work on the 1776 work by James Beattie, "Essays: On the nature of truth, in opposition to Sopfifstry and Sceptifism", arguing that both consonance and dissonance are equally important to the perfection of harmony. ... Click to View


Trevor Watts: Veracity (FMR)

Pure Trevor Watts performing solo on the alto saxophone, showing his lyrical and technical skills in full force through 13 studio recordings, from succinct tracks of a minute in length to longer displays of powerful playing with great skill and ingenuity. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Philip Gibbs / Neil Metcalfe: The Ravens Look (FMR)

Paul Dunmall performs on soprano sax along with clarinets and contra bassoon, in a give and take album with flutist Neil Metcalf and guitarist Philip Gibbs, a trio that allows space and a free melodic approach to guide their intelligent discourse. ... Click to View


Fred Lonberg-Holm / Frode Gjerstad: Life On Sandpaper (FMR)

Frode Gjerstad in a duo with long time colleague Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm for 9 pieces performed in 2012, with Gjerstad on bass saxophone, Bb and bass clarinets and Lonberg-Holm on cello; open-ended dialog of compatible approaches to free improvisation. ... Click to View


Udu Calls Trio feat. William Parker: The Vancouver Tapes (Long Song Records)

A live recording from 1999 in Vancouver, two extended improvisations from drummer Tiziano Tononi's UDU Calls Trio featuring William Parker on double bass; Tiziano Tononi on drums, congas, gong, bells & whistles; Daniele Cavallanti on saxophone, Ney flute and bells. ... Click to View


Oren Ambarch: Quixotism (Editions Mego)

With collaborators from Europe, Japan, Australia and the USA, "Quixotism" presents guitarist Ambarchi's 5 part work, built on a foundation of pulsing double-time electronic percussion, with abstracted sonic additions punctuating and building a dream-like aural environment. ... Click to View


Darius Jones: The Oversoul Manual (Aum Fidelity)

The fourth installment in Darius Jones' on-going "Man'ish Boy" epic, an a cappella presentation from his vocal quartet, The Elizabeth-Caroline Unit using Jones' fictional, mythological sacred language used in the alien birthing ritual of a new being. ... Click to View


Matt Nelson: Lower Bottoms (Tubapede)

Brooklyn saxophonist Matt Nelson in a solo album of extended saxophone techniques along with a litany of guitar effects pedals, all run through a large 70's era Peavy combo amp with real-time feedback manipulation, a unique album of muscular playing and unusual soundscape. ... Click to View


The Gate (feat Tim Dahl / Nate Wooley): Stench [VINYL] (Smeraldina-Rima)

Massive, disturbing sound sculptures and forbidding landscapes, just what you'd expect from an album named "Stench" by tuba & amp player Dan Peck's The Gate, with Nate Wooley on trumpet & amp, Tim Dahl & Tom Blancarte on electric bass, and Brian Osborne on percussion. ... Click to View


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John Zorn 
Spillane  
(Elektra Nonesuch (1987)) 

review by Steve Smith
2003-08-18
John Zorn: Spillane (Elektra Nonesuch (1987))

If 1985's The Big Gundown was the shot heard 'round the world for both John Zorn and New York's burgeoning downtown scene, then its follow-up, Spillane, was the revolution for real. The signal difference this time was that where the previous record had demonstrated the bold vision and commanding range of John Zorn's musical language as applied to western soundtrack compositions by Ennio Morricone, this time the compositions--and the vision--were Zorn's alone. Yet, from the very first line of his lengthy and revealing liner notes, Zorn challenges the assumption that the music contained therein could be solely attributed to him. "Whether we like it or not," Zorn says, "the era of the composer as an autonomous musical mind has just about come to an end." Instead, Zorn cites the increasingly collaborative efforts of such disparate composers as Cage, Stockhausen, Ellington and Reich as being the touchstones of a more open approach to musical creativity.

Given the astonishing talent pool present in mid-'80s New York -- and in particular, early core collaborators Anthony Coleman, Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz and Bobby Previte -- who can blame Zorn for wanting to yoke their talents to his larger vision? And that's essentially exactly what he does on the titular composition, the first of his so-called "file card" compositions to achieve widespread circulation. (Its immediate predecessor, Godard, was originally available only on a hard-to-find Nato LP; perhaps that's just as well, since most American listeners could likely relate to the pulp fiction of Spillane's crime novels more readily than to the more abstract French filmmaker.)

To guide the combined efforts of his ensemble, Zorn made use of a series of file cards, each of which contained an idea or impression gleaned from author Mike Hammer's literary ouevre --bloodcurdling screams, sleazy bar saxophone, twanging and searing guitars, and of course, John Lurie's laconic, world weary narration. The music drastically changes from moment to moment, yet somehow, a satisfying unified whole is the result: In effect, the dramatic subect serves to unify the composition in much the same way as classical form or tone rows had served in previous eras. Perhaps most incredibly of all, while Spillane sounds like a piece that could only have been achievedin the controlled circumstances of a studio recording, Zorn went on to lead ensembles in a handful of breathtaking live performances in subsequent years. Despite its patchwork origin, Spillane breathes, snaps, howls andtumbles into the gutter like a living organism. Nothing overstays its welcome; nothing goes to waste. (In fact, a handful of cast-offs from Spillane were absorbed into Zorn's incidental music for the Mabou Mines production The Bribe, which was recorded at the same time in the same studio with most of the same musicians, but remained unreleased until 1998. The score almost sounds like an extended meditation on the themes and moods of Spillane.)

The two other works on the original Nonesuch disc are nearly as fascinating: Two-Lane Highway is nothing less than a concerto for the great electric bluesman Albert Collins. To accomodate the soloist's laconic drawl and wailing leads, Zorn slowed the pace of this dusty imaginary Texas travelogue. Collins is shadowed by the eerie wail and Hendrix murmurs of Robert Quine's guitar, buttressed by the fat, rich chords of Big John Patton's organ, and prodded along by bassist Melvin Gibbs and dual drummers Previte and Ronald Shannon Jackson. It's a fascinating glimpse at a compositional format that Zorn was not to revisit. Forbidden Fruit wedded the Kronos Quartet and turntable artist Christian Marclay (using recordings of music for strings only) into a disquieting and frequently cacophonous web of scapes, plucks, ghostly whirrs and Grosse Fuge snippets to back the cooing of vocalist Ohta Hiromi. Ifthe piece doesn't reach the heights of the brilliant works Zorn would go on to write for Kronos in subsequent years, still, the birth of one of Zorn's most significant artistic relationships of the decade remains eminently listenable and a giddy thrill ride. While most of the music from that particular period in New York's musical history sounds comfortable and familiar -- and some, indeed, perhaps awkward and dated -- Spillane maintains a sense of weird mystery and self-sufficiency. Who's screaming at 8:50? Presumably that's Zorn drunkenly singing just ten seconds later? And just who is ranting in Russian at the 16-minute mark? Even with the passing of 16 years, the piece refuses to divulge all of its secrets, and yet it is so distinctive and instantly recognizable that enough that the piece can be easily identified by couple of drums beats, a guitar riff and a sax lick sampled on Amon Tobin's track "Cruzer" (from the 1997 album Adventures in Foam, released under the name Cujo). Zorn reissued Spillane on his own Tzadik imprint in 1999, paired at last with Godard. To my mind, that's a mixed blessing: Great to have the earlier piece more easily accessible, but while Spillane the composition is a masterpiece, Spillane the album was no less estimable. Indeed, in 1987, it was the call of the wild, and it remains utterly sui generis.





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