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Third Coast Ensemble: Wrecks (RogueArt)

Merging France's Nautilis Ensemble with musicians from Chicago created this large improvising orchestra, here in a new suite composed by Rob Mazurek and dedicated to Great Lake Michigan and the devestation of thousands of shipwrecks over many centuries, using historical data, first hand accounts of shipwrecks off both shores, magical realism and steampunk aesthetics. ... Click to View


Made to Break: Trebuchet (Trost Records)

The eight release from Ken Vandermark's hard-hitting quartet with Austrian electronic improviser Christof Kurzmann, Netherlands bassist Jasper Stadhouders, and Chicago drummer and frequent Vandermark collaborator Tim Daisy, for 3 vigorous and extreme pieces dedicated to Shellac, Susan Sontag, and Kerry James Marshall; powerful, informed, essential. ... Click to View


Made to Break: Trebuchet [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The eight release from Ken Vandermark's hard-hitting quartet with Austrian electronic improviser Christof Kurzmann, Netherlands bassist Jasper Stadhouders, and Chicago drummer and frequent Vandermark collaborator Tim Daisy, for 3 vigorous and extreme pieces dedicated to Shellac, Susan Sontag, and Kerry James Marshall; powerful, informed, essential. ... Click to View


Boneshaker: Thinking Out Loud [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The third album from this international trio of powerful improvisers--Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, and Chicago/NY saxophonist Mars William-- in four odysseys that take the listener from introspective playing to out and out blowing, using technique to serve their incredible dialog. ... Click to View


Kodian Trio: II [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The uniquely voiced free improvising Kodian Trio formed of saxophonist Colin Webster using aggressive techniques and unusual approaches to his horn, electric guitarist Dirk Serries (vidnaObmana) throwing spiky lines in forceful and unorthodox dialog, and in-demand UK drummer Andrew Lisle providing underpinning and punctuation, in six far-ranging and impressive tracks. ... Click to View


Becoming Animal (Massimo Pupillo / Gordon Sharp): A Distant Hand Lifted [VINYL] (Trost Records)

An album of dark atmospheric electroacoustic sound with voice and introductory narrative from Zu bassist Massimo Pupillo and Gordon Sharp of Cindytalk, the first meeting between the two, performed live at Cafe Oto for four pieces of rich sonics, emotional and hypnotic playing from two creative masters with a long history of powerful and passionate music. ... Click to View


Novaks Kapelle: Fartwind - Complete Discography (1967-1979) [2 CDs] (Trost Records)

Hard rocking Novaks Kapelle was an Austrian underground rock band, formed in 1967 by Erwin Novak, Walla Mauritz, Peter Travnicek and Helge Thor, with Paul Brown Steiner joining in 1970, and after a period of quiet, in 1978 jazz guitarist Harri Stojka joined the band; this double CD collects all known tracks, presenting a fascinating evolution of style. ... Click to View


Kan Mikami / John Edwards / Alex Nielson: Live at Cafe Oto [VINYL] (Otoroku)

More typically a solo performer, Japanese bluesman Kan Mikami has created a distinctive path for his voice, guitar and poetic lyrics; here he is propelled in an improvisational setting with two powerful UK players--John Edwards on bass and Alex Neilson on drums--captured live at London's Cafe Oto for a growling concert of finesse and brusque attitude. ... Click to View


William Parker : Conversations II Dialogues & Monologues [CD & BOOK] (RogueArt)

The 2nd volume in New York free improvising basist William Parker's "Conversations" series, more than 500 pages with 32 interview between William Parker and artists including Marshall Allen, Tim Berne, Wadada Leo Smith, Mark Dresser, Henry Grimes, &c &c, plus a CD excerpting those interviews and punctuated with duos between Parker and saxophonist Kidd Jordan. ... Click to View


Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. Feat. Pika: Astro Infinity Discotheque [VINYL 2 LPs] (Bam Balam Records)

A live album in 2016 from the mind-blowing and prolific Japanese psychedelic improvising rock band Acid Mothers Temple with Kawabata Makoto, Higashi Hiroshi, Mitsuru Tabata, Stoshima Nani, S T, and Pika, performing some of their well known works and starting with Gong's "Flying Teapot", all recorded at 15th Acid Mothers Temple Festival at Tokuzo (Nagoya). ... Click to View


Strycharski / Andriessen: Ghost (Bolt)

Polish composer and recorder player Dominik Strycharski wrote these pieces in response to a work for the recorder by composer Louis Andriessen that he dedicated to Frans Bruggen: "Melodie"; Strycharski response is "Harmonie", performed in a duo with pianist Sebastian Zawadzki to demonstrate the impracticability of harmony in its purest forms. ... Click to View


Vinny Golia Wind Quartet: Live At The Century City Playhouse (Dark Tree Records)

Dark Tree's Southern California archive series adds this phenomenal session from multi-woodwind player Vinny Golia's Wind Quartet with clarinetist John Carter, trombonist Glenn Ferris, and cornetist Bobby Bradford, recorded fairly early in their careers in 1979 live at Century City Playhouse in LA for two sets of exploratory, dexterous and astounding jazz. ... Click to View


Christian Kobi (solo and with Taku Sugimoto / Yoko Ikeda / Wakana Ikeda: Atta! (Monotype)

Four solo saxophone improvisations, two on tenor and two on soprano, using remarkable technique and concentration from Swiss improviser Christian Kobi performing live in Tokyo and Osaka in 2017, plus a live quartet improvisation with flutist Wakana Ikeda, violinist Yoko Ikeda, and guitarist Taku Sugimoto for an open-approached performance of detailed, minimal improv. ... Click to View


Natsuki Tamura / Alexander Frangenheim: Nax (Creative Sources)

An impressive, creative, startling meeting between Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and German double bassist Alexander Frangenheim, taking Tamura out of his more typical structured improv and Frangenhemin into more active and agressive styles than his Creative Sources output; a great album reminding just how fun and awe inspiring free improvised music can be. ... Click to View


Raphael Roginski : Populista Presents BOX [3 CDs + POSTER] (Bolt)

Raphael Roginski's Trilogy - 3 CDs in Bolt's Populista series: CD 1. "Raphael Roginski plays John Coltrane and Langston Hughes African mystic music"; CD 2. "Zywizna plays Zaswiec Niesiacku and other Kurpian songs"; CD 3. "Populista presents Raphael Roginski plays Henry Purcell featuring Olga Myslowska and Sebstian Witkowski"; in a slip box with a poster. ... Click to View


Polyorchard: Red October [CASSETTE w/DOWNLOAD] (Out and Gone Music)

Polyorchard founder and double bassist David Menestres leads the quartet of Jeb Bishop on trombone, Shawn Galvin on percussion, and Laurent Estoppey on saxophone, using skills drawn from both improvisation and compositional music to present six free dialogs showing intent listening amongst the four as they create complex, interweaving, sophisticated statements; impressive! ... Click to View


Polyorchard: Color Theory in Black and White (Not On Label)

Two trios, "Black" with cellist Chris Eubank and violist Dan Ruccia, and "White" with trombonist Jeb Bishop and saxophonist Laurent Estoppey, each with the foundation of bassist David Menestres, balancing experience in free improvisation and compositional music to create an exciting hybrid, a chamber collective of tumult and control. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Lao Dan / Rick Countryman / Colin Webster: Saxophone Anatomy (Armageddon Nova)

Saxophone solo improvisation omnibus by three free saxophonists from around the globe: Lao Dan from China recording in an underground bomb shelter in an agressive solo performance; US ex-pat Rick Countryman from the Philippines in a traditional yet extremely free jazz exposition; and London's Colin Webster on baritone sax for an exploration of extended techniques. ... Click to View


Aishi Oyauchi : Wrong Exit (Armageddon Nova )

Under-recorded but legendary Japanese free improvising saxophonist Aishi Oyauchi in a double CD, performing on alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, and piano through 52 untitled and inventive pieces, from a few seconds in length to several minutes, presented as 7 composite tracks; part of the Armageddon Nova Series exploring radical free improvisation. ... Click to View


Zywizna: Roginski, Raphael with Genowefa Lenarcik: plays Zaswiec Niesiacku and other Kurpian songs (Bolt)

Guitarist Raphael Roginski reinterprets the music of the Kurpi region of Poland, performed with vocalist Genowefa Lenarcik who was born in 1940 in the village of Krobia, part of the Kurpi region, and is the daughter of folk singing legend Stanislaw Brzozowy; together they bring out the rich heritage of this region, expanded by the natural sounds of the forests of Northeaster Poland. ... Click to View


subterrene: Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been (Bad Architect Records)

Rich sonic atmospheres from subterrene, aka Grant Stewart, a member of the 910 Noise collective, using slowly evolving and dovetailing drones that resonate and reveal shimmering beauty, deeply controlled and maintaining aural interest without any sense of impatience, maintaining a steady hand that reveals hidden harmonics amongst beautiful clouds of sound. ... Click to View


Alessandro Bosetti : Notebooks (Bolt)

Czech composer Leos Janacek was fascinated with speech melodies, writing them down in notebooks to use in his compositions; Italian composer Alessandro Bosetti has adapted these notes, using the words themselves to create a series of works that builds rhythmic structures in place of melody, injecting himself and other performers into Janacek's interest in the voice. ... Click to View


Raphael Roginski (feat. Olga Myslowska / Sebstian Witkowski): plays Henry Purcell (Bolt)

Polish guitarist Raphael Roginski presents works from baroque English composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695), considered one of the greatest English composers, performed on solo guitar and with accompaniment by Sebastian Witkowski on synth and Olga Myslowska on voice, a beautiful and languorous album that pays homage to the profound lasting qualities of Purcell's music. ... Click to View


Boguslaw Schaeffer : Travel Notes (Bolt)

Several compostions by Polish composer Boguslaw Schaeffer developed in the Polish Radio Experimental Studio from 1966-1978, including works for tape, electronic computer, voice, a quadraphonic generator, the SynLab synthesizer, composed using both graphic and notated scores, and realized with incredibly detailed layering and development of the material. ... Click to View


DJ Lenar: Drite Shtilkayt (Bolt)

Using recordings of Polish Jewish cantors with cello arrangements from Marek Czerniewicz, DJ Lenar (aka Marcin Lenarczyk) dedicates an album to the memory of Polish Jews by reimagining the recordings in subtle and sincere ways, reinforcing the powerful voices that guide the liturgical music of the Jewish faith, accompanied by a booklet of inspirational text. ... Click to View


Refusenik (Arturas Bumsteinas): Musikaliszer Pinkos (Bolt)

A collection of more than two hundred Hebrew religious chants compiled and published by cantor Abraham Berenstein in 1927 in Vilna, Poland (today Vilnius, Lithuania), re-composed by Arturas Bumsteinas using fragments of melodies found found in the Berenstein's book, with electronics recorded on the old Russian analogue synthezier Polyvox then mixed in EMS. ... Click to View


Trio 3 (Lake / Workman / Cyrille): Visiting Texture (Intakt)

This time around the long-standing trio of drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassist Reggie Workman, and saxophonist Oliver Lake doesn't add a 4th player to the group, instead focusing on the trio itself and their intuitive and implicitly lyrical approach to free jazz, in this 11th album recorded in the studio to feature their masterful collective playing as a group of equals where "music is the leader". ... Click to View


Thanos Chrysakis / Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Miguel Mira / Abdul Moimeme: Micrographia (Creative Sources)

Recording in Portugal, the quintet of Aural Terrains label leader Thanos Chrysakis on piano, Creative Sources label leader Ernesto Rodrigue on viola, son Guilherme Rodrigues on cello, Miguel Mira on double bass and Abdul Moimeme on electric guitar, three parts of microscopic collective electroacoustic improvisation of highly focused, detailed interplay. ... Click to View


VCA (Vilanova / Castrillon / Andean): Ceres (Creative Sources)

Electroacoustic improvisation from the trio of Marc Vilanova on saxophone, Sergio Castrillon on cello, and pianist James Andean also performing on objects and electronics, in nine collective improvisations of close-knit dialog balancing intense activity and silent space, building tension and releasing it in unexpected and wonderfully eccentric ways. ... Click to View


Edward Sol / Alpha Crucis: Excessive Weight [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Ukrainian sound artist Edward Sol collaborated with Puerto Rican sound experimenter Jorge Castro (Cornucopia) via the post to create these two long works of harmonic drones from indecipherable sources creating slowly building chambers of rich noise that resonate and shift above deep underpinnings of cavernous bass. ... Click to View


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  Charming the Cobra  

A first-hand account of organizing a performance of John Zorn's most famous game


By Eyal Hareuveni 2003-08-20

John Zorn, in the liner notes to the latest recorded version of Cobra, on Tzadik, said of his most popular game-piece that "at its worst it can become psychodrama", but "at its best it's like magic." As it happened, the first official Israeli Cobra was almost doomed to become a kind of political psychodrama. Seventy-two hours before the concert, Zorn, who was supposed to be on hand as the conductor/prompter, decided to cancel his visit to Israel because of the shaky and troublesome situation in the Middle East. Luckily, due to the most creative and wise conduction by the Israeli viola player Nori Jacoby, the Israeli Cobra turned out with many magical moments.

The Israeli Cobra was being planning by Zorn and the Israeli Artistic Director, bass player Jean-Claude Jones, who jammed with Zorn during his 1994 visit to Israel with the Masada quartet (and was thanked on the liner notes of Masada in Jerusalem double disc on Tzadik), for the Israel Festival at Henry Crown Hall on June 7, 2003. For eight months prior to the performance, Jones and I had been assembling the players according to Zorn's suggestions - i.e. at least two female players, two Israeli-Arab players (one of them cancelled a month before the concert), a DJ and players from diverse backgrounds - jazz, improv, classical music, electronics. Zorn wanted playful, adventurous players, and emphasized that he does not care at all about virtuosity.

As we began to look for the players, we found out that most of them have heard of Zorn; vocal artist Maya Dunietz had even played with him an improv nights at Tonic in New York City. Only few of them owned any of his recordings, however, and none knew what the hell Cobra is. The sole exception was Jacoby, who was drafted a month before the concert. Jacobly learned Cobra from a Canadian musician and even conducted and played in some underground performances of the piece. None of the players really understood the rules Zorn sent, and even Jacoby needed a hour-long talk with Zorn, a day before the concert, to fully realize the key dynamics of a successful Cobra. Zorn last word of advise to Jacoby, an hour before the concert were quite short: "Have fun!"

After much preparation, the 13 players met for the first time nine hours before the performance for a quick sound check and a long rehearsal. Some had played with each other before, but not in such a large formation. Some had tried to rehearse the piece a few weeks before the concert. None of the players canceled after hearing that Zorn had decided to stay home. The players were: Jones, one of the best known jazz player in Israel, on bass and electronics; Dunietz on vocals, toys, shoes, percussion and synth; Taiseer Elias, who played in world music ensembles such as Bustan Abraham and Ziryab Trio, on oud; Dana Waxman, a member of the Israeli improv group Tel Aviv Art Ensemble, on cello; Ofer Ganor and Nadav Remez on electric guitars; multi instrumentalist Adam Scheflan on dobro, mini-vibes and kazoo; Daniel Ran on piano; Jeffrey Kowalsky, lead percussion player in the Beer Sheba Symphonietta, and long time collaborator of Steven Horenstein, on vibes, steel drums and darbouka; Hagai Freshtman, a long time collaborator with Assif Tsahar and Ori Kaplan (two Israeli saxophonists living in New York) on drums; video artist Ran Slavin on lap-top; Yoav Bernstein as DJ and special guest Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (who played in the festival with Daniel Zamir's Satlah) on bass. The youngest player was Remez, only 19 years old. The oldest, at 53, was Kowalsky.

The first characteristic of the Israeli Cobra players that our conductor Jacoby tackled was their insistence on playing all the time. Every time that Jacoby signed 'pool' (as he explained it, the cue means that every player can jump into the pool, but not all players have to jump at the same time) everybody began playing, seeming to enjoy the overall chaos. Then all the players tried to check out how fun the guerilla tactics are, but all was done in a very playful way. Slowly, but in a very confident way, Jacoby turned the rehearsal from a psychotherapeutic workshop for suppressed musicians into a really creative process. It began to seem that Zorn's absence would not hinder the concert.

Cobra was scheduled to open the festival, a free performance that filled the 700-seat hall. More than half the attendees did not know what to expect, believing they had come to see a jazz concert led by a well known Jewish musician (but only a few dozen left during the performance). The beginning of the first piece was hesitant, the players seemed to have lost some of their self-confidence since the last rehearsal, but it quickly evolved into a game of duos and Jacoby kept signing the players almost randomly, sometimes surprising them.

The real magic happened halfway into the concert, during the third piece. Jacoby created an event, selecting Elias on oud, Blumenkranz on bass and Kowalsky on the hand drum darbouka, and the three of them improvised beautifully on a Middle-Eastern scale with Elias leading, while the rest of the players tried to catch up. Jacoby used a lot of jump cuts between the three players and the other musicians and you could feel the kaleidoscopic musical vision of Zorn comes alive with a beautiful cello solo by Waxman, strange e-bow playing on the dobro by Scheflan, gibberish vocals from Dunietz and funny LP selections from Bernstein. The last section focused on the outer worldly laptop playing of Slavin and the piano outbursts of Ran, while the other players improvised in and out of the setting that Slavin and Ran created. Really beautiful music.

After more than 70 minutes the players were exhausted, physically, emotionally, but all of them felt so high, thanking anyone around, from the great sound engineer Uri Barak, to the festival officials, each other, me. All the tension was released. It was a unique experience for all of them, for the spectators, for the festival. The recording of this Cobra will soon be sent to Zorn to let him know what he was missing, and most of the players are planning to stage more Cobras in Israel in the near future.



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