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Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (Hot Cup)

The first release by the piano trio configuration of Mostly Other People Do the Killing and features bassist/composer Moppa Elliott, pianist Ron Stabinsky, and drummer Kevin Shea, with each composition named after a small town in Pennsylvania that contains a color, and the town of "Paint, PA" lent its name to the title, with one apt Duke Ellington cover. ... Click to View


Moppa Elliott : Still, Up In The Air (Hot Cup)

Solo double-bass improvisations from Mostly Other People Do the Killing bassist and leader Moppa Elliot, consisting of sequences of contrasting themes, or musical cubism in the spirit of Picasso and Braque, presenting 7 of 14 sequences where the improvisation is a series of disparate musical ideas that transition rapidly in an attempt to disrupt the linear progression of thematic development. ... Click to View


Leandre / Minton: Leandre / Minton (Fou Records)

Phil Minton started as a trumpeter and became one of free improv's most outside vocalists; Joelle Leandre is a double bassist who also performs free vocal improv; this is their first recorded collaboration, and it's an unusual and wonderful album of heavy tone improvisation, plucked and bowed, and a masterfully odd free association of vocalisation. ... Click to View


Talibam! : Endgame Of The Anthropocene [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam!'s 1st cinematic album of through-composed ecogothic geosonics, the "soundtrack to 2048's despotic nationalism and crumbling international infrastructure, underscoring an eco-mercantilistic tragedy and the desperate plundering of the last pristine landscape on Earth" from NY's duo of Matt Mottel on mini moog and synths, and Kevin Shea on drums, and midi mallet percussion. ... Click to View


Talibam! / Matt Nelson / Ron Stabinsky: Hard Vibe [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam! with Matt Mottel on sax, Kevin Shea on drums, Matt Mottel on Fender Rhodes and synth and Ron Stabinsky on organ take inspiration from Herbie Hancock's 70's electronics, Miles Davis' "On the Corner" and Albert Ayler's New grass in compositions that transforms aspects of rhythm changes into a disciplined sequence, a new take on psychedelic jazz. ... Click to View


Crys Cole / Oren Ambarchi: Hotel Record [VINYL 2 LPs] (Black Truffle)

A double LP and the second release from the duo of Crys Cole and Oren Ambarchi, also romantic partners, as they explore their relationship through sound and voice, each side presenting a unique approach to their collaboration while maintaining a certain somnambulist feeling over rich guitar and organ work, and other unfathomable sound. ... Click to View


Boneshaker (Mars Williams / Paal Nilssen-Love / Kent Kessler): Thinking Out Loud (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


Sven-Ake Johansson / Alexander Von Schlippenbach : Schraubenlieder [VINYL] (Trost Records)

Drummer Sven-Ake Johansson is also a poet, writer and visual artist; here he joined forced with Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1988 to record these songs, never previously released, sung in German and English, for a set of 9 fascinating narrations that engage the listener independent of language, as von Schlippenbach improvises with prodigious technique. ... Click to View


Annette Peacock & Paul Bley: Dual Unity (Bamboo)

Reissuing the debut album by vocalist Annette Peacock and pianist Paul Bley recorded during their first European tour in 1970, in a quartet with compatriots Mario Pavone on bass and Laurence Cook on drums, Bley using an early Moog synthesizer; unique and original avant jazz. ... Click to View


Paul Bley Trio: Closer [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Paul Bley's 2nd ESP album from 1966, a lyrical and lush trio setting with material mostly from Carla Bley, one Ornette Coleman number, and one from Annette Peacock, with Steve Swallow on bass and Barry Altschul on percussion, exploratory free jazz that uses melodic intention in assertive but not aggressive aways; a classic. ... Click to View


Pharoah Sanders : Quintet [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Pharoah Sanders' 1965 debut release on ESP, in a quinet with Jane Getz on piano, William Bennett on bass, Stan Foster on trumpet and Mavin Pattillo on percussion, decidedly a jazz album from this outside player known for his association with John Coltrane in his freeist moments, here bridging lyrical and avant worlds with powerful playing. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Najwa (Tum)

Paying tribute to musicians whose vision paved the way for modern creative players to use new approaches, language and philosophy in improvisation, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's band with four guitarists, electric bass, drums and percussion dedicates five incredible compositions to Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Billie Holiday. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Solo - Reflections And Meditations On Monk (Tum)

An intimate album of solo trumpet from Wadada Leo Smith, performing compositions by Thelonious Monk, Smith professing in an essay in the accompanying booklet that he was motivated to become a composer by Monk above other contemporaries for his ideas of composition and bands; his admiration and love of Monk's work is clear in this beautifully lyrical album. ... Click to View


Aki Takase / Alexander von Schlippenbach: So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (Intakt)

Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase assembled an ensemble of Dolphy interpreters that includes bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, saxophonist Tobias Delius, vibraphonist Karl Berger, trumpeter Axel Dorner, trombonist Nils Wogram, &c, for a fresh take on compositions from one of free jazz's most iconic composers, Eric Dolphy, captured live in Berlin, 2014. ... Click to View


Steve Noble / Yoni Silver: Home (Aural Terrains)

The two-headed snake on the cover of this album aptly describes the sublimely sinuous and dark interplay between London free jazz drummer Steve Noble and bass clarinetist Yoni Silver, their 4-part improvisation taking on sinister elements of exceptional cymbal techniques, unusual drum tones, and extended lower register tones and high harmonics; excellent. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Asian Meeting Recordings #1 (Doubtmusic)

Otomo Yoshihide started The Asian Meeting Festival in 2005 to foster creative interaction between Japanese and other Asian musicians, since 2014 curated by DJ Sniff, and here in the 2017 edition at GOK Sound, in Tokyo, Japan with a who's-who of players including Yoshihide, Ryoko Ono, Ko Ishikawa, Son X, KEITO, Yuji Ishihara, Yuen Chee Wai, &c. &c. ... Click to View


Jim Black Trio: The Constant (Intakt)

A beautiful example of the modern piano trio, led by in-demand drummer, Jim Black, with Elias Stemeseder the pianist and Thomas Morgan on bass, in a lyrical album that uses Black's compelling and elusive drumming on 9 original Black compositions and one unexpected standard, as all three deliver complex playing that sounds accessible and engaging, a true achievement. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / Barry Guy: Backscatter Bright Blue (Intakt)

Both bassist Barry Guy and guitarist Fred Frith are key artists of Switzerland's Intakt label catalog, but surprisingly the two have never shared a stage together; Intakt had a feeling about their pairing and brought them into the studio, this superb duo album being the result in 10 brilliant tracks intertwining acoustic double bass and electric guitar. ... Click to View


Fred Frith Trio: Another Day in Fucking Paradise (Intakt)

Proclaiming that he nothing more in mind then getting together with a couple of formidable musicians, guitarist Fred Frith and Mills College alumni Jordan Glenn on drums and Jason Hoopes on electric and double bass take their listeners through 13 connected pieces that reference rock, jazz and ea-soundscape in an impressive album from a remarkable new group. ... Click to View


Lotte Anker / Fred Frith: Edge Of The Light (Intakt)

An intimate dialog between frequent collaborators, UK guitarist Fred Frith and Copenhagen saxophonist Lotte Anker, both players listening carefully as they interact in a fragile dialog of profound technique and inventive approach, using texture and nuance to create unusual and captivating interchanges that demonstrate how compatible these two very different instruments can be. ... Click to View


Schlippenbach Trio (Schlippenbach / Evan Parker / Lovens): Features (Intakt)

The long-standing Schlippenbach Trio with Evan Parker on saxophone and Paul Lovens on drums presents 15 concise "Features", improvisations of great depth and diversity, from the beautifully stark solo piano that opens the album to intense collective interactions, avoiding excess in deference to the profound expression of an inspiring group chemistry. ... Click to View


Mark Dresser : Modicana [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Double Bassist Mark Dresser, a mainstay of the Downtown NY scene as an improviser and composer, and also prominent on the US West Coast and as an international touring artist, releases a powerful album of distinctive solo playing, both technically and melodically, with 2 tracks caught live at the Umea Jazz Festival and others recorded at the University of California, San Diego. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Hafez Modirzadeh / Ken Filiano / Royal Hartigan: Live at the Magic Triangle [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

A live concert at Amherst, Massachusetts in 2016 as part of the Magical Triangle Jazz Series from the quartet of legendary cornetist Bobby Bradford, Turkish saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh on tenor, in-demand New York bassist Ken Filiano, and percussionist/drummer Royal Hartigan, the band performing two Bradford compositions, with one each from Filiano, Modirzadeh and Hartigan. ... Click to View


Andrew Lamb / Warren Smith / Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Captured live at the 2016 Vilnius Jazz Festival, the free jazz trio of saxophonist Andrew Lamb and percussionists Warren Smith and Arkadijus Gotesmanas provide a unique orchestration, with the percussionists building rhythmic structures over which AACM alumni Lamb's powerful saxophone work emerges; a great album of solid exploratory free jazz. ... Click to View


Yedo Gibson / Hernani Faustino / Vasco Trilla: CHAIN (NoBusiness)

A fiery and energetic album of masterful free jazz from Brazilian saxophonist Yedo Gibson, Portuguese-Brazilian drummer and percussionist Vasco Trilla, and Portuguese bass player Hernani Faustino (Red Trio, K4 Quadrado Azul), recording in the studio for 6 dynamic dialogs that uses a variety of approaches and references to free jazz and creative improv. ... Click to View


TON-KLAMI (Midori Takada / Kang Tae Hwan / Masahiko Satoh): Prophesy of Nue (NoBusiness)

Ton-Klami was an influential Japanese free improvising band active in the 90s, and leading to the solo careers of percussionist Midori Takada, pianist Masahiko Satoh, and saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan; here the band is heard in a 1995 live concert recorded at Design Plaza Hofu in Yamaguchi, Japan, recorded by Chap-Chap Records but never released. ... Click to View


Liudas Mockunas : Hydro [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Lithuanian reedist Liudas Mockunas in an unusual record of clarinet and saxophone improvisations, from solo work of powerful technique to pieces using water prepared instruments to create a wealth of bubbling and aberrant sound on the instrument, side A presenting the 7 part "Hydration Suite", Side B the 3 part "Rehydration", and "Dehydration". ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


Sun Ra & His Myth Science Solar Arkestra: The Lost Arkestra Series Vol 1 & 2 [2 10-INCH VINYL RECORDS] (Art Yard)

A double 10" featuring unreleased and rare Sun Ra recordings, including a live track from Paris in 1983, two unreleased cuts from the "Disco 3000" concert tapes, a quartet session with Sun Ra on the Crumar Mainman synth, and three selections from the Sub-Underground series of Saturn LPs, including a ballad and new material from "Live at Temple" and "What's New". ... Click to View


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  John Zorn 
  Spy vs Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman  
  (Elektra/Nonesuch (1989)) 

   review by Mike Chamberlain
  2003-08-20
John Zorn: Spy vs Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Elektra/Nonesuch (1989))

I can't remember exactly when I first bought my used cassette copy of Spy vs Spy. It was sometime in the early 90s, when I knew embarrassingly little about either John Zorn or Ornette Coleman. At the time, I'd worked my way back through popular music history from punk to early rock and roll, to r'n'b, bop, swing, and Louis Armstrong while skipping over most post-bop jazz and completely missing out on the avant-garde. When I purchased Spy vs Spy, I was in the early stages of filling in these gaps in my musical education.

Spy vs Spy wasn't a very good place to start with either Zorn or Ornette Coleman.

Somehow, I just wasn't prepared for the thrash punk approach to Coleman. Probably the only Ornette I'd heard was on the soundtrack to Naked Lunch. And I was deeply affected by old school punk in the late 70s, so it wasn't like I was coming to Spy vs Spy with a lot of preconceived notions or prejudices.

Besides, it was John Zorn doing Ornette Coleman tunes. Zorn and Ornette are both cool, right? In the liner notes, Zorn states "hardcore fucking rules," a sentiment that had a certain cachet for me. It should have been a natural, or so it seemed.

Spy vs Spy just didn't work for me. I listened to it a couple of times and didn't like the jackhammer rhythms, the wailing altos of Zorn and Tim Berne, and the short, sharp shock of songs that lasted about a minute each.

Every once in a while I'd bring it out and give it a listen. Usually after the first side, I'd put it away. Up to now, it has been one of those albums that a lot of people whose tastes I'm generally in accordance with love but that I just don't get. It happens. I've never really cared for the Red Norvo Trio with Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus or Mingus's Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, to name just two examples of music that are cited as great by a lot of people. I also know that a lot of other peoplehave the same problem with Spy, which gives me the comfort of knowing that I'm not in a minority of one.

When The Squid's Ear asked me if I'd like to review Spy vs Spy for this issue, and asked if I thought that Zorn had destroyed Ornette, I replied that as much as I (now) love Ornette, that was how much I disliked Spy vs Spy.

Until this week, when I brought out Spy for the first time in a couple of years and, donning my critic's hat, listened really closely to the album and considered it in the context of some of Zorn's other work at the time.

Zorn was 34 when he, Tim Berne, Mark Dresser, Michael Vatcher, and Joey Baron recorded Spy vs Spy over two days in August 1988. He'd done News for Lulu, a much more straight-up tribute, the year before with George Lewis and Bill Frisell. Spy vs Spy came just a little before the first Naked City album was recorded. The title's Mad magazine reference suggests a cartoonish snottiness that reached its full flowering with the jump cut themes of Naked City.

On the face of it, the approach is directly at odds with Coleman, who is concerned with the exploration and development of melody. Zorn and company pulverize Coleman's themes, giving them with an explosive, swarming, stop-start density.

The playing, however, is breathtaking. Zorn and Berne spin tight unison lines at F1 speed, while Baron and Vatcher hammer out percussion bombs. The music is dizzyingly intense, and dense, though on the second half of the album the group explores the jazzier side of the music, allowing it a bit more air.

It's not an easy listen by any means. And no matter how much I might enjoy certain aspects of the approach or certain bits of the music, I can't help feeling that Zorn's approach to Coleman doesn't do much for Coleman's music. On the other hand, Zorn thanks Ornette and Denardo Coleman in the notes, and it surely would have been pointless to merely regurgitate Coleman, so perhaps the greatest tribute is not imitation but extension of the other person's ideas by one's own, as Zorn did with Spy.

I can't say that Spy vs Spy is an album that I'm ever going to love. If I want to hear Ornette Coleman, I'll usually go to the source. And if I want to hear Zorn's jump-cut approach at its best, I'll go to Naked City. But I'm glad to have received the prodding to re-evaluate Spy vs Spy. In retrospect, coming to this music with no preconceptions but very little knowledge was not a good thing. And, as is often the case, my first listen to an album gives me a general impression that can be hard to dispel.





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