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Howard Riley: Live In The USA (NoBusiness)

The brilliant UK pianist John Riley is caught live in a US tour in the fall of 1976, recorded at 3 locations in NYC and in Buffalo, NY, each of the well-recorded improvisation a masterwork of extended form as he plays both outside and inside the piano, ranging from warm sections of lyrical quality to fast-paced streams of consciousness in a Cecil Taylor mode; magnificent. ... Click to View


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New York tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis leads a quintet with Jaimie Branch on trumpet, Luke Stewart on bass, Anthony Pirog on guitar, and Warren Trae Crudup III on drums, in a free jazz album dedicated to Charlie Haden & Ornette Coleman and Surrealism, in an album of modern creative music with one foot planted in the 70s and one in the 2010s. ... Click to View


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Drolleries are small creatures adorning the margins of 13th-15th century illuminated manuscripts; Sam Weinberger is a Brooklyn saxophonist known for groups W-2 and this Bloor project with electric guitarist Andrew Smiley and drummer Jason Nazary, an assertive and rugged trio playing Weinberg's compositions about the perceptual phenomenon of ever-changing repetition. ... Click to View


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Two saxophones take the front line from Paul Dunmall's 2018 studio album, the leader on tenor saxophone with fellow tenor player Julian Siegel, also on bass clarinet, while Mark Sanders drums and Percy Pursglove handles bass and also trumpet, as the band falls into a hard bop mode, weaving lines together over wonderfully turbulent and soulful grooves; outstanding. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Philip Gibbs / James Owston / Jim Bashford: Inner And Outer (FMR)

Paul Dunmall's 2018 studio album in a quarte with James Owston on bass, Jim Bashford on drums, Philip Gibbs on guitar, and Dunmall on tenor saxophone, Gibbs's hollow-body opening the sound as Owston and Bashford trade rapid responses or provide solid grooves, the themes of the dialogs focused on space and time through intricate, complex and profound interaction. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Albert Cirera / Rodrigo Pinheiro / Carlos Santos: 3 Phases (I) White (Creative Sources)

"3 Phases", or different aspects of the approach that violist Ernesto Rodrigues applies to improvisation, in three different groupings over three different days, all live at O'Culto da Ajuda, in Lisbon, Portugal in 2018, here in an ea-improv setting with Albert Cirera on tenor saxophone, Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano, & Carlos Santos on field recordings & sine waves. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Bruno Parrinha / Nuno Torres / Paulo Galao: 3 Phases (II) Grey (Creative Sources)

"3 Phases", or different aspects of the approach that violist Ernesto Rodrigues applies to improvisation, in three different groupings over three different days, all live at O'Culto da Ajuda, in Lisbon, Portugal in 2018, here in an acoustic sax trio with strings, with Bruno Parrinha on soprano, Nuno Torres on alto, Paulo Galao on tenor sax. ... Click to View


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"3 Phases", or 3 aspects of the approach that violist Ernesto Rodrigues applies to improvisation, in 3 different groupings over 3 different concerts at O'Culto da Ajuda, in Lisbon, here in an electroacoustic ensemble with Miguel Mira, Guilherme Rodrigues, Joao Silva, Eduardo Chagas, Paulo Curado, Noel Taylor, Miguel Almeida, Andre Holzer, Andre Hencleeday, Carlos Santos, and Joao Valinho. ... Click to View


Ferran Fages : Detuning Series For Guitar (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

The 2nd part of a trilogy for guitar and sinetones composed between 2015-18, alongside "What Might Occur (Rereadings of Triadic Memories by Morton Feldman for guitar and sinewaves)" (2015-17) and "Un Lloc Entre Dos Records" (2017); this work, originally written in 2016, and revised in 2018, is heard in a recording at GMEA, France, with guitarist Benjamin Maumus. ... Click to View


Larry Ochs / Gerald Cleaver / Nels Cline: What Is To Be Done (Clean Feed)

The first release from the trio of Nels Cline, Gerald Cleaver, and Larry Ochs in a 2016 concert at Gallery5 Arts, in Richmond, Virginia, captured as part of the trio's series touring around the Northeast each December since 2015, playing what Larry Ochs describes as music that "seeks sonically to soothe, to inspire, and to conspire", in three urgent and powerful improvisations. ... Click to View


Jorgen Mathisen's Instant Light: Mayhall's Object (Clean Feed)

Saxophonist Jorgen Mathisen (The Core) composes for and leads his quartet with fellow Norwegian players Erlend Slettevoll on piano, Trygve Waldemar Fiske on double bass, and Dag Erik Knedal Andersen on drums, through six lyrical free jazz compositions, often in a Coltrane mode, his music influenced by sci-fi, Sun Ra, and Philip K. Dick; a solid record of modern jazz. ... Click to View


Alberto Conde Iberian Roots Trio: The Wake Of An Artist - Tribute To Bernardo Sassetti (Clean Feed)

A tribute to pianist and composer Bernardo Sassetti from a trio that includes two members of Sassetti's Trio--bassist Carlos Barretto and drummer Alexandre Frazao, along with pianist Alberto Conde and violist Jose Valente, as they interpret Sassetti compositions, a Federico Mompou Sassetti played frequently, along with original compositions from all members. ... Click to View


Wschod (Pinheiro / Kozera / Suchar): Wschod (Clean Feed)

Red Trio pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro joins Polish free improvisers, drummer Kuba Suchar from the European band Robotobibok, which became Mikrokolektyw, and double bassist Zbigniew Kozera from Sundogs and LEM, for five collective improvisations, diverse and dynamic dialogs of profound technique and creative intention. ... Click to View


Jose Dias : After Silence, Vol.1 (Clean Feed)

Portuguese guitarist Jose Dias steps away from his quartet and trio, and from the many scores for theatre, contemporary dance and animation film that he's composed, to focus on his solo electric guitar work, in this album that applies subtle affects and a warm, ethereal ambiance to expressive and passionate pieces, each conveying a sense of narrative and purpose. ... Click to View


Ron Caines / Martin Archer Axis: Les Oiseaux de Matisse (Discus)

Saxophonist Ron Caines, who led the innovative band East of Eden in the late 60s, joins a septet including Martin Archer on reeds & electronics, Laura Cole on keys, Gus Garside on bass, Johnny Hunter on drums, Graham Clark on violin & guitar, and Herve Perez in live sound processing & shakuhachi as they merge improv with real time processing and studio collage. ... Click to View


Maja Bugge : No Exit (Discus)

Recorded in Britain's longest tunnel--the Standedge Canal Tunnel--during the Marsden Jazz Festival 2017, Norwegian cellist and composer Maja Bugge's solo album uses the natural resonance of the tunnel as an accompaniment to her expressive playing, recorded at a concert that blended composed work with improvisations that respond to the tunnel's unique resonant properties. ... Click to View


Laura Cole: Enough [2 CDS] (Discus)

Pianist Laura Cole's first solo album presents 2 CDs; the first a collection of arrangements of pieces given to Cole for the album from friends and colleagues, including Robert Mitchell, Alex Wilson, Nikki Iles, Jason Yarde and Corey Mwamba; the 2nd disc, "As Warm As The Sun" is a collection of compositions and improvisations by Cole herself. ... Click to View


Luis Ianes: Antiguas Construcciones Utiles (Crusoe) (Creative Sources)

With references to "Robinson Crusoe" and titles referencing islands, the sea and shipwrecks, Argentinian guitarist living in Brooklyn, NY, Luis Ianes (Parias Ensemble) records his album that roughly translates to "Useful Ancient Constructions", using effects to create percussive, accompanying, and aquatic sounds, sometimes idiosyncratic, always interesting. ... Click to View


Dietrich Petzold / Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues : Ljubljana (Creative Sources)

German violinist & composer Dietrich Petzold joins violist Ernesto Rodrigues and cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, Petzold bringing along a viola, clavichord and bowed metal objects, as the three perform live at SKUC Gallery, in Ljubljana, Slovenia for the 6 improvisations that build from languid tonal environments to detailed, rapid improv, all with remarkable control and patience. ... Click to View


Kuzu (Dave Rempis / Tashi Dorji / Tyler Damon): Hiljaisuus [VINYL] (Astral Spirits)

Kuzu is a hard-charging but patient trio that came together in the fall of 2017, after saxophonist Dave Rempis, a stalwart of the Chicago improvised music scene, worked with both Tashi Dorji (guitar) and Tyler Damon (drums) individually as part of a lengthy solo tour of the U.S.; this new trio is captured at Elastic Arts, in Chicago in an intense and dynamic live set. ... Click to View


Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere: Theta Four (Discus)

Declaring Terry Riley, Magma, Krautrock, and Sun Ra as influences, this is the fourth album from wind and keyboard player Martin Archer's Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere, an augmented six-piece UK ensemble whose rock affinities also embrace improvisation and minimalism, a heady mix of virtuosic playing with melodic intention and extremely detailed tapestries of sound; dreamy and elegiac. ... Click to View


Das Rad (Archer / Robinson / Dinsdale): Das Rad (Discus)

Influenced by progressive rock, kosmiche, and fusion forms, the UK trio Das Rad of Nick Robinson on guitars & electronics, Martin Archer on sax, reeds, winds, keys and electronics, Steve Dinsdale on drums and percussion, and Julie Archer on voice, bringing 70s sounds to modern sensibilities and superb creative playing, a great achievement. ... Click to View


John Tilbury / Keith Rowe / Kjell Bjorgeengen: Sissel (Sofa Music)

AMM alumni, pianist John Tilbury and guitarist Keith Rowe, join with Norwegian performer/conceptualist Kjell Bjorgeengen, whose work is often an amalgamation of sound waves, moving images and lights; here Kjell suggested a painting by Nicolas Poussin as a focal point for the trio's improvisation at this performance in Stavanger, Norway. ... Click to View


Tom Johnson : Spaces . An Hour For Piano (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Two works for solo piano from composer Tom Johnson and performed by Keiko Shichijo; "Spaces" was written after his teacher, Morton Feldman, helped Johnson elucidate his voice as a composer through a study of chords; "An Hour for Piano" was written in 1971 based on a series of short, improvisatory sketches written for modern dance, merged and expanded to exactly one hour. ... Click to View


Ian Brighton: Imaginings (FMR)

Looking back and fondly imagining some of the locations and configuration that UK guitarist Ian Brighton played in the 70s, Brighton developed the pieces on this album, each compositions varying the personnel from life-long partners (Taylor, Wachsmann, Mattos) to musicians Brighton has performed with since his 2016 return to improvisation (Carrier, Beresford, Metcalfe). ... Click to View


Shock Troops: Central Dada Time (FMR)

Recorded in 1989 and only now released, this studio album includes Pat Thomas on keys & electronics in a sextet with guitar & bass, synth, turntables, electronic wind instruments, drum machines, samplers, &c., merging ea-improv approaches with disruptively odd asides, fragmented voices, and swelling interventions, making something otherworldly out of then-revelatory technology. ... Click to View


Hifiklub: E Lisboa (Shhpuma)

A collaborative French instrumental rock band led by and with compositions from the core quartet of Anthony Belguise (drums), Jean-Loup Faurat (guitar), Regis Laugier (bass) and Nico Morcillo (guitar), with a list of 22 international guests across 8 songs and instrumentals, including Rafael Toral, Maria Radich, Paulo Furtado, Carlos Zingaro, Rui Carvalho, &c. ... Click to View


Franziska Baumann / Udo Schindler: Blue Sonic Vibrations (Creative Sources)

German saxophonist and leader of the Salon for Klang + Kunst started the Improx, or "The X for the Unknown and the Unheard" with Gunnar Geisse, here in the third edition of the series with Swiss free improvising vocalist Franziska Baumann, captured live at two performances in 2018 in Germany & Switzerland, for unusual, quick-witted and innovative interchanges. ... Click to View


Zwerv (Taubenfeld / Vicente / Lucifero / Zwerver / Chientaroli / ven der Weide / Hadow): Music From Any Moment (Creative Sources)

Guitarist Henk Zwerver leads this collective free improvising band in their second release, now extended to a septet with the addition of Salvoandrea Lucifero on trombone, joining Zwerver: Ziv Taubenfeld on bass clarinet, Luis Vicente on trumpet, Nico Chientaroli on piano, Raoul ven der Weide on double bass, objects, and George Hadow on drums. ... 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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