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Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At The Hill Of James Magee (Trost Records)

Two legendary saxophonists--New York's Joe McPhee on alto and UK's John Butcher on tenor--meet at "The Hill" in the Chihuahuan Desert in Texas, where artist James Magee is building a set of raised buildings arranged on the compass points to house his work, providing fascinating resonant properties for McPhee & Butcher's exceptional interaction. ... Click to View


FULL BLAST: Rio [VINYL] (Trost Records)

A limited live album from German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann's long-running Full Blast trio with the precise and dynamic Swiss rhythm section of Marino Pliakas on electric bass and Michael Wertmuller on drums, captured at Audio Rebel, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016 as they tear through a tumultuous set of five burning improvisations of passionate playing. ... Click to View


Burkhard Beins / Mazen Kerbaj / Michael Vorfeld: Sawt Out (Herbal International)

Lebanese trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj, known from "A" Trio and collaborations with Franz Hautzinger, Toshimaru Nakamura, Birgit Uhler, &c., here joins two Berlin percussionist--Burkhard Beins and Michael Vorfeld--both members of Berlin Echtzeitmusik, to record this fascinating studio album of extraordinary technique and sonic control. ... Click to View


Axioms: Manifestations (Evil Clown)

Boston's Evil Clown led by reedist/multi-instrumentalist David Peck introduces a new ensemble, Axioms, a quartet with Peck, Jane, Alby onBass, and Joel Simches in a mammoth work of mysterious intent and rich sonorities, orchestrated with reeds, brass, daxophones, percussion, bells and chimes, electric bass, keys, spoken word, and real-time signal processing. ... Click to View


Derek Bailey & Cyro Baptista: Cyro [VINYL 2 LPs] (Honest Jons Records)

Reissuing the 1st CD on UK free improvising guitarist Derek Bailey's Incus label is this 1982 duo with Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, a remarkable dialog that draws percussive qualities from Bailey and lyrical aspects from Baptista, as the two push each other into inventive and exotic exchanges in an exuberant album; an incredible start to the Incus imprint. ... Click to View


Derek Bailey / Tony Coe: Time [VINYL 2 LPs] (Honest Jons Records)

An unusual pairing between UK non-idiomatic improvising legend Derek Bailey and French clarinetist Tony Coe, best known for his work with Franz Koglmann (heard on Hatology) his work with Tony Oxley, and work in avant classical settings; here they find common ground in a miniature chamber improv approach of both technical virtuosity and atonal lyricism. ... Click to View


Phill Niblock: T H I R [DVD] (Von)

Named for "Ten Hundred Inch Radii", a performance of film and music from the series "Environments" by composer and filmaker Phill Niblocks, shot in upstate New York in 1972 and released now for the first time on DVD, a mesmerizing and hypnotic film with two soundtracks: the original 1972 from analog tape, and a 2008 edition from the Nelly Boyd Ensemble updated in 2015 ... Click to View


John McCowen: Mundanas I - V (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Two clarinetists--John McCowen, also the composer, and Madison Greenstone on clarinet & bass clarinet--taking the title from Boethius' (427-524 AD) printed work on ancient Greek music: "De institutione musica", as they generate long-form drones using the harmonic interactions and interference patterns of similar tones, overtones, and difference tones; impressively intense. ... Click to View


Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Smells Funny (Rune Grammofon)

The sixth album from guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen's scorching Norwegian instrumental rock trio, having built a strong following through their impressive approach to rock, schooled from both early hard/progressive band but also driving fusion bands, with a penetrating edge in authoritative soloing and intense rhythmic interplay. ... Click to View


Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Smells Funny [VINYL + CD] (Rune Grammofon)

The sixth album from guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen's scorching Norwegian instrumental rock trio, having built a strong following through their impressive approach to rock, schooled from both early hard/progressive band but also driving fusion bands, with a penetrating edge in authoritative soloing and intense rhythmic interplay. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne : Solo Guitar Volume 2-1/3 [VINYL] (Feeding Tube Records)

Recorded in the late 1970's in Canada while improvising rock, jazz, pysch, folk, country & blues guitar madman Doctor Eugene Chadbourne was living there, this is the second of four LPs documenting his work at the time, this album presenting 6 solo pieces of profound playing amidst an unusual experimental nature and a uniquely Chad sense of humor. ... Click to View


The Momes: Spiralling [VINYL LP + 7"] (Mental Experience)

An essential reissue of the only album from this Rock in Opposition supergroup, with two from Henry Cow & The Work--bassist Mick Hobbs and Tim Hodgkinson playing "Hawaiian laptop noisy guitar" and keyboards--and Andy Wake from Unrest Work & Play, in a great set of songs with a literate and post-punk viciousness and unusual approaches to rhythm and sound. ... Click to View


VocColours & Andrei Razin: Ganglia (Creative Sources)

Four voices--Norbert Zajac, Brigitte Kupper, Gala Hummel, Iouri Grankin--sing and speak over the piano work of Russian improviser Andrei Razin in a moody and often startling album that set tone or disorient the listener through constrasting layers of vocalization, as Razin darts among them or sets an atmosphere of lingering tones; often curious, frequently stunning. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Miguel Mira / Carlos Santos: Penedo (Creative Sources)

Recorded on New Years Eve in Sintra in the Penedo region of Portugal, three strings--viola from Ernesto Rodrigues, cello from Guilherme Rodrigues, and a second cello from Miguel Mira--are joined by Carlos Santos on electronics for three extended and richly detailed improvisations, active yet concentratively controlled, using impressive and extended techniques. ... Click to View


Vandermark / Wooley / Courvoisier / Rainey: Noise Of Our Time (Intakt)

After reedist Ken Vandermark's residency at The Stone in 2016, he went into the studio with improvisers Nate Wooley on trumpet, Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, and Tom Rainey on drums to record this spectacular album of forward-reaching jazz using stunning technique and wonderful lyrical complexity, as they run through compositions from Wooley, Vandermark and Courvoisier. ... Click to View


Kaja Draksler / Petter Eldh / Christian Lillinger: Punkt.Vrt.Plastik (Intakt)

The rhythm section from the Amok Amor quartet--drummer Christian Lillinger and bassist Petter Eldh--and reforming it as a trio with pianist Kaja Draksler, to create a thrilling, twisting and turning band of quick-witted, avant jazz angles, confusing and thrilling with unexpected shifts in direction on an informed, fun-filled and thoroughly modern album. ... Click to View


Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: Time Like This (Intakt)

NY Bassist Michael Formanek composes for and leads his Elusion Quartet with saxophonist Tony Malaby, pianist Kris Davis, and drummer Ches Smith, a heavyweight set of improvisers who take on Formanek's sophisticated and elusive compositions, using unusual meters and complex yet comprehensible structures, performed with prodigious skill and passionate approaches. ... Click to View


Don Byron / Aruan Ortiz: Random Dances & (A)tonalities (Intakt)

Working together since 2014 in larger ensembles, NY reedist Don Byron and Cuban-born, US pianist Auran Ortiz find a modern yet lyrical heat in their duo collaboration in an album that includes original compositions and intimate renderings of pieces by Duke Ellington, Federico Mompou, Geri Allen, and J.S. Bach, a uniquely diverse and wonderfully embraceable release. ... Click to View


Trio Heinz Herbert (Landolt / Landolt / Hanni): Yes (Intakt)

Blending free jazz, electronic music, glitch, and collective improvisation, the Swiss trio of Dominic Landolt on guitar, effects, Ramon Landolt on synth, samples, piano, Mario Hanni on drums, effects bring a modern and experimental edge to their diverse approaches to free improv, albeit tinged with electronica and rock overtones; a fascinating brew. ... Click to View


Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra (feat. Marilyn Crispell / Evan Parker): Parallel Moments Unbroken [2CDS] (FMR)

Scottland's large improvising ensemble of around 20 musicians, merging backgrounds in free improvisation, jazz, classical, folk, pop, experimental musics and performance art, in a 2-CD release of a piece commissioned by the BBC and featuring pianist Marilyn Crispell and saxophist Evan Parker, written using graphic scores, through composition, photographs and artwork. ... Click to View


Morton Feldman (Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt): Atlantis (Hat [now] ART)

A much-needed reissue of this 2000 CD of three orchestral works from late composer Morton Feldman--"String Quartet and Orchestra" (1973), "Oboe and Orchestra" (1976), and "Atlantis" (1959)--demonstrating the evolution of his incredible control in working with tone, mood and instrumental combinations, from his earliest large-scale work to later mature works. ... Click to View


Fritz Hauser : Laboratorio - Solo Percussion (Hat [now] ART)

Swiss drummer & percussionist Fritz Hauser's solo album creates a fictional percussion center that he uses as as springboard to compose solo works for spaces within the [non-existent] environment, depicted in both spacious and active sound work, generating open-air locations with bird sounds and cymbals and areas of quick-paced activity; absolutely impressive. ... Click to View


Karlheinz Stockhausen : Historic First Recordings of the Klavierstucke I-VIII & XI (Hat [now] ART)

Originally conceived as a cycle of 21 solo piano pieces, composer Karlheinz Stockhausen only completed a section of these Klavierstucke works, eventually transforming the series for synthesizers and electronic instruments; Hat Hut now restores the original recordings from the 50s by the pianist Stockhausen dedicated some of these pieces to: David Tudor. ... Click to View


Roland Dahinden : Talking with Charlie: An Imaginary Talk with Charlie Parker (Hat [now] ART)

Bass clarinetist Gareth Davis asked composer Roland Dahinden to write for his quartet, with Koen Kaptijn (trombone), Dario Calderone (double bass) and Peppe Garcia (percussion), the result this "imaginary talk" with Charlie Parker, captured in a score involving graphic as well as more conventional elements, allowing structure and improvisation for the players. ... Click to View


Howard Riley: Live In The USA (NoBusiness)

The brilliant UK pianist Howard 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


James Lewis Brandon (Lewis / Branch / Stewart / Pirog / Crudup III): An Unruly Manifesto (Relative Pitch)

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, modern creative music with one foot planted in the 70s and one in the 2010s. ... Click to View


Bloor: Drolleries (Astral Spirits)

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


Bloor: Drolleries [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

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


Dunmall / Siegel / Pursglove / Sanders: As One Does (FMR)

Two saxophones take the front line in 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 quartet with James Owston on bass, Jim Bashford on drums, Philip Gibbs on guitar, and Dunmall on tenor saxophone, Gibbs's hollow-body opening up the band 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


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  John Zorn 
  Redbird  
  (Tzadik (1995)) 

   review by Brian Olewnick
  2003-08-20
John Zorn: Redbird (Tzadik (1995))

For all his hyperkinetic musical activity over the last few decades, some of Zorn's most beautiful moments have, for me, been those rare examples of stasis, when he reaches a territory and allows himself to observe instead of quickly disrupting it. Granted, those moments are few and far between, but things like the closing minutes of his string quartet Forbidden Fruit, the brief, lonesome surf guitar forays played by Ribot in Bar Khokba or even, in an odd way, the entirety of Leng T'Che with its obsessive exploration of one fearful emotion are among the examples of his music that have had the most staying power for me.

When 'Redbird' appeared, I was immediately heartened by the lovely Agnes Martin painting adorning its front cover. Not only was this a refreshing change from what I found to be the increasingly puerile and shock-for-shock's-sake illustrations more typically found on his releases, but for what it possibly promised regarding the music within. Happily, the artwork and music share a common sensibility.

The first of two pieces, 'Dark River' is a solo performance by Jim Pugliese on bass drum. It has, ostensibly, one zone of reference: the low rumble. But over the course of its nine minutes, Pugliese creates a palpable world wherein one never has any sense of sameness but instead a breathing pocket of reality. No steady rhythms, only mild fluctuations in volume, just a natural, billowing flow of deep, echoing booms achieving an almost wind-like quality at times. I have no idea how much of this is to the credit of Pugliese's own creativity or Zorn's score (I imagine a bit of both) but it's a trivial matter. It's also, presumably intentionally, an intriguing prologue to 'Redbird' proper, a processional of sorts, dark into medium light.

Zorn had cited Morton Feldman as an influence on many prior occasions but I was rarely, if ever, able to hear it in his actual music. That breathing quality, the ultra-slow rhythms as subtly irregular as they were organic, found little expression in the younger composer's work. Redbird is about as close as I've heard him get, and it's a ravishing achievement. I'm reminded very much of Feldman's orchestral work For Samuel Beckett in the sense the listener gets of having stumbled into an ongoing performance, a piece that began well before you hear the first note and continues well after the disc is over. Scored for harp, viola, cello and percussion, it also has an instrumental flavor akin to a number of Feldman's chamber works. Other influences make their presence known to be sure: one hears snatches of George Crumb and you can even pick up some sonorities in the strings that recall Ornette Coleman's 'The Skies of America'. There's also a plaintive, almost romantic aspect to some of the writing, something Feldman might abhor (though he, too, didn't sidestep it completely) but which, in my opinion, is a central part of Zorn's persona. The overall feeling is of being on a gentle seesaw, undulating back and forth, seeing almost the same view reappear time after time but always noticing some new detail, some different tinge. Eventually, it stops rather than ends.

It's been several years now since I've picked up a new Zorn release; although he'd occasionally explore similarly intriguing areas (as in Duras), too much of his recent work had struck me as treading water, and less and less interesting water at that. Although it's perhaps too much to ask of so restless a composer, I still wouldn't mind if, at least once in a while, he picked a plot of land and worked it, then worked it some more, then continued to work it. I'm fairly confident that I'd be pleasantly surprised at what he was able to grow.





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