The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Michael Pisaro : Melody, Silence (For Solo Guitar) (Potlatch)

A collection of materials for solo guitarist, written by Michael Pisaro and here performed by Christian Alvear, presenting the performer with up to 12 fragments which can be played in any order and which allow for various transformations, cuts, extensions and silences. ... Click to View


Charlemagne Palestine : Bells Studies [VINYL] (Alga Marghen)

From 1963 to 1970 avant composer/performer Charlemagne Palestine played the 26-bell carillon at the St. Thomas Episcopal Church while attending The High School of Music and Art in New York; this LP collects recordings of his performances from those early days. ... Click to View


Charlemagne Palestine : CharleBelllzzz at Saint Thomas (Golden 666) (Alga Marghen)

Previously unreleased recordings of Charlemagne Palestine's "Bells Studies", some of his earliest works, captured while attending The High School of Music and Art in New York in the 60s, of the 26-bell carillon at the St. Thomas Episcopal Church. ... Click to View


Albatre: A Descent Into Maelstrom (Shhpuma)

An experimental music trio playing a joyously harrowing display of urgent bass & sax noise, skewed jazz elements, frantic but meticulous drumming and abrupt moodshifts, representative of the crossover of improv, noise rock and jazz currently made in Holland. ... Click to View


Coclea: Coclea (Shhpuma)

Clean Feed's side label Shhpuma presents a solo release from multi-instrumentalist Guilherme Goncalves (Gala Drop), dreamy and informed guitar-driven mkusic borrowing from kosmische musik, Edgar Froese, or Loren Connors in gorgeously paced lush instrumental music. ... Click to View


Joana Sa: Elogio Da Desordem (In Praise of Disorder) (Shhpuma)

Composer, pianist and multi-instrumentals Joana Sa gives voice to texts by Goncalo M. Tavares as read by Rosinda Costa, where the text organizes the thoughts that filter the multiple, disorderly, eccentric, voluble mind described in Tavares' work. ... Click to View


Robert Ashley: The Wolfman (Alga Marghen)

A collection of pieces that introduce the listener to the most extreme experimental side of the late American composer Robert Ashley, with a 12-page booklet including liner notes written by the composer and the complete score of "The Wolfman". ... Click to View


David Behrman: Wave Train (Alga Marghen)

2015 remaster of Behrman's 2002 album issuing works from 1959-68, including a piece with Gordon Mumma; sounds for a film by Robert Watts; a collaborative work with Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma & Robert Ashley; and a work with David Tudor on piano and Christoph Caskel. ... Click to View


James Blackshaw : Summoning Suns [VINYL] (Important Records)

A lovely album of instrumental guitar and songs in James Blackshaw's tenth studio album, the first recording to feature his voice and lyrics, drawing inspiration from '60s and '70s singer-songwriters, baroque and orchestral pop, and folk music. ... Click to View


John Russell / Phil Durrant / John Butcher: Conceits (1987/1992) (Emanem)

In 1987 the trio of John Butcher on tenor & soprano sax, Phil Durrant on violin & trombone, and John Russel on acoustic plectrum guitar, released this LP of free improvisations using superb forward-thinking dialog, remarkable 3 decades after its release! ... Click to View


Evan Parker: Monoceros (psi)

The four part "Monoceros" was recorded by saxophonist Evan Parker, here on soprano, in 1987, originally for the Incus label, here in a remastered form with Parker showing his masterful use of the extended techniques that have influenced a generation of players. ... Click to View


Marcio Mattos: SOL[os] (Emanem)

Surprisingly the first solo album from bassist Marcio Mattos, an important member of the London free improv and jazz scenes since the 70's, here presenting recordings from late 90s and 2000's, and a live recording at St. Mary's Old Church in Stoke Newington, 2010. ... Click to View


John Butcher / Phil Durrant / John Russell: The Scenic Route (Emanem)

1999 release of the trio of John Butcher on soprano & tenor sax, Phil Durrant on violin, and John Russell on guitar, meticulous improvisation using outrageous technique, "unorthodox thematic development and off-center interplay which at times is odd and surreal". ... Click to View


Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble: Earlier Outbreaks of Iconoclasm (1976-8) [2 CDs] (Emanem)

An excellent reissue of reedist/drummer/pianist Milo Fine, bringing together material released on Hat Hut in 1976 & '7 ("Hah!" & "The Constant Extension Of Inescapable Tradition") plus his never-issued '78 album "When I Was Five Years Old, I Predicted Your Whole Life". ... Click to View


Nordstrom / Johansson / Schlippenbach: Stockholm Connection [3 CDs] (Umlaut Records)

A unique 3CD-box from Umlaut Records putting in attention the musical collaborations between two of Sweden's most headstrong musicians: the pioneers Bengt "Frippe" Nordstrom and Sven-Ake Johansson. ... Click to View


Tim Berne's Snakeoil: You've Been Watching Me (ECM)

Saxophonist Tim Berne in his 3rd ECM album, leading his NY band Snakeoil, now a quintet with guitarist Ryan Ferreira joining pianist Matt Mitchell, clarinetist Oscar Noriega, and percussionist Ches Smith, for intricate, dynamic and sophisticated modern jazz. ... Click to View


John Zorn: Simulacrum (Tzadik)

John Zorn's organ trio crosses metal, jazz, minimalism, atonality, and noise in 6 intense and rocking tracks performed by John Medeski on organ, Matt Hollenberg on guitar, and Kenny Grohowski on drums. ... Click to View


Per Bloland: Chamber Industrial (Tzadik)

Composer Per Bloland blends custom built electronics with instrumental textures to create unique soundscapes, presenting 5 works performed by Ecce Ensemble Chamber Industrial in a release of vigorous electroacoustic and instrumental compositions. ... Click to View


The Work: Slow Crimes [VINYL LP + 7-inch] (Megaphone/Knock 'em Dead)

The Work, formed in 1979 by reedist Tim Hodgkinson (Henry Cow), guitarist Bill Gilonis, bassist Mick Hobbs, and drummer Rick Wilson, plus vocalist Catherine Jauniaux in the first vinyl issue of their 1st LP, an aggressive and intelligent post-punk/RIO masterpiece. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Miniatures [VINYL] (Megaphone/Knock 'em Dead)

Released in 1981, keyboarist Morgan Fisher asked a broad set of artists including Robert Wyatt, David Bedford, Fred Frith, Maggie Nicols, Ollie Halsall, The Residents, Lol Coxhill, &c &c. to create a piece of music 60 seconds in length; here in a 180g vinyl reissue. ... Click to View


No Pair (Chiapperini / Elia / Trapani / Fusco): Chaos and Order (Long Song Records)

A mix of free jazz, rock, and avant-garde experimental music from clarinetist Francesco Chiapperini in a quartet with Gianluca Elia on tenor sax, Dario Trapani on electric guitar, and Anotonio Fusco on drums; lyrical modern jazz with a good dose of free chaos. ... Click to View


John Butcher / Gino Robair: Bottle Breaking Heart Leap [VINYL] (Alt.Vinyl)

An amazing example of modern free improv from two modern masters--John Butcher on tenor and soprano sax, acoustic and amplified; and percussionist Gino Robair on energized surfaces, blippoo box--playing with frightening intensity in perfectly paced dialog. ... Click to View


Liz Allbee / Burkhard Beins: Mensch Mensch Mensch [VINYL] (Alt.Vinyl)

Berlin based composer-performers Liz Allbee and Burkhard Beins team up for some electro-acoustic explorations, utilizing synths and field recordings, trumpet and percussion, and tuning forks. ... Click to View


Matt Starling: Terry Riley's Dorian Reeds (For Brass) (Self Released)

Matt Starling, founder of the Salt Lake Electric Ensemble, returns with a lesser known but equally impressive Terry Riley composition, "Dorian Reeds" for solo performer, microphone and two tape recorders, performed by Starling on flugelhorn and layered in the studio. ... Click to View


Charlemagne Palestine : Four Manifestations On Six Elements (Golden 5) (Alga Marghen)

One of Charlemagne Palestine's most well-known works, finally included in the Alga Marghen Golden Research series of CD editions presenting the composer's relevant historical recordings. ... Click to View


The Wire: #374 April 2015 [MAGAZINE + CD] (The Wire)

April 2015 issue + Wiretapper CD: On the cover: Holly Herndon; The Wire Tapper 37 VA CD; Invisible Jukebox: Lightning Bolt ; The Primer: Moondog; Brighton Noise Poets; Liturgy (Heavy overload); Model 500 (The future returns); John Wiese (New noise mutations); Global Ear: The Hague. ... Click to View


The Wire: #373 March 2015 (The Wire)

March 2015 issue; on the cover: Carter Tutti; inside this issue: Invisible Jukebox: Sleaford Mods; Cecil McBee; Steve Coleman; Global Ear: Mexico City; Inner Sleeve: Alvin Curran on Edith Schloss's artwork. ... Click to View


The Wire: #372 Febuary 2015 (The Wire)

February 2015 issue, with Mica Levi; Invisible Jukebox: John Carpenter; The Primer: Hiphop mixtapes; Inside the Red Bull Music Academy; Global Ear: Florence; Ohio punk 1975-80 ; Matana Roberts; The Pop Group; D'Angelo and the Vanguard. ... Click to View


James Blackshaw : Summoning Suns (Important Records)

A lovely album of instrumental guitar and songs in James Blackshaw's tenth studio album, the first recording to feature his voice and lyrics, drawing inspiration from '60s and '70s singer-songwriters, baroque and orchestral pop, and folk music. ... Click to View


Matthew Shipp Chamber Ensemble: The Gospel According to Matthew & Michael (Relative Pitch)

Frequent collaborators, Matthew Shipp (piano) and Michael Bisio (bass) are joined by fellow Downtown New Yorker Mat Maneri on viola create what they refer to as a chamber ensemble, performing the 15 improvised and inspired chapters of Shipp & Bisio's "Gospel". ... Click to View


Email:



The Squid's Ear
Squidco Sales

Heard In

Reviews of artist releases:
cd's, books, magazines, &c.


  John Zorn 
  The Classic Guide to Strategy Volume Two  
  (Lumina (1986)) 

   review by Kurt Gottschalk
  2003-08-20
John Zorn: The Classic Guide to Strategy Volume Two (Lumina (1986))

For a man of considerable stature, well over 6 feet tall and with a deep voice that can penetrate through anything else going on in a room, my Uncle Roger has a way of quietly flying below any other activity. His jokes bounce off the floor, catching you unawares when you didn't realize he'd spoken, and on Christmas he tends to hand out unwrapped items after everyone else is done exchanging gifts.

So it was on the Christmas of 1986 when, with a low and slightly perverse laugh, he handed me a copy of an album called The Classic Guide to Strategy Volume Two. I was essentially an avant rock listener, or as avant as you could get in central Illinois, listening to the Butthole Surfers and Sonic Youth and thinking my college roommates and I more or less had the world of jazz covered with a few John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Henry Threadgill records between us. But here was a record that, from the outset, I could figure nothing. Although the artist was clearly not Japanese, or at least he didn't use a Japanese name, the black-and-white cover was emblazoned with a large Japanese character. The seven songs seemed to be named after Japanese people, or at least the titles seemed Japanese and were accompanied by photos of Japanese people. (I still don't know who all of the people are for which the songs are named, but certainly came to know Kondo Toshinori, Togawa Jun and Mori Ikue (as they are listed) after moving to New York seven years later). The record jacket contained precious little information: it was recorded in 1985, produced by Ned Rothenberg (who, I later learned, is a brilliant saxophonist and who ran the label - recently restarted as "Animul," the previous name in reverse). The character on the front cover meant "water" and was from something called A Book of Five Rings. The performer played alto saxophone, clarinet and bird calls.

I took it home, and my roommates and I listened to it. One of them dismissed it fairlyreadily, the other shared my fascination. We took to listening to it every afternoon. We didn't know what to think, but I don't think we liked it. One thing was certain: we'd never heard anything like it.

Contained in the grooves of the LP (it was, of course, an LP, and I still have my copy) was a variety of noises with long spaces between them. Sometimes Zorn was definitely playing the game calls (we were glad to have the cover confirm that those things that sounded like ducks were supposed to sound like ducks). Other times he seemed to have his saxophone submerged in water (he did, in fact). Most of the time we didn't know what he was doing. Even seeing someone play saxophone was uncommon; the instrument was generally heard in Normal, Illinois, in only the most standard of jazz or blues settings; "extended technique" was not in the parlance, and on this record Zorn challenges even customary understandings of "outside" playing.

The two volumes of The Classic Guide to Strategy set out Zorn's vocabulary in the way that only a young visionary might. Coming 17 years after Anthony Braxton's For Alto, the first solo saxophone recording to be commercially released, it is no less a challenge to what is, and isn't, jazz, improvised music or, perhaps, music at all. The Tzadik reissue retains the two side-long pieces from Volume 1, but drops one track from Volume Two for the cd reissue - an economically reasonable decision but still a little unfortunate since, if Zorn himself isn't going to put out the whole of the work, who will?

But moreover, when will he put out the other three volumes? In the notes to the reissue, he says that five volumes were planned, but never recorded. Perhaps a little love and understanding at the time would have helped him along. Make no mistake: this is not easy listening even today. In 1985, when the first volume was released (also on Lumina), Milo Fine wrote in Cadence magazine that Zorn's work was "overconceptualized" and that his music comes off as "occasionally enjoyable, but mostly cluttered, cute, self-consciously avant and derivative." He did, however, call Volume One "Zorn's strongest document to date" and said that "there appears to be a genuine glimmer of a spirit with something to say ... on the second side there are about 4 brilliant brief sections." (The same issue asked for readers' opinions as to whether or not they should start selling compact discs.)

Certainly Zorn couldn't have realized all the directions he would go as a composer and a bandleader in the coming years, but listening to it today many of the avenues he would explore can be heard: there's quotation, cartoon, noise, fragmented melodies and fast thematic shifts. There's also the pure physicality of his playing - the overblowing, the vocalizing and the shockingly human noises wrenched from his throat. But more than that, there is (something completely lost on me at the time) the pure virtuosity of his playing. The album shows a capacity to fully play his instrument. Like Derek Bailey, Cecil Taylor or William Parker, Zorn has complete command over his instrument; he is able to produce from it whatever he wants to, whatever he needs to. With all the directions he has flown in the 13 years since it was recorded, it's often overlooked that Zorn is a masterful saxophonist. But whether it's a Sonny Clark tribute or a screaming match with Yamantaka Eye, Zorn is able to play whatever has to be played. He's a composer, an organizer and a provocateur, but he is also a hell of a player.

Three years after that fateful Christmas, I was listening to an arts segment on the National Public Radio program Morning Edition about the cutting edge of "downtown" music. They played a high-octane version of the Batman theme and said it was by the band Naked City, led by the same guy who had made that record that had long since been retiredfrom rotation without ever winning my heart. I was surprised to learn that that New York artiste actually made music that was enjoyable, even fun. I went to the record store and bought the self-titled Naked City cd, and found a vinyl copy of a record called Spillaine as well. I wondered if that was the composer pictured on the cover of Spillaine. I still had no idea what the guy looked like, but dime-store novel narratives, punk Mancini covers and solo sax freak-outs? I knew there was something going on.





Comments and Feedback:



The Squid's Ear is the companion magazine to the online music shop Squidco !


  Copyright © 2014 Squidco. All rights reserved. Trademarks. (2456)