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Georg Graewe Quintet:
Amsterdam, October 1998 (Random Acoustics)

Recorded in concert at Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum in 1998, legendary pianist Georg Graewe's Quartet with Frank Gratkowski on alto saxophone & clarinet, Kent Kessler on double bass, and Hamid Drake on drums present a tour-de-force of passion, technique and creative drive in an epic 53 minute improvisation from high energy to reflective stretches; superb! ... Click to View


Georg Graewe:
Stills And Stories (Random Acoustics)

German pianist and Euro Free Jazz stalwart Georg Graewe in his first solo release in more than a decade, a remarkable set of succinct compositions balancing astonishing technical skills with beautifully expressive playing, presented in several series of "stills" and "stories". ... Click to View


Frederick Galiay (Viard / Sebastien / Boudart / Galiay):
Time Elleipsis (Ayler)

Dramatic, darkly thrilling with moments of sheer beauty, from French electric bassist Frederick Galiay and his Camaeleo Vulgaris ensemble, a sextet performing Galiay's compositions in a potent mix of electric guitar, electrified baritone sax, synthesizer, and two drummer/percussionists, recorded after a dozen live concerts honing the material to this riveting studio version. ... Click to View


Francois Carrier / Tomek Gadecki / Matcin Bozek / Michel Lambert:
Wide (FMR)

A burning album of collective free jazz from Canadian compatriots Francois Carrier on alto saxophone and Michel Lamber on drums, on a spring tour of Europe, performing at Polands MOZG in Byrgoszcz, hope of the MOZG Festival, with Polish tenor saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki amd bassist Mracin Bozen, also on French Horn, in an exhilarating set of three extended improvisations. ... Click to View


Thollem / Parker / Cline:
Gowanus Sessions II [VINYL] (ESP)

Free collective improvisation with an electronic edge from the trio of Nels Cline, double bassist William Parker and pianist Thollem McDonas, following up on their 2012 "Gowanus Session I" recorded in the same studio space, here expanding on the 1st session's shorter works with two large and evolving improvisations that balance reflective moments with intensive playing. ... Click to View


Werner Dafeldecker :
Parallel Darks [VINYL] (Room40)

Viennese-born, Berlin-based electro-acoustic composer Werner Dafeldecker (Polwechsel, Fennesz, &c) creates an intense and beautiful musique concrete and acousmatic journey in two parts, examining "perspective, extreme subjectivity and the specters that haunt our auditory worlds" through mysterious sound and enveloping sonic construction, a profound and riveting work. ... Click to View


Skeleton Crew (Frith / Cora):
Learn to Talk [VINYL] (ReR Vinyl)

Reissuing the first of two albums from the NY collaboration of guitarist Fred Frith and cellist Tom Cora, both providing vocals, percussion, violin, & bass, in a classic example of Downtown NY genre-merging of improvisation and rock with a vicious edge, in smart songs and even smarter instrumental sections, an insanely inventive and intelligent album as vital now as it was then. ... Click to View


Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.:
Minstrel In The Galaxy [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (RIOT SEASON)

... Click to View


Leap Of Faith:
Cosmic Distance Ladder (Evil Clown)

The core trio of the Leap of Faith Orchestra comprising multi-reedist & wind player David Peck, also on percussive devices, with Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic and voice, and Yuri Zbitnoff on drums & percussions, with special guests Kat Dobbins on trombone and Bob Moores on trumpet & flugelhorn, in an evolving set of strong harmonic, percussive & lyrical interaction. ... Click to View


Gen Montgomery Ken:
Endogeny [CASSETTE] (Tribe Tapes)

Sound and Visual artist Gen Ken Montgomery released this album on cassette on the Directions Music label in 1990, here reissued in 2020; the two side-long pieces were performed live and then remixed, using a mixture of tapes, concrete and mechanical sounds alongside love instrumentation of percussion, violin, voice, &c, sometimes stark, always fascinating. ... Click to View


Jean Derome:
Somebody Special (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Drawing on Steve Lacy's quintet, Montreal saxophonist Jean Derome pays homage to the late saxophonist through a selection of 9 Lacy pieces with lyrics from Brion Gysin, Lao Tseu, Herman Melville, &c, in a quintet with Derome on alto sax, bass flute & voice, Karen Young providing vocals, Alexandre Grogg on piano, Normand Guilbeault on double bass, Pierre Tanguay on drums. ... Click to View


Ensemble SuperMusique / Symon Henry:
voir dans le vent qui hurle les étoiles rire et rire (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Montreal's true supergroup since 1998 of some of the city's essential Musique Actuelle performers and composers, directed by Danielle Palardy Roger and including Jean Derome, Joane Hetu, Scott Thomson, Lori Freedman, Alexander St. Onge, &c. &c., take on Quebec composer Symon Henry's piece, performed in an exceptional and impressive concert in the Chapel in Bon-Pasteur. ... Click to View


Gabriel Dharmoo :
Quelques fictions (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Stunningly unusual vocal music from composer, music researcher and vocalist based in Montreal, Gabriel Dharmoo, collecting works from 2012 to 2019, performed with small and large ensembles using almost completely wordless voice, utterance, guttural sound, swoops and, melodic flights, augmented with physical percussion like stamping and clamping; brilliant and enthralling. ... Click to View


Prevost / Solberg / Pettersen / Moore / Brice / Hardie-Bick:
Plumes of Ash in Moonlight [2 CDs] (Split Rock Records)

Bringing together two innovative improvising percussionists--Eddie Prevost of AMM fame, and Stale Liavik Solberg (VCDC, John Butcher)--for a studio album of wide-ranging and sometimes hair-raising electroacoustic improvisation, recorded live and unedited with Olie Brice on double bass, Tony Hardie-Bick on piano & tapes, Ed Pettersend on lap steel, and NO Moore on guitar. ... Click to View


Ken Vandermark / Paal Nilssen-Love Duo:
AMR (NO LABEL)

The long-running duo of Chicago saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark and Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love are heard in this live concert at AMR in Geneva, Switzerland in 2018, performing the first four letters of the alphabet ("A", "B", "C" & "D"), each letter a unique creative approach in evolving their remarkable and enthralling dialogs. ... Click to View


Decoy (Alexander Hawkins / John Edwards / Steve Noble) With Joe McPhee:
AC/DC (Otoroku)

The UK Decoy trio of John Edwards (bass), Steve Noble (drums) and Alexander Hawkins (keys) joins forces with pocket trumpet and saxophone player Joe McPhee during McPhee's residency at London's Cafe OTO, recording these two huge sets of brilliant free improv, Hawkins performing on organ adding a unique and soulful tone to the set that balances powerful energy with innate lyricism. ... Click to View


John Carter Octet:
Dauwhe [VINYL] (Black Saint Vinyl)

A much-needed reissue of John Carter's 1982 LP "Dauwhe", the first chapter in his "Roots and Folklore" saga, a 5-part epic through African American heritage, performed with Carter himself on clarinet, Bobby Bradford (cornet), James Newton (flute), Charles Owens (sax, oboe & clarinet), Red Callender (tuba), Roberto Miranda (bass), William Jeffrey (drums), and Luis Peralta (percussion). ... Click to View


Philip Samartzis / Eric La Casa :
Captured Space [CASSETTE] (Cronica)

Kruger National Park in the north-east corner of South Africa is the subject of Eric La Casa and Philip Samartzis's audio exploration, using field recordings made over 10 days in and around the park, and taking them into the studio to organize them into an aural representation of the park's exotic mystery, placidity and tension, with a tinge of the modern world nearby. ... Click to View


Laboratorio Della Quercia:
Laboratorio Della Quercia [VINYL 2 LPs] (Alternative Fox)

Documenting the 12-day Italian experimental jazz festival at the ancient amphitheater Tasso della Quercia in 1978, revolving around Italian improvsers Tommaso Vittorini, Eugenio Colombo, Maurizio Giammarco, Alberto Corvini, Danilo Terenz, with visiting players Steve Lacy, Steve Potts, and Evan Parker, trombonist Roswell Rudd, pianist Frederick Rzewski, and drummer Noel McGhee. ... Click to View


Turbulence:
Eddy Flux (Evil Clown)

The extended horn section for the Leap of Faith Orchestra from the Boston-area collective led by reedist/multi-instrumentalist David Peck, here with PEK on an assortment of saxophones, clarinets, flutes, game calls and percussion, the other horns from Michael Caglianone on sax, game calls, wind sirens and percussion, with drums, bells, bowls and other percussion from Yuri Zbitnoff. ... Click to View


Ratchet Orchestra:
Coco Swirl (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Active since the early 90's, the superb Montreal super-group Ratchet Orchestra under the direction of Nicolas Caloia with 19 performers presents 10 works including the title track, with soloists including Jean Rene, Lori Freedman, Jean Derome, Ellwood Epps, Sam Shalabi, Craig Petersen, Yves Charuest, Joshua Zubot, Scott Thomson, Isaiah Ceccarelli, &c. ... Click to View


Chris Pitsiokos :
Speak In Tongues And Hope For The Gift Of Interpretation (Relative Pitch)

Dedicating his pieces to Charlie Parker, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and John Zorn, NY alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos is heard live at this solo concert in New Haven, CT in 2019, reflecting on the history of jazz through his intense playing style that deploys incredible technique balanced with abstraction and rapid lyricism. ... Click to View


Raoul Bjorkenheim :
Solar Winds (Long Song Records)

Paying tribute to his musical inspiration John Coltrane, Finnish/NY electric guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim leads a quartet with Silvia Bolognesi on contrabass, Tiziano Tononi on drums & percussion, and Emanuele Parrini on violin, as they perform five Coltrane compositions and two Bjorkenheim originals, a superlative homage to technical brilliance and conceptual vision. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne / Duck Baker / Randy Hutton :
The Guitar Trio In Calgary 1977 (Emanem)

A concert recording from 1977 in Calgary, CA captured during Eugene Chadbourne's time in Canada prior to his move to NYC, from the guitar trio of Duck Baker, Randy Hutton & Eugene Chadbourne, performing on acoustic guitars, using a variety of approaches to improvising in trio, duo and solo configurations, with original work, an Ornette Coleman mashup, and a piece by Charlie Haden. ... Click to View


Company:
1983 [VINYL 2 LPs] (Honest Jons Records)

Unreleased recordings from Derek Bailey's Company project, recorded at the BBC in 1983 with a stellar set of performers including Evan Parker (clarinet), Hugh Davies (electronics), Jamie Muir (percussion), Joelle Leandre (bass), J.D. Parran (winds), John Corbett (trumpet), Vinko Globokar (trombone), Ernst Reijseger (cello), and Peter Brotzmann (reeds). ... Click to View


Muhal Abrams Richard:
Celestial Birds [VINYL] (KARLRECORDS)

A compilation of works from the late Chicago multi-reedist, experimenter, and AACM founder Muhal Richard Abrams, focused on his widely unknown electronic compositions, in four recording from 1968-1995 with collaborators including Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, Amina Claudine Myers, Roscoe Mitchell, Maurice McIntyre, Yousef Yancey, Thurman Barker, &c. ... Click to View


Eric La Casa:
L'inspir du Rivage part 2&3 [VINYL 7-inch] (Povertech / Joe Colley)

First stock of this 1999 7" from French sound artist Eric La Casa created as part of Joe Colley's "Explorer" series, the title translating to "the shore breathing" where each composition develops from field recordings of water, the first part more naturalist and adhering to the initial recordings, the second using sound processing to create something unique and mesmerizing. ... Click to View


Rachel Musson / Naoko Saito / Audrey Lauro:
The Region Of Braille Responsibility [CD with English Braille Sheet] (Armageddon Nova)

Three female saxophonist from around the world--Rachel Musson (UK), Naoko Saito (Japan) and Audrey Lauro (Belgium)--in a compilation of solo saxophone works, two extended pieces from Musson and Satio, and four shorter works from Laura, with a CD insert with English Braille characters, and a QR code that, when scanned, plays the audio information for the album. ... Click to View


Musica Elettronica Viva:
United Patchwork [VINYL 2 LPs] (Alternative Fox)

A reissue of Musica Elettronica Viva's innovative 1978 open-structured album of free improvisation, United Patchwork, with the core performers of Frederic Rzewski on piano & electric piano, Richard Teitelbaum on synthesizer & conch shells, Alvin Curran on synthesizer & keys, plus Karl Berger on keys & vibraphone, Garrett List on trombone, and Steve Lacy on soprano sax. ... Click to View


Karkhana:
Bitter Balls [VINYL] (Unrock)

LP-only, no 7" single. The second full-length album from Karkhana, a septet featuring members of Dwarfs Of East Agouza, A "Trio", Konstrukt, Chicago Tentet, Land of Kush, among others in four compositions of "crystal clear and deep, dark, distorted unrock compositions" in both electric and acoustic instrumentation, an international genre-crossing album. ... Click to View


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  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.





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