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Tom Chant / John Edwards / Eddie Prevost: All Change (Matchless)

Recorded in concert at The Network Theatre, Waterloo in London, 2012, the trio of Tom Chant on saxophone, John Edwards on bass and Eddie Prevost on drums present a tour de force of modern free jazz with great technical and conversational power. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / John Butcher: The Natural Order (Northern Spy)

This album documents guitarist Fred Frith and saxophonist John Butcher's first head-to-head encounter in a recording studio, two titans of their instruments playing without overdubs in a single session for remarkable creative and sonic results. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Frode Gjerstad Quartet: Silver Cornet (NESSA)

The last stop on the North American tour of The Bradford/Gjerstad Quartet (Bobby Bradford-cornet; Frode Gjerstad-alto sax & clarinet; Ingetbrigt Haker Flaten-bass; Frank Rosaly-drums), bridging generations through tremendous free improvisation. ... Click to View


John Zorn: Transmigration Of The Magus (Tzadik)

Inspired by the Gnostic philosophies of the Nag Hammadi library, Zorn invokes the mystical journey of the soul through the bardo as a tribute to the passing of Lou Reed, presented by his Gnostic Trio of Bill Frisell, Kenny Wollesen, and Carol Emanuel, plus guests. ... Click to View


Wollesen / Haffner / Naujo: Rasa Rasa (Tzadik)

Rasa Rasa members Kenny Wollesen, Dalius Naujo, Jonathon Haffner and Sean Francis Conway present the ancient polyphonic vocal music of Lithuania using a mix of ensembles, reviving the infectious grooves and ancient vocal rounds, aided by new instruments devised by Wollesen. ... Click to View


Thomas Carnacki / Vulcanus 68: Split [VINYL] (Alethiometer / Gigante)

A split LP from two Bay area electronic composers inspired by the masters of tape and electronic music: Vulcanus 68 in a nostalgic rendering of spliced and collaged tape techniques; and Thomas Carnacki in an engaging collage of identifiable or sinister sound. ... Click to View


Kevin Drumm / Jason Lescalleet: The Abyss (erstwhile)

Sound and noise artists Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet collaborate on this 2 CD set, a diverse set of sound pieces from slowly building drones to unsettling environments, with tapes punctuating the hallucinatory aspects of their rich and impressive aural tapestries. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey / Radu Malfatti: II (erstwhile)

Two works, one each from trombonist Radu Malfatti and clarinetist Jurg Frey, also credited with "instruments", field recordings and couterpoints, electroacoustic reductionist work of beautiful character that unfolds slowly and rewards attentive listeners in morphing sound. ... Click to View


Michael Pisaro: Continuum Unbound [3 CD Box Set] (Gravity Wave)

Three large works in a solid box with a 12 page color booklet of notes and images from composer Pisaro, working with Greg Stuart, Joe Panzner, Patrick Farmer and Toshiya Tsunoda, examining fragile discontinuities in the apparently continuous sound world. ... Click to View


Gen Ken & AMK: Smile [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

A collaboration of NYC sound artist Gen Ken Montgomery (Generator) and West Coast sound improviser AMK (Anthony Michael King), in an extended work of electronic improvisation presented over two cassette sides, a varied program that never overloads its listeners. ... Click to View


Chop Shop: Grey Area [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Grey is the color of these murky recordings from Scott Konzelmann, AKA Chop Shop, sounding like they were recorded inside a furnace with distant punctuation occasionally contributing to the gloom of this oppressive audio environment. ... Click to View


John Hudak: Listening To The Wind [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

John Hudak created "listening to the wind" using wind chimes, half of a phone conversation, and digital manipulation, splitting the work into an "inner" and "outer" side, altering the character of this murky emission. ... Click to View


Duncan Harrison / Dylan Nyoukis: The Many Great Necked / Jeer Sabbath [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

A split cassette, the first side presenting two live sets of vocals and tapes from Duncan Harrison; the second presenting Jeer Sabbath on vocals, tapes, trumpets, piano, clarinet, guitar, violin & other assorted instruments; both recording in the UK and reworking at Wino Lodge. ... Click to View


WHO Trio (Hemingway / Wintsch / Oester): Zoo [2 CDS] (Auricle)

Percussionist Gerry Hemingway's Who Trio with Michel Wintsch on piano and synth, and Banz Oester on double bass and lamp, in an outstanding 2 CD release contrasting their work in acoustic improvisation with "electric" improv, albeit an unusual take on the latter. ... Click to View


Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet (Hawkins / Edwards / Yarde): 4 Blokes (Ogun)

Blue Notes drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo's quartet with three of London's finest improvisers--Jason Yarde on sax, John Edwards on bass, and Alexander Hawkins on piano--in live studio recordings of exciting and impressive structured free improv. ... Click to View


Steve Lacy Four: Morning Joy ...Paris Live [reissue] (Hatology)

One night at the Paris Sunset Club by saxophonist Steve Lacy's Quartet with Steve Potts on sax, Jean-Jacques Avenel on bass and Oliver Johnson on drums, performing an exuberant mix of Lacy originals and Thelonius Monk tunes, remastered & expanded for Hat's 40th Anniversary. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee: As Serious As Your Life [reissue] (Hatology)

In 1996, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Joe McPhee's first solo release, McPhee recorded this remarkable album of solo reeds, pocket cornet, and electronics, using overdubbing to create gripping music including an homage to Miles Davis and unique versions of standards. ... Click to View


Chistopher Fox: Works For Piano, Philip Thomas piano (Hat [now] ART)

Four large and distinctive works by composer Christopher Fox performed by pianist Philip Thomas, who also writes the liner notes about the works, revealing and explaining the compositional elements, piano preparations, and physical requirements placed on the performer. ... Click to View


Stockhausen / Beethoven (Pi-hsien Chen): Klavierstucke/Sonaten (Hat [now] ART)

Alternating between Stockhausen and Beethoven, pianist Pi-Hsien Chen performs solo works including "Klavierstuck", "Sonata A-Dur Op. 101" and "Sonata C-moll Op. 111", contrasting and comparing the innovations of both composers. ... Click to View


Lacerda / Manso / Nilssen-Love / Zenicola: Bota Fogo (Bocian Records 2014/QTV/PNL)

A live recording of two extended improvisations at Audio Rebel's Quintavant in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from the quartet of Arthur Lacerda on guitar and electronics, electric bassist Felipe Zenicola, guitarist Eduardo Manso, and drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love. ... Click to View


Michel Doneda : Everybody Digs Michel Doneda (Relative Pitch)

A collection of solo pieces from forward-thinking French soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda, using extended techniques and utilizing every inch of the horn, creating unconventional and captivating sonic expressions from the instrument. ... Click to View


Lee Noyes: Truth In Opposition [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Sound artist Lee Noyes based this improvised laptop work on the 1776 work by James Beattie, "Essays: On the nature of truth, in opposition to Sopfifstry and Sceptifism", arguing that both consonance and dissonance are equally important to the perfection of harmony. ... Click to View


Trevor Watts: Veracity (FMR)

Pure Trevor Watts performing solo on the alto saxophone, showing his lyrical and technical skills in full force through 13 studio recordings, from succinct tracks of a minute in length to longer displays of powerful playing with great skill and ingenuity. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Philip Gibbs / Neil Metcalfe: The Ravens Look (FMR)

Paul Dunmall performs on soprano sax along with clarinets and contra bassoon, in a give and take album with flutist Neil Metcalf and guitarist Philip Gibbs, a trio that allows space and a free melodic approach to guide their intelligent discourse. ... Click to View


Fred Lonberg-Holm / Frode Gjerstad: Life On Sandpaper (FMR)

Frode Gjerstad in a duo with long time colleague Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm for 9 pieces performed in 2012, with Gjerstad on bass saxophone, Bb and bass clarinets and Lonberg-Holm on cello; open-ended dialog of compatible approaches to free improvisation. ... Click to View


Udu Calls Trio feat. William Parker: The Vancouver Tapes (Long Song Records)

A live recording from 1999 in Vancouver, two extended improvisations from drummer Tiziano Tononi's UDU Calls Trio featuring William Parker on double bass; Tiziano Tononi on drums, congas, gong, bells & whistles; Daniele Cavallanti on saxophone, Ney flute and bells. ... Click to View


Oren Ambarch: Quixotism (Editions Mego)

With collaborators from Europe, Japan, Australia and the USA, "Quixotism" presents guitarist Ambarchi's 5 part work, built on a foundation of pulsing double-time electronic percussion, with abstracted sonic additions punctuating and building a dream-like aural environment. ... Click to View


Darius Jones: The Oversoul Manual (Aum Fidelity)

The fourth installment in Darius Jones' on-going "Man'ish Boy" epic, an a cappella presentation from his vocal quartet, The Elizabeth-Caroline Unit using Jones' fictional, mythological sacred language used in the alien birthing ritual of a new being. ... Click to View


Matt Nelson: Lower Bottoms (Tubapede)

Brooklyn saxophonist Matt Nelson in a solo album of extended saxophone techniques along with a litany of guitar effects pedals, all run through a large 70's era Peavy combo amp with real-time feedback manipulation, a unique album of muscular playing and unusual soundscape. ... Click to View


The Gate (feat Tim Dahl / Nate Wooley): Stench [VINYL] (Smeraldina-Rima)

Massive, disturbing sound sculptures and forbidding landscapes, just what you'd expect from an album named "Stench" by tuba & amp player Dan Peck's The Gate, with Nate Wooley on trumpet & amp, Tim Dahl & Tom Blancarte on electric bass, and Brian Osborne on percussion. ... 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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