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Evan Parker / Pat Thomas / John Russell / John Edwards / Alex Ward / Alison Blunt / Benedict Taylor / David Leahy / Kay Grant: Mopomoso Tour 2013 | Making Rooms [4 CDs] (Weekertoft)

An excellent 4-CD set from a UK tour of the long-running London monthly concert series Mopomoso, featuring improvisations from various grouping of John Russell, Evan Parker, John Edwards, David Leahy, Pat Thomas, Alison Blunt, Benedict Taylor, Kay Grant & Alex Ward. ... Click to View

Alvin Curran: Natural History [VINYL] (Black Truffle)

The first-ever vinyl issue of Alvin Curran's 1983 cassette release, a composition of organized field recordings, a major work he describes as a series of "still lifes" from 20 years of recordings with an engrossingly diverse set of curious and concrete sounds - amazing! ... Click to View

Sam Shalabi / Alan Bishop & Sam Shalabi: Mother Of All Sinners (Puppet On A String) [VINYL] (Unrock)

Montreal guitarist Sam Shalabi and Sun City Girls guitarist Alan Bishop in a release on Unrock's Saraswati Series, string-oriented albums; here Shalabi performs on electric guitar and oud, while Bishop plays alto sax and sings in a "oriental psychedelic free form". ... Click to View

Aaron Dilloway: Songs About Jason [VINYL 10-inch] (Amethyst Sunset)

Originally released in limited edition of forty copies for a solo/duo show with Jason Lescalleet in 2013, this 10" release remasters the original release, a disorienting and melodic album of tape loops and dark ambient drone. ... Click to View

Bushman's Revenge: Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen (Rune Grammofon)

The Norwegian trio of guitarist Even Helte Hermansen, drummer Gard Nilssen, and bassist Rune Nergaard in their 8th Bushman's Revenge album, bridging free improvisation and 70s style prog-oriented rock, non-histrionic, outstanding instrumental music with great depth. ... Click to View

Bushman's Revenge: Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen [VINYL + CD] (Rune Grammofon)

The Norwegian trio of guitarist Even Helte Hermansen, drummer Gard Nilssen, and bassist Rune Nergaard in their 8th Bushman's Revenge album, bridging free improvisation and 70s style prog-oriented rock, non-histrionic, outstanding instrumental music with great depth. ... Click to View

Bushman's Revenge: Bushman's Fire [VINYL + CD] (Rune Grammofon)

Live recordings at Cafe Mono in Oslo, Norway of the extended edition of Bushman's Revenge, the trio of guitarist Even Helte Hermansen, drummer Gard Nilssen, and bassist Rune Nergaard with David Wallumrod on Hammond Organ and Kjetil Moster on saxophone. ... Click to View

Peter Brotzmann / Steve Noble / John Edwards: The Worse The Better (Otoroku)

CD edition of the first set performed by the trio of Peter Brotzmann, Steve Noble and John Edwards at Cafe OTO in January 2010 during Brotzmann's first residency at the venue, and the first time this trio had played together. ... Click to View

Hearts & Minds (Stein / Giallorenzo / Rosaly): Hearts & Minds [VINYL] (Astral Spirits)

The Chicago trio of Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Paul Giallorenzon on keys, and Frank Rosaly on drums, performing a joyful album of lyrical jazz, blending compositions and free playing with modern creative skills and unpredictable, enthusiastic soloing; superb! ... Click to View

Talibam! w/ Alan Wilkinson: It is Dangerous to Lean Out [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

The Downtown NY insanely creative duo Talibam! of Kevin Shea on drums and Matt Motel on keys is joined by free improvising legend, saxophonist Alan Wilkinson, for two incendiary improvisations performed live at Sant'anna Arresi Jazz Festival in Sardinia, Italy. ... Click to View

Tim Stine Trio The: Tim Stine Trio [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

Acoustic guitarist Tim Stine and his trio with upright bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly, an all-star group of younger Chicago players in an album of buoyant, original improvisations with great give-and-take from a superb working band of contemporaries. ... Click to View

Konstrukt w/ Graham Massey & David McLean: Live at Islington Mills [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

The Turkish Konstrukt trio teamed up with 808 State guitarist Graham Massey and pianist David Andrew McLean (Charles Hayward's Anonymous Bash) for a live album at Islington Mill in Salford England for two sides of blistering avant-funk, cosmic space sounds. ... Click to View

Rankin-Parker/Pearce: Odd Hits [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

An exhilarating and unusual set of duos for drum and cello from Daniel Pierce and Teddy Rankin-Parker, the latter known for Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, ICE, and work with Primus; together they deliver intense and captivating polyrhythms and unexpected string sonics. ... Click to View

Tashi Dorji / Tyler Damon: Live at the Spot +1 [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

The free improvising duo of Himalayan guitarist Tashi Dorji and drummer Tyler Damon, who preform regularly as a duo based in Asheville, NC and Bloomington, IN, here in a live album of thick and energetic interaction bordering on the ecstatic, recorded in two exhilarating concerts. ... Click to View

R. Dockery Lee / Smokey Emery: Cathedrelic [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

An album of dark and cavernous sound in the second release from the sound-sculpting duo of R. Lee Dockery and Smoke Emery (aka Daniel Hipolito), two long tracks that evolve with the patience and intensity of a dark sacramental journey in deeply detailed drone. ... Click to View

Ben Bennett : Trap [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

Twelve tracks of solo percussion using a variety of drum-like devices, an intense album of percussive possibilities that surprise in the variety of approaches, the intensity of sound, and the dynamics of each work, using close microphones to capture sonic details. ... Click to View

Jerman / Barnes: Goethe (Confront)

An extended improvisation of muted sound from the long-running duo of Jeph Jerman and Tim Barnes, performing live at Non-Event in Boston, creating mysterious analog sounds and cycles of drones with underlaying metallic textures creating an environment of suspense. ... Click to View

Angharad Davies / Tisha Mukarji: Ffansion | Fancies (Another Timbre)

The title reflecting violinist Angharad Davies' Welsh Roots, this duo with inside pianist Tisha Mukarji furthers the collaborations of these improvisers, recording in St Catherine's Church in South London, using the acoustics of the space to shape the form of their music. ... Click to View

Illogical Harmonies (Chang / Majkowski): Volume (Another Timbre)

A joint composition for violin and double bass, developed over six months in 2015 by violinist and Wandelweiser composer Johnny Chang with bassist Mike Majkowski, a fragile and beautifully revealing work in 5 parts that moves slowly through subtle harmonic changes. ... Click to View

Linda Smith Catlin : Dirt Road (Another Timbre)

Canadian composer Linda Catlin Smith's extended composition for violin and percussion in 15 parts, performed by percussionist Simon Limbrick and violinist Mira Benjamin, a unique orchestration that reveals a journey of steady pace, tension and beauty. ... Click to View

Bryn Harrison : Receiving the Approaching Memory (Another Timbre)

Bryn Harrison's highly acclaimed, labyrinthine composition for violin & piano from 2014, expertly realised by violinist Aisha Orazbayeva and pianist Mark Knoop, for whom this 5-part work of beautiful repetitions reflecting tapestries of sound was written. ... Click to View

Sergio Merce: Be Nothing (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

A beautifully ambient album of analogue synthesiser, microtonal saxophone and electronics by Argentinian saxophonist Sergio Merce, a single long track that pauses and resumes its rich tones and harmonies at a deliberate and measured pace, allowing each environment to ring. ... Click to View

John Cage : Branches (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

The Ensemble Daswirdas performs John Cage's "Branches" composition, which is based on a previous work, "Child of Tree", but here each performer plays an 8 minute variation of that work, which is performed on amplified pods, cacti, and other plant materials. ... Click to View

Radu Malfatti: Radu Malfatti (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Austrian trombonist and composer presents two works: a solo piece for trombone comprised of a series of detached sonic events; and a work performed with the Wandelweiser String Quartet, using bowing and blowing techniques to create punctuations of unusual sound. ... Click to View

Wilmington Sound Orchestra: Play Russolo (Bad At Raving Foundation)

Two interpretations of Luigi Russolo's 1914 Futurist noise composition "Risveglio Di Uns Citta" ("The Awakening Of A City"), performed forwards and backwards, from a live performance at Squidco headquarters in Wilmington, NC. ... Click to View

Nate Wooley: Argonautica (Firehouse 12 Records)

Trumpeter Nate Wooley's major 3-part work makes oblique reference to dodecaphony, ambient tape music, and the minimalist rock of Terry Riley, conceived as a tribute to Wooley's mentor Ron Miles, who performs alongside Devin Gray & Rudy Royston (drums), Cory Smythe & Jozef Dumoulin (piano). ... Click to View

Peter Evans: Lifeblood [USB Drive] (More Is More)

Trumpeter Peter Evans' first solo release in over 5 years, presenting two demanding and impressive live performances from 2015/16, during Evan's residency at Roulette, and at Bop Stop in Cleveland, presented on a USB credit card drive in mp3 and wav formats, with liner notes. ... Click to View

Satoko Fujii / Joe Fonda: Duet (Long Song Records)

First meeting of Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii and New York bassist Joe Fonda, initiated at the suggestion of Fonda, recorded in Portland, Maine at the Dimensions in Jazz Series, a beautifully recorded and intimate duo of superb dialog between two seasoned improvisers. ... Click to View

Bertrand Denzler / Antonin Gerbal / Alex Dorner: Le Ring (Confront)

Having performed in duos previously, this trio came together at Festival Noise No. 5, at Theatre Le Ring, in Toulouse, the sound of the group is a "malleable space in which the musicians generate small or bigger shapes, simple and complex sounds, irregular and mechanical rhythms." ... Click to View

Forebrace (Ward / Sassi / Horro / Doulton): Steeped (Relative Pitch)

Blending jazz and rock forms with frenetic excitement and masterful control, multi-reedist Forebrace quartet with Roberto Sassi (electric guitar), Santiago Horro (electric bass) and Jem Doulton run the gamut on exultantly virtuosic improvisation, here recording live at Cafe Oto. ... Click to View


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

   review by Kurt Gottschalk
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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