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Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (Hot Cup)

The first release by the piano trio configuration of Mostly Other People Do the Killing and features bassist/composer Moppa Elliott, pianist Ron Stabinsky, and drummer Kevin Shea, with each composition named after a small town in Pennsylvania that contains a color, and the town of "Paint, PA" lent its name to the title, with one apt Duke Ellington cover. ... Click to View


Moppa Elliott : Still, Up In The Air (Hot Cup)

Solo double-bass improvisations from Mostly Other People Do the Killing bassist and leader Moppa Elliot, consisting of sequences of contrasting themes, or musical cubism in the spirit of Picasso and Braque, presenting 7 of 14 sequences where the improvisation is a series of disparate musical ideas that transition rapidly in an attempt to disrupt the linear progression of thematic development. ... Click to View


Leandre / Minton: Leandre / Minton (Fou Records)

Phil Minton started as a trumpeter and became one of free improv's most outside vocalists; Joelle Leandre is a double bassist who also performs free vocal improv; this is their first recorded collaboration, and it's an unusual and wonderful album of heavy tone improvisation, plucked and bowed, and a masterfully odd free association of vocalisation. ... Click to View


Talibam! : Endgame Of The Anthropocene [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam!'s 1st cinematic album of through-composed ecogothic geosonics, the "soundtrack to 2048's despotic nationalism and crumbling international infrastructure, underscoring an eco-mercantilistic tragedy and the desperate plundering of the last pristine landscape on Earth" from NY's duo of Matt Mottel on mini moog and synths, and Kevin Shea on drums, and midi mallet percussion. ... Click to View


Talibam! / Matt Nelson / Ron Stabinsky: Hard Vibe [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam! with Matt Mottel on sax, Kevin Shea on drums, Matt Mottel on Fender Rhodes and synth and Ron Stabinsky on organ take inspiration from Herbie Hancock's 70's electronics, Miles Davis' "On the Corner" and Albert Ayler's New grass in compositions that transforms aspects of rhythm changes into a disciplined sequence, a new take on psychedelic jazz. ... Click to View


Crys Cole / Oren Ambarchi: Hotel Record [VINYL 2 LPs] (Black Truffle)

A double LP and the second release from the duo of Crys Cole and Oren Ambarchi, also romantic partners, as they explore their relationship through sound and voice, each side presenting a unique approach to their collaboration while maintaining a certain somnambulist feeling over rich guitar and organ work, and other unfathomable sound. ... Click to View


Boneshaker (Mars Williams / Paal Nilssen-Love / Kent Kessler): Thinking Out Loud (Trost Records)

The third album from this international trio of powerful improvisers--Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, and Chicago/NY saxophonist Mars William-- in four odysseys that take the listener from introspective playing to out and out blowing, using technique to serve their incredible dialog. ... Click to View


Sven-Ake Johansson / Alexander Von Schlippenbach : Schraubenlieder [VINYL] (Trost Records)

Drummer Sven-Ake Johansson is also a poet, writer and visual artist; here he joined forced with Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1988 to record these songs, never previously released, sung in German and English, for a set of 9 fascinating narrations that engage the listener independent of language, as von Schlippenbach improvises with prodigious technique. ... Click to View


Annette Peacock & Paul Bley: Dual Unity (Bamboo)

Reissuing the debut album by vocalist Annette Peacock and pianist Paul Bley recorded during their first European tour in 1970, in a quartet with compatriots Mario Pavone on bass and Laurence Cook on drums, Bley using an early Moog synthesizer; unique and original avant jazz. ... Click to View


Paul Bley Trio: Closer [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Paul Bley's 2nd ESP album from 1966, a lyrical and lush trio setting with material mostly from Carla Bley, one Ornette Coleman number, and one from Annette Peacock, with Steve Swallow on bass and Barry Altschul on percussion, exploratory free jazz that uses melodic intention in assertive but not aggressive aways; a classic. ... Click to View


Pharoah Sanders : Quintet [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Pharoah Sanders' 1965 debut release on ESP, in a quinet with Jane Getz on piano, William Bennett on bass, Stan Foster on trumpet and Mavin Pattillo on percussion, decidedly a jazz album from this outside player known for his association with John Coltrane in his freeist moments, here bridging lyrical and avant worlds with powerful playing. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Najwa (Tum)

Paying tribute to musicians whose vision paved the way for modern creative players to use new approaches, language and philosophy in improvisation, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's band with four guitarists, electric bass, drums and percussion dedicates five incredible compositions to Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Billie Holiday. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Solo - Reflections And Meditations On Monk (Tum)

An intimate album of solo trumpet from Wadada Leo Smith, performing compositions by Thelonious Monk, Smith professing in an essay in the accompanying booklet that he was motivated to become a composer by Monk above other contemporaries for his ideas of composition and bands; his admiration and love of Monk's work is clear in this beautifully lyrical album. ... Click to View


Aki Takase / Alexander von Schlippenbach: So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (Intakt)

Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase assembled an ensemble of Dolphy interpreters that includes bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, saxophonist Tobias Delius, vibraphonist Karl Berger, trumpeter Axel Dorner, trombonist Nils Wogram, &c, for a fresh take on compositions from one of free jazz's most iconic composers, Eric Dolphy, captured live in Berlin, 2014. ... Click to View


Steve Noble / Yoni Silver: Home (Aural Terrains)

The two-headed snake on the cover of this album aptly describes the sublimely sinuous and dark interplay between London free jazz drummer Steve Noble and bass clarinetist Yoni Silver, their 4-part improvisation taking on sinister elements of exceptional cymbal techniques, unusual drum tones, and extended lower register tones and high harmonics; excellent. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Asian Meeting Recordings #1 (Doubtmusic)

Otomo Yoshihide started The Asian Meeting Festival in 2005 to foster creative interaction between Japanese and other Asian musicians, since 2014 curated by DJ Sniff, and here in the 2017 edition at GOK Sound, in Tokyo, Japan with a who's-who of players including Yoshihide, Ryoko Ono, Ko Ishikawa, Son X, KEITO, Yuji Ishihara, Yuen Chee Wai, &c. &c. ... Click to View


Jim Black Trio: The Constant (Intakt)

A beautiful example of the modern piano trio, led by in-demand drummer, Jim Black, with Elias Stemeseder the pianist and Thomas Morgan on bass, in a lyrical album that uses Black's compelling and elusive drumming on 9 original Black compositions and one unexpected standard, as all three deliver complex playing that sounds accessible and engaging, a true achievement. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / Barry Guy: Backscatter Bright Blue (Intakt)

Both bassist Barry Guy and guitarist Fred Frith are key artists of Switzerland's Intakt label catalog, but surprisingly the two have never shared a stage together; Intakt had a feeling about their pairing and brought them into the studio, this superb duo album being the result in 10 brilliant tracks intertwining acoustic double bass and electric guitar. ... Click to View


Fred Frith Trio: Another Day in Fucking Paradise (Intakt)

Proclaiming that he nothing more in mind then getting together with a couple of formidable musicians, guitarist Fred Frith and Mills College alumni Jordan Glenn on drums and Jason Hoopes on electric and double bass take their listeners through 13 connected pieces that reference rock, jazz and ea-soundscape in an impressive album from a remarkable new group. ... Click to View


Lotte Anker / Fred Frith: Edge Of The Light (Intakt)

An intimate dialog between frequent collaborators, UK guitarist Fred Frith and Copenhagen saxophonist Lotte Anker, both players listening carefully as they interact in a fragile dialog of profound technique and inventive approach, using texture and nuance to create unusual and captivating interchanges that demonstrate how compatible these two very different instruments can be. ... Click to View


Schlippenbach Trio (Schlippenbach / Evan Parker / Lovens): Features (Intakt)

The long-standing Schlippenbach Trio with Evan Parker on saxophone and Paul Lovens on drums presents 15 concise "Features", improvisations of great depth and diversity, from the beautifully stark solo piano that opens the album to intense collective interactions, avoiding excess in deference to the profound expression of an inspiring group chemistry. ... Click to View


Mark Dresser : Modicana [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Double Bassist Mark Dresser, a mainstay of the Downtown NY scene as an improviser and composer, and also prominent on the US West Coast and as an international touring artist, releases a powerful album of distinctive solo playing, both technically and melodically, with 2 tracks caught live at the Umea Jazz Festival and others recorded at the University of California, San Diego. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Hafez Modirzadeh / Ken Filiano / Royal Hartigan: Live at the Magic Triangle [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

A live concert at Amherst, Massachusetts in 2016 as part of the Magical Triangle Jazz Series from the quartet of legendary cornetist Bobby Bradford, Turkish saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh on tenor, in-demand New York bassist Ken Filiano, and percussionist/drummer Royal Hartigan, the band performing two Bradford compositions, with one each from Filiano, Modirzadeh and Hartigan. ... Click to View


Andrew Lamb / Warren Smith / Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Captured live at the 2016 Vilnius Jazz Festival, the free jazz trio of saxophonist Andrew Lamb and percussionists Warren Smith and Arkadijus Gotesmanas provide a unique orchestration, with the percussionists building rhythmic structures over which AACM alumni Lamb's powerful saxophone work emerges; a great album of solid exploratory free jazz. ... Click to View


Yedo Gibson / Hernani Faustino / Vasco Trilla: CHAIN (NoBusiness)

A fiery and energetic album of masterful free jazz from Brazilian saxophonist Yedo Gibson, Portuguese-Brazilian drummer and percussionist Vasco Trilla, and Portuguese bass player Hernani Faustino (Red Trio, K4 Quadrado Azul), recording in the studio for 6 dynamic dialogs that uses a variety of approaches and references to free jazz and creative improv. ... Click to View


TON-KLAMI (Midori Takada / Kang Tae Hwan / Masahiko Satoh): Prophesy of Nue (NoBusiness)

Ton-Klami was an influential Japanese free improvising band active in the 90s, and leading to the solo careers of percussionist Midori Takada, pianist Masahiko Satoh, and saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan; here the band is heard in a 1995 live concert recorded at Design Plaza Hofu in Yamaguchi, Japan, recorded by Chap-Chap Records but never released. ... Click to View


Liudas Mockunas : Hydro [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Lithuanian reedist Liudas Mockunas in an unusual record of clarinet and saxophone improvisations, from solo work of powerful technique to pieces using water prepared instruments to create a wealth of bubbling and aberrant sound on the instrument, side A presenting the 7 part "Hydration Suite", Side B the 3 part "Rehydration", and "Dehydration". ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


Sun Ra & His Myth Science Solar Arkestra: The Lost Arkestra Series Vol 1 & 2 [2 10-INCH VINYL RECORDS] (Art Yard)

A double 10" featuring unreleased and rare Sun Ra recordings, including a live track from Paris in 1983, two unreleased cuts from the "Disco 3000" concert tapes, a quartet session with Sun Ra on the Crumar Mainman synth, and three selections from the Sub-Underground series of Saturn LPs, including a ballad and new material from "Live at Temple" and "What's New". ... Click to View


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  Mike Hammer, Les Baxter and the Jewish People  

The Many Tribes of John Zorn


By Skip Heller 2003-08-22


Photo: Peter Gannushkin
The American assessment of art and artists has always put a weighty premium on age. That an artist turns 50 is a huge thing in terms of our view of him and his art. It gives us a chance to salute him for outliving Charlie Parker, Anton Webern, Hank Williams or Jimi Hendrix. And it gives us a chance to level condemnation on him for no longer being a source of constant surprise.

This month, John Zorn turns 50. He is no longer The Angry Young Man, and critics from publications that cater to a different segment of the world's cultural community will try and elucidate what his work has meant up to now, who he has influenced, how he has influenced them, and what it means.

This society generally, and the subculture Zorn represents specifically, each have age issues. The unwritten law seems to be that progress is the purview of the young, and that brevity of vision is exclusive to those who still have youthful folly going for them. In the avant garde, there is always a need for whatever is supposed to be next.

This youthful folly factor frequently results in shallow music characterized by a disregard for history. Not always, but often. Zorn, on the other hand, is soaking in history. From re-introducing Sonny Clark's Blue Note recordings through Mancini and into Jewish literature, Zorn is forever seeking precedent and tradition, often aligning himself with musicians not inherently loved within his community. Blue Note house organist Big John Patton leaps to mind.

The avant garde also has a definite "fuck the blues" faction in its midst, which Zorn has never bought into. And it usually takes a Zorn or a box set from Revenant to introduce these noodleheads to this most enduringform. I doubt they get it (the recent scholarly essays on Charley Patton are a fucking joke). But Zorn gets it.

Another interesting mountain on the Zorn map is his embrace of certain postwar/pre-Kennedy instrumental popmusic. In the 1980s, few things could have been less fashionable than to embrace the exotica of Les Baxter or the lite jazz of Henry Mancini, but there was Zorn (along with the unsung WNYC DJ David Garland) mounting on-air marathons of the stuff, doing more to lay the groundwork for the rediscovery of that music than any of the fez-wearing lounge-oid hipsters could ever know or will ever admit. To that crowd, "loungecore" represented another clothing fad and excuse for knowing irony.

But one listen to Zorn's record Spillane tells us that he saw it as music, real music that rated better treatment than irony. I get the sense that he saw it as a postwar expression of national optimism, but with a kind of deep, dark question attatched.

I doubt that most of the people reading this have an extensive background in the 1950s Mike Hammer novels (actually, take that up to 1966 to include The Twisted Thing, the last of the classic Hammers, seeing as the two '90s comeback novels, The Killing Man and Black Alley, really sucked). Those of the academe tend to single out Spillane generally and I, The Jury specifically as junk.

Piss on that and piss on them. Mickey Spillane was a great storyteller, and he had the concerns of his audience very much at heart. When Jury went into its first printing in 1948, it addressed a very specific need. His readers were men, men who had just come back from World War II. They had just been part of the largest thing they would ever be part of and were collective heroes. Their struggles and victories were celebrated in songs, films, on billboards, and more. They had been to places many of them could not even have dreamt of previously, had made love to French prostitutes, shot enormous guns, kicked Hitler's ass, and struggled daily to stay alive in the most threatening conditions known to humankind. Then they came back home to Sandusky, Ohio (or places like that), to regular jobs behind the wheels of trolley cars or on factory assembly lines. Yes, they were happy to see their loved ones again. But being shrunk back down to normal life-size after having been huge and heroic created a spiritual itch in their collective sense of self and few authors scratched it. Spillane was probably the only novelist who wrote in their language, and who gave them a larger than life hero -- Mike Hammer -- with whom they could identify. He talked the way they talked, fought and fucked the way they felt they fought and fucked. He gave them a Walter Mitty outlet that suited their self-image as big tough guys who lived honestly in a brutal and dishonest world. Reading a Mike Hammer book, you were no longer just some guy who pulled the lever on a piece of equipment in some tuna cannery. You were the guy men wanted to be, the guy women wanted.

I think Zorn understood this aspect of Mickey Spillane. In fact, I'm sure of it. I read all the Hammer novels when I was in high school (usually with the Peter Gunn soundtrack playing in the background). What Mike Hammer prized above all things was humanity, friendship, and justice. And, looking back on Spillane the album, which came out in 1987, I see it now as a very brave work.

I don't think its bravery is in the jump-cut construction for which Zorn was celebrated at the time. I see it as brave in its loving attitude towards Spillane and the world he represented. Looking back at 1987 and thereabouts, I see a lot of alienation in popular American culture. Sam Kinison was probably our most famous comedian, and he was definitely loud and alienated. The emergent songwriter du jour was Lyle Lovett, whose penchant for ironywas as notable as his haircut. Jim Jarmusch had become everyone's darling. It was the time of guys like Oliver North, and being detatched was probably our best defense as smart people.

But Zorn's clear affection for Spillane was not detached, nor was it at all ironic. It was real. His love for Spillane's New York glistened like holy water. And there was something about the quickness and toughness of the piece, with its myriad of music bursts, text, noise, and sound effects, that said "We can all have big dicks and fists of steel if we only believe." Spillane was about the American ideal of pioneering spirit, toughness, and compassion as much as it was ever about Mike Hammer.

As great as many of Zorn's subsequent records were, most notably those with Naked City, I don't think he got as personal again until Masada. Somehow, I see Naked City as the brainchild of a guy who had discovered and was comfortable with himself. There's a confidence there that somehow only comes with being a journeyman. With NC, I think it became official that Zorn was no longer in a formative period.

But Masada is different. I think largely because Zorn was rediscovering himself through Jewish music, which I get the feeling was something he had not yet absorbed as thoroughly and as internally as he had absorbed, say, Charles Ives or Carl Stalling. So he took us on that journey with him, to discover that music his way with him.

More than at any time in his career, I've gotten the sense that Zorn has let the music take the wheel. The thoughts and emotions expressed in the Masada music - and Kristallnacht, which can likely be taken as an orchestral outgrowth of those same emotions - sound to me like the most basic ones in his heart and mind. They're the largest canon of pieces in his catalog at this point.

Zorn has said he conceived the Masada music as "a book of tunes the way Thelonious Monk had a book of tunes," andI believe it. No music he's ever made has had more immediacy and universal flexibility than the Masada music.

The development of Masada seemed to coincide with the 1995 formation of Tzadik, Zorn's American record label.The marketplace was suddenly flooded with discs that gave us a view into seemingly every aspect of Zorn's musical universe. About the only musician of concern to Zorn absent from the roster seems to have been Phil Woods. Everything from Asian bar bands to Milford Graves to Radical Jewish Culture was represented with a prolific release schedule. And Zorn himself started releasing more of his own music than anyone since Frank Zappa. As I write this, the All Music Guide lists 58 Zorn releases on Tzadik and seven on Avant, plus about ten Masada's on DIW. Few people own the entire Zorn-releated catalogue, and fewer still like all of it. Like Zappa's, the diversity and sheer size of Zorn's catalogue is daunting.

Masada has been the most enduring Zorn project, probably because it's the most stripped-down and, on that level, immediate from a compositional standpoint. Also, it seems to give Zorn the most facets for his expression.

Recently, I saw Masada play a benefit for Tonic in New York's Lower East Side with Ben Perowsky filling in for Joey Baron. My wife and I took a cab down to the club. I had never seen Zorn live before this night. I had listened to a ton of his records, had spoken to him on the phone a few times, whatever. But I had never seen him in the flesh. Greg Cohen introduced us, and we embraced, and immediately started jabbering enthusiastically about Les Baxter. A few minutes later, my wife and I went into the main room of the club. I've seen Dave Douglas a bunch of times, ditto Greg Cohen. Perowsky was wonderful, which I expected.

The real shock of the evening was the saxophonist. We've all hit ourselves over the head with "Zorn as icon" so many times that it's almost like an ambush when we're confronted with Zorn the player.

I will say this: I think the reason he's been so successful is that no other avant garde musician has been nearly so able to get down. I'm not talking about note-per-second(although he's in pretty good shape there). I'm talking about something that has been forgotten in the saxophone mainstream since the post-Trane advent. I'm talking about something Gene Ammons understood but that Wayne Shorter probably wouldn't. I mean, Zorn can get up in a bar and get it over, the old way.

Composition - not spontaneous composition, but finite composition (i.e. dots on paper) - gives you a chance to rethink and retool your way to your ideal conception. Taking a solo in the moment doesn't. You're exposed for who or what you are in the moment, even if you're John Zorn. Especially if you're John Zorn. Game theory this, index card that, Radical Jewish the other -- nobody gives a rat's ass in the moment. You put the horn in your mouth, that's what it is.

And you could tell it all came down to Zorn playing the alto saxophone. There were the snorks, squeaks, sputters, and screams that we all know and love. There were long, beautiful lines, spiked with blues and Jewish motifs. And, in all that, there was a command of music and sonic language, a real sound, and the ability to get it over in a way that says more about Maceo Parker than John Coltrane.

It was a wonderful little set. I'll spare you any review past that.

That night, I thought about the way we spoke of Baxter and Mancini, as excited fans. And I thought of the exuberance of Zorn's playing. It's clear to me that what John Zorn primarily wants to do, at least with Masada, is make music that will excite him as much as those Baxter records excite him.

Les Baxter turned 50 in 1971, largely forgotten by an industry in which he was once a giant. He was still prolific, but was tethered to the world of B-movies, and had just made his last album Que Mango. He watched Henry Mancini's continued success with some bitterness, and took his comfort in material success. All those B-movies landed on the Late Late Show, and his broadcast residuals from that action were quite considerable.



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