The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Derek Bailey & Company: Klinker [2 CDs] (Confront)

Derek Bailey's Company in recordings from 2000 at The Klinker in London, with four performers--Bailey on guitar, Simon H. Fell on double bass, Mark Wastell on violincello, and Will Gaines tap dancing--the concert presenting various permutations of these musicians improvising, with narrations from Bailey, Fell, Wastell and Gaines punctuating the recordings. ... Click to View

Phil Maguire / James L. Malone: Working Title (Confront)

Phil Maguire (Verz label) exchanges abstract electronics from a variety of lo-fi devices with glitch and aberrant guitarist James L. Malone, a London improviser who has worked with Eddie Prevost, Phil Durrant, Steve Beresford and Adam Bohman, as the two trade strange sonic disruptions, avoiding pandemonium, instead using noise in pointed discourse. ... Click to View

Phil Minton / Roger Turner: Scraps Of Heard (Confront)

London Free Improv Scene long-standing members, vocalist Phil Minton and drummer/percussionist Roger Turner's first album together, "Ammo", was released in 1984; the two have continued to record together, and this live recording from 2016 in Hanover, Germany shows the two continuing to create distinctly bizarre and wonderfully personal dialog unlike any other. ... Click to View

Golden Oriole: Golden Oriole (BeCoq)

Rough and ready, angular instrumental rock from this Stavanger, Norway-based instrumental duo of Kristoffer Riis on guitar and Thore Warland on drums, two parts of the power-trio Staer, here creating a massive dose of momentum as they push heavy rhythmic riffs with odd tonality and a great sheen of prickly effect layers, in a compelling and muscular album. ... Click to View

Loubatiere / Warnecke: Couleurs Chimeriques (BeCoq)

An album of rich aural environments contrasted with clamorous action and disintegrating sound from the duo of French percussionist Rodolphe Loubatiere performing on snare drum and Berlin-based sound sculptor Pierce Warnecke, their second album as a duo presenting a sophisticated and diverse set of compositions that both entrance and disrupt their listeners. ... Click to View

IKB: Apteryx Mantelli (Creative Sources)

IKB continue their series of albums graced with taxonomic latin names for animals, here with the North Island brown kiwi bird, as the string- and wind-heavy electroacoustic ensemble led by violist Ernesto Rodrigues present this extended improvisation of subtle motion and understated complexity live at O'Culto da Ajuda, in Lisbon, Portugal in 2017. ... Click to View

Finn Loxbo / Erik Blennow Calalv : Snow Country (Creative Sources)

A duo between Swedish guitarist Finn Loxbo (Fire! Orchestra) and bass clarinet Erik Blennow Calalv, in a low-key, moody and tranquil album of improvisations with titles implying their unhurried approach to their dialog--"Clouds", "Moving, Dancing", and "Ryoanji"-- making a beautiful album of nearly ambient but decidedly determined music. ... Click to View

Kang Hwan Tae : Live at Cafe Amores (NoBusiness)

Korean free saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan recorded this album of sincere and satisfying solo improvisations in 1995 at Cafe Amores, in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan, two decades after forming his first free jazz trio of experimental improvisations, demonstrating powerful technical skills and a unique voice on the sax; a long-overdue distillation of his music. ... Click to View

Kang Hwan Tae: Live at Cafe Amores [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Korean free saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan recorded this album of sincere and satisfying solo improvisations in 1995 at Cafe Amores, in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan, two decades after forming his first free jazz trio of experimental improvisations, demonstrating powerful technical skills and a unique voice on the sax; a long-overdue distillation of his music. ... Click to View

Jeph Jerman : The Bray Harp (White Centipede Noise)

Aural explorer Jeph Jerman reworks 20 years of source material into this large work of recurring sound, obscuring sources in a rugged mill that turns its sonic grist into a mesmerizing flow of ringing tones and resolute grit, constructed from Jerman's own recordings and tapes from Eric La Casa and Oskar Burmmel, and metal & wood from Ben Brucato. ... Click to View

Stephen O'Malley / Anthony Pateras: Reve Noir (Immediata)

Pianist Anthony Pateras and guitarist Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O))) performed a concert in 2011 at Instants Chavires in 2011, which they took into the studio to deconstruct and recompose on 1/4 inch tape, creating a compelling landscape of fractured musique concrete, introspective meditations, electro-acoustic textures and heavy guitar; includes a 20 page interview with O'Malley. ... Click to View

Rohan Drape / Anthony Pateras: Ellesmere (Immediata)

A founder of the Slave Pianos collective and co-organizer of the Inland Concert Series, Australian computer and synth artist Rohan Drap joins keyboardist Anthony Pateras for an extended exploration of interlocking vintage electric organs, allowing their tones and timbres to interact in microtonal richness as they create tonal environments and gradually unfolding progressions. ... Click to View

Max Eastley / Steve Beresford / Paul Burwell / David Toop: Whirled Music [VINYL] (Black Truffle)

Remastering a singular album of joyfully disruptive free improv recorded in England in 1979 at Ikon Gallery from the quartet of Max Eastley, Steve Beresford, Paul Burwell, and David Toop, their goal: to create music from instruments and objects that would be whirled to produce sound, performed behind a net and played with masks to protect the performers and audience. ... Click to View

Jean-Luc Guionnet / Daichi Yoshikawa: Intervivos [VINYL] (Empty Editions)

Recording at Empty Gallery in Hong Kong furing a week residency, the duo Jean-Luc Guionnet (Ames Room) on saxophone and Daichi Yoshikawa (Eddie Prevost) using self-developed feedback of speakers, contact microphones & found objects, create intense yet constrained improvisations of impressive control, technique and exotic soundscape. ... Click to View

Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction (ESP-Disk)

Focusing on sound, warmth and exploration, pianist Matthew Shipp leads his quartet with saxophonist and clarinetist Mat Walerian, bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey through 10 tracks that explore a diverse set of moods and styles, allowing each player space for expressive solo space, while never leaving the jazz and blues behind in this beautifully paced album. ... Click to View

Matthew Shipp: Zer0 aka Zero [2 CDs] (ESP-Disk)

New York pianist Shipp extends his infrequent solo career with this set of eleven solid studio recordings, taking us into the inner working of the influential pianist's approach to improvisation through lyrical, structured, enigmatic and unusual approaches to the keyboard; the first CD pressings include an hour talk "On Nothingness" that Shipp gave at The Stone. ... Click to View

Loren Connors: Pretty As Ever [VINYL] (Recital)

The Recital label continues its Loren Conners editions/reissue series with their 4th album of the guitarist's music, collecting and remastering tracks from out of print albums "Sails" and "Little Match Girl" in an album of ballads, complemented with a 12-page art-booklet of previously unpublished illustrations by Conners himself. ... Click to View

Sun Ra & His Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra: Sun Embassy [VINYL WITH DOWNLOAD] (Roaratorio)

Recordings from Sun Studios made between 1968-1969 with Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra including Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Daddy DAvis, Ray Thompson, Danny Davis, &c. in nine tracks, six of which have never been heard before in any form, plus remasters on 1950s classics "Sunology" and "Ancient Aiethiopia", plus an early rendition of "Why Go To The Moon". ... Click to View

Sun Ra and His Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra: Sleeping Beauty [VINYL] (Art Yard)

An extremely soulful electric album from Sun Ran and the Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra, a groove driven and funky swirling masterpiece from the late 70's, with Sun Ra on piano, electric piano and organ, the Arkestra propelled by the drumming of Luqman Ali over a full band with Craig Harris, Michael Ray, Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Danny Ray Thompson, &c &c. ... Click to View

Bistre (Muller / Rodrigues / Wong): As We Read Along... (Creative Sources)

A trio of free improvisers recording five detailed and subdued dialogs in the studio, from trombonist Matthias Muller (Splitter Orchester), cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, and guitarist Eric Wong, collective improvisation guided by long pointillistic passages that converge into lyrical focal points, a profound example of concentrative discourse. ... Click to View

Anthony Braxton : Sextet (Parker) 1993 [11-CD BOX SET] (New Braxton House)

Originally released on Hat Hut in '95, this 11-CD box blows open these 2 European concerts in Zurich and Koln, reworking the music of Charlie Parker and associated bop composers, with Braxton himself on reeds, plus saxophonist Ari Brown, trumpeter Paul Smoker, pianist Misha Mengelberg, and alternating between drummers Han Bennink and Pheeroan AkLaff; superb, essential! ... Click to View

Yoni Kretzmer's New Dilemma (Kretzmer / Loriot / Hoffamn / Sinton / Niggenkemper / Van Hemmen): Months, Weeks and Days [2 CDs] (OutNow Recordings)

The 2nd album for NY-based saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer's Chamber-Improv ensemble New Dilemma with Frantz Loriot (viola), Christopher Hoffman (cello), Josh Sinton (bass clarinet), Pascal Niggenkemper (double bass) and Flin Van Hemmen (drums), investigating "the intricacies differentiating and combining the written and the improvised continue with further depth and chance". ... Click to View

Quin Kirchner: The Other Side Of Time [VINYL 2 LPs + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

Known as a superlative sideman, Chicago drummer/percussionist Quin Kirchner's debut as a leader brings together trombonist Nick Broste, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, saxophonist Nate Lepine, pianist Ben Boye and bassist Matt Ulery for an excellent album of spiritual free playing with compositions from Sun Ra, Andrew Hill, Charles Mingus, Paul Motian, Phil Cohran, &c. ... Click to View

William Hooker Trio (Feat. Ava Mendoza / Damon Smith): Remembering [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

Downtown NY drummer William Hooker leads a trio with West Coast players, Damon Smith on double bass and Ava Mendoza on guitar, for a live album at New York University in 2017 that blends free jazz and avant rock forms to create something unique and powerful, yet filled with moments of intrinsic beauty and drama, a great amalgamation of free playing. ... Click to View

Eave (Anna Webber/ Erik Hove / Vicky Mettler / Evan Tighe): Eave [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

A mix of New York and Canadian players, "Eave" is the quartet of Anna Webber and Erik Hove on saxophones, Vicky Mettler on guitar and Evan Tighe on drums, a collective abstract improvising band that uses its instruments as much for effect as for conventional playing, with commanding skill in all approaches as they surprise, bemuse and mesmerize the listener. ... Click to View

Tony Irving / Massimo Magee: The Fog [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

London scene free players since the 90s, drummer Tony Irving and alto saxophonist Massimo Magee, both of the improvisation duo Ascension, meet in the studio to record seven distinctive and quirky dialogs of strong technical skill, Irving often thundering over Magee's strangling runs and melodic diversions and asides; powerful and unpredictable. ... Click to View

Muyassar Kurdi / Nicholas Jozwiak: Intersections & Variations [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

Interdisciplinary vocalist Muyassar Kurdi and Chicago-born, NY-based cellist Nicholas Jozwiak use the ambient sounds of their recording spaces in Brooklyn to add a presence to their introspective dialogs that take an almost devout approach to their calmly measured performances, making an intimate and evocative album of unorthodox improvisation. ... Click to View

Udo Schindler / Korhan Erel : leben | nebel (Creative Sources)

Live at the 66th SALON fur Klang+Kunst in Krailling, Munich, Germany finds festival leader Udo Schindler on cornet, bass, contrabass clarinet, soprano saxophone in a duo with Berlin-based Istanbul-born computer musician Korhan Erel, who designs his own unique instruments with unusual controllers, performing 9 singular dialogs of ethereal and unorthodox sound. ... Click to View

Yoko Miura / Jean-Marc Foussat: When Lowlands Consume the Space (Creative Sources)

Two approaches to keyboards from Japanese acoustic pianist Yoko Miura and keyboardist Jean-Marc Foussat (Fou Records) recording these extended and excursive improvisations in Paris in 2017, contrasting Foussat's alien and encompassing synthetic and electronic worlds with Miura's sophisticated playing inside and out of the piano. ... Click to View

Michael Winter : Approximating Omega (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Composer Michael Winter uses the "maximally complex, incomputable number" known as Chaitin's Constant, plus text adapted from Gregory Chaitin's 1994 book "The Limits Of Mathematics", samples from 36 creative musicians, the voice of Muirgen Eleonore Gourgues, plus cello from Judith Hamann and piano from Winters, to create this curious and compelling narrative work. ... Click to View

  •  •  •    Join Our Mailing List!

The Squid's Ear
Squidco Sales

  Peter Kowald and the New York Unity Village  

By Mike Heffley
Photo by Enid Farber 2002-12-20

In the months before Peter Kowald's death on September 21, 2002, at 58, the master bassist and dedicated organizer was in the process of relocating to New York City. He had taken an apartment in Harlem and was heavily involved in that year's Vision Festival, even working the concession stand any time he wasn't playing, methodically cutting bread and cheese and selling sandwiches.

Kowald was no stranger to New York, of course. He had helped to organize the Sound Unity Festival, the precursor to the Vision Festival, in 1984, and had a long-standing relationship with fellow bassist William Parker and his wife, dancer Patricia Nicholson, the driving force behind the Vision festival.

Just as he organized musical groups and festivals, Kowald was a builder of communities. And while no one can say what a life cut short might otherwise have brought, one thing seems certain: had he lived just five more years, the free music scene in New York would have been dramatically different.

The following selections show Kowald's interest in New York and in American jazz. They are excerpted from a remarkable 1,200 page manuscript on the history of FMP records and German jazz by Mike Heffley an English Professor at Rutgers University and author of The Music of Anthony Braxton and the forthcoming Northern Sun, Southern Moon: Europe's Reinvention of Jazz, due out in the Spring and based on his dissertation.

Thanks to Mike Heffley for allowing us to reprint sections of his work, and to Harold Meiselman for pointing us to this important document.

"I first met Peter Kowald in New York, when he performed at the Vision Festival in 1996. He was totally receptive to my desire to write a book about European improvisers centralizing him and his FMP colleagues. He invited me into his home in Wuppertal for several days while I interviewed him and his neighbor Peter Brtzmann. His opennessa nd generosity of intellect and soul opened the doors to other musicians in his circles from around the world, both for me and my project and for the music itself. More than anyone, it was he who put a face to what Western music might look like as just one flower, well placed, in the bouquet of the world's musics. I am grateful to have known him..." ?Mike Heffley, November, 2002

Kowald's impromptu summary of his history with groups paints him as the perfect personality type for the oft-noted European organizational preference for collective bands, in contrast to the individualistic leader-sideman constructs more typical of American groups (to say nothing of the fit such a personality is with the traditionally supportive role of the bassist in jazz).

Peter Kowald

"The trio with Pierre"?Favre?"and Irène"?Schweizer, from 1968-69?"was more of a collective group," he says, "but I have to say that again I was the youngest in that group. Then I started playing with [Alexander] von Schlippenbach in both Globe Unity projects and in the quartet"?1973-78?"but still I felt more or less like a sideman. The quintet I led"?1970-72?"was an exception to the norm, and I gave it up largely because it was too early to do my own projects; they still lacked conviction.

"The first of my own projects was the trio with Leo Smith and Baby Sommer in '79. It was my choice of people; it was still basically a collective group, and we gave it a collective name. So I guess I'm not so much of a bandleader type anyway, to this day, even though I've had my own groups for a long time."

A glance at Kowald's resumé nonetheless reveals the strength and maturity that can issue from such a personality: collaborations with a vast network of well-known players, poets, painters a n d dancers from America, Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia, Russia, and Europe; recording projects such as Duos (1992 FMP, a 3-LP/1-CDset of short impromptu duets with thirty different instrumentalists/vocalists from Europe, Japan, and the U.S.); ongoing collaborations with a few of these combinations, including the Siberian singer Sainkho Namtchylak, the Global Village group of improvisers from Asia, America, and Europe; and a pattern of art activism that results in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural formations and organizations devoted to presenting and promoting their products, such as the Sound Unity Festival and Musicians Coop he set up in New York with fellow bassist (often Cecil Taylor's) and friend, William Parker. By comparison, the approach of a strong leader always forming groups and statements around his own personality and concept would conceivably miss a lot of ground Kowald has covered, even broken, for the music.

I ask him about a trip to Africa he had mentioned. It was an exchange of mostly visual artists organized by an African painter who had come to Wuppertal to study with German painter Joseph Beuys. Kowald was the only musician, with four German artists, who lived in a West African village for two-and-a-half months in 1992 to work with five artists there; the following year, the five came to Wuppertal.

"I draw a little bit, so I did some drawings there too, but I played with different people, a kora player and two drummers, and a singer regularly. They tried to teach me all these rhythms, and I couldn't learn them," he laughs, "but I didn't say no. It took awhile for us to get to a point of trust, after which we arrived where I wanted to arrive, which was for me to be able to do my thing and let them do theirs, and organize it only in terms of when to start and stop and roughly what to do-and it worked, in the end; we did a concert or two, and it worked out. I didn't have to leave my material and they di d n' t have to leave theirs...

"I have a group called the Global Village, after the Marshall MacLuhan term. Sainkho is one of the best examples from that group of this co-creative concept. There are different people from Japan too, and from Greece, and from anywhere, in the theory that people grow up in their tradition-but Sainkho is an interesting example because you can see it so obviously in her life. Her grandparents were still nomads. Both of her parents were already teachers, so she grew up with the music there in Mongolia, then she studied and learned some other things?but her early life, in her twenties, she was singing Tuvan folk songs, going on tour with four other women. Then at a point she went to Moscow and met other people and left the folk song. But now when she improvises with us?she's now part of the family, okay? She left the folk song, but she brought all the stuff she learned in it, except for that local form, to our improvised music.

"It's the same with the Japanese shakuhachi player who starts to improvise: he leaves the local folk song but brings the techniques and vocabulary. Or an African drummer, or a bandoneon player from Argentina?they all leave the traditional local forms behind and come into the open situation of free improvisation, basically, and then they make the step into modernity?die Moderne, we say?they make the step into the twentieth century, somehow.

"I mean, I don't mind folk songs, they're fine; let's just say that if you leave the folk song?what Sainkho brought, all the throat singing, the shamanistic breathing, all that is still there, but not in its original context. She plays with Butch Morris on this record we did [When the Sun is Out you Don't See the Stars, FMP 1990]; the first night they played together she did her stuff and Butch did his, and it works. This is wonderful to me, this is really wonderful. That's how I believe it works. It's a method that could be so m et hin g of a model, of how people can come from different cultures, different areas, with different characters, with all of that, and they bring what they bring,and it's okay?just throw it together with the other stuff, and it works. After just a little bit of figuring out how it works together, then it does."

But if New York was to be Kowald's next village, it was a very different one than his Wuppertal home And Kowald had a very different relationship with what might be called American folk music than he did with European and Asian traditional musics.

The relationship with American jazz has been as problematic in its own way as that with Western civilization as a whole, in terms of achieving healthy individuation. Kowald is a good source for this phase from FMP's first hour Emanzipation, because he is the one who articulated it with phrases such as Kaputtspielphase and "father-killing." The "fathers" in America's case included both European- and African-American aspects of the music and culture: the white side was the same Western diatonic tradition the FMP players were leaving behind in their own European culture, plus whatever particular musicians had been emulated for their mastery of that tradition in jazz terms; and the black side was whatever was peculiarly African in the American mix, an identity that could only be learned from, not drawn directly out of German musical/cultural soil.

"I remember in the studio we did a lot of things we'd never done, like playing with knives on the table, tapping," Kowald says. "So in this way I thought we did something of our own; but at the same time I remember thinking myself?I don't know if everyone else thought this?that I wondered if it would fulfill American standards... I think many of us wouldn't say that out loud; there was a point when we said we didn't want to be beholden to America?'father-killing,' as they say in psychology?so at that time it was sti ll no t cl ear....I remember when we played in Donaueschinger in '66 or '67 with Globe Unity: [Archie] Shepp was there, with Beaver Harris, a very good band, two trombones, Roswell Rudd and Grachan Monchur, Jimmy Garrison; they played after us. I think everybody admired Shepp in a way we wouldn't do now. I mean, we were still the young Europeans looking up to them, even if we didn't admit it, we did... I guess it's really normalized now. But those were phases of emancipation; you have to kill your father for awhile, or tell him to leave you alone. In the late '60s, early '70s, step by step we did that."

Of course, that is the same thing black Americans did with white musical culture to come up with jazz itself, and with advances in it all along the way.

"Let me go back for a minute to Machine Gun and that period," I say. "You gave me a good explanation of the GUO experience. For the smaller groups, and the records that came from them that have become classics, was there a feeling in you at the time of the kill-the-American-father thing, of leaving America aside for something better?"

"I remember when we played with Machine Gun, that band played live first," he says. "So we played in Frankfurt in the festival. And I think Jeanne Lee played with Gunter there, and she liked us, I remember that; and Lee Konitz was sitting in the audience, and he came up after the concert, and he liked it. So I wouldn't say we... it was more the feeling that we got respect from established Americans somehow, like Lee Konitz was. We didn't expect him to like Machine Gun, but he did. Maybe he was just being nice, but I think he was really interested in the movement of the late '60s and stuff, so he was open."

"So maybe you had a connection. Once you stepped out on a limb and killed the father, if the father says, yeah, it's okay, then maybe it's..."

"Well, it was two things at once. You still admired the American musici an s, b ut yo u also were saying you didn't need them. Very normal father relationship."


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

  Copyright © 2016 Squidco. All rights reserved. Trademarks. (108713)