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Steve Lacy: Free for a Minute (1966-72) [2 CDs] (Emanem)

Four sessions on a 2 CD set, all featuring Steve Lacy and Kent Carter: (1) DISPOSABILITY, the 1965 trio record with Aldo Romano of jazz standards, originals and free improv; (2) SORTIE, the 1966 free improv quartet + Enrico Rava album; (3) previously unissued 1967 'Free Fall' Film Cues in a quintet with Rava, Karl Berger, & Paul Motian; (4) two never issued '72 quintet pieces with Steve Potts, Irene Aebi on cello and Noel Mcghie. ... Click to View


Paul Rutherford : In Backward Times (1979-2007) (Emanem)

Four very different previously unissued concert settings featuring trombonist Paul Rutherford: 2 festival solos - one from 1979 with electronics and one from 2004 without; a 1988 duo with Paul Rogers a few months before their ROGUES CD; and a 2007 trio with Veryan Weston and Marcio Mattos, which turned out to be Rutherford's last public appearance. ... Click to View


Barry Guy: Frogs [VINYL 7-inch PICTURE DISC] (Trost Records)

A 7" limited vinyl picture disc made to celebrate legendary European Free Jazz bassist Barry Guy's 70th birthday, with Guy providing "acoustic sounds" along with his collaborating frogs, Wasserfrosch (Rana Esculenta) and Laubfrosch (Hyla Arborea), size A presenting Frogs & Barry Guy, and side 2, Barry Guy & Frogs; quirkly and wonderful free improv. ... Click to View


Christian Wolff : Berlin Exercises [VINYL] (God Records)

A series of shorter works composed by Christian Wolff written to explore the process of practicing and working within specified limits, exercises for both the composer and the performers, recorded live in Berlin in 2000 by an ensemble directed by Peter Ablinger and including Wolff on piano & melodica, Robin Hayward on tuba, Anette Krebs on guitar, &c. ... Click to View


Phill Niblock: Rhymes With Water [VINYL] (God Records)

A beautiful set of minimalist compositional drone from New York composer Phill Niblock, commissioned by the performers Natalia Pschenitschnikowa on bass flute and Erik Drescher on glissando flute, recorded at PIETHOPRAXIS, in Cologne, Germany by Marcus Schmickler, and in Berlin, Germany, by Thomas Ankersmit. ... Click to View


Simon Rummel Ensemble: IM MEER (Umlaut Records)

German composer and improviser Simon Rummel presents the 2nd release from his 11-piece Simon Rummel Ensemble, blending his interest in acoustic phenomena and improvisational harmonics in an extended work that shift from beautiful tonal work to disruptive cacophony and back to melodic music blending jazz and 20th century approaches; a great achievement. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee / Bryan Eubanks: My Undocumented Alien Clarinet [VINYL] (Penultimate Press)

Recorded and presented as part of Pauline Oliveros Foundation's New Vanguard Series in Kingston, NY in 2006, the unusual duo of Joe McPhee on b-flat and e-flat alto clarinets and synthesizer and Bryan Eubanks on open circuit electronics explores unusual dynamics and psychoacoustic intersections of both acoustic and electronic instruments. ... Click to View


Blaise Siwula / Jorge Nuno: Waterscapes (Creative Sources)

Waterscapes is the performing duo of New York saxophonist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Jorge Nuno, interwining distinct approaches to acoustic and electric improvisation, creating rich sound environments and rapid interaction that draws the listener in and then sweeps them off their feet with passionate, complex and informed dialog. ... Click to View


Carlo Mascolo: My Tubes (Creative Sources)

A unique take on this large brass instrument from Italian trombonis and Free Flow Festival director Carlo Mascolo, using preparations, focusing on components of the instrument, and using extreme techniques to create a startlingly diverse set of sounds, vocalisations, microtonal output and simply bizarre utterances as Mascolo attempts bring new language to horn. ... Click to View


Alfredo Monteiro Costa / Miguel A. Garcia: Aq'Ab'Al (Mikroton Recordings)

Audio experimenters Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Miguel A. Garcia join forces in an album titled after "Aq'ab'al", the Mayan Astrology Sign about polar opposites-- dawn and dusk, hot and cold, black and white--which represents renewal and change, through a series of opposing audio events, forceful sounds of texture, feedback, and intervention. ... Click to View


John Butcher / John Edwards / Mark Sanders: Last Dream Of The Morning (Relative Pitch)

A studio album between three UK master improvisers -- John Butcher on sax, John Edwards on double bass, and Mark Sanders on drums -- the trio pushing the envelope in technique and dialog in nearly telepathic playing that transports the listener into their environment, as the music builds and releases in effortless ways that are stunning and exulant; highly recommended. ... Click to View


Fred Van Hove / Roger Turner: The Corner (Relative Pitch)

Pioneering improvising pianist Fred Van Hove at UK's Cafe OTO for the first time, captured in a duo with UK drummer/percussionist Roger Turner, their first recording together, for a night of exceptional improvised interplay, sophisticated and complex playing that is constantly buoyant and charming, an enthralling conversation between two veteran players. ... Click to View


Magda Mayas / Jim Denley: Tempe Jetz (Relative Pitch)

A pairing of two innovative players, Berlin-based pianist Magda Mayas and Australian sound and wind artist Jim Denley, Mayas playing inside and out of the piano and Denley on alto sax and bass flute, both providing field recordings adding unexpected elements in a set of extremely balanced recordings that entrance the listener with unlikely and captivating settings. ... Click to View


John Butcher: Resonant Spaces [VINYL] (Blume)

Extreme acoustic space recordings from saxophonist John Butcher, part of Arika's Resonant Spaces event, with performances from resonant and remote corners of Scotland. ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Kontakte Trio (Trevor Taylor / Ian Brighton / Steve Beresford): Kontakte Trio (FMR)

An important and well-matched trio of electroacoustic improvisers, and a welcome addition to guitarist Ian Brighton's return to active music life, with Steve Beresford on piano, prepared piano and electronics, and Trevor Taylor (Circuit) on percussion and electronics, six unhurried improvisations of intricate interplay and interchange themed on physics. ... Click to View


Viv Corringham / Lawrence Casserley: Anemoi (FMR)

Lawrence Casserley is a pioneer of real time electroacoustic music, since the 60s working with other artists and developing his Signal Processing Instrument, using physical gestures to process and morph sounds; here he works with British vocalist and Deep Listening teacher Viv Corringham in an other-worldly collaboration of voice and electonics. ... Click to View


Kamins / Smith / Fielder / Hertenstein: After Effects (FMR)

A great example of traditional free improvisation spanning generations from the quartet of Danny Kamins on baritone saxophone, Damon Smith on double bass, and two drummer/percussionists--Alvin Fielder and Joe Hertenstein--for 10 tracks of swinging free music recorded in the studio in Texas, 2016, jazz with a lyrical intention and powerful rhythmic underpinnings. ... Click to View


Pat Thomas: The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari [VINYL] (Otoroku)

Inspired by the automatic water clock invented by Iraq inventor, engineer, and father of robotics, Badi' al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari built in the 12th century, pianist Pat Thomas recorded these four exceptional improvisations of powerful solo piano with an unusual and inventive twist live at London's Cafe Oto in 2015. ... Click to View


Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza: Azioni/Reazioni 1967-1969 [4CD + DVD BOX] (Die Schachtel)

Box set CD reissue of the 2007 release of this seminal Italian free improvising group's complete recordings from 1967-69, in a deluxe box with 4 CDs, a DVD containing the original film "Nuova Consonanza" shot by Theo Gallher of their 1967 concert, and a 64 page LP-size book in English and Italian with essays, group commentary, collected reviews, &c. ... Click to View


Cilantro (Angelica Castello / Billy Roisz): Borderland (Mikroton Recordings)

Cilantro is the duo of multi-instrumentalists Angelica Castello on paetzold, ukulele, organ, tapes, & electronics, and Billy Roisz on electric bass, organ, tv, piezzo, computer & electronics, scrutinizing the activity in bordering areas between noise and silence, tenderness and rudeness, beat and drone, inner consciousness and outer awareness, control and freedom. ... Click to View


Burkhard Beins / Lucio Capece / Martin Kuchen / Paul Vogel: Fracture Mechanics (Mikroton Recordings)

"Fracture Mechanics" is the scientific study of cracks in any material, an apt title from these European experimental innovators--Burkhard Beins, Lucio Capece, Martin Kuchen, and Paul Vogel--pulling back the curtain on process and creating an impressive album crossing acoustic and electronic improv, organized sound, and inexplicable interaction; recommended. ... Click to View


The Holy Quintet (Change / Drouin / Lash / Lazardiou / Ryan): Borough (Mikroton Recordings)

The meeting of Johnny Chang (viola), Jamie Drouin (suitcase modular synth), Dominic Lash (double bass), Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga(zither, and David Ryan (bass clarinet) recording at Bourough welsh Congregational Chapel, in London in 2013, recorded by Another Timbre label leader Simon Reynell, for a unique merging of disparate approaches to ea-improv. ... Click to View


Kurt Liedwart / Andrey Popovskiy / Martin Taxt: Hjem (Mikroton Recordings)

A live concert at Dom Cultural Center in Moscow, Russia in 2015 from Norwegian tuba player Martin Taxt, Saint Petersburg violinist and object player Andrey Popovskiy, and ppool performer Kurt Liedwart focusing on sinewaves and noise, in an extended lowercase improvisation exploring harmonic and microtonal sounds. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Tipple (Frode Gjerstad / Kevin Norton / David Watson): Live at Elastic Arts (FMR)

Tipple, the trio of Frode Gjerstad on alto sax and clarinet, Kevin Norton on percussion, and David Watson on electric guitar, are captured live for an energetic and masterly concert at Elastic Arts, in Chicago, Illinois in 2015, four "Elastic" improvisations of intense interaction, from collective conversation to stunning solo statements; jaw dropping. ... Click to View


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The Squid's Ear
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A Month of Zorndays
John Zorn's 50th Birthday Celebration at Tonic

Updated througout the month

John Zorn







John Zorn Improv Night  (Tonic) 

September 29, 2003

With Derek Bailey unable to make it to town for his scheduled night in the monthlong Zornfest, John Zorn pulled together an old-fashioned improv night (although having drummer Joey Baron still in town certainly made it something more than an ordinary night). It was the first nonevent of the month, which almost carried with it a tinge of relief.

Two opening pieces by Baron, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and cellist Erik Friedlander achieved the often-claimed-but-usually boring improvised classical. Violinest Mark Feldman and laptop percussionist Ikue Mori followed in a similar vein, Feldman playing bold, heavy notes, leaving Mori's laptop as the melody instrument. Their second piece took a very different path, with Feldman playing fast lines and scratches over Mori's busy backing. Feldman and Friedlander also carried the high-art torch for a piece, and were joined by Courvoiser (making the group into Courvoisier's Abaton trio) for an equally stunning piece.

Baron and Zorn had of course already shared the stage during the month - two weeks prior had been the Masada quartet's first gig in over a year - but seeing them in duet was just good. Starting and stopping, completing each other's sentences until they built to a roar, only Baron to stop and play a quiet, slowly metered rim roll while Zorn carried on full throttle. Later Baron backed Zorn with licked-finger drum-head rubs, not just for effect but really playing with Zorn's saxophone.

Better yet was Baron sitting in the Susie Ibarra seat with the Mephista line-up. He's a faster, busier player than Ibarra, it's not really fair to call it Mephista at all, but they played wonderfully, although he ultimately overpowered Courvoisier and Mori. A second, quieter piece where Baron rode cymbals worked better. The piano, drums and laptop created torrents of rhythm together, and Courvoisier and Mori now have the shared pleasure of playing with the two happiest drummers in the world.

The final group piece opened with Baron, Friedlander and Mori, then Zorn coming in, suggesting combinations that hadn't been heard, and built slowly to a gorgeous sextet, Zorn blowing a slow lament, Feldman complementing him while Friedlander carried a deep bass, the rest melding into a beautiful, thick blanket.

Perhaps it wasn't quite like old times, not just in Zorn's calling consecutive pieces by the same ensembles, but in the near-formal virtuosity exhibited throughout. Certainly it was a different sort of Improv Nite than he would have presented 10 years ago. And if anything really stands as a testament to the growth of John Zorn and the scene he embraces, it's what they do for fun.

- Kurt Gottschalk






Bezique  (Tonic) 

September 24, 2003

Bezique is the last game piece Zorn conceived, and by his own admission in introducing the piece, "it's very strange." It differs from other pieces in that the players - the musicians involved - create the settings ahead of time rather than while they are playing. As a result, more coherent musical statements are made without losing the structured improvisations that can make the game pieces so rewarding.

The game pieces in general are interesting not just because of the music that's made, the characters they bring out or the mystery in which they're kept. They predate what could be called Zorn's "index card" period, and seem to have informed it. After creating a series of situations where he could hear styles, genres and moods crashing into each other, he began to use it as a formula for composing and arranging, most notably on the album The Big Gundown and the piece Spillane. Beziques was written in 1989, just two years before Spillane was recorded, and combines the tools of the game pieces with a compositional approach.

Each of the 11 players (Trevor Dunn, 5-string electric bass; Anthony Coleman, Farfisa organ; Sylvie Courvoisier, piano; Marc Ribot, guitar; Jim Publiese and William Winant, percussion; Jim Staley, trombone; Mark Dresser, bass; Okkyung Lee, cello; Mark Feldman, violin; and Jamie Saft, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer and effects) got a turn creating a piece, calling out a series of directives ("EP1, Ribot; M7, Courvoisier, Lee, Winant; EP3-1...") while a "gaffer" played interlude music. It was reminiscent of Duke Ellington's idea that he writes for individual musicians, except purely that, without scores. Zorn would write down the directives that he would then guide them through by holding up his familiar cue cards, and reminding the arranger of rules and trying to keep an overall cohesion between pieces. "The hardest thing is coming out of Ts," he reminded the group more than once. "You can't just write a whole piece and think it's gonna work," he told them later. "You gotta think about the piece that came before it. You gotta think about the pieces in order."

While pieces like Cobra show player's proclivities in what they want to hear at the moment, it was fascinating to watch entire pieces borne of one player's musical sense. Dresser created a beautiful suite. Lee jumped back and forth between styles, relying heavily on a Ribot/Saft/Dunn trio. Coleman injected humor, which in itself is impressive when you're only able to suggest with genre, tempo and volume. But "M4 and 9 for Dresser and Sylvie" got a good laugh from the bandstand. (When they got to that point in the piece, Zorn showed the two cards "Quiet" and "Rock" to the audience.) Likewise, it was interesting to watch players run the pieces through their heads as they were being called.

The performance lasted 80 minutes, and it's a shame that Bezique has been forgotten over the years. While the other game pieces make for great theater and a fun night of in-the-moment creation, Bezique resulted in some truly memorable music.

- Kurt Gottschalk






John Zorn's Lacrosse, Hockey, Rugby  (Tonic) 

September 24, 2003

In the progression of game pieces that led John Zorn to create the magnificent Cobra and Xu Feng structures, several earlier games were devised. Lacrosse was developed in 1977, originally performed in the days of Studio Henry in lower Manhattan where, as Zorn recalled at the beginning of the performace, the music competed with the sounds of crickets in the building. This rendering of the game had Anthony Coleman on keys, Marc Ribot on guitar, William Winant and Jim Pugliese on percussion and Zorn on alto. The game was very interactive, the players motioning amongst themselves and using a sparse set of rules, each calling segments and directing the game while in motion - unlike most of Zorn's game pieces there was no prompter. They used extended techniques on their instruments, and the piece was enjoyable if for no other reason than the mastery each showed: Zorn and Ribot played off each other, Coleman working inside the grand piano, and both Pugliese and Winant seeming to utilize every inch of their percussive sources. The ensuing music was not particularly coherent, a series of stop-starting quotations that were often punctuated but rarely lyrical.

Following was Hockey, a piece from 1978 that Zorn described as "exotic aquatics." He displayed the score for the game, explaining that at the time of its writing he believed that "all you really needed for an evening of music is one sheet of paper." Hockey limits each player's language to five sounds, which are carried out through a series of solos, duos and trios. Two versions of Hockey were presented, the first which Zorn referred to as the "dry version" with Okkyung Lee on cello, Jim Pugliese on percussion and Zorn on duck calls. This version was tremendous fun, particularly in seeing Zorn playing the duck calls again, a fistful of varying bird and buzzer sounds that are clearly enjoyable to play. Lee provided an excellent foil to Zorn as she scraped, sawed and zipped around her cello while Pugliese provided often rollicking outbursts. The music frequently shifted, Zorn sometimes calling off directives to change the rhythm. More sophisticated than Lacrosse, the piece still paled to later game pieces in its sometimes spastic results. The second rendering of Hockey was presented by Anthony Coleman, Marc Ribot and Mark Dresser on bass. Zorn described this as the "wet version,", and the difference between the two renditions was remarkable. Coleman here stuck to his heavily effected Farfisa organ. Ribot as well played heavily effected and downright alien guitar, while Dresser was a monster on the bass, sometimes playing with a stick, plucking around the neck or bowing below the bridge. Zorn prompted from the front as the three played with clear enjoyment. The results were, once again, fun to watch, somewhat dubious in their music results, but inspiring and important in their ability present new possiblities in improvisational playing.

The last piece, Rugby, was written several years later, in 1983, and was more like his later pieces. Sylvie Courvoisier was on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass, Mark Feldman on vioin, Jim Staley on trombone, William Winant on percussion, with Zorn prompting using a card system. The interplay this time was much more obvious, players pointing to each other to suggest musical direction to Zorn. The cards instructed the players with phrases like "Intercut," "Trans," "1 Clock Changes" or "4 Trades," and the piece seemed to work at time similar to Butch Morris' conductions. A series of escapades and interludes, the structure provided much more lyric and expressive opportunities to the musicians, adding a quirky and playful air to the resulting music. Zorn once again showed the single sheet that defined the game, but this time it was clear that the direction he was to take game pieces in 20 years ago held great potential for making excellent and unpredictable music.

- Phil Zampino






September 12, 18, 25 2003

Bar Kokhba - (Tonic) September 12, 2003, 8:00 set
Masada - (Tonic) September 18, 2003, 8:00 set
Electric Masada - (Tonic)September 25, 2003, 8:00 set

One of the wonderful things about Zorn's 50th birthday month was the opportunity it presented to hear the various Masada permutations on successive or nearly-successive nights, the chance to compare the way the different voicings and personnel shaped the music (sometimes even the same charts), and the air around us, the actual feel of the world, or as much of it as you can fit inside the little Tonic warehouse. This is evocative music, music that reaches down into the limbic system and plants fleeting images of places that, for a few moments, I have a terrible longing to visit.



continued...




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